Brad Pitt is one of the most iconic American actors today. Simultaneously revered for his good looks and depth as an actor, Pitt is at the top of his game in 2019. In this list, we’re going to rank the best Brad Pitt movies.

The ranking of these films are in regards to their quality and impact, not Brad Pitt’s performance. But every film on the list features Pitt in a substantial if not starring role.

Before we dive into the list of his best movies, let’s look at the role he won the Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

And the Oscar goes to ― Brad Pitt!

Subscribe for more filmmaking videos like this.

Best Brad Pitt Movies List

15. Inglorious Bastards

Killing Nazis Brad Pitt Clip from Inglorious Bastards

The intonation of Brad Pitt’s voice in the role of Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds (2009) is nothing short of masterful. In the scene above, he pronounces many words with a special emphasis on the first syllable. Like when he says that Nazis need to be DE-stroyed.

This movie is seriously elevated by Pitt’s performance. His pronunciation of Italian is also hilarious. Tell him goodbye and he’ll respond with an unconvincing a-riv-a-duhr-chee.


Inglourious Basterds

  • “You probably heard we ain't in the prisoner-takin' business, we in the killin' Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-boomin'.”
  • Tomatometer: 89% Fresh
  • Watch Now →

Brad Pitt Financial Crisis Movie

14. The Big Short

The Big Short Brad Pitt Scene

Although Brad Pitt is just one piece in the ensemble cast of The Big Short (2015), it’s definitely worth including on this list. The Big Short has a lot of fun in telling the story of the 2008 financial crisis. But Pitt’s character, former trader Ben Rickert, really grounds the tragedy of the events of the film.

In the scene above, he reminds us that even though shorting the predatory and ignorant stocks will result in huge payouts, it will still come at the expense of ordinary people. By this, he reminds us that this isn’t a victory story about overcoming the established elite, it’s a cautionary tale about the pursuit of unnecessary power.


The Big Short

Best Brad Pitt Drama Movies

13. Babel

Brad Pitt in Babel

Alejandro Iñárritu's ambitious drama Babel (2006) is an interwoven tale of tragedy across the globe. Pitt plays the role of an American tourist while Cate Blanchette plays his wife, who is shot by two young boys playing with a gun. Iñárritu dives into the back-story by showing us every implicated party in this inexplicable crime. Whether this level of detail is needed for the film is something up for debate. 

Watching Babel brings to mind a very simple exercise for filmmakers. That is, tell me the story of the worst day of somebody’s life. For Babel, Pitt’s character is having the worst day of his life. 



Top Gangster Movies With Brad Pitt

12. Snatch

Brad Pitt and the pikey caravan in Snatch

Brad Pitt’s commitment to the “pikey” vernacular in Snatch (2013) is just incredible. As Jason Statham says in the clip above, “it’s not Irish, it’s not English, it’s just well — Pikey.” 

It’s not just Pitt’s accent that’s impressive. His physical performance is also great. The way he moves makes it seem like he could be a real ‘gypsy’ prize fighter. Snatch is a very entertaining movie, and Pitt is the best part of it.



Greatest Brad Pitt Movies

11. Ad Astra

Lima Project Clip from Ad Astra

Ad Astra (2019) was one of the most pleasant cinema surprises in 2019. The film from Director James Gray really builds upon the resurgence of high concept sci-fi flicks that we’ve seen in recent years. Brad Pitt plays the role of astronaut Roy McBride, who’s tasked with making contact with his disappeared father somewhere across the solar system.

Pitt gives an excellent understated performance in the role. It seems likely that appreciation for Ad Astra will only increase in the future years, as viewers unpack new details after repeat viewings.


Ad Astra

  • “I've been trained to compartmentalize. Seems to be how I live my life.”
  • Tomatometer: 84% Fresh
  • Watch Now →

 Brad Pitt Gangster Movie

10. Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly Ending

It’s certainly true that Pitt’s character Jackie is a cynic. But I suppose it would be hard not to be when living a life of such horror as he does. Jackie is a hitman/enforcer for the mob and he carries out all the violent deeds the people at the top are too afraid to.

This film is an indictment of the American social elite. It exposes the hypocrisy of those who claim to have better intentions than their actions show. For its contentious subject matter, the film is very divisive. But if you’re looking for a challenging film with a great Pitt performance, look no further than Killing Them Softly (2012).


Killing Them Softly

Brad Pitt Zombie Movie

9. World War Z

Brad Pitt runs from zombies in World War Z

World War Z (2013) is a mostly by-the-books zombie movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. In fact, however much the film relies on tropes, it’s the great performances and impressive scale that elevates the film. Brad Pitt plays the role of Gerry Lane, the man who is basically tasked with saving humanity from the zombie apocalypse.

He travels around the world searching for a cure, fighting on the ground and in the sky against the deadly infected humans. At times scary, but often thrilling, World War Z is a great 21st century zombie film.


World War Z

Brad Pitt Most Recent Movie

8. Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Clip

In Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood (2019), Brad Pitt plays the role of stuntman Cliff Booth in the film, who is a character the audience really roots for. It speaks to the testament of Pitt’s performance and Tarantino’s sharp script, because Booth is a man of...questionable morals. 

Oh, and he did kill his wife in what may be the best scene of the film (don’t worry, not a spoiler.) But Pitt turns Booth into a hero. Cigarette in mouth, cool talking, West-coast Miami Vice Cliff Booth may be Pitt’s best role in years.


Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood

Top Best Brad Pitt Movies

7. The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Be careful what you wish for

This sprawling Western follows the lives of Outlaws Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) and Jesse James (Brad Pitt.) Perhaps no modern Western is more conscious of the genres’ origin than The Assassination of Jesse James (2007). Westerns were originally circulated throughout the East on newsprint, called Dime Novels.

These stories exaggerated the exploits of cowboys and gunslingers; creating this sensational view of the West. This film analyzes the ways in which that perception is false, and that the real thing is much less glamorous than the story.


The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

  • “It seems to me if you have something to confess, you outta’ be right and you spit it out now.”
  • Tomatometer: 77% Fresh
  • Watch Now →

Best Brad Pitt Movies

6. 12 Monkeys

Brad Pitt in the institution in 12 Monkeys

The role of psycho-not-so-psycho Jeffrey Goines is one of Pitt’s most fun roles. He’s really able to stretch the limits of his acting, which is great because there are times he’s been type-casted. 

Aside from performances, 12 Monkeys (1995) is really one of the most underrated movies ever made. The story is so well thought out and intricately connected, it’s hard not to marvel at director Terry Gilliams’ control of the film-world.


12 Monkeys

Best Brad Pitt Movies

5. Ocean’s Eleven

Brad Pitt playing poker in Ocean’s Eleven

Ocean’s Eleven (2001) is the perfect heist movie. It has a great cast, sharp script, and it never takes itself too seriously. That being said, it still tells a great story with serious elements. The film is a loose remake of the 1960 Ratpack original.

George Clooney replaces Frank Sinatra as title character Danny Ocean while Pitt comes on in a new supporting role. If you’re looking to enjoy a movie without having to invest in too much drama, Ocean’s Eleven is the picture for you.


Ocean’s Eleven

Best Brad Pitt Movies

4. Se7en

Brad Pitt “what’s in the box? In Seven

The “what’s in the box?” scene may be the most famous of Brad Pitt’s career. It’s everything a tension climax should be: bold, expressive and resolute. It’s certainly what you would expect from David Fincher’s Se7en (1995); an unrelentingly violent movie.

Brad Pitt plays the role of Detective David Mills, a man who becomes embroiled in the crimes of a sadistic serial killer. Se7en is an undeniably tough film to watch, but one all horror fans should see.



  • “You're no messiah. You're a movie of the week. You're a fucking t-shirt, at best.”
  • Tomatometer: 81% Fresh
  • Watch Now →

Top 5 Best Brad Pitt Movies

3. The Tree of Life

Brad Pitt explodes in The Tree of Life

Love it or hate it, it’s undeniable that The Tree of Life (2011) is one of the most important films of the 21st century. This singular vision from director Terrence Malick is an imposing piece of cinema. At times, I found myself mouth agape, wondering what in the world was happening. There are CGI dinosaurs, schools of fish just traveling in the ocean. I thought this was a Brad Pitt movie?

Then, the film transitions back to more traditional storytelling. As it goes on, the movie weaves in and out of waves and into the cosmos telling the story of the O’Brien family and perhaps the story of the universe itself. Personally, I found the story incredibly rewarding in the end. But some may find its pace slow and story hard to follow.


The Tree of Life

Top Brad Pitt Movies

2. Fight Club

Don’t talk about Fight Club with Brad Pitt

Fight Club (1999) exploded onto the cinema screen like fire and kerosene. It’s difficult to remember how revolutionary the picture was without considering the context of when it was released. 1999 was a transitional year.

The new century was about to bring forth aspirations of the future, and bury past misdeeds. The proliferation of cataloguing and systematic socialization had adverse effects on those that couldn’t connect. For those who couldn’t connect to a changing society, there was ‘fight club’; a world for men to vent frustrations and release testosterone-filled rage.

It’s a crazy picture from the mind of director David Fincher. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are both phenomenal. I’m curious to see what kind of legacy Fight Club will have in the coming years. But it’s no doubt that the film is a masterpiece of its time.


Fight Club


Tyler Durden, the character Brad Pitt plays in Fight Club, wears red-lens sunglasses. This costume decision can be interpreted as distorting the character’s perception of the world. But red-lens or auburn-lens sunglasses also help in reducing the light effect on melatonin production. Durden is an insomniac in the film and melatonin is the natural chemical that helps sleep.

Up Next

Best Leonardo DiCaprio Movies

Although Pitt and DiCaprio may be the most famous American actors working today, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood marked their first feature length film they acted in together. DiCaprio started acting at a very young age. As such, his filmography stretches back over thirty years. In this list, we look back at the best movies of his storied career and rank them. 

Up Next: Best Leonardo DiCaprio Movies →
Solution Icon - Shot List and Storyboard

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows.

Learn More ➜

How does one create a power struggle in film? What are the techniques available that will help to communicate this battle through a visual lens?

Let’s look at how Paul Thomas Anderson builds a power struggle with blocking, staging, framing, set dressing, and camera control.

Make sure to read through to the end for more examples of these techniques in the director’s work.

There Will Be Blood Analysis

Blocking and Staging

In this scene from There Will Be Blood, it’s clear that PT Anderson approached production with a distinct vision of his blocking and staging.

When planning a power struggle, start with this question: Who begins in power and who ends in power? Here, Daniel both begins and ends in a position of power. But how is this communicated?

One way is through staging: Daniel is surrounded by people while Eli is all alone. Another is through blocking. Notice how Daniel remains atop Eli throughout the scene? This conveys both his physical and metaphorical dominance.

Another classic cinematic power struggle with expert blocking and staging is the confrontation between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back

Like There Will Be Blood, The Empire Strikes Back uses blocking to convey one character's dominance over another

Director Irvin Kershner uses physical control to communicate dominance in this scene, just as PT Anderson does in There Will Be Blood. Consider the similarities between Darth Vader and Daniel Plainview. They both stand over their pawn in menacing fashion, humiliating them with their physical force.

Staging is also useful as a means of exaggerating what's at stake in the scene. Luke and Vader are perched atop an endlessly tall structure. With nowhere else to go, Luke is forced to confront his fate. Forcing characters into inescapable physical space is an excellent way to show a power struggle.

There Will Be Blood Analysis

Framing POV

Framing is a filmmaker's best friend. When the technique is used effectively, it impacts the dynamic of a scene simply, yet precisely.

In There Will Be Blood, PT Anderson and cinematographer Robert Elswit use framing to brilliant effect. One way they do so is by boldly shifting focus to a POV (point of view) when Eli approaches Daniel. 

There Will Be Blood Analysis - Eli POV - StudioBinder

We see through Eli's eyes

Why do they do this? For starters, this technique captures a sense of dread. Further, it quite literally puts us into the eyes of Eli, giving us a new perspective on his view of the world.

There Will Be Blood Analysis

Set Dressing

Remember: Set dressing doesn’t always have to involve lots of props or busy scenery.

In fact, this scene is achieved through minimalistic set dressing. Set dressing works best when it has something to say about your story, just as it does here in There Will Be Blood.

The scene begins with Eli slowly walking past an oil basin, a symbol of the dirty capitalism he despises.

There Will Be Blood Analysis - Eli Oil Patch - StudioBinder

Eli enters Daniel's domain

When Eli confronts Daniel, Daniel responds by submerging him in the oil basin—a direct metaphorical reference to being soaked in baptismal waters. That Eli is himself a preacher adds irony to this metaphor: Later in the film, he retaliates by baptizing Daniel in a wild display before his church congregants.

Of course, PT Anderson's filmography is one of remarkable variety, and his approach on one film is often starkly different from another.

Consider this scene from Boogie Nights. One key difference it has from the oil scene in There Will Be Blood is in its set dressing and in how it communicates unique aspects of the world it depicts.

In Boogie Nights, PT Anderson explores power dynamics with richly detailed set dressing

In Boogie Nights, the nightclub where high-school dropout Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) works is busy, impersonal, artificial—all the things that the oil field is not. But every piece of set dressing, from the Christmas lights to the costuming, does a wonderful job of adding period detail.

These set dressing methods add an unsettling dynamic to the subsequent power struggle between Eddie and porn filmmaker Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds).

Eddie is a shaggy teenager working a dead end job as a dishwasher. The scenery is dull. Then comes in the power-hungry Jack, wearing an expressive red shirt and gold chain around his neck. Jack’s body language conveys his casual demeanor, while Eddie is visibly nervous.

By juxtaposing this dingy backroom kitchen encounter with the glitz and glamor of the nightclub that precedes it, PT Anderson foreshadows the double-edged sword that will become Eddie’s life in the porn industry.

There Will Be Blood Analysis

Camera Control

We’ve gone over how PT Anderson frames shots with the first-person POV, but that’s just one way he creates compelling confrontations.

When Eli is shown for the first time early in the scene, his face is center-framed. Here, PT Anderson makes a clear point: Eli is the emotional center of the scene.

As Eli confronts Daniel, the camera is low-angled, signifying that Daniel is in charge. Low angles from the perspective of one character looking up at another are a great way to denote power in a scene.

There Will Be Blood Analysis - Eli vs Daniel - StudioBinder

Equal low angles, equal power

When Eli is knocked down into the oil, the camera is placed at ground level. This places audiences closer to Eli, inviting viewers to connect closely with his experience.

PT Anderson uses similar camera control in a confrontation scene in The Master, his 2012 film about an enigmatic cult called The Cause. 

In The Master, PT Anderson's camera acts as a neutral observer of two quarreling characters

In this scene, the leader of The Cause, Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), is confronted by a skeptic who suggests that his so-called “movement” is in fact a cult. Anderson uses low-angle shots to denote power, just as he does in There Will Be Blood

Throughout the exchange, these angles are held on both Dodd and the skeptic, making the camera a neutral observer of their verbal battle.

Up Next

PT Anderson's Directing Style

Now that we’ve broken down the power struggle from PT Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, why don’t we dive deeper into his directing style? 

We'll cover his entire filmography—his character-driven production design in Boogie Nights, his claustrophobic locations in Phantom Thread, his masterful use of montage in Magnolia—and much more.

Up Next: PT Anderson's style →
Solution Icon - Shot List and Storyboard

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows.

Learn More ➜

Tags: ,
  • Chris Heckmann is a Professor of Media & Communication at Roger Williams University and graduate of UCLA’s Cinema & Media Studies Master of Arts program. When he’s not writing or teaching, he’s probably playing video games (or thinking about the next great Boston sports trade).

Copy link