It is so invigorating and heartwarming to see Jeff Bridges back in action as the titular lead of The Old Man cast on FX. I say this not just for the chance to see him in a, literally, ass-kicking role again, but to see him return to acting just a couple of years after the announcement of his lymphoma diagnosis shocked and upset many.
The Academy Award-winning actor (also the son of Lloyd Bridges and the brother of Beau Bridges) has easily become one of Hollywood’s most beloved talents, having built up an extremely impressive and versatile filmography and played characters of all kinds over the course of a long and celebrated career. The following is a collection of our personal picks for Jeff Bridges’ best movies (so far), starting with the hilarious cult classic that features what has, essentially, become his definitive role.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
After he is mistaken for a local millionaire with the same name (David Huddleston), an easy-going, aging hippie (Jeff Bridges) and his uptight bowling buddy (John Goodman) become wrapped-up in a “stupefying” situation involving a possible kidnapping, a gang of greedy nihilists, and a desecrated rug that “really tied the room together” in early 1990s Los Angeles.
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: One of the all-time most worshipped films by the Coen Brothers is The Big Lebowski – a brilliant hybrid of the suspense of a classic film noir, and irreverent stoner humor that even Bridges cannot resist watching all the way through when it shows up on cable.
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The Last Picture Show (1971)
The misadventures of a group of high school students during their eventful senior year in an otherwise culturally and financially bankrupt town in early 1950s Texas.
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: One of Jeff Bridges’ first major films was The Last Picture Show – the late Peter Bogdanovich’s acclaimed adaptation of Larry McMurty’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel – which was also the film that earned the actor his first Academy Award nomination.
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A grieving widow (Raiders of the Lost Ark star Karen Allen) meets an extraterrestrial who uses the appearance of her late husband (Jeff Bridges) to assume his form as she struggles to help him better understand mankind and safely find a way back home.
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: Bridges received another Academy Award nomination for his strange and endearing performance as a visitor from another planet in Starman – one of the more lighthearted and truly endearing John Carpenter movies you will ever see.
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The Contender (2000)
When the President of the United States (Jeff Bridges) makes the historic decision to nominate a female senator (Joan Allen) to become his new VP, an opposing senator (Gary Oldman) seeks any damning, scandalous information he can find to ensure she does not secure the position.
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: The next time Bridges received an Academy Award nomination was when he played the commander-in-chief in a movie that’s perfect to watch on Election Day, The Contender – a fascinating political thriller that is, shockingly, more relevant today than it was more than two decades ago.
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Crazy Heart (2009)
An aging, washed-up country music artist (Jeff Bridges) is inspired to finally get his act together after years in a downward spiral after falling in love with a young journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: The next time Bridges received an Academy Award nomination resulted in his first and only win so far as the lead of Crazy Heart – writer and director Scott Cooper’s adaptation of Thomas Cobb’s somber and romantic novel that also allows the actor to utilize his musical talents.
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True Grit (2010)
A teenage girl (Hailee Steinfeld, giving an Academy Award-nominated performance in her film debut) searches for the man who killed father (Josh Brolin) with the enlisted help of a washed-up U.S. Marshal (Jeff Bridges) and the unwanted help of a boisterous Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) in 1878.
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: Just a year after winning an Oscar for Crazy Heart, Bridges received a nomination for succeeding the role of Rooster Cogburn from John Wayne in Joel and Ethan Coen’s True Grit, which I personally believe is the better adaptation of Charles Portis’ seminal revenge tale over the earlier classic western movie from 1969.
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Hell Or High Water (2016)
In order to save their family’s ranch, a divorced father (Chris Pine) teams up with his unpredictable ex-con brother (Ben Foster) for a series of bank robberies, which puts them in the sights of a near-retired Texas Ranger (Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges) and his Native American partner (Gil Birmingham).
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: Six years after receiving an Oscar nod for True Grit, Bridges received his most recent nomination for playing a role that could easily be described as a modern-day Rooster Cogburn in Hell or High Water – a brilliant, heart-stopping, instant Neo-Western classic from director David Mackenzie and written by Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan.
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Iron Man (2008)
A near-death experience in Afghanistan inspires a genius billionaire playboy (Robert Downey, Jr.) to also adopt the role of a philanthropist and try to protect people against the weapons he helped create, with a high-tech, mechanical suit of his own creation.
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: Before playing gruff, badass heroes (and getting Oscar nominations for it) became a recurring trend in his career, Jeff Bridges was cast in the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie – director Jon Favreau’s game-changing blockbuster, Iron Man – as the franchises’ first villain: Obediah “Iron Monger” Stane.
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A computer hacker known for his mastery of video games (Jeff Bridges) is forced to participate in similar, barbaric challenges, but for real, when he is abducted into a strange, colorful, digital world.
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: Before helping originate one of Disney’s most enduringly popular franchises, Bridges helped originate another one of its most groundbreaking and iconic properties – TRON, which would spawn a sequel nearly 30 years later called TRON: Legacy, in which he reprised the role of Kevin Flynn and played his personified hacker program, Clu.
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The Giver (2014)
In a futuristic and seemingly perfect society governed by a strict set of rules, a teenage boy (Brenton Thwaites) is chosen to be the next, sole person to possess memories of what the world used to be, which gives him an entirely new perspective on life that, eventually, makes him an enemy to his peers.
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: Speaking of strange worlds, Jeff Bridges would portray the title role of Lois Lowry’s thought-provoking, dystopian bestseller The Giver in this visually stunning adaptation that also stars fellow Oscar winner Meryl Streep and fellow musician, Taylor Swift.
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A car manufacturer (Jeff Bridges) trying to make it into the word of horse racing after suffering a tragedy hires an ambitious young man (Tobey Maguire) to compete as a jockey with an undersized horse during the Great Depression.
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: Before he became part of the Marvel movies himself, Bridges starred alongside the Spider-Man of the time in Seabiscuit – a rousing sports drama based on an inspirational true story.
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Arlington Road (1999)
A history professor (Jeff Bridges) trying to get over the loss of his FBI agent wife begins to suspect that his new next door neighbor (Tim Robbins) and his wife (Joan Cusack) are hiding a secret of disastrous and deadly proportions.
Why it’s one of the best Jeff Bridges movies: One Bridges’ best action roles before leading The Old Man was as the lead of Arlington Road – director Mark Pellington and writer Ehren Kruger’s exciting meditation on the intriguing concept of discovering that a threat to national security is right under your nose.
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This is really just a handful of Jeff Bridges’ best films, as far as we are concerned. The man’s career is truly chock-full of classics worth checking out. However, do you abide by our choices above?