It’s hard not to hate Brad Pitt. The man has it all –good looks, intelligence, charm and, gosh darn it, he’s a gifted actor. Looking at his resume, you’ll be surprised by the number of times you hear yourself saying, “I love that movie,” or “That was a great film.” This weekend, Pitt returns to the screen with World War Z, an apocalyptic zombie film by Marc Forster. The movie doesn’t necessarily scream Brad Pitt – seriously, when was the last time we saw him in an action blockbuster? Ocean’s Thirteen? But Pitt is known for his versatility, and if he wants to play an action hero, he can go right ahead. We decided to honor his new movie by looking for his best films, so here goes…
I’ll be the first to say that Moneyball was extremely overrated (even with a script by Aaron Sorkin), but Brad Pitt was damn good as Billy Beane. Based on a true story, Moneyball tells the tale of the general manager of the Oakland A’s who is forced to reinvent his team with a new strategy and a lean budget. Pitt completely immerses himself into the character, and thanks to his performance, we get a decent film about America’s greatest pastime.
Barry Levinson‘s crime drama is a powerful film that’ll make you very squeamish. In it, a group of men who were brutally abused at a detention center as kids seek revenge on those who hurt them. Though the story has its fair share of weak points, it’s saved by the stellar multi-generational cast. I mean, c’mon there’s Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Patric, Kevin Bacon, and of course, Brad Pitt. Sleepers is dark and haunting, and it stays with you long after it’s over.
8. Killing Them Softly
Killing Them Softly is not my cup of tea, but I won’t deny that it’s an excellent film (I had to watch it twice to realize it though). Based on George V. Higgins‘ 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade, the story follows an enforcer hired to track down three idiots who rob the Mob thus causing the local criminal economy to collapse. Pitt’s Jackie Cogan is there to restore order. As a commentary on capitalism, Killing Them Softly is spot-on. (It’s killed or be killed baby.) Pitt’s closing speech is powerful, stinging even. He ends by saying: “I’m living in America, and in America you’re on your own. America’s not a country. It’s just a business. Now f***ing pay me.” And all while watching President Obama talk about the American Dream on TV.
Babel is like a Dementor, when you’re watching it, you feel like you’ll never be able to feel happiness again. And yet, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu knew what kind of emotions he wanted to convey with this intense layered drama, and he stuck to his guns. With Babel we don’t get a traditional narrative film. There’s no beginning; there’s no end. All we get are ideas about choices and consequences, plus a handful of memorable performances.
6. Burn After Reading
Burn After Reading was not the the followup to No Country For Old Men that people were expecting. Critics, in particular, were a bit let down by the goofiness of it all. Here you have a fired CIA official (John Malkovich) who loses his memoir to two gym maniacs (Pitt and Frances McDormand) who try to blackmail him for money. (Meanwhile somewhere George Clooney and Tilda Swinton have sad sex.) But in his role as the obsessed-fitness trainer Chad Feldheimer, Pitt is hilarious, charming and memorable.
5. Inglorious Basterds
As Brad Pitt so cleverly says at the end of Inglorious Basterds, this film really is Quentin Tarantino‘s “masterpiece,” thus far. The auteur re-writes history in the most creative way and brings it to life with a spectacular cast. Waltz steals the movie with his charming performance, but Pitt puts up a good fight, balancing the comedy with the drama.
4. 12 Monkeys
Like all of his movies, Terry Gilliam‘s sci-fi drama 12 Monkeys is a head-scratcher that leaves you with more questions than it answers. But it’s also got everything one could ever want from a sci-fi movie – great performances, a twisty plot, time travel, Bruce Willis, etc. Pitt’s portrayal of Jeffrey Goines, the crazy animal-rights activist, is freakishly good and a standout performance on his resume.
With his excellent visual story-telling skills, David Fincher tells the story of two very different detectives (Pitt and Morgan Freeman) who together trail a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who punishes people for committing one of the seven deadly sins. As far as serial killer movies go, Se7en is as brilliant as Silence of the Lambs. Pitt’s performance is strong and horrifying, full of emotion and innocence. Oh yeah, and Morgan Freeman is pretty excellent too.
Guy Ritchie‘s flashy crime-thriller Snatch is loaded with interesting characters like bounty hunters, crooks, diamond dealers, diamond thieves, and Russian assassins, but Brad Pitt’s charming mumbling Irish gypsy is at the top of the list. Snatch was only Ritchie’s second feature film, and yet he delivered a great piece of entertainment marked with his own personal style.
1. Fight Club
Nothing beats David Fincher’s Fight Club. He’s one of the best filmmakers of his generation, and Pitt one of the best actors around. Together they made one of the best films ever. Based on Chuck Palahniuk‘s novel of the same name, Fight Club tells the tale of an insomniac office worker (Edward Norton) who meets a rebellious soap maker (Pitt) who then introduces him to an underground society in which men fight each other for sport. Pitt’s Tyler Durden is the essence of cool. He’s smart, confident, handsome and fearless; a god in the eyes of any man.
Honorable Mention: No Way Out
No Way Out isn’t a Brad Pitt film; it’s a Kevin Costner one. But according to IMDB, Pitt had a small uncredited role in there somewhere. The 1987 film follows a Navy Officer who begins a steamy affair with the mistress of the Secretary of Defense. After she ends up dead, Tom finds himself in a witch hunt that endangers his true identity. No Way Out is a great political spy thriller, with lots of twists and turns and solid acting.
What are your favorite Brad Pitt movies?