4. 'American Heart' (1992)
Ex-con Jack Kelson (Bridges) is just out of the joint. He's also suddenly burdened
with the teenage son (Edward Furlong) that he long ago abandoned. As the tragic
tale of desperate living on the margins in Seattle unfolds, father and son try
to understand one another. Bridges balances both the
immediacy of his character’s struggle for survival, as well as the slowly
gathering regret or a life that was never really given a chance – a broken, haunted man who would set the stage for more gritty, lyrical roles, many of which would get greater acclaim. Criminally underseen, it's still consistently amazing and more than deserving of this spot – in many ways, this role, and not Rooster Cogburn or Lebowski, is the key to much of his later work.