Billy Bob Thornton’s Best Movies of the 90s, Ranked

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Billy Bob Thorton brings his talent to every role 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 an acting career. Of course, like many actors who move to Hollywood, success didn’t come right away for Thornton. He did odd jobs to support himself while he attended auditions. He even played with the South African rock band Jack Hammer.


The 90s, in particular, proved to be a fruitful decade for Thornton. He got his breakthrough film role in 1992 A wrong move, which he also co-wrote. He will continue his work as a writer, but also as a director, and will be acclaimed by critics with slingshot blade. He has only since propelled his career, most recently starring in Netflix’s The gray man, facing Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. Here are Thornton’s best movies of the 90s, ranked.

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7/7 Indecent Proposal

Billy Bob Thornton in Indecent Proposal
Paramount Pictures

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 wedding, which is cut short by a stranger’s offer to pay $1 million to spend a night with wife Diana ( Demi Moore). The film received negative reviews, but was a box office success. Indecent Proposal was one of the first films of Thornton’s career and saw him in a supporting role as Day Tripper.

Related: Billy Bob Thornton’s 8 Best Performances, Ranked

6/7 The Apostle

the apostle
October movies

The Apostle was released in 1997 and depicts a small town’s faith 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 bent on wreaking havoc at a church picnic. It’s not his biggest role, but he plays it perfectly nonetheless, driving the plot forward and bringing chaos to the role he plays so well.

5/7 A simple plan

billy-bob-thornton-a-simple-plan
Paramount Pictures

A simple plan has been directed by Sam Raimi, based on the eponymous novel by Scott B Smith. The film sees Thornton play socially handicapped Jacob Mitchell, who joins his brother in searching for a crashed plane containing $4.4 million in cash. Thornton was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Jacob, and the film was a box office success.

4/7 Primary colors

billy-bob-thornton-primary-colors (1)
Universal images

Primary colors was released in 1998 and is a satirical drama film about the issues that come with modern American political campaigning. The movie was directed by Mike Nichols and it is widely believed to have been inspired by 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 maverick political strategist who assists the campaign.

Related: Billy Bob Thornton to star in Taylor Sheridan’s Land Man

3/7 Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke
Studio Ghibli

Princess Mononoke is a 1997 Japanese anime epic directed by Hayao Miyazaki for Studio Ghibli, a wildly 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 break down. The main character, Ashitaka, is maimed by an animal attack and seeks healing from the gods. He encounters many obstacles during his travels and seeks to restore peace. Thornton voices Jigo in the English dubbed version, showing that his talents extend to voice acting.

2/7 A wrong move

billy-bob-thornton-one-wrong-move (1)
IRS release

A wrong move came out in 1992 and was the film that effectively put Thornton on the map. Additionally, he also co-wrote the screenplay with Tom Epperson for director Carl Franklin. The film is a crime thriller about a murder gone wrong, documenting an encounter between a sheriff and three murderous criminals as a series of dangerous circumstances unfold. Thornton plays the role of Ray Malcolm, a dangerous character that he embodies perfectly.

1/7 slingshot blade

billy-bob-thornton-sling-blade
Miramax Movies

slingshot blade is the movie that cemented Thornton’s star status when it was released in 1996. The film was directed, written and starred by Thornton, which is a huge achievement. He plays Karl Childers, an intellectually handicapped man who is placed in a psychiatric hospital after killing his mother and her lover. He is released into the outside world later in life and must adapt to the place he knows little about. This performance earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. More importantly, it also won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

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