When your face is so genuinely, distractingly, beautiful (trust me, I SAW IT), getting people to notice talents outside of your poreless skin, brilliant eyes and criminally symmetrical face is going to be a battle because we like things that look nice.
Brad Pitt toiled in the pretty boy ghetto for a number of years and he was able to impress with roles that most often played to his strengths (see: ability to look good while crying, scenes that required his blond hair to flit in the wind, etc.) until he got grungy for David Fincher's Fight Club (1999). Though his toned body was still visible beneath the dirt of Tyler Durden, he showed he was game to play against type and it's telling that he was first nominated for an Oscar when he de-beautified for 1995's 12 Monkeys, complete with buzz cut and wonky eye.
In the upcoming Killing Them Softly, we find him somewhere in between, playing a bad guy with a shotgun at the ready, slicked back hair and cool-guy scowl planted on his face, who is tasked with finding out just what went down during a mob-protected poker game and making sure those who messed up pay back dearly.
Reuniting with director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Pitt stars alongside James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta and Scoot McNairy and to mark the occasion, we thumbed through his back catalogue, bypassing Cool World, The Mexican, Meet Joe Black and Spy Game, to pick out his Top 10 Roles. Get the list below and add your own in the comments!
|#10 OCEAN'S ELEVEN (2001)
It's a no-brainer that the likes of Brad, George, Matt and Julia would take the place of Rat Pack-ers for the Steven Soderbergh remake of the 1960s crime-comedy caper. Smartly decked out in L.A.-appropriate suits alongside his on-screen partner in crime Clooney, Pitt was as smooth as silk in his role as Rusty Ryan, a high-stakes schemer who you'll never see sweat. He hit the right notes in this airy A-list remake that's just plain fun to watch.
|#9 THE TREE OF LIFE (2011)
Playing a no-nonsense 1950s-era dad, who runs a tight household without a smile and all but demands his young son (Hunter McCracken) develop the thick skin of a man, Pitt stepped out of the confines of the likable characters he typically plays and offered a mature performance in the enigmatic, moving Terrence Malick flick. He managed to make his father character feared and fearful and helped to deliver a strong narrative in an otherwise abstract film.
|#8 THELMA & LOUISE (1991)
Though his inch-wide dimples and svelte body may have grabbed our attention, Pitt's too-brief appearance in the classic friendship flick starring Susan Sarandon and Genna Davis kick-started his Hollywood career and, at 28, he was suddenly on everyone's radar. Though he had little to do as J.D., the hot con man who charmed the pants off naive Thelma but WHO CAN BLAME HER, he made a lasting impression that deserves to be noted. He did have to spend the next few years proving he was able to do more than look good sans shirt, but everyone needs their big break.
|#7 INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994)
Having pretty boys like Pitt and Tom Cruise play immortal friends-cum-nemeses in the sexually potent Neil Jordan adaptation of the best-selling Anne Rice novel seems now like a fever dream we all shared. Cruise has rarely had so much fun being bad onscreen, while fanning the flames of homosexuality rumours in a way that would be unthinkable in the '00s, and Pitt captures the painfully lonely and tortured Louis de Pointe du Lac, all puffy lips and longing. This is how you do hot vampire fiction.
|#6 INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)
Adopting an underbite, accent, deep neck scar and messy 'do, Pitt again does his best to lose his leading man good looks in his second Quentin Tarantino collaboration (Tarantino wrote 1993's True Romance). He played Lt. Aldo Raine, the strong-willed leader who rallied fellow Jewish-American soldiers to assassinate Nazis in a revisionist version of history and he commanded the screen during his scenes, displaying a tongue-in-cheek side and a violent, commanding one while demanding Nazi scalps.
|#5 MONEYBALL (2011)
This smart, compelling baseball film - hear me out! - from Bennett Miller almost wasn't between funding issues and studio hiccups but Moneyball emerged as a critical favourite and Oscar contender, nominated for 6 statues, including one for Pitt himself, his third career nomination. As put-upon Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, Pitt is tasked with taking a story about data analysis, national pride, sports and an underdog trying to rise above and making it come alive through his central character, a guy who's willing to try something different so his team can finally win. Making the general (non-American) public care about baseball and economics? I'd call that a win.
|#4 SNATCH. (2000)
Pardon? Pitt probably had lines of dialogue in the Guy Ritchie guns-and-diamonds caper but he chose to make his Pikey character Mickey speak in an unintelligible Irish mumble, so that everyone had to lean in and rely on his body language to get even the slightest sense of what he was going on about. Yes, that toned physique was put to good use during the boxing scenes, though this time covered with tattoos, sweat and blood, but his commitment to the role and interestingly garbled speech, modeled after Benicio del Toro in The Usual Suspects, showed an actor who was up for a challenge.
|#3 12 MONKEYS (1995)
Terry Gilliam's La jetée-based feature film gave Pitt one of his first meaty roles and playing the part of loopy anti-consumerist, animal-rights fanatic Jeffrey Goines, he had the chance to become the character actor his previous work had only hinted at, letting Bruce Willis do the leading man thing while he caught our attention thanks to a compelling, eerie, Golden-Globe-winning performance. If Thelma & Louise made him a pin-up, Twelve Monkeys freed him of the shackles of his beauty and let him act without vanity.
|#2 SE7EN (1995)
As the rookie detective to Morgan Freeman's seasoned vet, Pitt was truly masterful, able to convey his character's drive, frustrations, skills and pain in a way that felt authentic. Detectives Mills and Somerset are chasing a morally-superior, highly intelligent serial killer (an equally great Kevin Spacey) who is constantly one step ahead of them as the body count mounts in this thrilling David Fincher movie that gave audiences a surprise ending that was as shocking as it was heart-breaking. It also gave the world, if only briefly, Brad and Gwen.
|#1 FIGHT CLUB (1999)
Mesh tanks, chipped teeth, fur coats and tacky, brightly-coloured shirts do not usually a cultural icon make, but Pitt's Tyler Durden, soap-making anarchist extraordinaire, created a lingering on-screen presence, so fiercely original, dangerous, alluring and mysterious that even today just the mention of his name brings to mind a very specific image. Fight Club won Pitt many fans, both critical and average-dude types, who were given reason to believe the hype about this talented stunner. Director David Fincher found the perfect actor to bring to life author Chuck Palahniuk's alpha male punk and Pitt took to it like a thirsty man to water, cementing his rightful place atop the A-list.
What are your favourite Brad Pitt roles? Share below!
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