Throughout his career, Brad Pitt has taken an incredible journey. He has been the epitome of a top-tier Hollywood celebrity on the one hand, participating in blockbuster movies and exhibiting his great appeal. He has, however, also worked with eminent indie filmmakers and fascinating film producers to create a body of work that is extremely varied. Over the years, he has shown himself to be a superbly versatile actor, moving from the all-out cool of his ’90s movies to moments of reflection and playing against the Brad Pitt image.
Which, though, is Brad Pitt’s most well-known movie? Team Empire gathered to discuss his best films, including those where he takes the reins and guides us to where the plot needs to go, those where he transforms into an odd cog in a much larger machine, and some that have lingered in our heads for years. See the whole list down below.
The 10 Best Brad Pitt Movies
No.10 The Tree Of Life
Yes, that is the film in which Brad Pitt appears onscreen alongside a dinosaur. Pitt plays the father of three boys in Terrence Malick’s thought-provoking drama The Tree Of Life, which one Catholic magazine called “a philosophical exploration of grief, theodicy, and the duality of grace and human nature” (it doesn’t have many laughs). It’s as far from a popcorn movie as they come; in fact, one could refer to it as “Jurassic World: Rumination.” Because he decided to work at a power plant rather than following his passion for music, Pitt’s character is disillusioned with life and takes his emotions out on his kids.
The actor delivers one of his most restrained and moving performances to date as a good man who is powerless to stop himself from hurting those who are closest to him. Additionally, it happened by chance: less than a month before Heath Ledger’s tragic passing, Brad Pitt, who was producing the film, stepped in when Ledger had to leave due to illness.
No.9 Burn After Reading
It’s a rare thrill to see Brad Pitt in the Coen Brothers’ shaggy-dog comedy about misplaced intelligence as an absolute idiot. He is amusing as the clueless gym rat Chad Feldheimer, who buys the biography of CIA analyst Osbourne Cox and thinks it offers important information while acting completely out of character. The wordless wrath of John Malkovich’s Cox conflicts with Feldheimer’s total daffiness and lack of cunning as he tries to secure himself a reward: It’s time for a painful phone extortion attempt: I figured you’d be worried about the security of your garbage.
Pitt is performing in a very different way here, showing just how funny he can be when given the chance, from his careless facial expressions to his sloppy dance moves. It is all the more shocking because of Chad’s silly charm that he is brutally slaughtered in the last act while still sporting a big cheesy grin on his face.
No.8 12 Monkeys
Pitt’s role as a box of frogs in one of Terry Gilliam’s most approachable (and enjoyable) movies may be interpreted as an early attempt to avoid becoming a heartthrob. Pitt had just finished performing in California as a violent redneck. Pitt plays Jeffrey Goines, a patient at the Baltimore mental hospital where Bruce Willis’ time traveler regrettably finds himself, in what is effectively a one-man show. Pitt thrives on insanity, yelling and hollering, always vibrating, perpetually moving, with eyes that are either rolling around or squinting, limbs waving, hands scratching, and the whole nine yards.
He is a wired, twitchy, jerky construct that resembles a cross between Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice and Dennis Hopper’s Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now. Gilliam shot him like a cartoon character, with funny sound effects occasionally accompanying his movements. He spouts jumbled anti-culture rants. The performance wasn’t subtle, but it was still a lot of fun.
No.7 Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles
Pitt may not have liked his role—he described it as “six months in the fucking dark” and requested director David Geffen to let him leave—but he was able to make it into a film miracle. As the melancholic vampire Louis, he expertly captures the feeling of century-long loneliness and existential self-loathing. He has a gorgeous, Mufasa-like mane of hair and pallid, paper-white complexion.
Tom Cruise’s flashy performance as the more flamboyant Lestat may have made headlines for Neil Jordan’s gothic fantasy, but it’s Pitt who brings the drama — whether weeping eternal tears over Claudia’s crumbling, ashen corpse or exacting bloody vengeance against Stephen Rea and his Theatre Du Vampires. Pitt gave a stunning, reflective, and very moving performance that was overflowing with melancholy, regret, and a yearning for the sweet release of oblivion.
No.6 Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood
Here’s a tribute to Brad Pitt’s raw power: he can take a guy named Cliff Booth—who might work at your neighborhood B&Q—and transform him into a convincingly badass Hollywood stuntman, earning Oscar gold in the process. He was Leonardo DiCaprio’s ultra-laidback stunt double in Quentin Tarantino’s fairytale homage to (and parallel history of) the waning days of Golden Age tinseltown, and he won Best Supporting Actor for the part, and it’s understandable why.
Pitt channels all of his inherent charisma and charm into Booth’s laid-back personality, making him a solid set of hands who not only aids Dalton in the action scenes but also offers his wobbly co-star emotional support and company on a personal level. And while not wearing a shirt, he will change his TV aerial on a rooftop. Perhaps that was a factor in the gold statue. After a few years away from the spotlight, this was Pitt’s big-screen comeback, and it launched him into a brand-new, thrilling era of his career as the “king of cool on a real comeback.”
No.5 Inglourious Basterds
Brad Pitt’s Lieutenant Aldo Raine is the primary source of humor in Quentin Tarantino’s alternate version of World War II, despite not being the main character or the title Basterds. He enters with the swagger of a movie star, a crew cut, and a cigar in his mouth, portraying a pulp hero who loves nothing more than to kill Nazis. Pitt shows he is more than capable of speaking Tarantino’s brilliantly verbose script, and Aldo Raine is a blast to watch from scene to scene with his thick southern accent, no-shits-given attitude, and absolutely horrible command of Italian (“Bon-jyorrrno!”).
“We’re going to be doin’ one thing, and one thing alone,” he said in his opening remarks. He’s one of many reasons why Basterds stands as a highlight of QT’s latter career. From his opening remark (“Killin’ Nazis!”) to his last, brutally brilliant statement (“I think this just could be my masterpiece,” he exclaims as he chops a Swastika into Hans Landa’s forehead),
No.4 The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Any Pitt image from this movie might be taken out and displayed in a gallery. In Andrew Dominik’s reflective, lovely ode to one of America’s most infamous criminals, he is depicted as smoldering in this way. But this goes far beyond Sexy Robber. Pitt worked with Dominik for the first time on this project, so it is understandable why he would do so again (on Killing Me Softly and the upcoming Marilyn Monroe movie Blonde). In this movie, Pitt is a painting. a notion. A fantasy, a myth, and a legend that Casey Affleck, the fanboy who would eventually kill him, idolized.
Pitt is the ideal candidate to make that work. He is equally adept at danger and madness as he is at reflection; Roger Deakins casts him in a legendary light; and Warren Ellis and Nick Cave’s somber score anoints him with sorrow. This is peak Pitt in so many different ways.
No.3 Ocean’s Eleven
Ocean’s Eleven shows a lot of Brad Pitt eating. He can be seen nibbling away in scene after scene, stuffing his attractive movie star belly with calories and carbohydrates. However, Pitt’s most important scene in Ocean’s Eleven isn’t simply one where he doesn’t consume any food; he also stays silent the entire time. He is playing the role of master thief and details man Rusty Ryan, while George Clooney is playing the role of Danny Ocean, the big picture guy. They have just put together their heist squad while seated at a bar. Clooney is seated, I see. Pitt looks completely bored as he slumps and turns away from his friend/boss. Clooney asks, “Don’t you think that ought to do it?”
He is met by a void. He asks Rusty, “You think we need one more?” Rusty stays silent. Simply maintain your gaze. “You believe we require one more,” Added silence Speaking for itself. After falling victim to Rusty’s master class in pass-agg persuasion, Danny says, “Alright.” We will obtain one more. To compete with Clooney in terms of cool, let alone beat him at it, takes some major chops. Just two years after Tyler Durden, Pitt does it with ease in this instance. At that time, he could have been the only actor on the earth who could have. Their laid-back chemistry radiated across the whole Ocean’s trilogy by Soderbergh, the latest of which was released fifteen years ago. Do you feel we require one more?
No.2 Fight Club
Brad Pitt’s relationship with Tyler Durden will forever be entwined with his profession. Pitt’s character is the violent, insane, ultra-cool masculine ideal in David Fincher’s satire of capitalism and toxic masculinity (a concept that didn’t have that particular label at the time), a man who fights (duh), fucks, flips a middle finger to the establishment, and finally sets everything on fire. Therefore, he is all that Edward Norton’s character “Jack” wishes he was but isn’t, or is he?
To believe in the movie’s main idea, you must really believe in Tyler. You must be impressed by how cool he seems to be, comprehend why “Jack” would be so enamored of a man so unrestrained and free-willed, and eventually be appalled by everything he stands for. Pitt does it all perfectly, and he even wears a classic jacket. Pitt’s image continues to be a key component of Durden’s attraction, but his acting wonderfully represents all the reasons he’s no hero. Durden may have been co-opted by the worst kind of individuals in the years since, but he still remains a fascinating figure. a very distinct type of soap opera star.
One of the greatest serial-killer thrillers of all time, Brad Pitt and David Fincher’s first film together is a masterful and macabre trawl through the seven deadly sins in which Pitt’s idealistic, up-and-coming Detective David Mills and Morgan Freeman’s veteran Detective Lieutenant William Somerset attempt to solve a string of gruesome murders. You sense Mills’ determination to not just solve the crimes but to remain uncorrupted in a world of immorality thanks in part to Fincher’s attention on totally humanizing his key couple, which has all the vigor and drive of Pitt’s early performances.
That goodness remains until Mills comes up against ‘John Doe’, and finds himself utterly broken – there’s a reason why “What’s in the box?” has become the quote that Pitt says people still shout at him on the street. Sure, it’s memorable for being a shocking, brutal knife-twist in Se7en’s final act, but it’s also the horror and heartbreak in Mills’ voice that makes it connect — a man completely undone by the most harrowing acts of savagery.
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