Brad Pitt has been around in Hollywood for more than 30 years now. He is an American actor and producer who is a household name across the globe. Having started his career in TV commercials, Pitt took a plunge into the world of movies in the 1980s, striking gold with his role in Thelma & Louise (1991) as a cowboy hitchhiker. Since then, Brad has never looked back and offered a spate of great performances across genres in Hollywood.
Outside Hollywood, too, Brad Pitt has been a subject of journalists’ attention for several reasons. For marrying Angelina Jolie (not anymore!) and raising a tribe of diverse adoptive kids with her. For being named the ‘Most Attractive Man’ for several years by the media. For being banned from entering China, a corollary of the release of ‘Seven Days in Tibet’ showed Tibet as an annexed territory, et al. Certainly, Brad Pitt is one of the most powerful and influential actors in the American Entertainment industry.
Born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Pitt’s family was of a conservative type. This did not, however, stop him from treading the fine line between agnosticism and atheism. He once recalled that during his graduation days, he felt a strong pull toward movies, likening them to “a portal into different worlds.” What makes Brad Pitt an admirable personality for any cinema-lover is that he has been able to strike a balance between the commercial pursuits of movies and the artistic relevance of the film. He won an Oscar for “12 Years A Slave” as a producer, which speaks a lot about his acumen to leverage a film that is peppered with artistic tonality but sold as a commercial product.
The list below breaks down his best performances of him in an illustrative career:
10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Although the film doesn’t reveal the handsome visage of Brad Pitt until the second half, it is remarkable for offering a “Johnny Depp-ish” performance by him. I like to compare this film with “Forrest Gump”, for the simple reason that this film is more about the journey than the destiny of the characters. Brad Pitt is brilliant in displaying a range of emotions throughout the film. He does so to such an extent that we forget we are watching a quite eccentric storyline.
The film is about Benjamin Button, a man who ages in reverse. He was born as a grey-haired old man and dies as a baby. Over the events of his life, he pursues his love interest named, Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett. Watch this film if you want to see an emotionally-transcendent performance by Brad Pitt. It was also the last movie that Brad Pitt did with David Fincher.
9. Ocean’s Eleven
A trivia for Brad Pitt’s fans: He loves to eat in his films. When style meets perfect storytelling you get Ocean Eleven. With steady direction from Steven Soderbergh and a talented ensemble cast, this film is bound to be a heist classic in future, for it has both tense moments to keep the viewers on the edge and well-choreographed heist sequences for mere entertainment.
The story of the film revolves around Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney, who assembles a team of eleven people to pull off a heist plan in three casinos, owned by his rival. Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan is one of Danny Ocean’s eleven and is as comfortable as he has ever been in any film. You could see the ease with which Pitt plays the character, as if he was simply being himself.
8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Doesn’t that make you lucky, getting to work with Tarantino twice? ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’, the 2019 Movie starring Brad Pitt, is plain simply Tarantino’s revisionist-take on 1969 Hollywood, which has been immortalized as the cusp of a golden era. A mashup of sorts, with both real-life characters such as Sharon Tate, Steve McQueen, Charles Manson; and fictionalized versions of anonymous underdogs in Hollywood, such as Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt, Quentin Tarantino’s New Movie is a subject of film appreciation. A little trivia for the fans: Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio also worked together in an 80s sitcom called Growing Pains.
Coming back to Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth, a stunt double who on the outset seems to be deep in a meditative, gratified existence, hiding a lot behind his glasses. However, an innocuous nudge can turn him into a raging bull. Isn’t it farcical that he gets to beat Bruce Lee in the film?
7. Burn After Reading
Some actors have had the pleasure to work with a wide range of directors, each one of them informed by their own cultural upbringing and personal experiences. Brad Pitt is one of them. Working with the Coen Brothers, who are absorbed in their wacky cinematic ideas, Brad plays a pretty different character, soaked in humor and wild dreams on how to go big.
The plot of the film is about a gym-trainer, who chances upon a CD which contains the confidential memoirs of a CIA agent, which can threaten the national security of the country. Seeing it as a godsend chance to flesh out big money from the agent, Chad, played by Brad Pitt, first tries to sell the CD to the agent and then to the Russian government. It’s a good watch if you want to see a film which oozes dark humor and has a variety of oddball characters caught in the middle of a conspiracy.
6. Inglourious Basterds
Brad Pitt in a revisionist take on Nazi Germany! Enough to rally cinema-lovers to watch the film on Netflix. In this Tarantino-esque universe, a group of militant Jews lays down a plan to assassinate Hitler, which coincides with the similar plan of a Jewish theater proprietress. The film begins with a scene which shows a farmer who is being catechized by Colonel Hans Landa, a Nazi officer. High tension rents the air, as the farmer has provided a haven to innocent Jews in the basement of his homestead. The reason I am talking about this scene is that it sets the ball rolling for the following events in the film and is a great scene to deconstruct for movie lovers.
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Inglorious Basterds is riddled with so many great scenes that it’s hard to break it down to a few. The other thing which stands out in this film, or generally in any Tarantino film, is its characters. The character of Lt. Aldo Raine, played impeccably by Brad Pitt, is remarkable, not only for his behavioral tics but also for how Pitt has portrayed a Jew, who has violent tendencies which don’t come off on his calm visage.
Haunting. Dark. Visually polished. And with a shocking end! David Fincher’s Se7en is a gritty tale of two detectives, played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, who are tracking down a serial killer, hell-bent on using seven deadly sins to commit murders. The two detectives display two separate investigative application of mind. Brad Pitt’s Davis Mills is a newlywed and a short-tempered idealist. He is flanked by Morgan Freeman’s soon-to-be-retired William Somerset, who is patient and intuitive.
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Honestly, crime thrillers don’t get better than this. With Fincher’s dark and brooding rendition of a serial killer, who is fascinated with the seven deadly sins and use them as a motif to aestheticize his killings, ‘Seven’ is a cinematic experience which subverts the cat-and-mouse chase between the police and the killer. The shocking, brutal ending wherein Pitt’s David Mills is caught in an amoral dilemma is, perhaps, the best finishing move David Fincher has given to his body of films.
4. 12 monkeys
Supporting role doesn’t mean less of a chance to display your acting chops. That’s the point Brad Pitt makes through this film. Set in a dystopian world, the main protagonist, played by Bruce Willis, is sent back in time to zero in on a virus which has annihilated humanity. Pitt plays Jeffrey Goines, a mental asylum lunatic with megalomania.
It’s hard to play a character who is on the cliff of insanity, but Pitt not only does justice to the character but also steals the eyeballs in the scenes wherein his character shares screen with Willis’s James Cole. Terry Gilliam’s terrific vision of a post-apocalyptic society is the subject of both entertainment and deep thinking on human civilization.
3. Fight Club
If you haven’t seen “Fight Club”, then you know nothing about David Fincher’s incisive diatribe against mass consumption, which this film achieves flawlessly. It has deeply entrenched the popular culture and became an ageless cult classic. I can imagine Tyler Durden giving a devilish snigger and laughing at the white-collared American conditioned to his societal upbringing.
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The main protagonist, played by Edward Norton, is an anonymous everyman who meets his alter-ego, played by Brad Pitt (or creates him out of societal decadence) and goes on a spree of anti-social exploits; forming an underground fight club, which “you cannot talk about”. Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden has become a legend in his own right and assumed a cultural status of its own.
When Guy Ritchie’s “Snatch” was released in 2000, it was labeled as a rehashed version of his other film, “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”. Both films indeed have several common themes and even visual style. But one argument in favor of “Snatch” is that Guy Ritchie made this film when he had enough money to give a full-fledged visual style to his film, which wasn’t the case with the other film, as it was made on a shoestring budget.
Snatch has a wide spectrum of dubious characters, who are either treacherously pursuing a valuable diamond or are causally involved in the pursuit. Brad Pitt plays Mickey O’Neil, a bare-knuckle champion who belongs to the Irish Traveller community. The rickety slur which Pitt masterfully adopts, along with an idiosyncratic demeanor, makes Mickey a memorable character. Quite honestly, of all the characters in the film, Brad Pitt’s Mickey soars high as the best character-actor performance.
Brad Pitt’s performance in “Moneyball” is, quite frankly, the most humanistic one he has ever done. Based on a true story, with assured direction from Bennet Miller, this movie sees Pitt portraying Billy Beane, General Manager of “Oakland Athletics”, who is in the crosshairs of a cash-strapped, self-diffident team.
Tasked with overhauling the team under a tight budget, Billy Beane does something which has never been attempted before in the game of baseball. He assembles a team based on an algorithmic-empirical analysis, used to scout new players. Interestingly, this naïve approach works well for the franchise, leading to an unprecedented winning streak for them and unabashed emulation by other teams. If you want to watch a film which subverts a boring story into an eye-popping drama, with an emotionally-enriching performance from Brad Pitt then this should be on your immediate watch-list.