Best Walter Hill Films – Five Favorites

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

best Walter Hill films

Walter Hill has had a long and fruitful career, directing some of everyone’s favorite films. He recently put out his western, Dead for a Dollar (read our review) and made the press rounds (check out our interview here) leading to a revaluation of his work somewhat. His filmography encompasses a lot of classics and many genres as a writer and as a director. His work as a producer covers even more ground. Here we will take a look at his directorial work which started in 1975 with Hard Times, and is still going today, The man has had one good career with rare few lesser films. To select which films to put on this list, the weaker ones were crossed out, and then we just had to go with our favorites as they are all parts of the best of what’s out there for film fans. 

The Warriors (1979) 

A classic in its own right and Hill’s third feature film, this one is a bit more on the cult classic side of cinematic life and that’s part of what attracts new fans to it every year. The film is about a gang who must cross NYC from the Bronx to Coney Island alive after being accused of murder at a meeting of the gangs. This is a dark film with some truly great moments of acting, especially from James Remar who really steals the show in what was only his second part. Overall, this film feels very much 1970s, which adds a lot to its charm. The writing and direction are top-notch, giving this one an eternal classic aspect to it, even though it’s more of a cult classic at the moment.  

48 Hours (1982) 

Best Walter Hill Films: 48 Hours

A film about a criminal temporarily released under the charge of a cop to catch a killer, this classic stars Nick Nolte as the cop and Eddie Murphy as the criminal, creating a fairly well-balanced buddy action flick. Their performances feed off of each other. In the part of the antagonist, James Remar is excellent and it’s been said that he went without sleep before his shoot days so that his character could have a particularly psychotic look. This one is a definite classic and one that is still in rotation on cable stations across the US and around the world. It has true staying power and is a film just about anyone who watches films has seen. This excellent entry in Hill’s directing resume is one that should not be skipped. And, of course, it made Eddie Murphy just about the biggest star of the eighties…

Streets of Fire (1984) 

Another cult classic courtesy of Walter Hill, this one has a fantastic soundtrack, and great performances. It’s very eighties, but we mean that in the best way. The film has one of those amazing casts that cannot be ignored with Michael Paré and Diane Lane in the leads and Rick Moranis (can’t go wrong with Rick Moranis), Willem Dafoe, Bill Paxton, Lee Ving, Robert Townsend, Elizabeth Daily, and Ed Begley Jr amongst an incredible cast. The film itself is about a singer who is kidnapped and her mercenary ex is hired to save her. The story seems simple, but this is the mid-1980s, so there is plenty here to keep the film quite entertaining and the whole thing is a nostalgic blast. The costumes, the settings, the music, it all comes together to make for a magically colorful at times, dark at others piece of American cinema that is eternally rewatchable. 

Extreme Prejudice (1987) 

Best Walter Hill Films: Extreme Prejudice

Another 1980s entry, this one has a cast to be remembered as well, including Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, Michael Ironside, Maria Conchita Alonso, Rip Torn, Clancy Brown, William Forsythe, and a bunch of others. This is a dream cast for that era and even now really. It’s one of those films where if you don’t know at least one of the faces here, you truly need to watch more movies (it’s also particularly well-loved here on JoBlo). On top of this case, this western thriller is one that is on point in terms of story, directing, and acting of course, following the story of a Texas Ranger (Nick Nolte) and his nemesis – a drug kingpin (Powers Boothe). The two used to be close friends growing up, but now they are facing off. It’s some ways it’s a quasi remake of Hill’s mentor, Sam Peckinpah’s, The Wild Bunch. This is especially true when crew of off-the-books Special Forces assassins (led by Ironside) show up to wreak havoc. It also has a great score by Jerry Goldsmith.

Bullet to the Head (2012) 

Best Walter Hill Films: Bullet to the Head

Hear us out! This is a favorite and one that grows on the viewer with a couple of watches. At first, it feels like something odd, a weird decision from all involved, but once attention is given to it, the viewer is rewarded with an entertaining film. This adaptation of the French “Du plomb dans la tête” comic book is led by Sylvester Stallone with a bunch of tattoos, no beard Jason Momoa as a bad guy, with Sung Kang and Christian Slater in supporting parts. There’s tons of action in it, and the fight sequence between Stallone and Momoa is something else (especially given there is almost a full foot height difference between them) with axes brought into it and a brutal style applied to the choreography. Oh and let’s not forget the story here, where Stallone plays a hitman who teams up with a DC detective after both of their partners are murdered so they can find the culprit and make them pay. 

Indeed, Walter Hill’s career as a director is quite varied, and his career as a producer even more so. In one way or another, the man has been involved in every single genre under the sun, as a producer on Alien and Aliens, as director on the Tales from the Crypt series, as a director of westerns, thrillers, action films, dramas, comedies, etc. The man has done a little bit of everything and his talent is undeniable. The man has been making movies since 1975 and is still active to this day, giving the public some of the best films out there and very few misses in terms of quality. He’s one filmmaker that if you think you don’t know him, just look up his filmography and you’ll see that you’ve watched at least one film of his.

These are our favorites which were quite difficult to bring down to just five, so which ones are your favorites? 

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