Movie fans were shocked today to learn that character actor Bill Paxton had passed away. He was in so many of our favorite movies that we could spend all week listing them out. He had roles in nearly 100 films over the course of a career that only began back in 1975. There's a good chance that he popped up in at least one movie that you love. Probably many more.
Limiting a list to our absolute favorite Bill Paxton performances is a nearly impossible task. However, there are a few performances that do stand out above the rest. Here are the Bill Paxton characters that we loved the most.
Chet Donnelly - Weird Science
There's a very good chance that the first time you remember seeing Bill Paxton on screen was as the obnoxious older brother Chet in Weird Science. He will forever live on due to his line about greasy pork sandwiches served in dirty ashtrays. He's one of the absolute best comic foils in all of John Hughes' films from the 1980s. He is equal parts mean and hilarious. This is likely the role from which all others on this list was born. A look at his career is incomplete without it.
Private Hudson - Aliens
While Weird Science might be the film that introduced us to Bill Paxton, Aliens was the movie that forever made him a part of cinema history. How many times have you said "game over man, game over" in that particular inflection that shows you're quoting Private Hudson? The team of marines that supports Sigourney Weaver in Aliens contains some of the best character actors of the decade but Paxton stole that particular show a single line that we'll never get out of our heads.
Bill Harding - Twister
Bill Paxton rarely played the leading man, but 1996s Twister was one of the exceptions. The movie is more than a little corny, but Paxton was always great at those sorts of roles and seeing him in the lead of a summer blockbuster was a fun change of pace. Twister would go on to be the second highest-grossing movie of the year, behind Independence Day so clearly, we weren't the only ones who enjoyed seeing Paxton as a leading man.
Hank - A Simple Plan
If you want to see just how good an actor can be, give them the simplest story possible and then see what they do with it. A Simple Plan is aptly titled because the story is so basic. Three men find a huge sum of money along with a crashed plane in the woods. They attempt to keep, and share, the money, but as one might expect when millions are on the line, relationships quickly breakdown. Bill Paxton never received an Academy Award nomination, that honor went to Billy Bob Thornton, but this may be the best pure acting performance we ever saw from the man.
Dad Meiks - Frailty
Frailty was a step outside of the box for Bill Paxton in so many ways. Not only was it a psychological horror film, not the sort of thing we saw from the actor, but it was also his directorial debut. It's a chilling film that sees Paxton as a man who believes he has been touched by God nd tasked with the destruction of demons on Earth. Of course, to others, including his own son, he looks instead like a cold-blooded serial killer. As his own director, he clearly knew exactly what he wanted to bring to the role, and he does it expertly.
Morgan Earp - Tombstone
While Tombstone is very much a story about Wyatt Earp, the importance of the other Earp brothers to the story cannot be understated. On a stormy night, the tensions between the Earps and the Cowboys come to a head as the Cowboys take revenge on the events of the O.K. Corral. Morgan Earp is ambushed and killed while shooting pool, one his few true pleasures. This leads to Paxton giving one of the best death scenes in a modern western. It's visceral and heartbreaking and too often overlooked.