best film:  The Big Lebowski. It is almost always a great sign for an actor when their best film lines up with their best performance. The Big Lebowski is a comic masterpiece that ranks amongst not only the best all-time comedies, but the best all-time detective films, films in the 1990s and works in the Coen brothers canon. That is saying something. Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980) is the closest contender. From the opening of the Blue Danube on the Harvard lawn to roller stake dance set piece rolling around with Steadicam – this is an ambitious work. The next tier down Jeff Bridges includes his big breakthrough in 1971 – The Last Picture Show, The Fisher King (1991) and then a pair of 21st century westerns or neo westerns in True Grit (2010) and Hell or High Water (2016).


best performance:  The Big Lebowski. Jeff Bridges is “The Dude” and credit is due to him to continue on after this role, film and cult following. He has such a strong body of work in his fifties and beyond (he was born in 1949 making him just under fifty for The Big Lebowski). Even with the Coen brothers being white hot after Fargo in 1996, playing “The Dude” is a risky role – it takes a hell of an actor and performance to be the center of the wild narrative and not be bowled over by talented (and showier parts) cohorts and supporting actors like John Goodman, Julianne Moore, John Turturro and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.


Bridges’ best film and performance – The Big Lebowski – nearly three (3) decades into his career (his first archiveable film is 1971).


stylistic innovations/traits:  Jeff Bridges has had a long career with now seven (7) Oscar nominations spread over four (4) decades (skipping the 1990s oddly enough – which is his best single decade with both of his top two performances arriving during this stretch). Despite being a Californian, Bridges is often known for playing western/southern/rural characters (The Last Picture Show, Crazy Heart, True Grit, Hell or High Water). There is some bad luck in there that he did not hook up with Sidney Lumet or Francis Ford Coppola until the 1980s – but on the flip side, he is on one of the very best Coen brothers films (and True Grit is a very solid B-side) and he connected with Terry Gilliam very close to Gilliam’s artistic peak in 1991 for The Fisher King.


from Crazy Heart – Jeff Bridges in the lead here – Robert Duvall has a minor role in the film. Duvall’s casting is an homage to 1983’s Tender Mercies where he plays a down and out alcoholic country singer. And a down and out alcoholic country singer is exactly what Bridges plays here – Bad Blake. Needless to say, Bridges is very convincing. This is a powerful character study that takes on the drunk country singer cliché unapologetically. Bridges nails the accent, the singing voice, the physical performance (he is a sweaty mess). He looks unhealthy. Songs include originals (good enough to make for a strong country western album) “The Weary Kind”, “Hold On You” and “Fallin’ & Flyin.”


directors worked with:  Terry Gilliam (2), the Coen brothers (2), Peter Bogdanovich (1), John Huston (1), Michael Cimino (2), Francis Ford Coppola (1), John Carpenter (1), Sidney Lumet (1), Peter Weir (1)


from The Fisher King – Bridges plays a Howard Stern-like radio DJ turned alcoholic.  It is fascinating to see Bridges’ transformation over the years.  He was so pretty in the 1970s –  though he always sought roles that eschewed his good looks (like a Paul Newman type) – always opting for more challenging roles. True Grit in 2010 is half John Wayne (who played the Rooster Cogburn role in the 1969 film version)  and half John Heard in Cutter’s Way (which costarred Bridges of course).


top five performances:

  1. The Big Lebowski
  2. The Fisher King
  3. Hell or High Water
  4. Crazy Heart
  5. Fearless


archiveable films:

1971- The Last Picture Show
1972- Bad Company
1972- Fat City
1974- Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
1980- Heaven’s Gate
1981- Cutter’s Way
1984- Starman
1985- Jagged Edge
1986- The Morning After
1988- Tucker: A Man and His Dream
1991- The Fisher King
1992- American Heart
1993- Fearless
1998- The Big Lebowski
1999- Arlington Road
2000- The Contender
2003- Seabiscuit
2004- The Door in the Floor
2005- Tideland
2008- Iron Man
2009- A Crazy Heart
2010- True Grit
2016- Hell or High Water