Top 10 Brad Pitt Supporting Performances

by Eric Melin on August 25, 2009

in Top 10s

He’s appeared in ho-hum mainstream fare like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Troy,” and “Meet Joe Black,” but it’s when Brad Pitt plays smaller roles that he’s able to really show off his acting chops—especially his impeccable comic timing (see this weekend’s #1 movie “Inglourious Basterds”). These 10 movies show that Pitt is a dangerous scene-stealing co-star, especially in quirkier material. Please enjoy my list of Brad Pitt’s Top 10 Supporting Performances. Click on the links to see video of each entry. If you have a list you’d like to contribute, email me at eric@scene-stealers.com.

brad pitt confessions dangerous mind cameo10. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) Brad, Bachelor #1

In this Charlie Kaufman-penned directorial debut by George Clooney, Pitt cameos as a contestant named Brad on “The Dating Game,” alongside Matt Damon (who plays “Matt”). In the movie, Sam Rockwell portrays Chuck Barris, the creator of the show (and purportedly undercover CIA hitman) and the joke is that the slightly overweight dorky guy with the mustache wins the date over two superhunks because she can’t see them. There’s not much to the scene other than that one joke (which is why it’s at #10), but it just goes to show how synonymous Pitt is with good looks and how eager he is to lampoon that notion as much as possible. You’ll see how true that is when you get to the number-two entry on this list.

pitt snatch 20009. Snatch (2000) Mickey O’Neil

I’m not sure if it was a conscious choice to mock the bad reviews of his brogue in the standard and unremarkable Harrison Ford movie “The Devil’s Own,” but Pitt plays gypsy hustler-turned-bare-knuckle-fighter Mickey O’Neil with an Irish dialect that’s incomprehensible by just about every other person in this multi-character Guy Ritchie crime movie. The plot is pretty incomprehensible as well and uses a lot of Ritchie’s tricks from his previous “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” but Pitt is hilarious, and sticks out the most in a movie so scuzzy and violent that dead bodies are fed to pigs.

ocean's eleven pitt8. Ocean’s Eleven (2001) Rusty Ryan

Pitt is the perfect comic foil to fast-talking Danny Ocean (George Clooney) in the first of three “Ocean’s” movies directed by Clooney pal Steven Soderbergh. Here Pitt takes advantage of his movie-star persona again, except this time he’s undercutting his handsome image and expensive wardrobe with a self-disparaging sense of humor and some pretty silly disguises. For someone who seems to have everything, Rusty has a problem holding on to money and he’s often seen eating something, although he rarely finishes. The “Ocean’s” series has resulted in to-be-expected diminishing returns, but Pitt’s witty banter with Clooney is always a highlight of each film. Here’s the scene where he and Clooney teach Topher “All Reds” Grace, Josh Jackson, and other young movie stars how to play poker.

pitt kalifornia 1993 early7. Kalifornia (1993) Early Grayce

The premise sure is a lot of coincidence to accept, but Pitt still makes a memorable turn as a redneck parolee-turned-serial-killer who shares a cross country trip with an egghead grad student (David Duchovny) writing a book on … you guessed it … serial killers. While it’s somewhat of a crapshoot who is the lead character in this movie (like it is in the excellent “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward John Ford,” where Pitt’s James is in the title—further blurring the lines is the fact that Casey Affleck got a supporting actor nod even though he’s in the movie more than Pitt), I’m sticking with Pitt as the supporting player because it’s his actions that cause Duchovny’s character to re-evaluate his obsession. Pitt uses his movie-star charm to generate a good amount of empathy despite the mounting body count, playing against type but to his strengths again.

pitt babel 20066. Babel (2006) Richard Jones

A contrived-but-vigorous ensemble drama directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu with a multinational cast, “Babel” was nominated for seven Oscars, but Best Supporting Actor was not one of them. Pitt plays an older, well-off American family man on vacation and in a rough patch in his marriage when his wife (Cate Blanchett) is suddenly hit by a stray bullet. Pitt showed a powerful combination of entitlement and desperation that we’ve never seen from him before. His anguish and rage was potent, and it was believable across the board even if his particular storyline was not as compelling as other characters—two of which (Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barazza) received supporting actress nominations instead. Here’s the HD trailer.

pitt true romance floyd stoner5. True Romance (1993) Floyd

Smoking pot out of a makeshift plastic honey bear bong, in nothing more than a cameo, Pitt steals the movie from a huge cast of heavyweights (Gary Oldman, Chistopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Samuel L. Jackson, Val Kilmer) as Floyd, the clueless but merry stoner who rats out his roomie Dick (Michael Rapaport). Perhaps this was a hint of “Basterds” to come, since Quentin Tarantino wrote this Tony Scott-directed film. (Too bad he didn’t direct “True Romance” as well.) When future “Soprano” James Gandolfini comes by looking for Christian Slater’s main character Clarence, Floyd delivers one of the most quotable lines of the film as only a man of wealth and taste could: “They were here and then they said they were going to go there. And then they went.”

pitt 12 monkeys 4. 12 Monkeys (1995) Jeffrey Goines

His first Academy Award nomination (and a Golden Globe win) came for this Terry Gilliam-directed thriller, where Pitt plays mental patient Jeffrey Goines, who turns out to be of central interest to the film’s lead character (played by Bruce Willis). Since the movie takes place in a bleak post-apocalyptic future where everybody lives underground, Pitt provides some much-needed levity with his wild ravings and jumping about (which include a full moon). The film gets a little bogged down with its constant flow of red herrings and take-backs, but Pitt still stands out as something fresh (if not pretty hammy) in “12 Monkeys,” which is an expanded version of the far-superior 1962 French short “La Jetée.”

pitt thelma & louise3. Thelma & Louise (1991) J.D.

This is the second Scott brother-directed film on the list, only it was Tony’s older brother Ridley who directed a young Pitt in his breakthrough performance as a handsome young drifter named J.D. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are the title characters who encounter rampant sexism and get in a heap of trouble at every turn. Davis, however, finally indulges her sexual side during a hot night in a hotel room with the muscle-bound and shirtless J.D. He may have turned out to be a bank robber and stolen all of the road-tripping couple’s cash, but Pitt made a wildly favorable impression on moviegoers (especially female ones) everywhere. This is the movie that officially launched his career.

burn after reading pitt2. Burn After Reading (2008) Chad Feldheimer

If you thought Floyd from “True Romance” was dumb, wait until you see Pitt portray sweetly deficient gym employee Chad in this wickedly black Coen brothers comedy. The real irony here is that the combination of he and Clooney really got butts in the seats to see this Debbie Downer of a movie. The ads featured Pitt acting zany, jumping up and down, and getting punched in the face, making the movie look like a nutty romp. But when dorky little Chad exits the premises very suddenly, this existentialist comedy takes some unpredictably nightmarish turns. Best line: “I’m sorry to call you at this late hour but I thought you might be worried … about the security … of your shit.” Check it out and other of Pitt’s best moments from the film edited together here.

pitt inglourious basterds 20091. Inglourious Basterds (2009) Lt. Aldo Raine

Maybe it’s a little early to call this one, but I’m still reeling from the many unexpected pleasures of Tarantino’s newest genre twister. The previews hinted at Pitt’s redneck accent, but his perma-smirk and the pure relish he takes in killing Nazis (rhymes with gnat-sees) can only be matched by his unwavering confidence. Also, I know what you’re thinking and I’m way ahead of you: Yes, his is the supporting role—I don’t care what the posters and ads are selling. This is really the story of “The Jew Hunter” Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz, another scene-stealer) and Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), the young Jewish girl he once let go. Lt. Raine and his basterds are outliers. Hell, Raine doesn’t even get to participate in the final shootout! But Pitt’s delivery and timing are so funny in this movie that he gets laughs sometimes just for a look. Pitt’s really at the top of his game these days taking these quirky little roles and I sure hope he continues in this vein because he’s producing some of his best work to date. Start at :43.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Xavier August 25, 2009 at 12:50 am

Just goes to show that you don’t have to be in great films to be a great actor, not that he hasn’t done some of them but it seems that his best roles were in some average films

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2 Rachelle August 25, 2009 at 1:01 am

I am not really a fan of Brad Pitt, but surprisingly thought he was the perfect Lt. Raine. He was so hilarious with his accent and American mentality. I did like him in True Romance and Snatch as well.

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3 Josh August 25, 2009 at 8:15 am

In my opinion, Brads best characters are the ones he plays where he’s just not all there. I think you have hit most of these here (sans Fight Club).

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4 Dana August 25, 2009 at 8:31 am

I didn’t think I was a Brad Pitt fan, but you refreshed my memory on some of his great roles, 1-5 especially!

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5 Will August 25, 2009 at 8:35 am

I’ve always told my friends that Brad Pitt is a thousand times better where he is acting against his type and this top 10 list proves it!!!! My personal favorites on this list include “12 Monkeys”, “Snatch” and “True Romance” (plus “Fight Club”…but he had a lead role so I understand it’s exclusion).

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6 Shane August 25, 2009 at 9:36 am

Mickey from Snatch should be a little higher. He’s the best part of that movie. Frankly, he’s the best part of a lot of movies on your list, especially Burn After Reading. That movie was terrible.

One of my favorite stories about Pitt is that when he was shooting Ocean’s 11, Soderberg wanted Rusty to have “a thing.” Pitt, who was eating at the time, said, “What if he’s eating all the time.” And in virtually every scene in that movie, he’s eating something. I always thought that was funny.

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7 Sean August 25, 2009 at 10:48 am

Great list, makes me want to see Inglourious Basterds even more.

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8 kt edmiston August 25, 2009 at 11:11 am

ah, beautiful Brad. I was totally hooked after seeing him in Thelma and Louise. Somehow he makes getting robbed of all your money seem not so bad. and he cracks me up in True Romance. “Get some beer … and some cleaning products!” I can’t wait to be wowed by inglourious basterds!

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9 Jake August 25, 2009 at 12:38 pm

love it. he is the greatest supporting actor ever. best character actor. although i don’t think his role in Fight Club should be considered as a Leading role. Ed Norton was the lead. His role as Mickey in Snatch is the best work he has done. Although the rest on this list are all stellar. Looking forward to seeing Inglourious Basterds.

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10 Eric Melin August 25, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Yeah, “Fight Club” is a bit suspect, but because of the plot twist, I decided there were two leads in that movie. Plus, enough has been written about it elsewhere!

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11 jess August 25, 2009 at 3:36 pm

i agree, they are some of my all time favourite films. Think of all the other great and diverse performances too,like s7even and legends of the fall, interview with the vampire. His film collection is a real keeper. Really glad more people are realising the fact Brad has a;ways been a brillint actor. I will always go see a Brad Pitt film.

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12 Capt. Sci-Fi (Eric C.) August 25, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Well, I agree with 1 thing… the less Brad Pitt is in a movie the better.

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13 David Bruce Murray August 25, 2009 at 9:18 pm

I’d have found a spot for _A River Runs Through It_. It’s clear after forty-five minutes of this movie that Brad Pitt is destined to be a huge star and Craig Sheffer isn’t.

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14 Kenny August 26, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Don’t forget Interview With the Vampire! He plays his part pretty well in that movie. Plus, I love the Confession and Assassinations nods. Two of my recent faves.

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15 Ross McG August 27, 2009 at 5:58 am

thats a good list, pretty much covered everything, can understand why fight club and even se7en are off the list – hes pretty much the co-lead role in both. agree with everyone who says Snatch is his best work, particularly when you think of how easy it is for comedy roles to get more recognition these days – really, was Downey Jr’s hamming in Tropic Thunder worth an Oscar nom?
disagree with those calling for Interview with the Vampire to be included – Pitt is pretty much the one thing that holds that movie back slightly, hes just a little bit too bland.
hes pretty good in Spy Game though, where he kinda plays support to Redford’s lead. its a great little movie, love it when Redford does those espionage roles (Sneakers is so great), and watching it is like watching the same guy in his past and future guises – why didnt redford do the older scenes in Benjamin Button…?

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16 Eric Melin August 27, 2009 at 8:50 am

“was Downey Jr’s hamming in Tropic Thunder worth an Oscar nom?”
Yes, it was. And I wouldn’t call it hamming. Anybody else would have screwed that up big time…

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17 ChrisKnudsen September 3, 2009 at 1:01 pm

What I don’t understand is why everyone thinks The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, he is the lead. He isn’t. It is Casey Affleck all the way. Whatever though.

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18 Eric Melin September 3, 2009 at 2:31 pm

I mentioned that in #7, CK!

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19 ChrisKnudsen September 3, 2009 at 2:34 pm

I know sir, I was just agreeing with you. I would have put him on my list though. I was thinking about going to Toronto next year. Do you want to go?

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20 Eric Melin September 3, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Sure! How much is it? ha…

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21 ChrisKnudsen September 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm

God damn, is it really 20 dollars per movie? Jesus christ.

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22 Lanelle Hosang January 23, 2010 at 2:03 am

Personally I don’t think that Mr. Handsome has received enough accolades for his humanitarian efforts. In my opinion a lot of celebrity do-gooders are totally phony and engage in so called good deeds merely for positive publicity. I have to say that I don’t think that George is one of the phonies out there in the world of celbrity do-gooders. I admire what he is doing for the Haitian people. I wish more celebrities were as real as he is when it comes to helping out those less fortunate in the world. So kudos to George and his desire to make this world a better place.

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23 W. Scott March 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Oceans Series
Meet Joe Black (quite an impressive remake)
Fight Club
Troy
Se7en

Whoo. The depth and breadth of characters is pretty incredible here.

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24 ericaG April 24, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Being John Malkovich!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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25 ericaG April 24, 2010 at 10:38 pm

BJM – not supporting but hilarious

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26 Abe Snavely June 16, 2010 at 10:58 am

I’ve my my film favorites, and while going over my list, I happened to observe that Brad Pitt was in a few of them. Even though what critics say, I thought he did an amazing job in Interview with a Vampire, while I’ve got to agree with them on Meet Joe Black. His overall performance there didn’t do anything in my opinion. Seven was provoking, and so was 12 Monkeys. And I thought he was enchanting in all three Oceans movies. Troy was stunning, and he brought the celebrated hero to life with his cocky swagger. Now, I’ve got to see Basterds. I have been out of the country for a few years, and not always convenient to a movie theater, but the moment I’m able to, I’m checking it out.

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