Terrence Malick’s long awaited, Palme d’Or winning, The Tree of Life is upon us. Since the film stars one Brad Pitt, I thought it a good time to look back at some of his finest accomplishments. (Can’t really do this for Malick, the dude only has 4 other films so you should see all of them.) Yes, Mr. Pitt, the man all women want to be with, and all men want to be . . . and in some cases also be with. My own sexual proclivities aside *ahem* the man has proven time and time again to be more than just an icon, but a damn fine actor.
Routinely skirting expectations, Pitt actively pursues auteur directors and challenging projects. Never resting on his laurels, or ridiculous good looks, or those soft lips, or his hard body, or his . . . I mean . . . the man does good work. Some of his best work has come from supporting roles, often in ensemble pieces: Babel, Inglourious Basterds or Burn After Reading. But he’s also a fantastic leading man in things like Seven, Legends of the Fall, and Interview with the Vampire. Here now are what I consider his 5 best performances.
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) – Jesse James
In this stunningly shot Victorian Western, Pitt plays the mythic gunslinger with quiet resignation and an underlying intensity. The film boasts Casey Affleck’s best performance as well. But Pitt, with limited dialogue and screen time, manages to etch his presence into our consciousness, much like his real life counterpart cemented his name in western lore.
4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
– Benjamin Button
Playing another (long) title character, Pitt earned his second Oscar nomination. As the man who ages in reverse, Pitt employs a New Orleans accent and a calm sadness about his unusual aging. He plays beautifully off the always great Cate Blanchett. It’s very similar to his Jesse James role, but with a lot more romantic yearning and a lighter fairy tale touch.
3. Snatch (2000) – Mickey O’Neil
The best looking man on the planet goes chameleon. In a cast loaded with mostly Brits, Pitt absolutely steals the whole movie from everyone as the unintelligible, mother-loving, bare-knuckle boxing gypsy. I believe he’s the reason people think Snatch is better than Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, which it’s not, but Pitt is almost great enough to make it true.
2. Fight Club (1999) – Tyler Durden
One of the best films ever made. I think Pitt had something to do with this. Here he isn’t acting so much as embodying all that is cool, bad-ass and very, very wrong. He’s wily, clever (it’s working out for him), preachy (in a way only Pitt could make it cool), and exactly what you’d expect Ed Norton’s id to be like. The character has become a cultural touchstone . . . and his abs have also never looked better than after that one fight. You know the one.
1. 12 Monkeys (1995) – Jeffrey Goines
Pitt’s first Oscar nomination remains his finest performance. He goes for broke as the institutionalized, environmental terrorist with the lazy eye. He is riveting. You can’t take your eyes off him. The performance is manic and played completely without a safety net. Goines is bat-shit crazy, yet always calculating. He’d been good before, but this was the moment you realized he could surprise you.
What’s your favorite Brad Pitt movie? Is anyone else dying to see The Tree of Life and not another sequel?