Billy Bob Thornton brings his talent to every role that he plays, no matter how big or small, no matter the genre. Born in Arkansas, he moved to Los Angeles in the mid-80s to pursue a career in acting. Of course, like many actors who make the move to Hollywood, success didn’t happen right away for Thornton. He worked odd jobs in order to support himself while he attended auditions. He even performed with South African rock band Jack Hammer.
The 90s, in particular, proved to be a fruitful decade for Thornton. He obtained his breakthrough movie role in 1992’s One False Move, which he also co-wrote. He would continue his work as a writer, and also as a director, and achieve critical acclaim with Sling Blade. He has only propelled in his career since, most recently starring in Netflix’s The Gray Man, opposite Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. Here are Thornton’s best movies from the 90s, ranked.
7/7 Indecent Proposal
Indecent Proposal is a 1993 drama film directed by Adrian Lyne. The film is based on the 1988 novel of the same name by Jack Engelhard, and follows a couple’s marriage, which is interrupted by a stranger’s offer to pay $1 million to spend a night with the wife Diana (Demi Moore). The film received negative reviews, but was a box office success. Indecent Proposal was one of the earliest films in Thornton’s career and saw him in a supporting role as Day Tripper.
6/7 The Apostle
The Apostle was released in 1997 and depicts the faith of a small town being tested after a famous preacher kills his wife and her lover in a fit of rage. Thornton appears in a small scene as a construction worker who is bent on wreaking havoc at a church picnic. It’s not his largest role, but he nonetheless plays it perfectly, moving forward the plot and bringing a chaos to the role that he does so well.
5/7 A Simple Plan
A Simple Plan was directed by Sam Raimi, based on the eponymous novel by Scott B Smith. The film sees Thornton portraying the socially challenged Jacob Mitchell, who joins his brother in looking for a crashed plane that contains $4.4 million in cash. Thornton was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Jacob, and the film was a box office success.
4/7 Primary Colors
Primary Colors was released in 1998 and is a satirical drama film about the issues that accompany the modern American political campaign. The film was directed by Mike Nichols and is widely thought to have taken inspiration from Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign. John Travolta is Jack Santon, who is running for office alongside his wife Susan (Emma Thompson). Thornton stars as Richard Jemmons, a political maverick strategist who assists the campaign.
3/7 Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke is a 1997 Japanese animated epic directed by Hayao Miyazaki for Studio Ghibli, a hugely successful animation studio. The film is set in the 14th Century, depicting the harmony that existed between humans, animals, and gods as it begins to crumble. The main character, Ashitaka, is maimed by an animal attack and seeks healing from the gods. He experiences a lot of obstacles on his travels and seeks to restore peace. Thornton voices Jigo in the English-dubbed version, showing his talents extend to voice acting.
2/7 One False Move
One False Move was released in 1992 and is the movie that effectively put Thornton on the map. What’s more, he also co-wrote the screenplay with Tom Epperson for director Carl Franklin. The film is a crime-thriller about a murder that went wrong, documenting an encounter between a Sheriff and three murderous criminals as a series of dangerous circumstances unfold. Thornton stars as Ray Malcolm, a dangerous character whom he embodies perfectly.
1/7 Sling Blade
Sling Blade is the movie that cemented Thornton’s star status when it was released in 1996. The film was directed, written, and starred in by Thornton, which is a huge achievement. He plays Karl Childers, an intellectually disabled man who is placed in a mental hospital after he kills his mother and her lover. He is released to the outside world later in life and must adapt to the place he knows little about. The performance earned him his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. More significantly, he also won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.