There was a time in the 90s when the standard of male attractiveness was Brad Pitt. Apparently it was a standard that was good enough to net him Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie, both women who set their own gender’s hotness standards. But aside from raw physical looks, Pitt has also brought acting skill and panache to the cinema. While he started off as just a pretty face, he has evolved into a consistently skilled and eminently marketable actor.
Pitt’s first role of any significance, he plays a robber of both the literal and romantic variety as the man who gives Geena Davis’ Thelma her great awakening.
9. Legends of the Fall
Winner of an Oscar for best cinematography, this film features Pitt as the middle son of Anthony Hopkins. Maybe it was his parenting skills here that made Pitt (as Death) come back to take him away in Meet Joe Black.
8. A River Runs Through It
Pitt must have a good habit of appearing in films that are shot well, as this film was also a winner for best cinematography. With all the fly fishing in this movie, that’s probably not surprising.
This loose adaptation of The Iliad was one of the most expensive films ever produced. But, when you have Pitt as Achilles, taking names and kicking butt, isn’t it worth it?
6. Inglorious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino has a habit of taking actors that you don’t expect much of and producing revelatory performances from them. Here, he takes Pitt and gets a bravura performance from him as Col. Aldo Raine, leader of a clan of Jewish Allied soldiers with a desire to end World War II as it should have ended.
5. Ocean’s Eleven
You have to think that the entire genesis of this movie was director Steven Soderbergh saying “let’s get George Clooney and Brad Pitt together and see who can out-cool the other.” Fortunately, it worked.
4. Twelve Monkeys
Terry Gilliam’s venture into subjective memory and the future earned Pitt an Oscar nomination and a trip to the psych ward at Temple University’s hospital to study for the role. Too bad he wasn’t married to Angelina Jolie yet; he could have saved himself the trip.
The third teaming of Pitt with director David Fincher, it netted him a second Oscar nomination in this visually inventive story of a man who ages backwards. Unfortunately, it isn’t the Dick Clark story.
Saying that Brad Pitt plays a cop who, due to a serial killer, loses his head seems an inordinately cruel pun to make. But, that won’t stop me.
1. Fight Club
Pitt forever secured his place in screen history with his role as Tyler Durden in David Fincher’s cult classic, lauded as one of the best and most controversial movies of the 90s. But, we should stop talking about Fight Club; someone told me that you’re not supposed to talk about Fight Club.
Through the roles he’s chosen and the directors he’s worked with, Brad Pitt has managed the difficult transition from big-screen pretty boy to legitimate and respected actor. As long as he can manage to make the same transition to raising kids with Angelina and keep his Zen Buddhist calm while doing it, cinema is safe for him.