Total Recall: Brad Pitt's Best Movies

We run down the best-reviewed work of the Inglourious Basterds star.

Today he's one of the most bankable movie stars in Hollywood, and one of the few actors audiences will pay to see no matter what sort of role he's playing -- whether it's action, drama, or comedy the script calls for, having Brad Pitt's name above the title is about as close as anyone can come to a guarantee for a hit film. Not so long ago, however, Pitt was just another good-looking dude with enough gumption to work his way into a steady stream of TV shows and bit parts in movies. He's come a long way, for sure, and to celebrate his latest starring role -- in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, opening this weekend -- we decided the time was right for a Brad Pitt edition of Total Recall.

You know the drill: As always, we spun the dials on the Tomatometer, arranged the movies in order of Freshness, and took the top 10. Of course, these Total Recalls are no stranger to controversy, and any filmography as lengthy and varied as Pitt's is bound to include a few favorites that miss the cutoff. (Sorry, Johnny Suede fans.) But we're getting ahead of ourselves, aren't we? Let's save the bickering for the comments, start at the bottom, and work our way up through the 10 best-reviewed movies of Brad Pitt's career!


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10. Sleepers

Pitt celebrated his 1995 breakout by making Sleepers, a star-studded adaptation of Lorenzo Carcaterra's controversial (and allegedly quite fictional) semi-autobiographical book about a group of childhood friends who use the horrific abuse they suffered while serving time in a New York boys' home as justification for a revenge scheme. With a cast that included Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Jason Patric, Kevin Bacon, and Minnie Driver alongside Pitt, Sleepers was guaranteed a modicum of success at the box office, where it performed respectably, eventually earning over $100 million in worldwide receipts. Critically, however, the results were a little more mixed; some writers found fault with Barry Levinson's directing (Steve Davis of the Austin Chronicle accused him of making "a lopsided movie"), while others, like the Deseret News' Chris Hicks, found it unseemly for a film to "suggest that we cheer murderers and drug dealers." In the end, the critical community's divergent (though ultimately positive) response is best summarized by Time's Richard Schickel, who wrote, "it is all legally preposterous. But Levinson is a slick craftsman, his actors are insinuatingly real, and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus casts a disarmingly believable light on these proceedings."


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9. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

"Brad Pitt as Jesse James: Seldom has an actor been so perfectly cast," wrote Calvin Wilson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and in the end, it was casting -- both of Pitt as the famous bandit whose notoriety fuels the film, and Casey Affleck as the titular coward who ends his life -- that kept most critics from writing off this sprawling, leisurely Western as anything but an underwhelming snooze. (And for some scribes, even Pitt and Affleck weren't enough; as Tom Long of the Detroit News complained, "the one thing you're not supposed to do during a Western is doze off.") The Pitt-produced picture wasn't a hit, grossing less than $4 million during its theatrical run -- but then it wasn't really supposed to be; rather, it's a meditative look at the nature of American celebrity and an exercise in cinematic artistry that melds what Roger Ebert called "the space and freedom of classic Western epics" with the subtext of what J. Hoberman of the Village Voice referred to as "a psychological chamber drama." But even the critics who championed it recognized it wasn't for everyone, such as Chris Vognar of the Dallas Morning News, who wrote, "this is a 160-minute art Western, and if you're up for such a beast it is a glory to behold. It's gorgeous, but rarely for the sake of mere gorgeousness, and languorous, but never listless."


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8. Burn After Reading

After the descent into harrowing darkness that was No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers were ready to try something fun -- so they got down to work on their first original screenplay in nearly a decade, writing parts specifically for an impressive list of actors that included George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, John Malkovich, and, of course, Brad Pitt. As ill-fated doofus physical trainer Chad Feldheimer, Pitt took advantage of the rare opportunity to play a completely comedic role -- and one that playfully inverted his sex symbol image, to boot. Despite all of its famous ingredients, Burn After Reading was a bit of a critical letdown, petering out at 78 percent on the Tomatometer and earning scorn from a fair number of scribes (Michael Dance of the Cinema Source summed it up as "unlikable characters who do stupid things," and the Fayetteville Free Weekly's Tony Macklin asked us to "please send Get Well cards to the Coen brothers"). Still, plenty of writers agreed with Simon Weaving of Screenwize, who hailed it as "a quirky, delicious comedy with an A-list cast clearly enjoying every moment of their screen time"; ultimately, it's another Certified Fresh entry in the Coens' impressive filmography, and a unique foray into dark comedy for Pitt.


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7. Fight Club

He started the 1990s on a hot streak, but by the end of the decade, Pitt was suffering through a bit of a slump, appearing in a string of critical dogs (Seven Years in Tibet, The Devil's Own, Meet Joe Black) whose box office tallies reflected their disappointing reviews. But just when the naysayers were ready to write him off as an expensive hair model who couldn't break a movie, Pitt rebounded with Fight Club, a reunion with Seven director David Fincher that paired Pitt with Edward Norton in an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's hit novel. Though some critics found the film's overpowering violence and homoerotic overtones repugnant (New York Magazine's Peter Rainer, for one, dismissed it as "the squall of a whiny and essentially white-male generation that feels ruined by the privileges of women and a booming economy"), most writers responded to Fight Club's social criticism and thought-provoking themes. In the words of ReelViews' James Berardinelli, it's "a memorable and superior motion picture - a rare movie that does not abandon insight in its quest to jolt the viewer."


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6. A River Runs Through It

An adaptation of Norman Maclean's semi-autobiographical book of the same name, A River Runs Through It arrived on screens with a pretty stellar pedigree -- director Robert Redford had won an Academy Award for his first effort, 1980's Ordinary People, cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (who would win his own Oscar for River) was highly regarded for his work in French cinema, and musician Mark Isham brought his Grammy-winning talents to the Oscar-nominated score. The result, as you might imagine, was a visually sumptuous film -- one whose stunning vistas bowled critics over even as they yawned through its languid pace and shrugged at its simple presentation of a Montana family's multi-generational dynamic (as TV Guide wrote, "it's hard to get excited by fisherman casting their lines into the water"). Still, in spite of its lack of flash, River afforded Pitt an early opportunity to work with some tremendously talented individuals, and proved he was more than just the cowboy-hatted hunk he portrayed in Thelma & Louise. Caryn James of the New York Times was suitably impressed, writing, "here are two things I never thought I'd say: I like a movie about fly fishing, and Robert Redford has directed one of the most ambitious, accomplished films of the year."

Comments

PlainviewTurner

Anthony Curione

His best film is Se7en

Aug 20 - 08:45 AM

Yunqi Y.

Yunqi Yu

Biased...

Aug 21 - 11:21 AM

Stogiezino

Chris Murawski

Kalifornia. Not a great movie, but Pitt's best performance--pure psychotic evil. My skin crawled when he was in the car with Juliette Lewis.

Aug 23 - 02:17 PM

JohnnyJonJon

Jonathan Groen

With these films, in addition to Benjamin Button and Legends of the Fall, he's had an impressive career to date. I'm not surprised to see his top two films featuring him in small supporting roles. It just shows that he made some very smart decisions at the start of his career while starting small before working his way up. Good job, Brad (and your girlfriend is not bad, either)!

Aug 20 - 09:07 AM

ybenjira

Yassine Benjira

Good point about his earlier days

Aug 20 - 04:50 PM

Weston B

Weston Burleson

True Romance for the win! I love this movie. Pitt is hilarious as Floyd. I can't help but think about how much better it would have been if QT had directed it though.

Aug 20 - 11:05 AM

JohnnyJonJon

Jonathan Groen

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing when I last watched TR. I'm wondering if QT would have gone with his original ending if he had directed.

Aug 20 - 02:07 PM

Austin Sarver

austin sarver

QT needs to make "his" True Romance.

Aug 21 - 04:03 AM

Rhonda C.

Rhonda Carter

Speaking of QT, "Inglourious Basterds" is as good as it gets, if not better. Brad is spectacular, as is the entire cast. I saw it last night, and it absolutely blew me away. There were so many scenes that could have been taken out and made into separate movies on their own merits. Outstanding casting and directing. It will be hard to top this one this year!!! A definite must-see for any fan of QT or Pitt.

Aug 22 - 11:26 AM

account

Peter Gallo

Yeah, he has acted in some good movies but i'm getting sick of him and his wife...

Aug 20 - 11:18 AM

julianne1965

julianne oconnell

Then quit paying attention to them and get your own life!

Aug 21 - 06:54 AM

deadsurfkiss

Cory P.

It's hard to make a top ten when such films like Kalifornia, Snatch, Benjamin Button, Seven, and Oceans Eleven couldn't be included. Hell, why not just make a top 20?

Aug 20 - 11:21 AM

bryony

Shannon Bryony

Se7en and Ocean's Eleven WERE included

Aug 20 - 10:18 PM

momerc88

G Mo

What about Snatch? Best Pitt role ever!

Aug 20 - 11:48 AM

Ken K.

Ken Katschke

Totally agree, Pitt was fantastic in Snatch. Maybe it was because I couldn't understand him?

Aug 20 - 08:31 PM

Brainstew

Doug Q

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford should be in his top 5 and having Ocean's above 12 Monkeys is an abomination. These critic scores come out silly sometimes.

Aug 20 - 12:00 PM

Jessica W.

Jessica Ware

Is getting boring. Pitt is always Pitt in all the movies....the movies he's been are good movies but he didn't add anything to them.... That's why there no oscar for him

Aug 20 - 12:34 PM

jnheid

Jenifer Heid

Legends of the Fall definitely should be on this list somewhere. And no mention of Interview with a Vampire? "Here me now, this place is cursed. Damned. And yes your master is the devil!"

Aug 20 - 01:57 PM

dukkookim

scott hansen

Have you seen 12 Monkeys? He's anything but himself and earned an Oscar nom...

Aug 24 - 01:25 PM

Jessica W.

Jessica Ware

Is getting boring. Pitt is always Pitt in all the movies....the movies he's been are good movies but he didn't add anything to them.... That's why there no oscar for him

Aug 20 - 12:35 PM

Jordan S.

Jordan Sandvig

That's just simply not true. From Fight Club to Snatch to Burn After Reading to 12 monkeys how can you possibly say he plays the same character? I think he definitely shines more when his character is a little more manic or "out there" and that's why he was somewhat dissapointing as the dour Benjamin Button - but he's definitely not always playing himself

Aug 21 - 07:42 AM

Michael G.

Michael Guglielmi-Wheeler

No offense Jessica and Daschund, But what you two wrote sounds dumb as ****. Watch Kalifornia, Snatch, fight club and Benjamin Button in a row one day. Have a Brad Pitt marathon. I'm curious to see how he plays the exact same character in all of those movies. If somehow you can tell me that all 4 of those characters are the same then I will apologize for calling your claims dumb as ****, and call my claim dumb as ****.
Wooh, Brad Pitt!!!

Aug 24 - 10:48 PM

Alexcar

Alex Carracino

These lists are retarded. I see what you're saying, these are his highest rated movies, some are even not his personal best. He's barely in True Romance...

And the Coen brothers wrote Burn After Reading at the same time as No Country. Not after as though they feel like they needed a pick-me-up.

Aug 20 - 12:56 PM

Andrew P.

Andrew Pierce

Fight Club is a straight up movie critic IQ test and 20% of them failed. I love the bad reviews printed all over the DVD case. Fight Club and Ocean's 11 demonstrate perfectly how 'universally likable' get you a higher meter score than 'great' or 'brilliant'

Aug 20 - 01:09 PM

John S.

John Sadleir

Unfortunately, these Total Recall lists are often put together fairly lazily. They rank an actor's "best movies" by their Rotten Tomatoes score, without considering the actual performance of the actor. For example. Brad Pitt's performance in Twelve Monkeys was far better, in many people's opinions, than his in Ocean's Eleven. In Twelve Monkeys he had to play a more difficult and challenging role, where in Ocean's he just had to be cool, something which he is naturally. But, since Twelve Monkeys has a lower score, it's behind Ocean's. And, most importantly, Pitt's number one role, according to this list, is in True Romance. He was good in the role, but it was a small role, and he only had 5 or so lines in the entire movie. I just wish that these lists weren't so haphazardly thrown together, and that the writer actually showed some perspective in crafting these lists.

Aug 20 - 01:09 PM

brilondon

Brian Wilson

I agree. I found that his role in Snatch much more enjoyable. Oceans 12 is another very good movie that is not on the list. Although it may not have been as highly rated as the other ten there are as others have pointed out he was barely in.

Aug 21 - 06:48 AM

InfiniteMonkey

Roman Salvatore

I completely agree. He wasn't even acting in Oceans Eleven as opposed to 12 Monkeys. Cheers!

Aug 21 - 07:41 AM

Smartest Person Here

Greg Bonnette

True Romance kinda sucked and not a "Pitt movie." Ditto that Thelma and Louise is not a "Pitt movie," so Se7en wins. Although, have to agree with others that Snatch and Button should be on the list...

Aug 20 - 01:34 PM

tom d.

tom dillon

i could barely finish Button as it ran nearly three boring hours

loved everything about True Romance including a very young and hilarious five minute performance by Mr Pitt

very surprised Snatch was not on the list-he was fun to watch and it was more of a challenging role and deviation from his others

fight club is, to date, my favorite of his

Aug 21 - 01:31 PM

Not L.

Not Likely

Yeah, lets make these list based on someone's opinion.. good idea to do that around here.. eesh

Aug 20 - 01:35 PM

Smartest Person Here

Greg Bonnette

Wow, from the 'Dallas' clip, did Pitt not hit puberty yet? His voice sounds dubbed...

Aug 20 - 01:36 PM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

Brad Pitt just blends in perfectly in everything he's in.
three way tie for me: Se7en, Thelma & Louise, and True Romance . . .I hardly remember Brad Pitt in True Romance but True Romance ROCKS (Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, John Sizemore, Tom Sizemore . . . but no Brad Pitt!!!!!!! yet he was there. Brad Pitt was also in Less Than Zero and Kalifornia.

Aug 20 - 01:45 PM

noah2622

Noah Zaharias

How can you not remember Brad Pitt in True Romance? He was the most memorable stoner of all time...

Aug 24 - 11:14 PM

Dachshund96

Alpha Z

Brad Pitt has no talent. Anybody who like him just wants to suck his dick. No thank you.

Aug 20 - 01:55 PM

BCENS

B Cens

Hey wiener-dog,

A shrink might deduce from the comments that you've been leaving all over RT (see wolfman thread, too) that you harbor some sort of repressed sexual attraction to Brad Pitt. Get checked.

Aug 20 - 11:54 PM

janettetsmith

Leah Forgy

TO: Dachshund96 who wrote on Aug 20 2009 01:55 PM: 'Brad Pitt has no talent. Anybody who like him just wants to suck his dick. No thank you.'


You know Dachshund96 ...

Spewing such bitter venom can only mean one thing, he must have turned you down when you offered.

Aug 20 - 11:55 PM

brilondon

Brian Wilson

Nice, apparently you would like it too.

Aug 21 - 06:44 AM

noah2622

Noah Zaharias

Wow...strong words...bit jealous are we?

Aug 24 - 11:17 PM

Jason H.

Jason Hunter

Re: Dachshund96's comment - you got some serious issues. One of them is that you have no talant. Why don't you just stay home watching QVC and eating pop-corns full of fat and salt like you.

Aug 26 - 10:42 AM

jnheid

Jenifer Heid

Legends of the Fall definitely should be on this list somewhere. And no mention of Interview with a Vampire? "Here me now, this place is cursed. Damned. And yes your master is the devil!"

Aug 20 - 01:57 PM

JohnnyJonJon

Jonathan Groen

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing when I last watched TR. I'm wondering if QT would have gone with his original ending if he had directed.

Aug 20 - 02:07 PM

GreenBastard

Craig Storey

Fight club's No1 in my book!

Aug 20 - 02:10 PM

Danis D.

Danis Durham

A lot of the movies that he is best known for are the ones that he plays a minor role, so I guess that tells you a lot about the lasting impressing he makes with his acting. I agree with the movies, especially the top three because those would have been my picks. I do agree that i wish Quentin Tarentino had directed True Romance, it may have been just a little better than it already is.

Aug 25 - 07:40 AM

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