RANKED! The 10 Best Brad Pitt Movies Before ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’
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Brad Pitt is one of the biggest Hollywood superstars working today. He simultaneously harkens back to classic handsomeness found in the Golden Age of the American movie industry and the kind of star who rose in prestige alongside indie filmmaking.
In the years since his breakthrough, Pitt has sustained a relatively high level of celebrity, both for his work on the silver screen and his personal life. He has been nominated for countless awards. His most recent project is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in which he stars alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, whose trajectory in film is not dissimilar to Pitt’s. Here are his 10 best films.
Never quittin’ Tarantino: RANKED! The 10 Best Quentin Tarantino Films Leading Up To ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’
10. ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ (2008)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button seemed like a really goofy premise when it came out. Pitt, as the titular character, lives a life aging in reverse. Instead, David Fincher delivered a very moving picture. With the help of detailed special effects—which Fincher is no stranger to, he got his start working for Industrial Light and Magic—Pitt gives an affecting performance as does Cate Blanchett as his star-crossed lover.
9. ’12 Years a Slave’ (2013)
Steve McQueen received much attention for his film 12 Years a Slave. Rightfully so, his portrait of Solomon Northup is immensely moving. Northup, a freed man who was kidnapped back into slavery for an excruciating decade-plus, is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Pitt plays Samuel Bass, a Canadian who opposes slavery and eventually helps Northup return to freedom. It is one of a few films Pitt both starred in and produced.
8. ‘Se7en’ (1995)
Se7en was an early hit for both Fincher and Pitt. The former was able to show off his prowess behind the camera—something he felt unable to do in the apparently restrictive environment of Alien3 a few years prior. The latter had the one of the first of many meaty, memorable roles after several years in bit parts in films like True Romance and cult films like Cool World. Se7en is a chilling, remarkable piece of filmmaking, even if you already know how it ends.
7. 'Ocean’s Thirteen' (2007)
By no stretch of the imagination is Ocean’s Thirteen better than the previous films, but it is nonetheless a mostly satisfying end to a fantastic trilogy of films by Steven Soderbergh. It features hilarious performances from Pitt and George Clooney at the center of a larger, wonderful ensemble comedy about some of the coolest, goofiest grifters ever put to film. Al Pacino may be phoning it in, yet he is better than he’s been in years.
6. ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ (2007)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is often touted as one of the best Western films of the modern era. It dramatizes precisely what is described by its title, wherein Missourian and outlaw Jesse James (Pitt) is killed by Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), an envious young gunslinger whom James takes under his wing. Pitt and Affleck's performances are both laudable, as is Roger Deakins' cinematography.
5. ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ (2004)
Soderbergh delivers one of the best sequels in recent memory with Ocean's Twelve. He continues to play with the form as an editor, incorporating unique establishing shots and subtly hilarious freeze-frames. What's more, the film focuses more on Pitt's character Rusty Ryan than either of the films that bookend it.
4. ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009)
With Inglourious Basterds—as well as Django Unchained and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood after it—Quentin Tarantino has shown a penchant for alternate history films. In this, Pitt plays an American lieutenant during World War II who leads the titular squadron of Jewish-American soldiers across the European theater, scalping Nazis. It is as hyper-violent as any Tarantino fare and Pitt’s fake, over-the-top American Southern accent only adds to the campiness.
3. ‘Burn After Reading’ (2008)
Joel and Ethan Coen’s highly underrated Burn After Reading features perhaps the funniest—and definitely the goofiest—performance of Pitt’s career. When the memoirs of a CIA analyst (John Malkovich) fall into the hands of two gym employees (Pitt and Frances McDormand), they seek to raise their social standing. Unfortunately, neither of them know how to do that, and they only make things worse for themselves. Among their many wonderful films, Burn After Reading nonetheless deserves more recognition.
2. ’The Tree of Life’ (2011)
The Tree of Life is difficult if not impossible to compare to any other film, or to even write intelligently about it. It is beyond words. It is sensory. Director Terrence Malick once again proves himself to be something beyond auteur, once again experimenting with the medium with the courage and foresight few have. In the film, which seeks to be about everything, Pitt plays a father raising a family in midcentury West Texas.
1. ’Ocean’s Eleven’ (2001)
Steven Soderbergh delivers one of the most satisfying and entertaining films of the 21st century without sacrificing an ounce of creativity behind the camera. The performances are hilarious—especially Clooney and Pitt—and it has a pitch-perfect pace. Little negative can be said about Ocean's Eleven. It achieves everything it sets out to do.