When news of Bill Paxton's passing emerged yesterday, there was an outpouring of love and affection that marked the loss of one of the all-time greats. Sometimes when a famous person dies, it really gets you in the gut.
I loved Bill Paxton. A lot. And I know I'm not alone. Paxton had a lot of fans all around the world but we really loved him here in New Zealand. There was something about his down-home, good ol' boy charm that made him everybody's country cousin.
Even Jennifer Aniston teared up when she mentioned Paxton's passing in her introduction to the In Memoriam segment at yesterday's Oscar ceremony, which was otherwise unmarked by incident from what I gather.
The original plan was to celebrate Paxton's life by citing his five best performances, then I instantly realised that wouldn't be nearly enough to even begin to honour the breadth and depth of his acting skills.
Even 10 isn't enough, so I tried to focus on the performances where he's at his most Paxton-esque. So while he's a welcome grounding presence in films like Twister, Titanic, Mighty Joe Young and Apollo 13, they don't show up on this list.
Here in ascending order of greatness, are the 10 greatest performances given by Bill Paxton. Truly one of the best.
10. The Terminator (1984)
A tiny but instantly iconic role, Paxton plays a punk - complete with spiked blue hair and a tyre tread across his face - who taunts Arnie upon his arrival in 1984 at the Griffith Observatory, making for a scene much cooler than anything in La La Land, which also featured the GPO heavily. Paxton set the standard for his own brand of cinematic douchebaggery with his perfect articulation of the line "I think this guy's a couple cans short of a six-pack...". Later, he says "F*** you, a**hole!", and it's even better.
9. 2 Guns (2013)
Like number six on this list, this was a relatively recent performance that showed the fire in Paxton's belly was no way quelling with age. He plays a flamboyantly corrupt Texan FBI agent who's the primary antagonist of leads Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, and he's an absolute hoot. This guy could almost be Chet (see: 7) 30 years later.
8. Predator 2 (1990)
As has been often remarked, Paxton was the only actor to take on the Terminator, the Alien and the Predator, the trifecta of 1980s monster awesomeness. He's especially energetic in this underrated sequel that gathered together some of the coolest character actors of the time.
7. Weird Science (1985)
Paxton himself has often said that this was the role that made his career, and his performance lives up to that assessment. Playing Chet, the asshole older brother of Ilan Mitchell-Smith's horny teenager, he brings unadulterated flair to what would be a throwaway character in any other actor's hands. Even when he gets turned into a giant pile of ... you know.
6. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Director Doug Liman recently revealed that Paxton was getting ready to shoot the sequel to this kick-ass sci-action thriller when he underwent the heart surgery that led to his passing. Man. He brought 100 per cent Pure Paxton Passion to his role as an exasperated sergeant in a future war. Paxton really helped sell the sardonic tone of the film, and once again demonstrated his undiminished ability to project more authentic on-screen energy than anyone he goes up against.
5. Near Dark (1987)
There's a notable duality to Paxton's career - he was both a big time Hollywood mainstream leading man, and a cult figure of the highest regard. His grimy swagger and slightly dangerous charms were never better deployed than in this ultra stylish vampire flick directed by future Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break). Paxton's rarely more fun than messing with rednecks in a dive bar.
4. A Simple Plan (1998)
Proof that Paxton didn't have to go big to be great, this devastating thriller contains one of the actor's subtlest performances. He plays a humble family man caught in an increasingly nightmarish spiral of greed after finding a bag of money. For another stellar, mellow Paxton performance, check out the underseen 1997 Irish gypsy thriller Traveller.
3. Frailty (2001)
Paxton both starred in and directed this stunning gothic horror, a still under-appreciated gem that deserves a much wider audience. He plays a devout Southern father who recruits his two young sons to be part of his mission to rid the world of what he believes to be evil souls. It's dark, twisty stuff, co-starring Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe. It also forces one to consider what kind of other awesome movies Paxton may have directed if he hadn't left us so soon.
2. One False Move (1991)
Just as he was transitioning from character actor to leading man, Paxton shone in this stellar indie crime thriller (co-written by and co-starring Billy Bob Thornton) as a small-town sheriff who gets a little too excited when a manhunt for some serious criminals comes into his jurisdiction. Paxton's wide-eyed, country boy earnestness is absolutely heart-breaking.
1. Aliens (1986)
The one, the only, the all-time. The tough guy who freaks out when the going gets tough is a longstanding tradition in war movies, but nobody made you care more for the character than Bill Paxton in James Cameron's masterpiece. His Private Hudson is possibly the seventh or eighth most important character in the film, but Paxton's performance ensures you'll never forget him. He has an infinite number of quotable moments, most famously "Game over, man!" (embedded above), but my favourite will always be the way he responds after the new Lieutenant addresses him as "Hicks". "Hudson sir. He's Hicks."
Rest in peace Bill. Love you always.