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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Jeff Bridges

08.08.2016
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Last week, we took a look at the career of actor Colin Farrell. This week’s subject is Farrell’s co-star from 2009’s CRAZY HEART...
Jeff Bridges
jeff bridges tron legacy

A few weeks ago, I profiled the movie BLOWN AWAY as part of my new column, “The Best Movie You Never Saw.” Throughout the review, I kept going-on about how good Jeff Bridges was and it occurred to me that somehow, in three years of writing “The Good, The Bad and the Badass”, I had never actually profiled him here – a fact I clearly needed to remedy. With his much buzzed-about Cannes thriller, HELL OR HIGH WATER, due out this week, the time seemed right.

jeff bridges  arlington road

Jeff Bridges has been a star for forty-five years now, with him having made an incredible big-screen debut in the Peter Bogdanovich classic, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. The son of golden age character actor Lloyd Bridges (who became famous to a whole new generation of filmgoers by sending himself-up in AIRPLANE & HOT SHOTS), Bridges, along with his brother Beau (a terrific actor too and his FABULOUS BAKER BOYS co-star) established himself as a major star in the mid-seventies, with him earning an Oscar nomination for PICTURE SHOW, as well as another one a few years later for his scene-stealing turn in Michael Cimino’s offbeat Clint Eastwood heist movie, THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT.

jeff bridges tron

In the decades that followed, Bridges managed to both establish himself as a leading man in ultra-commercial fare like KING KONG, TRON and JAGGED EDGE, while also taking on tons of offbeat roles, in movies like WINTER KILLS, HEAVEN’S GATE, CUTTER’S WAY, THE FISHER KING and more. Ironically, superstardom only really happened for Bridges as he reached middle-age, coinciding with the amazing cult popularity of THE BIG LEBOWSKI (a flop upon its initial release) and his Oscar-winning turn in CRAZY HEART. After playing Rooster Cogburn in The Coen Bros remake of TRUE GRIT, Bridges finally found himself a bonafide box-office draw, and since then he’s often been called upon to class-up genre films like THE GIVER, SEVENTH SON and the unfortunate RIPD. HELL OR HIGH WATER seems to be more of a TRUE GRIT-style part, and only being sixty-seven (but looking a good ten years younger), Bridges, as always, remains much in-demand, and it helps that he’s universally acknowledged as one of the nicest guys in the biz.

His Best Work
jeff bridges karan allen starman

While I’d say THE LAST PICTURE SHOW is maybe Bridges’s best all-around movie, as far as performances go there are two that can’t be overlooked. The first is his Oscar-nominated part in STARMAN. Despite his rugged, everyman appeal Bridges has always demonstrated a kinship with sci-fi, and this atypically sensitive John Carpenter movie gave him one of his best parts. Playing an alien tasked with learning about earth by assuming the form of Karen Allen’s dead husband, STARMAN is a sweet-natured romance tinged with thriller/sci-fi elements. Bridges really disappears into the role, as his child-like alien learns what it means to be human and fall-in love, and struggles with emotions like empathy, joy and sadness. It's often overlooked but movies like Jeff Nichols MIDNIGHT SPECIAL and the recent Netflix show, “Stranger Things” show that it has had a massive impact on a whole new generation of directors, finally giving it the “classic” status it’s always deserved.

jeff bridges the big lebowski

However, if we’re talking about Jeff Bridges’s most iconic part, there’s little doubt that “The Dude” from THE BIG LEBOWSKI is going to be how he’s always remembered. At the time, I remember thinking that LEBOWSKI seemed like against-type casting, as having grown up in the eighties I was more used to Bridges as romantic leads in movies like JAGGED EDGE than as the pot-smoking Dude. Little did I know that the part resonated deeply for Bridges, to the point that it’s essentially become his off-screen persona in recent years, with him maintaining a very Dude-like look in his personal life. And, of course, he’s damn funny in the part. It’s crazy that originally this was seen as a flop, as it’s become so wildly seen in recent years that it’s almost impossible to avoid as this point, with tons of The Dude’s dialogue having worked its way into the pop culture.

His Most Overrated Film
jeff bridges seabiscuit

For some reason, I’ve never warmed to Gary Ross’s SEABISCUIT, I remember being really excited to see it back in 2003, as it marked Tobey Maguire’s return to drama after having broken-out the previous year as Spider-Man. Yet, the movie never really worked for me as it felt too saccharine and artificial, although I should note that of everyone, Bridges probably comes-off the best as the compassionate money-man behind the horse. Oh well, the film grossed over a hundred million, so what do I know?

His Most Underrated Work
jeff bridges john heard cutter's way

I think that of all the performers I’ve profiled here, no one’s made as many underrated gems as Jeff Bridges. I was initially going to highlight ARLINGTON ROAD, but instead I’m actually going to save that one for “The Best Movie You Never Saw” as I have quite a bit to say about that little gem. Instead, here are two readers may not really know about. The first is a movie I only saw for myself about a week ago, CUTTER’S WAY. I actually heard Marc Maron mention it on his WTF podcast a while ago, and that’s what made me look it up. A gritty post-Vietnam thriller, Bridges stars as a kind of playboy-gigolo, who wiles away his days seducing rich, bored wives, while pining over the alcoholic wife of his one-eyed, one-legged, one-armed best friend(John Heard – in a dynamic performance) with a penchant for getting his pals in trouble. When Bridges thinks he may have witnessed a murder, his buddy hatches an insane plot that quickly spins-out of control, or does it? A deeply enigmatic film, CUTTER’S WAY kinda blew-my mind, and while Heard (as well as co-star Lisa Eichhorn as the wife) steals the movie, it stands as one of Bridges’s best (and least-seen) films.

jeff bridges against all odds

Another one is AGAINST ALL ODDS. If CUTTER’S WAY is an enigmatic seventies movie (despite actually having been made in 1981), AGAINST ALL ODDS is defiantly eighties, with it being a glossy, sexy MTV-style remake of the classic noir, OUT OF THE PAST. Bridges plays a washed-up football player sent to Mexico to find the girlfriend (Rachel Ward) of his former coke-dealer (James Woods) who’s become a big-shot wheeler-dealer than can restart his stagnant career. While super dated in a fun eighties way (the fashions are right out of Miami Vice, and the pop-song filled soundtrack is super slick) the premise is actually pretty tight and there are some really cool set pieces. And yes, the famous Phil Collins song, “Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now)”, was written for this movie. If you only know Bridges from THE BIG LEBOWSKI, you’ll be shocked to see him here in full-on heartthrob mode.

His Best Scene

I briefly considered putting something in here from THE BIG LEBOWSKI, but then it occurred to me that I haven’t said all that much about his performance as Rooster Cogburn in TRUE GRIT. Bridges did exceptionally well filling John Wayne’s shoes in the lead, and if his final showdown with Barry Pepper’s Ned Pepper isn’t badass, I don’t know what is.

His Ten Best Films

10. TRON
9. TRUE GRIT
8. THE CONTENDER
7. ARLINGTON ROAD
6. FEARLESS
5. THE FISHER KING
4. CUTTER’S WAY
3. THE BIG LEBOWSKI
2. STARMAN
1. THE LAST PICTURE SHOW

Up Next

Always in demand, Bridges is currently filming KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, and then reteams with his TRON LEGACY director, Joseph Kosinski in GRANITE MOUNTAIN.

Source: JoBlo.com

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3:38PM on 08/08/2016
I wish I could've liked "Seventh Son" more, but his mouth full of marbles delivery really ruined it for me. He was, after all, the real reason I wanted to see that movie.
Oh and you forgot to mention his turn as "Obadiah Stane" in the first "Iron Man", but that was just supporting. He really made that character.
I wish I could've liked "Seventh Son" more, but his mouth full of marbles delivery really ruined it for me. He was, after all, the real reason I wanted to see that movie.
Oh and you forgot to mention his turn as "Obadiah Stane" in the first "Iron Man", but that was just supporting. He really made that character.
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2:45PM on 08/08/2016
Star Man as a child did it for me. Mr. Bridges is a legend, bona-fide all-time pimp status in my mind.
Star Man as a child did it for me. Mr. Bridges is a legend, bona-fide all-time pimp status in my mind.
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1:26PM on 08/08/2016

Has this column really been going on for 3 years now? For some reason, I still felt like it was one of the newer features on the site.

While I think the column's at its best when its able to bring underappreciated or forgotten talents to the attention of a wider audience, Bridges is definitely a deserving pick.

No joke, if I were to pick out the three most underrated American films of all time, The Last Picture Show would be one of them, yeah it gets a lot of attention and critical acclaim, but still not enough. One of the absolute all-time greats in my opinion, and it blows my mind that it doesn't get more love in the
While I think the column's at its best when its able to bring underappreciated or forgotten talents to the attention of a wider audience, Bridges is definitely a deserving pick.

No joke, if I were to pick out the three most underrated American films of all time, The Last Picture Show would be one of them, yeah it gets a lot of attention and critical acclaim, but still not enough. One of the absolute all-time greats in my opinion, and it blows my mind that it doesn't get more love in the Sight & Sound poll.
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1:02PM on 08/08/2016
I'm as surprised as you were he hadn't been featured in this column yet. I guess all the praise he's gotten on this site for his movies old and new, I kind of just took it for granted, because he absolutely belongs here. The movies that first really introduced me to Jeff Bridges were probably The Fisher King (the first time I remember seeing him in anything), and Fearless. As much as he seems perfect now for the Dude, it was inspired casting at the time for a man who was still young enough to
I'm as surprised as you were he hadn't been featured in this column yet. I guess all the praise he's gotten on this site for his movies old and new, I kind of just took it for granted, because he absolutely belongs here. The movies that first really introduced me to Jeff Bridges were probably The Fisher King (the first time I remember seeing him in anything), and Fearless. As much as he seems perfect now for the Dude, it was inspired casting at the time for a man who was still young enough to get in some traditional leading man roles to go all old-hippie on us. And I have no problem with that. Cutter's Way is a movie I've been aware of for years, but back in the video days it seemed impossible to come by. One on a long list that I still haven't caught up with.
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12:34PM on 08/08/2016
Jeff Bridges is badass alright. He can tackle so many roles. I think his underrated works are Blown Away and The Contender. I know he got Oscar nomination for The Contender but people hardly talk about that movie but he was very good in it. And he's awesomely cool in Against All Odds.
Jeff Bridges is badass alright. He can tackle so many roles. I think his underrated works are Blown Away and The Contender. I know he got Oscar nomination for The Contender but people hardly talk about that movie but he was very good in it. And he's awesomely cool in Against All Odds.
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12:03PM on 08/08/2016
Mr. Bridges is indeed a badass. My favorite films are probably The Last Picture Show and The Fisher King but he really nails just about every role he takes on.
Mr. Bridges is indeed a badass. My favorite films are probably The Last Picture Show and The Fisher King but he really nails just about every role he takes on.
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