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Top Ten Tuesday: Best of Bridges

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28 years after an entire generation of wide-eyed, sci-fi fascinated kids were transported into a virtual world of video game adventure, TRON returns with the sequel TRON: LEGACY. Jeff Bridges starred in the original, released in 1982, and returns for the sequel. In honor of something so rare and special, We Are Movie Geeks have compiled a list of our Top Ten Favorite Performances from Jeff Bridges.

10. BAD COMPANY

BAD COMPANY (1972) was Jeff Bridges fifth film, following a promising trend set by THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and FAT CITY. Bridges plays Jake Rumsey, a young Ohio man who flees to Jefferson City to dodge the Civil War draft. Jake joins a group of similar young men and they set out west, in hopes of making lives for themselves, but realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Bridges delivers a rich performance as a man not yet fully matured to deal with the life he has chosen, torn by his choices and the consequences of his actions.

09. THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT

Michael Cimino’s THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHT FOOT is a movie that crosses many genres , you can look upon it as a heist movie , a road movie , and an action comedy. Jeff Bridges received his second Oscar nomination as Lightfoot, a charismatic, full-of-himself car thief Clint Eastwood joins forces with and together they plan a robbery from an old heist. THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHT FOOT features two stars who click and the two have great chemistry on screen together and both show great comical form. The human interaction in the dialogue-led scenes is more interesting than the straight-up action sequences, and Bridges’ fate at the end is moving. THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHT FOOT is an excellent caper film and testament to the golden years of filmmaking that was the 70s.

08. TIDELAND

You knew it was only a matter of time for Jeff Bridges to play a burned out rock star! Heck, who wouldn’t wanna play one! Sadly, after the overdose of his wife, he and his daughter hide in an obscure shack, and into their own world. This is a bizarre film that isn’t for everyone. Still, it is a stunningly dark visual journey that might leave some a bit uneasy. Bridges really has a great ability to choose different, challenging roles, and this one certainly fits with that standard!

07. THE CONTENDER

In the history of fictional cinematic presidents there’s been very few commanders-in-chief as cool as Jackson Evans played by the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges in Rod Lurie’s 2000 THE CONTENDER. The plot centers on the aftermath of the sudden death of Jackson’s vice prez and the attempt by the soon outgoing Evans administration to have Laine Hanson(played by Bridges’s Tucker wife Joan Allen) fill out the term. Bridges’s prez is all confidence whether sneaking a smoke or quietly intimidating a young congressman(played by his Tucker son Christian Slater) during a casual tour of the oval office. Evans relishes his job’s perks, especially his on staff kitchen(“If I want a shark steak sandwich I can get it in just minutes”). He masks his toughness with a joviality and easy going demeanor. Evans likes Laurie, but has his eyes on the legacy of his presidency. A female V.P. will be long remembered. As Gary Oldman’s Shelly Runyon tries to block her confirmation, Evans quietly observes and plans. At the end of the congressional battle Evans shares a cigar with Hanson in a great personal coda to the political grand standing. Watching the film you look forward to seeing more of this great character, so it’s no wonder that Bridges got a much deserved Academy Award Best Supporting Actor nomination.

06. KING KONG

In the 1976 Dino De Laurentiis version of KING KONG, Jeff Bridges plays primate paleontologist, Jeff Prescott who sneaks onboard Petrox’s massive oil ship for a big adventure to a mysterious island. He and his feathery, Herculean hair attempt to warn the team against completing such a mission by warning them about a final message about “the roar of the greatest beast” from previous doomed explorers. Bridges and the film have become a cult favorite among KONG enthusiasts. He does some of his best Shakespearean-William Shatner work in this remake of the 1933 classic. What with all the yelling at the top of his lungs and looming crane shots of him forever looking up at, what else, the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” Bridges performance have become a guilty delight.

For those who’ve never had the pleasure of the 1976 KONG, the film’s success and notoriety helped launch the career of Bridges’ love interest, Jessica Lange. The critics of the day ran her debut performance through the mill and, according to film reviewer Marshall Fine, “it almost destroyed her career.”

05. STARMAN

Although one of his better known roles is Kevin Flynn in 1982’s TRON and one he is set to take up again this week in TRON: LEGACY, Bridges was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award in 1984 for playing an alien in STARMAN. A role he should’ve won the Oscar for, this love story and sci-fi classic is just another example of Bridges’ acting genius. Directed by John Carpenter, STARMAN is the story of an alien race who responds to the Voyager spacecraft’s invitation by sending an envoy to Earth. Bridges’ alien clones the body of Karen Allen’s recently deceased husband, Scott, so that he and Allen can travel on a magnificent journey from Michigan to Arizona’s Giant Crater in order for him to rendezvous with the Mothership. Having nothing to base his extraordinary performance on, Bridges dramatically convinced the audience that all the subtle physical idiosyncrasies and nuances up on the screen are precisely how a stranger would act in a strange land. It’s one of the best performances and films of 1984.

04. CRAZY HEART

CRAZY HEART is a poignant film about a musician past his prime, threatened by the younger musician taking his place. Jeff Bridges plays “Bad,” a country western singer/songwriter bitter about the success of the young star (Colin Farrell) he taught, while his own career slowly sinks into oblivion. His alcoholism is expediting his failure, till he meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her little boy, through which he finds the hope and desire to pull himself up out of his own muck and make something of himself again. Bridges shines, capturing the inner turmoil of the man, mastering the voice and the eyes of his character and gives a charismatic, convincing performance.

03. TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM

Director Francis Ford Coppola decided to make a movie about a kindred spirit in 1988 with aide of his old pal George Lucas as producer. Ford always had the dream of forming an independent movie studio that would go up against the established giant movie factories of Hollywood. This dream has many parallels with the real life story of Preston Tucker the man who decided to go against the car making giants of Detroit with his independently produced vehicle in the late 1940’s. Jeff Bridges gives an energetic performance as the title character who is single minded in his quest to bring his ideas to life. The film’s not all about him spending long hours going over plans with mechanics and draftsmen. We also see Preston’s dedication to his family (with Joan Allen as wife Vera and Christian Slater as his son) and loyalty to his friends especially his embattled partner Abe Karatz played by Martin Landau. But even support from Howard Hughes (played almost as a ghost by Dean Stockwell) can’t stop the forces of the old auto kingpins who enlist the aid of Senator Ferguson (played with fiery energy by Jeff’s real life dad, Lloyd) to shut him down. Although Preston would be defeated, his creation, the Tucker, would be treasured by car historians and collectors for decades. Surrounded by gorgeous period costumes, sets, and cinematography (accompanied by a bouncy, big band score by Joe Jackson) Jeff Bridges makes this legendary dreamer a real human being that we root for from beginning to end.

02. LAST PICTURE SHOW

Peter Bogdanovich’s THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971), based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, was a look at life in a small southern Texas town, an engrossing story of coming of age, disillusionment and the beginning of the end of innocence. Timothy Bottoms played Sonny Crawford, the story’s moral center and one of the two male characters that the film is structured around. The other was the rugged carefree jock Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges) and he and Sonny spend much of the film sparring over the attentions of the pretty and spoiled Jacy (Cybill Shepard). THE LAST PICTURE SHOW was Bridges’ first major role and he scored his first Oscar nomination for it but lost to co-star Ben Johnson who played Sam the Lion, owner of the diner where everyone hung out as well as the theater that hosts the last picture show. THE LAST PICTURE SHOW was one of the best movies of the early ‘70’s.

01. THE BIG LEBOWSKI

Ah, one of the biggest staples in movie-dom! The Big Lebowski has turned into a pop culture reference AND a cult classic all melted into one. Bridges is obviously a favorite among the Coen Brothers, having now put him in their latest film TRUE GRIT. Dude must have really made an impression on them! Bridges nails his character, leaving the audience with some great lines, most of which are filled with delicious swears! The Big Lebowski is an essential movie for all to see!

So, what do you think? Share some of your favorite Jeff Bridges movies?

4 Comments

  1. allison

    December 14, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Yes!!! “King Kong” in top 10 woohoo!

  2. alldawayjay

    December 15, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Gee, what a shock about The Big Lebowski being number one. I thought just because it would have been so cliche they would have made it number two or something. I do agree that it is his best role to date. Personally I think his portrail as Rooster Cogburn is going to blow John Wayne out of the water. Even my father thinks that and is a huge fan of The Duke. Who else other than The Dude could fill the shoe’s of The Duke.

  3. Dave56

    December 15, 2010 at 11:39 am

    His role as Lightfoot in “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” was simply sensational. Hie emergence out of nowhere at the car lot to his touching finale is one of an enigmatic loner looking for himself and finding it in “doing a good job, ya know?” with the Thunderbolt, Eastwood. The chemistry is fantastic, the incredible direction of what is basically a road movie by young Cimino, the comic touches, and the great supporting cast make this one of my favorites of all time.

  4. Tyrone

    December 15, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I saw King Kong when it first came out and thought it was awful. Years later after giving it much thought, I am sure I was right about the movie. I thought he was excellent in “The Fabulous Baker Boys” and had good performances in “The Vanishing” and “Arlington Road”

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