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The 20 Best Brad Pitt Movie Performances

08 March 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Rhea Shuten

best brad pitt movies

Actor and Producer Brad Pitt was born on December 18, 1963 in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He and his family then relocated to Springfield, Missouri, where he attended high school before enrolling in University of Missouri in 1982. Pitt originally majored in journalism, but after appearing in a few amateur plays he found himself bewitched by acting. After bit by the acting bug, Pitt dropped out of college just two weeks shy of graduation and moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting full-time.

Brad Pitt landed a few small roles in famous television shows such as Growing Pains and 21 Jump Street, but it was in 1991 that Pitt’s big break came with his sex symbol solidifying role in Thelma & Louise. For over twenty years his career has propelled forward and continues today, each role surprising audiences more than the last. Known for his versatility, talent, and particularly celebrated good looks – Brad Pitt has stolen the hearts of many throughout his stunning career.

From Thelma & Louise of 1991 to recent Fury of 2014, Brad Pitt has earned his place among the greatest actors of all time, unique in his style, attitude, and commanding presence on and off the screen.

Here are Brad Pitt’s best ever movies that everyone should see.

 

20. Thelma & Louise (1991)

Thelma & Louise (1991)

This American road drama, starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, was written by Callie Khouri and directed by Ridley Scott. The film tells the story of two friends, Thelma and Louise, who embark on a road trip with calamitous consequences. In supporting roles, the film also stars Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, and Brad Pitt.

Thelma & Louise is one of the most woman-empowering films ever made, not just in the film itself, but that Callie Khouri is one of only a handful of women to win an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

The film was a critical and commercial success and remains a monument of strength for real-life protagonist women. This was Brad Pitt’s major motion picture debut. Although he only appears in the film for a short time, it had an enormous impact on his career and, as mentioned earlier, deemed him a sex symbol.

 

19. World War Z (2013)

World War Z (2013)

Based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks, this American apocalyptic zombie action film stars Brad Pitt while directed by Marc Foster. Brad Pitt single-handedly carried the movie from start to finish – playing a former United Nations investigator who must travel the world in search of the zombie pandemic’s origin.

World War Z received positive critical reviews upon its release, as a revival of the zombie genre and a realistic take on the overwhelmingly popular viral outbreak plot, although there were mixed reviews amongst audiences, it remains a success. Many amongst audiences, those with less positive reviews, have stated that the film suffers too many genre clichés to be considered a great movie, but that didn’t stop Pitt from giving his character all the dedication and respect you can expect from any of his films.

World War Z is certainly worth your time as a Brad Pitt fan or an apocalyptic plot fan.

 

18. The Tree of Life (2011)

Tree of Life

Written and Directed by Terrence Malick, American experimental fantasy drama The Tree of Life stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain. The film tells the chronicles of a family in Waco, Texas and their experiences of loss, with imagery interspersed commentating on the meaning of life and origin of life on Earth.

The film received very positive critical reviews upon release, receiving many Academy Award nominations. The Tree of Life is an overwhelmingly emotionally affecting and profound film. Largely centered on the constant commentary of “the meaning of life” triggered by death and loss. Malick succeeds in releasing a film uniquely persuasive and thought-provoking – something all moviemakers should aspire to create.

Brad Pitt’s performance in this film is slightly muffled by its sheer magnitude, you hardly recognize the characters’ roles while draped in such heavy and soulful imagery, but what room was left for the leading roles was thoroughly exhausted and executed beautifully.

 

17. Burn After Reading (2008)

Burn After Reading (2008)

The Coen brothers deliver another success in their consistently impressive careers – Burn After Reading. A black comedy starring George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, and Tilda Swinton.

This film tells the dark and humorous story of two unscrupulous gym employees who end up with a disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent. The employees, Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), mistake the contents of the disk to be sensitive material and proceed to attempt selling it. More-so than the films general plot, there are an enormous amount of intertwining enjoyable stories accompanied by a colorful cast.

Pitt’s performance, like McDormand’s, is as memorable as ever. His character is quirky, amusing, and idiosyncratic. His entirely goofy and lovable performance offers many of the films laughs single-handedly. But, the entire A-list cast does a phenomenal job of taking the Coen brothers masterful talents in comedy home.

 

16. A River Runs Through It (1992)

A River Runs Through It (1992)

Period place coming of age drama based on the semi-autobiographical 1976 novella of the same name by Norman Maclean. Directed by Robert Redford and starring Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, and Emily Lloyd.

The film takes place in Montana from roughly 1917 to 1941, telling the story of two fly-fishing sons of a Presbyterian minister. One of the sons is rebellious while the other is reserved, audiences watch the two brothers fight through their adolescence – a powerful and emotional journey.

Thelma & Louise may have been Pitt’s first step into major motion pictures, but A River Runs Through It was his absolute breakthrough. Pitt’s acting career may had just begun, but his performance does not reflect it, he’s just as diligent in his work as ever. This film, outside being a platform for Pitt’s career, is a wonderfully heartfelt film that depicts siblings beautifully.

 

15. Snatch (2000)

snatch-1

Bard Pitt’s first caper comedy, before Ocean’s Eleven, for adults only! Telling two intertwining plots: the first with a boxer promoter finding himself under the thumb, and under the gun, of a ruthless gangster, the second dealing with the search of a lost diamond.

This film found its triumph through the wonderfully lively banter, eccentric characters, sadistic violence, and severely dark humor. Snatch was similar in themes, styles, and motifs to Guy Ritchie’s first film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, both films successes in their respective genre.

Pitt plays Irish traveler Mickey O’Neil, the gypsy, “Pikey,” bare knuckled, family loving, Irishman that will stop at nothing if crossed. A fun, offbeat, and idiosyncratic role for talented Brad Pitt. Of the large ensemble cast, it was Pitt whom truly delivered a comical yet emotive performance, stealing the stage and bringing the film home yet again.

From his entertaining accent to his never-failing comedic presence, Brad Pitt makes Snatch a must see for all comedy and caper lovers alike.

 

14. Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

Interview-with-the-Vampire

In this strangely erotic, eclectic romantic horror Brad Pitt shares the stage with Tom Cruise, an already well-known actor for the time, buts steals the show with his extraordinary acting. Based on the 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Telling the story of two vampires journeying through centuries, facing the tiring eternity of their existence.

The present day narrative tells their story, dating back to Pitt’s transformation into a vampire in 1791. But, the film was made most memorable by Pitt’s transformation into his character, being a method actor, it’s when he’s paired with such unique, even dark, roles that his dedication and talent truly shine.

The film is largely centered around seduction, whether it be seducing its audiences, or the long series of
unsuspecting victims and vampires. Brad Pitt certainly gives an outstanding performance, leaving us all crippled at the glimpse of eternity, temptation, and deception.

 

13. 12 Years A Slave (2013)

12 Years A Slave (2013)

Period place drama adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup. The film follows Northrup’s story, as a New York State-born free African-American who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Steve McQueen’s third feature film 12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northrup. Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupia Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, and Alfre Woodard all also deliver amazing supporting roles throughout the film. McQueen’s film was an overwhelming success, receiving widespread critical acclaim. In a film this stupendous, being a rare exact series of perfection, it’s difficult to distinguish one incredible performance from another.

Brad Pitt the role of a Canadian laborer named Bass. In spite of working in the deep south in times of slavery, he’s unsettled and disturbed by the brutality that endures. It’s largely due to this moral conflict that Bass risks his own life in an attempt to bring Northrup freedom. Pitt’s performance, like the entire film, is thought-provoking and emotional.

 

12. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

oceans-eleven

Boasting a large, all-star cast with leading male duo Brad Pitt and George Clooney, as well as other top-billing names as Andy Garcia, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, and many more. Clooney and Pitt dominate the screen as partners in crime and the brains behind the caper.

Remake of the 1960 Rat Pack favorite, the incredible common favorite Ocean’s Eleven follows a rag- tag group of ex-cons and con artists teaming up for the heist to end all heists. Planning to rob 150 million dollars, we follow this comedic and daring caper from start to finish, always enthused by Pitt and Clooney’s eccentric leading dual roles.

Ocean’s Eleven is a prime example of a mainstream film that delivers a witty, entertaining, and comical end result, perfectly showcased by Brad Pitt and George Clooney’s outstanding respective performances.

If there’s anything better than watching Pitt for two hours, it’s watching him paired with Clooney.

 

11. Babel (2006)

Babel (2006)

American-French-Mexican drama directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu stars an ensemble cast including top names Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Telling a series of weaving stories taking place in Morocco, America, Mexico, and Japan, the film is largely a social commentary discussing the varying cultural differences and struggles of the different places of the world. Babel completed Iñárritu’s Death trilogy.

Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt teamed up for the first time before their second film together, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for Babel and delivered a truly riveting dual performance. Their successful roles are as mature and multifaceted as the film itself. Pitt is dynamic, heartrending, and dramatic in his performance. He truly captures the emotional magnitude of Iñárritu’s third successful drama.

The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews upon its release, offering human insight rather than tragedy. The films commentary, having such an enormous scope, has a powerful emotional impact and is fair with its presentation of various cultures.

 

 

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  • Wolfgang

    The Tree of Life is not the #1??? Are you fucking kidding me? Come on, that’s a masterpiece!!

    • Brian Lussier

      I know! What a fucking moron this writer is!

      • Alex Nasaudean

        You are the biggest moronic troll ever, you disgusting wanker!

        • Brian Lussier

          You talkin’ to me?

    • Brandon Thompson

      But it’s performance, not the movie itself. I love both The Tree of Life and Fight Club but Fight Club has the better performance from Pitt.

  • Brian Lussier

    Clearly, the author of this list knows NOTHING about cinema! Naming films like Legends Of The Fall or Meet Joe Black better films than masterpieces like 12 Years A Slave and The Tree Of Life is not only ignorant, it’s blatantly sacrilegious!!! And BTW, I love the film and I love Brad Pitt, but he fucking sucked in Interview With The Vampire! It’s Tom Cruise who surprises in that film; Pitt looks bored to tears the whole time!

    • Haoi Wild

      just!!

    • Nancy Hall

      And it’s Solomon Northup who wrote 12 Years a Slave, not Northrup.

  • Meet Joe Black fucking sucked ass. It’s a terrible film. Where’s Johnny Suede? Ocean’s Twelve? His cameo in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind? Hello!!!

    • Brian Lussier

      I’m assuming the author didn’t put Ocean’s Twelve because he’d already put Ocean’s Eleven, and it was indeed a superior film. Twelve was the weakest in the trilogy. Agree with you on Meet Joe Black. Kalifornia would have been a better choice in my opinion.

      • And what about True Romance? Hello!

        • Brian Lussier

          Well, I love True Romance, but as far as his performance goes, it’s such a small part I’m not sure it’s even worth mentioning. Although the list states “20 greatest films”, not “20 best roles”, so yeah, it should be here. Personally, I miss Killing The Softly.

          • It was a small part but a funny one…. “Don’t condescend me man, I’ll fucking kill you”. Killing Them Softly should be in that list. Especially that final scene.

        • Alex Nasaudean

          One of the most memorable cameo roles ever!

  • Guest

    I was expecting to find “Kalifornia” and “Seven Years in Tibet”

    • Brian Lussier

      Seven Years In Tibet got the worst reviews of Brad Pitt’s film career, I believe. And for good cause: it’s a horrible movie!

  • Veronica Clarke

    Not going to insult the author, but personally I’d have taken ‘Meet Joe Black’ off – it’s really not a good movie, and maybe replaced it with ‘Kalifornia’ instead.

    • Jen Iris

      Oooooo!!! I always forget about Kalifornia…good call!!!!

  • Dillon Curren

    I wish he would have put in Killing Them Softly

    • Brian Lussier

      Me too!

  • Alex Nasaudean

    good list, could count at least ten films in Pitt’s filmography much worse than 7 years in Tibet, including kalifornia, meet joe black and killing me softly.

  • Akshy

    Great Post:). Here’s my take on some of the best movies of Brad Pitt that I have seen.

    http://akshysmultiplex.blogspot.com/2012/12/celebrity-top-5.html

  • Jen Iris

    U seriously picked interview with a vampire over Mr & Mrs Smith?! UGH! Louis is SUCH A WHINER!!! In the movie AND THE book!!! And he was GREAT!!! in Mr & Mrs Smith! I was VERY happy to see Burn After Reading in this list tho! 🙂 I was expecting to NOT see that.

  • Patrick Hill

    The thing with Brad Pitt is you never see him act, he embodies the role. Very few have attained such mastery, Daniel Day Lewis comes to mind real fast. Possibly the two finest male leads of the last 20-25 yrs now.

  • Nancy Hall

    I just watched Interview With The Vampire. Pitt’s performance was adequate, but kind of stiff. I wouldn’t put it on any “best of” list. Tree of Life was a great movie and Pitt was great in it. That should have been up there with Fight Club.

  • Ahmed

    Pitt’s performance in Snatch was one of his best, better than many on the list.