The news that Bruce Willis will be stepping away from his acting career due to a diagnosis of the neurodegenerative disease aphasia brought with it a renewed appreciation for the work of one of the biggest pop culture stars of our lifetimes. Here are 10 roles that helped define Willis’ often-brilliant career:

Moonlighting (ABC, 1985-89)

MOONLIGHTING, (from left): Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, 1985-89. © ABC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

MOONLIGHTING, (from left): Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis

ABC/Everett Collection

Do bears bare? Do bees be? Do bartenders become overnight sensations? Willis was basically unknown when Moonlighting creator Glen Gordon Caron hired him to play quippy private detective David Addison opposite Cybill Shepherd as uptight former fashion model Maddie Hayes. Along with CheersMoonlighting helped cement the “will they or won’t they?” model of unresolved sexual tension as a part of romantic comedies going forward, as David and Maddie’s initial disdain for one another generated spectacular chemistry onscreen. Offscreen was another story, though, as Willis and Shepherd’s difficulty working together became one of several reasons — including Caron’s perfectionism causing episodes to be finished too late to air as scheduled — that Moonlighting went from smash hit to afterthought within the space of a few years. (It was not because David and Maddie finally slept together, contrary to the myth that has built up around the show.) Between the sparks he and Shepherd generated, his facility with the increasingly stylized and complicated banter, and the show’s various flights of fancy — most famously in a cracked retelling of The Taming of the Shrew called “Atomic Shakespeare” — Willis couldn’t have asked for a better launching pad for his ascension to superstardom. —Alan Sepinwall