Top 10 Under Appreciated Jeff Bridges Performances

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Top 10 Under Appreciated Jeff Bridges Performances

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Jeff Bridges has been a Hollywood mainstay for decades, which has caused many of his best roles to go overlooked. For this list, we'll be looking at this powerhouse actor's most underappreciated turns. Our countdown includes “The Men Who Stare at Goats”, "Iron Man", “The Fisher King”, and more!
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Top 10 Underappreciated Jeff Bridges Performances

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Underappreciated Jeff Bridges Performances.

For this list, we’ll be looking at this powerhouse actor’s most underappreciated turns. That’s not to say they couldn’t have been well received in their time - heck, almost all of his were - just that they could use a little more love today. So a movie like “The Big Lebowski,” which has only grown in popularity, won’t be considered.

What’s your favorite Jeff Bridges performance? Sound off in the comments!

#10: Bill Django

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” (2009)
“The Men Who Stare at Goats” doesn’t just have a fantastic title - it has an all-star cast, who are all turning in hysterical performances. Bridges plays Bill Django, an Army officer who underwent a massive epiphany and founded the New Earth Army, a military-sanctioned program that seeks to turn soldiers into psychic warriors. It’s an out-there premise, but one that actually has some basis in reality. Here Bridges takes his “Dude” caricature and gives it a facelift, going from laid-back and lethargic to laid-back and peace-loving. The movie itself is far from being the GOAT of Bridges’s filmography, but it’s definitely worth another watch if only for his amiable performance.

#9: Duane Steinbrink

“Only the Brave” (2017)
Now here’s an entire movie that’s underappreciated. Also based on a true story, “Only the Brave” focuses on the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite group of firefighters from Prescott, Arizona, almost all of whom were tragically killed in a wildfire in 2013. Bridges plays Duane Steinbrink, the Fire Chief under whom the Hotshots operate. Never losing the gruff drawl Jeff Bridges characters are known for, Duane comes across as the perfect boss, tough yet enthusiastic. Still, when unimaginable hardship strikes toward the end of the film, Bridges shifts to an appropriately somber tone, proving he can nail the full range of the emotional spectrum.

#8: Duane Jackson

“The Last Picture Show” (1971)
Going from one Duane to another, this is the movie that arguably put Jeff Bridges on the map. Though “The Last Picture Show’s” esteemed place in film history is well documented, most people tend to think of Jeff Bridges with a beard and being of a certain age, so his youthful appearance here has since gone under the radar. Indeed, Bridges was just twenty-one when he filmed this all-timer, yet already he was showing some serious acting chops. His portrayal of a listless high school senior in a dying Texas town is suitably grounded, but layered into it is a deep understanding of character motivations and pathos.

#7: Obadiah Stane

“Iron Man” (2008)
It might seem odd to call an MCU performance underappreciated, but hear us out. “Iron Man” kicked off the cinematic universe in phenomenal fashion, making Bridges’s Obadiah Stane its first great villain. And we’d argue, one of its best. Sure, the character might seem quaint in retrospect, but Bridges gets nowhere near the level of respect for his dastardly turn. At his core, Stane is just another greedy businessman, but the level of ruthlessness Bridges brings to the portrayal makes him an incredibly scary one, even when not in the Iron Monger suit. It’s tough to hold your own alongside a scene-stealing Robert Downey Jr., but Bridges makes it look easy.

#6: Ernie Munger

“Fat City” (1972)
Before “Rocky,” there was “Fat City,” only this underdog boxing movie is way, way less optimistic. Jeff Bridges plays Ernie, a young up-and-comer who begins sparring with an old-timer, played by Stacy Keach. Despite their careers going in opposite directions, the two make a connection over their shared woes, both inside and out of the ring. Much like Keach’s, Bridges’s performance is incredibly understated, letting the subtext speak more than the actual dialogue. We don’t necessarily recommend “Fat City” for those looking for a pick-me-up, but it’s an underseen Bridges hidden gem to be sure.

#5: Lightfoot

“Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” (1974)
Another flick from the 1970s, “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” sees Bridges play the latter of the eponymous characters alongside Clint Eastwood’s bank-robbing Thunderbolt. Upon meeting, the two form a crew to plan another heist, and it predictably doesn’t go according to plan. Jeff Bridges characters are often known for their unique and sometimes loud personalities, and “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” gives us one of the earliest instances of that. His Lightfoot is, well, light, both jovial and charming in his nascent criminality. While Eastwood is reliably solid too, it’s Bridges with the showier role, with many critics of the time claiming he steals the movie. Nearly half a century later, we’re inclined to agree.

#4: Jack Baker

“The Fabulous Baker Boys” (1989)
People tend to forget that Jeff Bridges and Beau Bridges are brothers. In case you needed that reminder, here’s “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” in which they play - you guessed it - brothers. Jack and Frank have a dual act playing the piano, but their dynamic is thrown for a loop when they bring aboard a singer - played by Michelle Pfeiffer - for whom Jack falls for. Of course, Jeff’s career has always been more high-profile than Beau’s, but their real-life kinship only amplifies the characters’ relationship that much more, bringing the best out of both of them. This isn’t simply one of Jeff Bridges’s best performances; it’s also one of his best movies.

#3: Jack Lucas

“The Fisher King” (1991)
Much in the same way as the aforementioned Robert Downey Jr., Robin Williams was one of those screen talents it was hard to compete with. But Jeff Bridges found a happy place working as a straight man to him in “The Fisher King.” Another character of his named “Jack,” this one is a formerly well known shock jock radio host who seeks to improve the lot of Williams’s Parry, an eccentric homeless man whose life Jack indirectly ruined years earlier. Here, Bridges is tasked with keeping things fairly close to the vest, but underneath a cynical persona is a guilty conscience desperately seeking absolution. If there’s one performance of his people most have slept on, it might just be this one.

#2: Preston Tucker

“Tucker: The Man and His Dream” (1988)
Forget Jeff Bridges for a moment; this is just an underappreciated Francis Ford Coppola movie, and that’s saying something. This time out Bridges plays the factual Preston Tucker, who sought to revolutionize the automobile industry with the 1948 Tucker Sedan, which, as history will tell you, didn’t happen. Still, thanks to Bridges’s impassioned performance as the wide-eyed entrepreneur, we almost retroactively wish it had. Bridges has always had a certain natural charisma and smooth-talking voice, and nowhere is that put to better use than here. Indeed, even though we know Tucker’s doomed to fail, we can’t help but be utterly transfixed as we fully buy whatever he’s selling.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Kevin Flynn / Clu, “Tron” Franchise (1982-)
The “Tron” Movies Are More Than Just Light Shows

Charles S. Howard, “Seabiscuit” (2003)
There’s Something About Bridges Playing Businessmen That Just Fits

Otis “Bad” Blake, “Crazy Heart” (2009)
Today, Few People Could Tell You Which Movie Won Him His Oscar

Jackson Evans, “The Contender” (2000)
Jeff Bridges Is an Actor Fit for the Oval Office

Marcus Hamilton, “Hell or High Water” (2016)
This Whole Movie Is Filled With Underappreciated Performances

#1: Scott Hayden / Starman

“Starman” (1984)
Playing an extraterrestrial can be difficult, and is something many actors have struggled with. It’s also something that sits firmly outside Jeff Bridges’s wheelhouse, but his performance in this sci-fi drama makes it perfect for our top spot. Upon being stranded on Earth, Bridges’s Starman takes the form of a widow’s late husband before the two set out to reunite him with his kind. There’s probably a lot to unpack there, but Bridges and co-star Karen Allen do wonders to simplify things with fantastic chemistry. Bridges especially is superb, coming off just weird enough to appear otherworldly but not so much as to be off-putting. In short, a Jeff Bridges highlight reel would be incomplete without this ‘80s classic.
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