To this day, when I think of Brad Pitt I immediately think about one of his two roles on Growing Pains. Apparently the 1989 episode in which he plays a two-faced rock star struck a chord with me, as if he was yelling at me along with Ben Seaver (who was at the time one of the TV characters I most identified with). Also, Pitt has always had a kind of star quality to him that allowed him to resonate in anything we saw him in. That's why he's so memorable in a bit part of True Romance but also makes me wonder how he went so many years in the business before his first real recognition for stealing scenes with his good looks in Thelma & Louise.
He's still doing a lot of small roles two decades later, which is one of the reasons I'm polling for his best performances rather than the best "Brad Pitt movies," which are fewer and harder to define. Ironically, while he stands out in any supporting performance, he's often upstaged in leading roles by special effects, his costars (or his relationship to his costar), the script or the cinematography. Yes, I think that's fair to say. Name a "Brad Pitt movie" in the same way you'd name a "Tom Hanks movie" or even a "George Clooney movie."
This week, Pitt has another nonleading part -- maybe not supporting but at least an equal member of an ensemble piece -- in Ridley Scott's The Counselor. Also already in theaters is 12 Years a Slave, in which he does make a sort of guest appearance, one of his least interesting in years. Couple those with his one starring gig this year, World War Z, in which he's still sort of playing backseat to the zombie hordes as far the movie's draw is concerned. But he is pretty darn good in it. Not that he'd ever finally win an Oscar (he's been nominated three times for acting) with a blockbuster horror-disaster flick.
Pitt is the sort of old-fashioned movie star that is always Brad Pitt yet is also still typically delivering an amazing performance underneath that handsome and charming exterior -- whether he's trying to hide himself in a role or not.
Here are my top three Brad Pitt performances:
1. Jeffrey Goines in Twelve Monkeys - One of his biggest stretches as an actor still, and a pretty ugly part for a guy this good looking considering he was then (when it filmed anyway) not yet a real breakout star. He earned his first Academy Award nomination as the kooky activist and if he ever does win I want it to be for something that at least tries to match how great he is here.
2. John Smith in Mr. and Mrs. Smith - It's hard to call this a Brad Pitt movie so much as a Brangelina movie, as lame as that is. But as much as they do have great chemistry here they also have some wonderful solo scenes, more so for Pitt. It's his best performance in one of those Hollywood parts where he doesn't seem to be trying too hard. As far as his goofy comedic roles go, he's better remembered for being more cartoonish, a la Inglorious Basterds and Burn After Reading. Here he's more natural and more entertaining. His most underrated movie.
3. Brad Pitt in Being John Malkovich - I can't really decide on the third, as he's so good in Se7en, Fight Club, Moneyball, Snatch and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. So I'm going with this cheat. It's just a very, very quick single-shot cameo as himself. Maybe he's not even meaning to perform. But it's an extreme example of how much he resonates in the briefest of appearances. That look he gives the camera sticks out the most in my mind for him following that Growing Pains episode.
Your Picks (the top four being Fight Club and Twelve Monkeys [tie], and Inglorious Basterds and The Assasination of Jesse James [tie]):
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