Brad Pitt has always been considered a pretty boy and therefore does not get the great respect that he deserves. Easily one of the best actors of his (and my) generation, Pitt is often seen more as a movie star than as an actor — but that is selling this quite remarkable actor far too short. I am here this week to set the record, as it were, straight. Now Pitt has given some strong performances in films I did not particularly like and therefore have been left off of this list. These disliked (to varying degrees ranging from slightly disappointed to downright films I loathe – you decide which are which) films are Meet Joe Black, Legends of the Fall, Seven Years in Tibet, A River Runs Through It, Interview With The Vampire, Babel and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
This last one is especially disheartening since I am a big fan of not only Pitt but of his leading lady Cate Blanchett as well as director David Fincher (though there are two other Fincher-directed films on the list – how is that for foreshadowing?). And in case any one wonders about their omission, I have never seen Cool World nor Johnny Suede – both of which I would probably enjoy, no matter how poorly received they may have been. Anyway, without further ado (well, except for my two runners-up), here are my choices for the 10 Best Brad Pitt Performances.
Special Mention #1: Floyd in True Romance
I love Pitt in this movie but it is one of those blink-and-you-will-miss-him roles. I couldn’t exactly put Floyd in the top ten because of such a tiny role (even though it is a great role indeed), but he had to be mentioned somewhere here – especially since he is in a film written by Quentin Tarantino and I think everyone here knows how I feel about him (can you say obsession?). A hilarious turn as that stoner that never gets off the couch. Unfortunately we all have known someone like this at some point in our life.
Special Mention #2: Mickey O’Neil in Snatch
I need to start out here by saying how much I hate this movie. Hate hate hate it. I have never been a fan of Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes is the only one of his films I have liked) and Snatch is no exception. His obnoxious fast-editing and ridiculous man-child thug-wannabes are enough to get on any real cinema-lover’s nerves (go ahead Ritchie fans, bring it on). Now the one thing I did like about this film was of course, Brad Pitt’s performance as the mumbly-mouthed Mickey. It is a performance that (unlike those mentioned in the introduction) is powerful enough to get past the hatred I have for this film.
10. Rusty Ryan in the Ocean’s films
Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films (11, 12 & 13) may not be great cinematic art like some of his the director’s other films (the auteur does go back and forth between mainstream and arthouse) but they sure are fun to watch. In fact it looks like the entire cast, many of whom are actually close friends in real life, are having the time of their lives making these movies. A big part of this (I suppose the second biggest part after George Clooney) is Brad Pitt at Rusty Ryan. Playing Dean Martin to Clooney’s Frank Sinatra (and no matter how much I love the Rat Pack – and I love them a lot – these films are more enjoyable than the original – even if they get a bit redundant by the time of thirteen), Pitt portrays this character almost as if a riff on his own public Hollywood image as a big time movie star.
9. J.D. in Thelma & Louise
After four or five years of b-horror schlock and TV guest appearances, Pitt made his breakthrough as a young buck hustler in this Oscar winning film. His most memorable scene in the film is during a post-coitus moment with Geena Davis, where J.D., dressed in only in jeans and a cowboy hat (if I had a body like that I would probably run around dressed like that as well), regales his conquest with how great of an armed robber he is. This role led to bigger parts and bigger movies, but here Pitt, even though he was used mostly for the way he looked without his shirt on, is already displaying that charm that would turn him into a bona fide movie star (and in a way keep people from seeing just how damn good he is at his profession).
8. Chad Feldheimer in Burn After Reading
Perhaps the biggest idiot Pitt has ever played (perhaps). Acting the cocky, bumbling personal trainer turned would be blackmailer in this hilariously screwball Coen Brothers film, Pitt turns away from his typical movie star image (though the character is quite vain still) and creates a unique character. Pitt’s blackmailer could not be more inept and seeing an actor such as Pitt take on this role (a role actually written with the actor in mind) is an added bonus to an already very funny ensemble film that includes Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and Pitt’s old buddy George Clooney.
7. Detective David Mills in Se7en
What’s in the box!? What’s in the box!? This frightfully creepy David Fincher film (the first of three Pitt would make with the director) is the stuff that nightmares are made of – or from. Now it is mere coincidence that this film comes in at number seven (or se7en if you will) but that mere coincidence just adds to the sense of creepiness that this film instills in me. But enough of Fincher’s creep factor (or for that matter Kevin Spacey’s) what of Pitt’s performance? As the moral center of the film, Pitt’s Detective Mills is what keeps the film on a level playing field even when everything around him is as batshit crazy as it is.
6. Jeffrey Goines in Twelve Monkeys
Excuse the pun but this is Pitt’s most cock-eyed role ever. Playing opposite Bruce Willis in this Terry Gilliam directed remake of the 1962 French short film La Jetee, this would be Pitt’s first Academy Award nominated performance (his only other so far coming in 2010 with Benjamin Button). Making his eyes go all googly (a character trait that Pitt added to the character himself) and flouncing about in time and space (and whatever the Hell is going on) Pitt seems to be having a batshit crazy blast with the role.
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