The film industry and movie fans are still mourning the unexpected death of Bill Paxton. Paxton had been one of Hollywood’s most popular character actors since the late 1980s, and he landed a few well-known lead roles of his own (Twister, the TV series Big Love). Yet while he had major parts in a number of huge hits (Apollo 13, Tombstone, Aliens, Vertical Limit, etc.) some of his best performances came in lesser-known films. Here are a few of Paxton’s finest performances in films you may have missed that you can check out on Netflix or through other movie sites.
5. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Paxton has third billing in this sci-fi film, behind Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, so he doesn’t have nearly as big a role here as in the other films on the list. As a master sergeant leading the military resistance against an ongoing alien invasion, he makes the most of his limited role. As far as the film, picture Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. Edge of Tomorrow is a very underrated science fiction movie, with a much better plot than you would expect just from a glance at the trailer.
4. A Simple Plan (1998)
Paxton was always so affable and likable in his films that seeing him in this role scheming to commit murder and other mayhem is unsettling. When Paxton’s character, his mentally challenged brother (Billy Bob Thornton) and a friend find a crashed private plane containing more than $4 million in drug money, they decide to hide the cash. When they must start killing to cover their tracks, they head down a slippery slope that ends in tragedy.
3. Trespass (1992)
Cultures clash as Paxton and fellow Arkansas fireman (popular character actor William Sadler) get a treasure map from a dying man. The map supposedly leads to a huge stash of stolen gold in an abandoned building in desolate East St. Louis. But after they witness a gang killing at the site and are spotted by gang members (including rappers Ice-T and Ice Cube), they must fight for their lives to escape.
2. Frailty (2002)
Paxton stars and made his directorial debut in this horror/mystery film about a man who becomes a serial killer after having what he believes are visions from God. Unfortunately, he orders his two young sons to help him fulfill his mission. Yes, it’s a disturbing premise, although much of the violence occurs off camera. Paxton is so earnest and apologetic as a serial killer, you might even think, “Maybe these people really do deserve to die.”
Yet there is far more here than just a dysfunctional family doing evil things, as the ending features not one, not two, but three twists that most people won’t see coming. Matthew McConaughey gives a great performance as the serial killer’s older son telling the family’s story to an FBI agent through flashbacks (it’s sad that his voiceovers evoke thoughts of his Lincoln commercials). Paxton shows nice vision in Frailty as a director, and he turns in his typical competent performance as an actor. Frailty is currently available as a streaming option on Netflix.
1. One False Move (1992)
This is another vastly underrated film. Like A Simple Plan, it also pairs Paxton with Billy Bob Thornton, who not only starred in the movie but wrote the screenplay. A familiar narrative underlines the plot, as professional lawmen trying to solve a case ridicule a local yokel sheriff who wants to be involved in the investigation. Paxton brings Sheriff Dale “Hurricane” Dixon to life with such passion we can feel his pain and rejection as the other lawmen snicker at him behind his back. But as the case develops, there’s an unexpected twist or two that puts Paxton under fire. One False Move has become a cult classic of sorts in the years since its release, and Paxton’s untimely death probably will enhance that status.