While other films on this list made Paxton more famous, this was perhaps this role that got him noticed by the industry. This was directed by Ron Howard and it starred Tom Hanks, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise. That’s a lot of star power. Not only did Paxton “hold his own” but like he does in many films he’s in, he steals scene after scene.
This 1992 film was the first one that garnered Paxton serious oscar consideration. Although he was not nominated that year, there were many critics who singled him out for his portrayal of a naive, small-town sherrif. This was a role that required Paxton to look cheery all the time and a bit awestruck when the big time authorities come to town
Paxton anchors a ridiculously strong and likable cast, including two future Oscar winners (Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Helen Hunt) in a film about tornado chasers. Jan de Bont, of Speed fame directed this blast of a ride and he managed to get good and fun peformances out of everyone. This is the kind of role that could have been played by a lot of actors but once again, Bill brings his subtle quirkiness to the role
Bill plays a Gulf War veteran who starts a chain of events that will turn this yuppie gathering of wine drinking liberals into murderers who think they are righteous for doing so. Paxton knocks on their door one dark and stormy night and asks for shelter as his truck has broken down. He goes on to berate, make fun of and ridicule the physically inferior crowd of people he is now with and then something terrible happens. This is a funny film but with a very serious but brief performance from Paxton. I always thought this is what Chet would grow up to be like.
Here he plays a deeply religious Bible Belt father of two who has a vision one day. In this vision, God ostensibly gives him the ability to see Demons who walk the earth. His job, and now his kids job is to kill these demons before they can do (more) bad. Paxton is excellent in this as the father who loves him kids but teaches them to kill with passion
In this film Bill plays an average, hard working, small town man who has his own general store. Him and his two cronies, played by Thornton and Brent Briscoe, find a crashed plane and 4 million dollars. His two cronies, one of whom is his brother, are rejoicing and discussing how rich they are. Bill then has one of the most memorable lines from any film as he says, "You work for the American dream, you don’t steal it"
This might be the role he had the most fun with as he gets to play a slimey used car salesman who tricks Jamie Lee Curtis into believing his story about being an international spy. He even changed his appearance to look slimey in the film. And his rapport with Arnold is bang on.
Simply put, Paxton owns this film. Chet is a mean SOB who has just come home from military school. He extorts money from his brother, talks down to him and generally treats him like a peon. Paxton, with his military haricut and pretty decent physique in the film makes the character his own. After you see him in this, you cannot picture anyone else in the role. Chet is simply awesome.
Paxton’s Hudson is perfect because at first he comes off as the comic relief with subtle touches liking asking Vasquez if she’d ever mistaken for a man and of course his reaction to the airship crashing. "Well that’s great, that’s just fucking great…game over man…game over." But then he turns into a relatable character as the marine who is scared just like the rest of the cast would be. 9 out of 10 people say Paxton playing Hudson was the role and performance of a lifetime.