Brad Pitt’s Best Movie Roles, Ranked

Brad Pitt starred in countless movies throughout his career but which of his performances reigns supreme?

BYZachary Roberts
Brad Pitt’s Best Movie Roles, Ranked

In a career spanning over 30 years, Brad Pitt starred in dozens of movies that turned him into one of Hollywood's most sought-after actors. Of course, that list is only going to continue to grow with time as he picks up new roles alongside veterans and budding stars. For example, Damson Idris of Snowfall and Swarm fame was just added to the cast of an upcoming Pitt film about Formula One. It's yet untitled and the details are incredibly scarce, but the pairing of Idris and Pitt alone built enough anticipation around the upcoming Apple Original Film.

Pitt made his acting debut in the late 1980s in Fox's 21 Jump Street before landing his first major role in 1989's Cutting Class. Since then, he starred in over 80 projects in both film and television. His latest performance was in the divisive Damian Chazelle film Babylon alongside Margot Robbie, who's about to star in the Barbie movie. Pitt has starred in all kinds of films, but which ones are his best?

10. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

It's hard to ignore Brad Pitt's performance in 12 Years a Slave. The movie took home three Academy Awards in 2014, including Best Picture. Though Brad Pitt didn't take on a main role, his character, Samuel Bass, played a critical part in the story. Bass was determined to actively help slaves. Pitt brought Bass's moral dilemma to life as he tried to help Solomon gain freedom. A lesser actor might have struggled with a role like that.

9. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Mr. & Mrs. Smith may not be the most iconic role of his career, though, it is one of the most enjoyable Brad Pitt movies out there. He and Angelina Jolie, naturally, had excellent on-screen chemistry as a married couple that doubled as assassins for rival agencies. Filled with hilarious dialogue and action-packed sequences, Pitt and Jolie's performances in Mr & Mrs. Smith worked flawlessly with one another.

The on-screen chemistry between actors often determines how good a film is. In this case, it's the driving factor. This movie doesn't work if the relationship between the two main characters doesn't initially come across as real. Without Pitt (and probably Jolie), it would have been a complete flop.

8. 12 Monkeys (1995)

12 Monkeys is one of Pitt's best on-screen performances. Pitt plays a mental patient Jeffrey Goines in Terry Gilliam's sci-fi drama. It's a convincing performance that the movie doesn't make enough use of. The film centers around time travel and briefly introduces Goines. Though Pitt only appears in the movie for a short amount of time, he left an incredible mark that earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.

7. Bullet Train (2022)

Bullet Train shouldn't have been as good as it was. It's a paper-thin plot with ridiculously over-the-top action and brutal violence, not to mention a lot of profanities. It easily can be boxed in as a mindless action movie, but everyone loved it, thanks to Pitt's stellar performance as American operative Ladybug. His comedic timing has never been better. Each one-liner he threw out in the middle of a blistering train ride or brutal fight landed perfectly. The running bit of his therapy sessions while also fighting others was comedic gold. Comedy is a hard genre for actors to master, but Pitt did it here with ease.

6. Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Ocean's Eleven is perhaps the quintessential Pitt role. Of all his movies, this is one of the most iconic performances. It features an All-Star cast that would be easy for anyone to get lost in, yet, he finds a way to stick out every time he's on screen. Acting alongside Matt Damon, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and so many more titans of industry can be intimidating, but not for Pitt. He captured his role as Rusty Ryan to a tee and carries the movie along with him. It probably wasn't a difficult role to embody, but his performance was pitch-perfect nonetheless.

5. Burn After Reading (2008)

Burn After Reading is easily one of the most outrageous movies of Brad Pitt's career. The movie begins with a pretty eye-catching premise and only gets more brazen as the movie goes on. Pitt has played all kinds of roles, but the "dumb blonde" he puts on as Chad Feldheimer is impressive. Brad Pitt is clearly quite competent, but Feldheimer is so naive and half-witted. It's a wondrous performance that showcases Brad Pitt's acting chops shine in a comedic setting.

4. Inglorious Basterds (2009)

By 2009, Brad Pitt appeared in countless box office hits but some might consider Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds to be a career turn for him. Pitt's portrayal of the character Lieutenant Aldo Raine is incredible. Though it may have been difficult to tap into a character from an entirely different time period, playing a World War II American soldier comes surprisingly easy for Pitt.

3. Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball is an excellent movie for a lot of reasons. The script is tight, the direction is excellent and the source material admittedly makes for a magical film. Still, it's Pitt's performance that rises above and makes for one of his best movies. Billy Beane was brought to life with such respect and admiration by the actor. This movie had the tall task of telling one of baseball's most interesting and important stories. Modern baseball is the way it is because of these Oakland Athletics and Pitt carries the weight of that on his shoulders effortlessly. Though the movie was released over a decade ago, Pitt came through with a timeless performance.

2. Fight Club (1999)

The more unhinged a character, the more demanding it is on the actor. There's probably no character in any of Brad Pitt's movies that are as unhinged as Tyler Durden in Fight Club. The deranged psyche of the main character manifesting as another person definitely required an exceptional actor with range. Thankfully, that's exactly what Pitt gave. He was perfect as the figment of Edward Norton's imagination and it's his absurd antics and behavior that make it one of his most convincing performances. The premise of Fight Club is pretty wild but it required a central performance to drive it.

1. Se7en (1995)

Se7en isn't exactly the best of all Brad Pitt movies, but it is his best performance yet. It's telling that one quote from that movie has lived on longer and stronger than any from the other 80+ projects he has been in. "What's in the box?" is a fixture in pop culture jargon almost three full decades later.

A murder mystery, particularly one as compelling as the one presented in Se7en, demands strong lead performances. Without them, the audience won't really be invested in them. The development of each character makes it more than just a surface-level mystery. Credit to Morgan Freeman, but Brad Pitt is what makes this movie tick.


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