Total Recall: Jeff Bridges' Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Crazy Heart star.
5. Bad Company
Director Robert Benton has made a career out of crafting films that make brilliant use of quiet moments and seemingly ordinary people -- and, sometimes, some pretty unusual situations. He showed his flair for character studies with his debut, 1972's Bad Company, which focuses on the efforts of a group of young men (including Barry Brown and Jeff Bridges) to avoid being drafted into the Civil War. One of a handful of counter-culture Westerns during the period, Company carefully deconstructed the romantic myths of the genre while underlining its gently comedic tone with a surprisingly moral message of social responsibility. Roger Greenspun of the New York Times was one of the many scribes who applauded the film, writing, "A naturalistic, irreverent and sometimes broadly comic view of a largely ignored aspect of the Civil War gives Bad Company a refreshingly good name."
4. Iron Man
He hasn't been asked to do it many times, but Jeff Bridges plays a mean bad guy (check out his wonderfully creepy turn in 1993's otherwise rather mundane The Vanishing for a good, albeit mostly wasted, example). He got to show his villainous colors again in 2008's Iron Man, shaving his head and growing a wicked beard to play Obadiah Stane, the treacherous business partner-turned-armored nemesis of Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Though Stane fell below "awesome fight scenes," "shots of the armor in action," and "funny one-liners from Downey" on the list of things people went to Iron Man to see, you can't have a truly entertaining superhero movie without a worthwhile heavy, and Bridges sunk his teeth into the scenery with appropriately menacing results. In the words of the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern, "The gadgetry is absolutely dazzling, the action is mostly exhilarating, the comedy is scintillating and the whole enormous enterprise throbs with dramatic energy."
We like to complain about the lack of original ideas in Hollywood, but The Fabulous Baker Boys is proof positive that you don't need to do something new to make a great movie -- you just need to do something really, really well. And Baker Boys does a few things well, actually -- including exploring the tension between a pair of piano-playing brothers (played by real-life siblings Jeff and Beau Bridges), the fading hopes of musicians resigned to pursuing commerce instead of art, and -- perhaps most importantly -- highlighting the luminous beauty of Michelle Pfeiffer. It wasn't a huge commercial hit at the time of its release, but it was profitable, and the overwhelmingly positive critical reaction has since been shared by the many millions who have seen it at home. "The Fabulous Baker Boys is like a beloved movie from the glory days of Hollywood," wrote Rita Kempley of the Washington Post. "It transports you. It's an American rhapsody."
2. Fat City
Long before he'd earned the right to play grizzled, down-on-their-luck ne'er-do-wells, Bridges paid his dues playing the young men who look up to them -- as he did in John Huston's Fat City, a beautifully unadorned look at a washed-up boxer (Stacy Keach) who takes a young contender (Bridges) under his wing. A babyfaced 23 years old and only one film removed from The Last Picture Show, Bridges displayed an uncommon grace and calm grasp of his craft in his scenes with Keach, and Huston -- who ended the movie on the sort of unsettling note we see far too rarely today -- made the most of Bridges' emerging gifts. "The movie is crafty work and very much a show," wrote J. Hoberman of the Village Voice, adding, "in one way or another, right down to the percussively abrupt open ending, it's all about being hammered."
If you love movies, you've probably seen The Last Picture Show -- and even if you haven't, you're almost certainly aware of its impact. Selected to the National Film Registry, named to the AFI's list of the 100 greatest American films of all time, and the recipient of eight Academy Award nominations (Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman both took home Oscars for their supporting roles), Picture Show launched the careers of Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, and director Peter Bogdanovich, whose previous credit was Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women. Here, Bridges' youth and easygoing charm are put to good use in the role of Duane Jackson, a high school football star whose restlessness sends him in and out of Shepherd's bed -- and, like many young men of the '50s, off to Korea. "Ultimately," observed James Kendrick of the Q Network Film Desk, "The Last Picture Show is remembered and probably always will be because it is truthful. It doesn't shy away from the inherent awkwardness of life, but instead embraces it as its subject matter."
In case you were wondering, here are Bridges' top ten movies according RT users' scores:
1. Iron Man -- 94%
2. The Big Lebowski -- 94%
3. Fat City -- 92%
4. The Fisher King -- 88%
5. The Contender -- 88%
6. The Last Picture Show -- 86%
7. Tucker: The Man and His Dream -- 86%
8. Tron -- 84%
9. Seabiscuit -- 84%
10. Surf's Up -- 84%
Finally, here's Bridges singing "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart: