Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's new movie By the Sea hit theaters this month, though so far it doesn't seem to be connecting with fans or critics. Somehow, we think they'll survive. After all, they're two of the most powerful people in Hollywood. Pitt has been churning out blockbusters for 20 years, and he's always been smart about avoiding brainless action pictures in favor of more interesting fare like 12 Monkeys and Inglorious Basterds. We asked our readers to select his best movies. Here are the results.
It's hard to think of a story more epic than the Trojan War. It's been the subject of many movies, but director Wolfgang Petersen took a swing at it in 2004. He cast Sean Bean as Odysseus, Brian Cox as Agamemnon and Brad Pitt as Achilles. The budget was a whopping $175 million and it only pulled in $133 in America, but overseas audiences were huge and it came within an inch of the half billion mark. It was a heavy role for Pitt, and he unwound later that year with Ocean's 12.
Brad Pitt was nearly 30 when A River Runs Through It came out, but he was mainly known for a bit role in Thelma and Louise and Cool World, where he played a police detective that winds up in a world of cartoons. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, it was not. In A River Runs Through It, in which he played an extremely troubled son of a minster in 1920s Montana, Pitt was finally able to show his range. The film was a huge commercial and critical hit, and it set Pitt up for an amazing run over the next few years.
Years before Quentin Tarantino was famous, he was employed at a video store and working on a screenplay about a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. He shot the movie himself in 1987 and called it My Best Friend's Birthday, though a fire destroyed over half the footage. Crazily enough, about five years later Tarantino re-worked the screenplay and director Tony Scott turned it onto True Romance. Brad Pitt only has a tiny role, but he made the most of it. He'd work with Tarantino in a much more substantial way when they teamed up in 2009 for Inglorious Basterds.
Utilizing a rare chance to show off his dark side, Brad Pitt plays a psychotic murderer in this 1993 thriller. His character is an unemployed parolee that comes into contact with a graduate student (played by David Duchonvy) who is researching serial killers. Needless to say, bad things happen once they come together. The film didn't do well at the box office, but critics loved it. "Once in a very long while I see a film that cuts through the surface of movie violence, and says something important about the murderous energies at loose in society," Roger Ebert wrote. "Kalifornia is such a film – terrifying and horrifying, yes, but also unflinchingly honest, and so well acted that for most of the film I abandoned any detachment and just watched it as if I were observing the lives of real people."
Quentin Tarantino was in a rare downward period of his career by early 2009. His last movie, Grindhouse, was a complete flop and it looked like he might be past his peak. Then he released Inglorious Basterds, an alternate history World War II movie where Brad Pitt leads a group of Jews that enact brutal revenge on the Nazis. It pulled in $322 million, and set up a whole new chapter of Tarantino's career.
It's 2035 and a horrific virus has killed 99 percent of the population. The survivors live underground in squalid conditions, and they send Bruce Willis back in time to stop the virus before it starts. But they accidentally send him back six years early, and he winds up in a mental institution where he meets Brad Pitt. It's The Stand meets The Terminator, and it's one of the few times that director Terry Gilliam made a movie that caught on with a mainstream audience. Just this past year, it was adapted into a TV series.
After the success of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, British director Guy Ritchie was given the opportunity to make another heist film with an increased budget and bigger stars. Brad Pitt played an Irish boxer that gets mixed up with dangerous gangsters who want him to fix a fight. It's an extremely fun movie with an enormous cast, and it grossed $84 million.
Just two years after A River Runs Through It, Brad Pitt made another movie about tragic characters living in Montana around the time of the First World War. This time around, it's about three brothers living in the remote wilderness who all fall in love with the same beautiful woman, played by Julia Ormond. It's the sort of sweeping, epic tale that Hollywood rarely makes these days. It grossed $160 million, and helped cement Brad Pitt as a major leading man.
There are dark movies. Then there are really dark movies. And then there's a really, really dark movie like David Fincher's Seven. It's the kind of film that begins with a series of heinous, incredibly graphic murders, and only gets darker from there. Brad Pitt plays a cop in a bleak, perpetually-rainy city that seems just a shade nicer than hell. We won't ruin the famous ending, but let's just say it involves a damp cardboard box and a very unhappy Brad Pitt.
Four years after Seven, Brad Pitt teamed back up with director David Fincher on this cult classic about an office drone (Edward Norton) who befriends a soap salesman (Pitt) and joins a club where men pound the shit out of each other for sport. It's a wildly clever movie that rewards repeat viewings, and once again we won't give up the ending, but there's a reason why fans have made their own edits of the film that completely remove Brad Pitt from the action.