This weekend we lost an actor who probably appeared in more movies in my film library than any other actor. Bill Paxton was a solid actor. He could do comedy, action, horror. He was a man of many talents. Instead of doing a typical obituary, I thought I would list my five favorite Bill Paxton films. These may not be his best works but for me, these are movies I can watch over and over again. Long time followers of this column won’t be surprised by two of the entries but there may be a couple that you forgot about.
This horror comedy from the guys at Broken Lizard is not amazing. It’s not their best film nor does it have any really memorable jokes compared to Beerfest and Super Troopers. However, Bill Paxton kills in this flick. Paxton plays a washed up Jimmy Buffet-style musician named Coconut Pete and he just goes full out in the role. He even recorded a few songs as Coconut Pete that are played in the background of the film (I used to have a bootleg of them somewhere as they weren’t officially released on the soundtrack but you can buy them from Broken Lizard’s store). Coconut Pete is a completely goofy character and Paxton grabs on to that goofiness and runs full tilt with it.
Directed and starring Paxton, I remember reading reviews at the time and there were a lot of critics didn’t like it. It seems that time has given way to how solid a horror flick this is. It’s hard to explain Frailty without giving everything away but it’s about a man who claims to see demons and then he kills those demons… except the demons look a heck of a lot like people. It also showed Paxton’s promise as a director. He would go on to direct The Greatest Game Ever Played but I always hoped he would return and do another genre picture.
You know the saying, “there are no small parts, only small players”? Bill Paxton in True Lies is a perfect example of how you can take a small part and turn it into something awesome. Paxton plays Simon going from super-spy cool to wetting his pants with ease. Paxton once again shows off his comedic timing and plays really well off of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Out of all of the characters he has played and all of the characters in the Aliens franchise, Paxton’s Hudson is probably the most often quoted. Once again we also see Paxton play a character that isn’t the lead but is definitely memorable. Michael Biehn and Sigourney Weaver may have been the stars, but Paxton’s lines still beat them out.
A year after Aliens came out, we got Near Dark, A vampire movie (that doesn’t use the word vampire) that features vamps going on a bit of rampage. A hidden gem of a horror film, I’ve loved this movie since the day I saw it. Paxton’s Sevren is vicious and hellraising. Every time Paxton is on screen, you are just drawn to him, even when he does something like open up a person’s throat with a spur.
And then there’s Tombstone. Predator 2. Weird Science. Apollo 13. We often forget that Twister, a film Paxton starred in, was the second highest grossing film of 1996 and still sits within the top 100 Box office hits in North America (it’s currently around 76). To give you an idea of how big Twister was that year, it made more money than Jerry McGuire, The Rock, and Mission: Impossible.
He passed away too soon. He was an actor that always seemed to turn up in something I enjoyed every two years. He was an actor of consistently good work and he will be missed.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!