The Three Films That Defined Brad Pitt's Career

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A ticking-time-bomb insomniac and a slippery soap salesman channel primal male aggression into a shocking new form of therapy. Their concept catches on, with underground "fight clubs" forming in every town, until it starts an out-of-control spiral toward oblivion.
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
June 27th, 2014

Brad Pitt went from just another handsome Hollywood actor to one of the biggest stars in the world. After appearing on the soap opera "Another World" and taking on guest roles in a string of television shows, he gained a few roles in films, including "Hunk" and "No Way Out." Those early roles billed him as "Guy at Beach With Drink" and "Airport Cop." After struggling for a number of years, he finally gained a foothold in the industry and found fame as a leading man. The actor, who received three Academy Award nominations for his acting, can credit three separate films for defining his acting career.

 

thelma-and-louise_0.jpgPhoto Credit: MGM

"Thelma & Louise"

Pitt had few credits to his name when he landed his breakthrough role in "Thelma & Louise" playing opposite Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. Davis and Sarandon played two women on a road trip through the southwest. When Pitt made his entrance as the handsome J.D. in a pair of tight-fitting jeans, women around the world swooned. Pitt's J.D. made Thelma swoon and forget the horrible life that she left behind. While his role in the film was small, his work led to starring roles in "Johnny Suede," "Cool World" and "A River Runs Through It."

The Oscars recognized the film with a slew of nominations, and while Pitt did not receive a nomination for his role, both Sarandon and Davis did. The film also won best screenplay at the Academy Awards. Pitt brought passion and excitement to the role, and he later brought those same things to roles in both action and dramatic films.

 

oceans-eleven.jpgPhoto Credit: Warner Bros.

"Ocean's Eleven"

"Ocean's Eleven" might seem like an odd film to define the actor's career, but Pitt's role in that film led to a long-standing relationship between him and George Clooney. As the whimsical and sometimes sarcastic Rusty Ryan, he helps Clooney's Danny Ocean plan the ultimate Las Vegas heist. The film starred other big names in Hollywood, including Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts. After becoming a hit at the box office, the cast reunited for two sequels.

Clooney and Pitt became such close friends that Clooney often cast the actor in small roles that helped further his career. Pitt had a cameo role in Clooney's directorial debut "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," and the two starred together in "Burn After Reading." In addition to starring in a handful of films together, the actors often take vacations together and consider themselves best friends.

 

 

brad-pitt.jpgPhoto Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
"Mr. & Mrs. Smith"

Casting Brad Pitt in the action film "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" was a gamble for the studio. With the exception of 2004's "Troy," Pitt had little experience in the action genre. While some had doubts about the film, no one could deny that he was the perfect actor to play the role of John Smith opposite Angelina Jolie ("Girl, Interrupted") as Jane Smith. From the moment the two met on set, rumors swirled about a possible relationship between the two.

The film starred Pitt and Jolie as a bored suburban married couple named the Smiths. While in therapy to find a solution to their marital troubles, the two manage to hide their secret lives from each other. Viewers quickly discover that the two are actually career assassins working against the other. While they initially attempt to kill the other, they finally realize that they are still in love and that they can get the excitement back in their marriage. The film grossed nearly $500 million around the world and cemented Pitt as one of the biggest action stars in the world. The couple later formed a relationship, announced their engagement and had children together.

 

 

fight-club.jpgPhoto Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Honorable Mention: "Fight Club"

Pitt had a number of films that defined his career, and one of those films is the cult classic "Fight Club." Based on a popular underground novel, the film follows a character billed only as the Narrator (Ed Norton, "Primal Fear") as he copes with insomnia and some potentially undiagnosed mental disorders. After meeting his potential love interest, he crosses paths with Tyler Durden, played by Pitt. Durden convinces him to launch a fight club with other men, including characters played by Meatloaf and Jared Leto. "Fight Club" came immediately after Pitt starred in dramatic roles in "Seven Years in Tibet" and "Meet Joe Black," and the role allowed him to showcase his darker side. It was the role that helped show that Pitt was more than just a romantic leading man.

Brad Pitt has a long career that dates back to the 1980s, when he took on roles in "Growing Pains" and other television shows. The actor received Oscar nominations for his roles in "12 Monkeys," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Moneyball," but his only Oscar win came as a producer of "12 Years a Slave" in 2013. With action films, dramatic roles and romantic films under his belt, it seems like there is nothing this actor cannot do.