Total Recall: Brad Pitt's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Killing Them Softly star.
Though his film roles to that point had, for the most part, required him to do little more than look good, Pitt's turn in the Terry Gilliam-directed 12 Monkeys -- coming on the heels of his eye-opening appearance in Seven earlier in the year -- proved that he not only had good taste in scripts, but the talent to back it up. As the institutionalized activist Jeffrey Goines, Pitt tapped into a nervous energy he'd never been asked to draw on, holding his own against Bruce Willis and helping the twisty dystopian sci-fi thriller become one of 1995's biggest surprise hits. Though it would be some time before Pitt starred in another movie that earned this kind of critical affection, after 12 Monkeys, the critics knew he wasn't just another pretty face. As Desson Thomson of the Washington Post wrote, "Willis and Pitts's performances, Gilliam's atmospherics and an exhilarating momentum easily outweigh [its] trifling flaws."
Generally speaking, an actor doesn't get many chances to play a character named Aldo -- and an actor also doesn't have many opportunities to work with Quentin Tarantino. So when Tarantino came to Pitt with the role of the cheerfully violent Nazi-hunting Lieutenant Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds, he clearly knew better than to say no. The result was a tense, colorful, funny, and terribly bloody World War II revenge fantasy that set loose a terrific ensemble cast (including Christoph Waltz and Michael Fassbender) in a spellbinding parallel dimension. Argued the Miami Herald's Rene Rodriguez: "Inglourious Basterds transcends the war genre to become its own kind of unique picture: A bloody blast of pure movie bliss."
3. True Romance
Take Christian Slater, an Arquette, and the guy who directed Beverly Hills Cop II, and nine times out of 10, you probably aren't going to get a film that tops any sort of critically themed list, let alone one that inspires a writer like Peter Canavese to crown it "a hall of fame guy's movie" -- but the exception proves the rule, and 1993's True Romance is that exception. Slater and Patricia Arquette are the stars of this cult classic action flick, which boasts a Tarantino script and noteworthy supporting turns from (among others) Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, and Bronson Pinchot; it's Brad Pitt's few minutes as the epically stoned Floyd, however, that steal the show, sprinkling a few much-needed belly laughs between the bursts of gunfire. Such was Floyd's influence that he served as the inspiration for 2008's Pineapple Express. And for good reason: Not only was he industrious enough to figure out an exciting new use for an empty honey container, he was cool enough to threaten a room full of shotgun-wielding Mafia henchmen with death.(We never said he was smart.)
By the time Thelma & Louise was released in 1991, Brad Pitt had been around for a few years, notching roles on the big screen (blink-and-you'll-miss-him appearances in No Way Out and Less Than Zero, as well as topline billing in the low-budget horror flick Cutting Class) and surfacing repeatedly on television (most notably via recurring gigs on Dallas, Growing Pains, and Fox's quickly canceled Glory Days). However, it was his turn as J.D., the impeccably coiffed, frequently shirtless con man who fleeces Thelma and Louise, that put Pitt over the edge, turning him from a somewhat familiar face into a bona fide sex symbol. It was a performance so well-regarded -- albeit mainly by Pitt's solidly female target demographic -- that not even Johnny Suede and Cool World could keep him from imminent superstardom. Of course, it didn't hurt that Pitt's breakout role came as part of a movie that inspired waves of praise from critics like Matt Brunson of Creative Loafing, who wrote, "this beautifully realized picture remains a trenchant, almost mystical slice of Americana."
As a (freakishly entertaining) by-the-numbers account of how the Oakland A's used newly adapted metrics to turn conventional baseball wisdom on its head, Michael Lewis' Moneyball seemed like one of the least cinematic bestsellers to have its film rights optioned by a major studio -- and after directors David Frankel and Steven Soderbergh departed the project, it looked like it might be destined for the scrap heap. But with Bennett Miller behind the cameras and Pitt lending his rumpled charisma to the role of A's GM Billy Beane -- not to mention an Aaron Sorkin screenplay -- it ended up being not only a six-time Academy Awards nominee, but a $110 million box office hit. "Baseball fans know this story," admitted USA Today's Claudia Puig, "but Miller puts it all in fascinating context. This is a thinking person's baseball movie, a more complex version of the inspirational sports story."
In case you were wondering, here are Pitt's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. Fight Club -- 95%
2. Se7en -- 94%
3. Snatch -- 92%
4. True Romance -- 90%
5. Inglourious Basterds -- 87%
6. Legends of the Fall -- 87%
7. Moneyball -- 86%
8. Interview with the Vampire -- 85%
9. Twelve Monkeys -- 84%
10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button -- 81%
Finally, here's a young Pitt making a pitch for Levi's: