Bill Paxton has never gotten the recognition that he deserved, always forgotten about in favor of the very similar looking and just as talented Dennis Quaid. Or maybe that’s just me getting them mixed up in my head, and everyone else can distinguish between the two. Either way, for having the distinction of being killed by both a Terminator, Alien, and a Predator, Bill Paxton’s star has never been as bright as it should be, so this Top 5 is celebrating this consistently amazing actor.
5. Twister (Jan De Bont-1996)
I loved the heck out of Twister when I was younger, when really I shouldn’t have. It’s not that great, and it’s sure as shit not scientifically accurate, but the movie works because Bill Paxton works so hard to keep the whole thing from falling apart. He’s given the most generic good guy role, and all of his character beats are laid out in front of him pretty much right after his introduction, but he gets everything right and draws you in so much that you don’t notice all of the other ridiculous stuff going on around him.
4. Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow-1987)
I can’t believe Near Dark is more than twenty years old. If it weren’t for the super 80’s synth score the movie would be timeless, and that includes Bill Paxton’s performance as Severen, a hot tempered and sick humored vampire near the center of the clan that “Near Dark” follows. Apparently Bill Paxton has a pretty crazy sense of humor in real life and it shines through here, as Severen goes off the rails by the movie’s end.
3. Frailty (Bill Paxton-2001)
“Frailty” barely made a splash when it was first released, which is a crying shame because this tale of a dad (Paxton) who makes his sons join him on a quest to destroy demons, is a great and twisted horror movie. The demons are hidden inside people, and there’s no way for daddy Paxton to get the demon out without killing the person. For being a man without many layers Bill Paxton plays the dad with such subtlety that it’s amazing he wasn’t nominated for anything.
2. A Simple Plan (Sam Raimi-1998)
As Hank, the level-headed and rational one of a group that finds 4.4 million dollars in the woods, Bill Paxton is fantastic. Obviously things don’t go well for everyone involved in the movie, and he manages to find and fully realize all the tiny moments when Hank realizes all the terrible things he’s going to have to do to survive. And when Hank does do all the terrible things, from suffocating a poor innocent old man to killing an innocent wife (a lot of innocents get killed), Bill Paxton captures everything perfectly.
1. Aliens (James Cameron-1986)
Is Bill Paxton’s role as Pvt. Hudson his best? Nope. But is his “game over man” line the best? Absolutely. A lot of Bill Paxton’s roles are of reasonable, good guys (who sometimes have to do shitty things) but in “Aliens” all he does is whine and sweat and complain, and it’s such a nifty performance that I have to give it the top spot. It would just feel weird if it wasn’t.