It’s been a memorable year for Jeff Bridges. He won his first Oscar back in March, is currently starring in the number one flick at the box office and is receiving more Academy Award buzz for his role in the remake of True Grit, which opens today. At 61, he in the midst of a career renaissance and is finally garnering the attention he has long deserved.
Looking over his filmography, I forgot just how many excellent movies he has appeared in throughout his 50-plus year career. It’s impossible to jam all his amazing performances into one Top Ten list because he’s had at least twenty that are worthy of inclusion. So, in no particular order, here are ten that I personally believe stand out from the pack.
10. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
As the titular Lightfoot to Clint Eastwood’s Thunderbolt, Bridges steals the movie as a young, brash petty thief who joins Eastwood’s gang to rob an armored car company’s safe. He creates an endearing and ultimately tragic character in a very underrated heist flick.
9. Against All Odds (1984)
As washed-up football player Terry Brogan, Bridges assumes a leading man role opposite the incredibly sexy Rachel Ward. It combines elements of noir, romance and mystery into what amounts to a guilty pleasure. The best word to describe his character would be “visceral.” Lots of brawn with very little brains.
8. The Contender (2000)
It’s not easy to play a US President, but Bridges nails the part displaying the necessary confidence and charm befitting the leader of the free world. His final speech might be a tad melodramatic, but it’s delivered in an impassioned tone that screams, well, presidential.
7. The Last Picture Show (1971)
The movie that put him on the map is a compelling tale about leaving behind the innocent glory days of high school and treading the frightening mindfield of adulthood. A fresh-faced Bridges shines portraying the popular kid who conceals his insecurities behind a handsome face.
6. Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)
Automobile innovator and entrepreneur Preston Tucker was a man ahead of his time. His crusade to introduce the “car of tomorrow” to the masses before the Big Three automakers was met with opposition and accusations of fraud. Bridges presents Tucker as a determined soul undone by blind ambition. He’s the best thing in an otherwise ho-hum movie.
5. Starman (1984)
Bridges received a Best Actor Oscar nomination playing an alien lifeform that crash lands on Earth. His evolution from blue ball of energy to caring human being is a marvel to watch. Along with E.T., Starman sets itself apart from most alien sci-fi movies by showing the “visitors” to be peaceful, rather than malicious.
4. Crazy Heart (2009)
Bridges earned his first Oscar as “Bad” Blake, a fading former country music star who tries to shed his alcoholic, irresponsible ways after falling for a young journalist. He shows credible singing chops and transforms himself into a troubled but likable character worth rooting for.
3. Fearless (1993)
Perhaps his most underrated performance, Bridges plays a plane crash survivor who rejects his old life and views himself as immortal. His acting operates on an almost ethereal level. He’s so convincing it makes you want to scream ‘Wake up!” at the screen.
2. The Big Lebowski (1998)
His most recognizable and iconic role has him portraying a professional slacker named Jeff Lebowski, aka “The Dude,” who becomes embroiled in a strange case of mistaken identity. Not known for comedy, Bridges doesn’t miss a beat in a hilarious spin that gains more respect with each additional viewing.
1. The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
Bridges manages to juggle prick and pathos as a tormented, chain-smoking jazz pianist who withdraws into a cocoon of self-loathing instead of facing his demons. Michelle Pfeiffer earned most of the praise for her amazing turn as lonely singer Susie Diamond, but Bridges is brilliant as the complex Jack Baker.