Brad Pitt is celebrating his second Oscar win thanks to his stuntman role in the Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Although he’d previously won a Best Picture victory for producing “12 Years a Slave” (2013), the Best Supporting Actor trophy was his first for acting, despite three previous nominations (plus an additional two in Picture).
He could easily have become just another pretty Hollywood face – a flash in the pan romantic lead or action star. However Pitt studied acting and worked his way up the ladder to become one of the industry’s most versatile and most well-recognized actors, as well as one of the most influential as the owner of a successful award-winning production company.
Born in Oklahoma, he was raised in Springfield, MO, where he participated in a variety of sports and activities in high school, and went on to college with a major in journalism. However, restlessness and a love of movies spurred him to move to Los Angeles.
Despite his all-American good looks, Pitt was not a breakout star immediately upon his arrival in Tinseltown. Throughout the late 1980s, he worked odd jobs as he performed many uncredited and minor roles in film and on television. In 1990, he received positive reviews for the made-for-television movie “Too Young to Die,” in which he played the slimy drug-addicted boyfriend of a young and vulnerable Juliette Lewis. Then in the early 1990s, despite a couple of bad career decisions, he also made a couple of choices that helped to propel him to stardom, endearing himself to both critics and audiences.
In 1991, Pitt appeared in the blockbuster hit “Thelma and Louise” in a small role that he made one of the most memorable parts of the film. During that same time, he starred in two films that are largely considered his worst – “Johnny Suede” (1991) and “Cool World” (1992). These two flopped so badly they could have derailed his career; however, he proved he could handle meatier roles with “A River Runs Through It” (1992) and could hold his own with blockbuster powerhouses like Tom Cruise in “An Interview with a Vampire” (1994), and Pitt gradually became of the most critically and commercially successful actors of his generation.
During the past 30 years, Pitt as established himself as a versatile actor, equally adept at playing the leading man or playing the supporting character. He has made his presence known in every genre of film, from action thrillers to epics, from romantic comedy to black comedy, from historical dramas to futuristic sci fi. In 2001, he co-founded Plan B Entertainment with then-wife Jennifer Aniston and Brad Grey, becoming the sole owner in 2005.
Pitt is also well-known as a political activist and humanitarian. He is involved in several causes, and is co-founder of Not On Our Watch, which aims to stop “mass atrocities.” An interest in architecture led him to study the craft as well as founding the Make It Right Foundation in 2006, which helped build sustainable, affordable new houses in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. That same year, he and Angelina Jolie established the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which aids humanitarian causes around the world.
With his varied interests, talent and keen business sense, Pitt has one of the most diverse and impressive resumes in the industry today. Although he’d won an Oscar as a producer, the coveted statue eluded him in the acting categories despite several strong performances and three nominations for “Twelve Monkeys,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Moneyball.” That all changed thanks to “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which brought him trophies at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice, SAG and BAFTA on the way to the Academy Awards.
So celebrate Pitt’s career by touring our photo gallery of his 24 greatest films, ranked worst to best.
– Original text and gallery published in December 2019.