In some respects, Jeff Bridges is like fine wine. He gets better with age. But when you look back at a career that includes such fabulous films as The Last Picture Show (1971) and The Iceman Cometh (1973) you realise the talented actor has been doing some great work for a long time. It comes as little surprise given the family pedigree which includes Beau and Lloyd Bridges.
But with the Coen’s True Grit and an Oscar-winning performance in Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart, the Los Angeles-born actor has become one of the hottest properties in the city.
Bridges actually made his film debut in 1950, playing Jane Greer’s infant son in The Company She Keeps. But most people’s first recollection of him is in Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 film The Last Picture Show for which he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards. Since then his most iconic performances have been as an alien in John Carpenter’s Starman, opposite Clint Eastwood in Micheal Cimino’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, as a computer game designer in Steven Lisberger’s Tron, and as the perennially drunk dude in the Coen’s The Big Lebowski.
10. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Cimino, 1974)
Teamed up with Clint Eastwood in a buddy heist film that despite its pre-tenses comes with a sucker punch at the end.
9. Jagged Edge (Marquand, 1985)
Whether or not he killed his wife is what the viewers want to know, but Bridges’ natural cool never leaves a clue. You’ll just have to wait until the end to find out.
8. Arlington Road (Pellington, 1999)
Michael Faraday is suspicious that his neighbors are not what they appear to be. The horrific thing is Faraday has no idea how different they really are. Try watching this without clawing into your couch from tension.
7. The Fisher King (Gilliam, 1991)
Bitter, jaded shock-jock Jack lost his job, found the bottle and generally doesn’t give a shit about anyone. That Jeff Bridges could have realistically played this character in Gilliam’s picture eases any doubts that Bridges can’t play bad.
6. Crazy Heart (Cooper, 2009)
It’s the one he won gold for. And it’s the one that made me appreciate country music; no small feat. He sinks so easily into the road-weary Bad Blake you may begin to wonder where he ends and Blake begins.
5. True Grit (Coens, 2010)
Taking a role made famous by John Wayne is not easy. Managing to make it your own and receive a second consecutive Best Actor nod? Even tougher. But there come none tougher than Bridges’ Cogburn who captivates despite being a drunken lay-about, with only one good eye to speak of.
4. The Door in the Floor (Williams, 2004)
The loss of a child is a devastating one. Child’s author Ted Cole has gone through hell and back.
3. The Contender (Lurie, 2000)
This role may only be a supporting one, but it is a goodie. Washington is not a virtuous place, but for a second Bridges’ Jackson Evans has us believing in a better United States. My favorite take of the U.S. President on film.
2. Starman (Carpenter, 1984)
John Carpenter’s film may have been forgotten, but Jeff Bridges’ performance certainly hasn’t. Playing an alien inhabiting a human relies on turning so much of the banal existence of being human into something wonderful, and the out-of-this-world quality Bridges brings is why this film works so well.
1. The Big Lebowski (Coens, 1998)
His flip-flopped stoned, modern update of Raymond Chandler is his biggest role and also his most fun. Some say The Dude is also his laziest role, but that’s absurd. Any actor that could take a character that for the most part, does nothing but bowl and get high, and make him compelling? That’s art.
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