Actor, writer, and producer of film and music, Jeff Bridges is a household name that any movie lover should know. Born in true stardom fashion in L.A. to two already famous actors, Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges, Jeff still showed his worth as an actor by proving it time and time again. Starting at the young age of 17, Jeff had already featured as an extra in a few films and shows (some of his parents’ as well as others) before going out on his own to really get a taste for showbiz. Pursuing his dreams never got in the way of his other life accomplishments though, like joining the Coast Guard right when he turned 18. Jeff strived to be a man of many talents. During his eight years of service, he landed his first breakout role in the timeless The Last Picture Show (we will get to that shortly), which was only the beginning of his long career in film.
As will be shown in our list today, Bridges took on countless roles that challenged him emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Some of which even helped him hone life-long talents, musical and otherwise. Lots of people may think they know all of Bridges’ great films, but there are a few on this list that may surprise you and make you say “How could I, a great film fan, have possibly missed that one?”. We’re here to tell you: You’re not alone. Jeff took his acting talents to work with numerous different award-winning writers, directors, producers, and other actors over the years, which we’ve taken the time to rank. So here is our list of the top 10 best Jeff Bridges movies of all time.
10. American Heart (1992)
A film riddled with unapologetic drama and family struggle, American Heart doesn’t make the top of our list today, but it gets an honorable mention as one of his more insightful dramas. An ex-convict (Bridges) is found by his young son (Edward Furlong), resulting in an attempt to salvage a relationship from the many years apart, but his past dealings and habits keep coming back to haunt him. With some real heart-wrenching moments of tension, this film is one of Bridges’ more emotional roles, allowing himself to really open up to the situation at hand.
9. The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
A film detailing the ups and downs of showbiz, The Fabulous Baker Boys is a musical tale about the revival of a brotherly duo that’s on a steady decline. When two brothers, Frank (Beau Bridges) and Jack Baker need to add something to their act to keep a roof over their heads, Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up late to the audition to blow them out of the water. As the story goes on, the beautiful Susie begins to widen the rift between the two brothers, causing some family drama that has been said to reflect the real-life issues between Jeff and Beau Bridges.
8. Starman (1984)
In a sort of sci-fi comedy sub-genre, Starman isn’t necessarily at the top of the list, but it’s still good fun to see Bridges as an acclimating extra-terrestrial. When an alien responds to the Voyager II attempt to communicate with alien life, he takes the form of a widow’s (Karen Allen) husband and begins his journey across America, piquing too much of her curiosity for her to stay behind. This film definitely has some great comedic moments, thanks to the physical performance that Bridges brings to the game.
7. True Grit (2010)
A Coen Brothers remake of the John Wayne classic, True Grit is reprised with utmost grace and genuine sincerity, boasting an iconic cast of characters to drive it home. A hard-headed and brave teenage girl (Hailee Steinfeld) goes in search of a U.S. Marshall (Bridges) with a reputation exceeded only by his lack of hygiene, hoping that he will help to find her father’s murderer and bring him to justice. Bridges definitely gave this role his own personal twist, but this movie is hinged on the breakout performance of the young Steinfeld, showing their on-screen chemistry with little to no effort at all.
6. Crazy Heart (2009)
An emotionally quintessential story of heartbreak, hardship, and musical expression, Crazy Heart gives a unique look behind the curtain of musical stardom. After an exceptionally successful country music career, Bad Blake (Bridges) begins to realize that he must address the many issues that his career and his nonchalance caused, from which he draws further musical inspiration. Besides a wonderful screenplay and award-winning original songs, Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal knock it out of the park with their subtle deliveries and seemingly personal anecdotes, securing their places as some of the best actors to grace the screen this century.
5. Fat City (1972)
Following his breakout role in The Last Picture Show, a young Jeff Bridges lands on his feet the following year with the boxing drama Fat City. When an older, washed-up boxer (Stacy Keach) begins to feel his age in the ring with him, he begins sparring with a young and promising new boxer (Bridges) who has a slew of his own problems to bring to the table. With plenty of background story and character development to go around, this movie goes past being a sports movie and points out some great societal commentary along the way.
4. Hell or High Water (2016)
Fearless and original, Hell or High Water is a modern-day western with every bit of comedy and drama anyone could ask for, tightly knit by a stellar screenplay and a rockstar cast to deliver the goods. When a family farm in West Texas threatens to be foreclosed by the bank, a divorced father (Chris Pine) and his ex-con brother (Ben Foster) plan to do whatever it takes to save it, so long as they can escape the local ranger (Bridges) who is hot on their tail. With themes of family, financial hardship, and injustice, this bit of cinematic brilliance has won over critics across all platforms as a wild ride for all involved.
3. The Fisher King (1991)
Imaginative and smart, The Fisher King lends an ear to the less fortunate and the ignored, drawing parallels between the working class and the homeless. When a rude and mouthy radio DJ (Bridges) is the accidental cause of a horrifying shooting incident, his life begins to spin out of control, causing social disorders and heavy drinking habits. Co-starring the late and great Robin Williams, the two characters are brought together by cruel fates and unexpected common ground, resulting in a profoundly life-changing experience for them both.
2. The Big Lebowski (1998)
A cult comedy classic of epic proportions, The Big Lebowski is an absurdist work of art from the legendary Coen Brothers, competing for the top rank of their most appreciated films. A laid back, go-with-the-flow, Dude (Bridges) is constantly mistaken for an exceedingly rich man with the same legal name, as event after event plagues his efforts to be the chilled out Duderino he strives to be. With moments of surprising hilarity contrasted by some mild abstraction (in Coen brothers fashion), this flick is bound to bewilder and impress, just try to read between the lines if you want to extract one of the many layers of hidden themes and entendre. See more of the best comedy movies of all time for picks like this.
1. The Last Picture Show (1971)
Critically acclaimed and six-time Oscar-nominated (two Oscar wins), The Last Picture Show is a not-so-quaint look at life in a small Texas town. The film follows a group of high-schoolers in this coming-of-age story where scandal, betrayal, and consequences run amuck as the arid town continues to deteriorate in every sense of the word. Starring a wonderful cast of lead and supporting actors and directed/written by legendary Peter Bogdanovich, it’s no wonder it was so well received at its release, compared in its time to the great Citizen Kane as film works of timeless artistry.
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