1. Fight Club (1999)

IMDB rating: 8.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%

Storyline: Brad Pitt stars in this movie as a soap salesman who, together with the film’s protagonist (played by Edward Norton), forms an underground fight club as a form of radical psychotherapy – an escape from their mundane and consumerist lives. The movie explores themes like masculinity, identity, and consumer culture, making it a cult classic.

Why it’s a major performance: Pitt’s portrayal of Tyler Durden, the charismatic and anarchistic soap salesman, is often considered one of his most memorable performances. He perfectly embodied the persona of a rebellious character who questions society and its norms. Pitt’s powerful performance, combined with his on-screen charisma, gives the character of Tyler Durden depth and layers that leave a lasting impression on the audience.

Why it’s a major performance: Additionally, Pitt’s performance as Tyler Durden paved the way for the new era of male leads who were not just macho but also had a more sophisticated element to their personas. The film, while polarizing upon its release, has only grown in esteem thanks to his compelling acting and has solidified its place in pop culture.

2. Se7en (1995)

IMDB rating: 8.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

Storyline: In Se7en, Brad Pitt plays the role of Detective David Mills alongside Morgan Freeman. This neo-noir psychological thriller follows the two detectives as they hunt down a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi.

Why it’s a major performance: In a suspenseful and atmospheric movie, Pitt shines in his portrayal of the hot-headed and determined detective, creating a stark contrast with Freeman’s calm and wise character. His performance, particularly in the infamous final scene, showcased his ability to convey raw emotion and vulnerability.

Why it’s a major performance: Despite the movie’s dark and sombre tone, Pitt’s performance provided a sense of urgency and passion that kept audiences hooked. He effectively infused his character with relatability and nuance, making his despair in the conclusion all the more impactful. This role is a prime example of his skills as a leading man in dramatic films.

3. The Big Short.

IMDB rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

Storyline: The Big Short is a biographical comedy-drama film where Brad Pitt portrays Ben Rickert, a retired securities trader who helps two young investors in navigating the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

Why it’s a major performance: Even though Pitt’s role in ‘The Big Short’ is not as prominent as in some of his other films, his calm, understated performance helps balance the movie’s energetic, fast-paced style. As Rickert, Pitt convincingly portrays a morally grounded character who, as a former industry insider, is fully aware of the impending crisis.

Why it’s a major performance: In an ensemble cast that included Christian Bale and Steve Carell, his understated performance stood out and added a sobering reality to the movie’s comically tragic narrative. His ability to portray a character poised yet disillusioned exhibits his range as an actor and further cements his reputation as one of Hollywood’s finest.

4. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

IMDB rating: 8.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Storyline: In Quentin Tarantino’s alternate history war film, Pitt plays Lieutenant Aldo Raine. He leads a group of Jewish-American soldiers, known as the “Basterds,” in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.

Why it’s a major performance: With his character’s thick accent and unyielding dedication to killing Nazis, Pitt commands the screen and injects intensity into every scene. ‘Inglourious Basterds’ offered Pitt the chance to emphasize his comedy skills and dominate in a tough, memorable character that would further diversify his filmography.

Why it’s a major performance: Lieutenant Aldo Raine, as portrayed by Pitt, quickly became a fan favourite. His larger-than-life character is unforgettable, and his iconic line, “I want my scalps,” represents one of the most remembered moments in modern cinema. This film once again demonstrated Pitt’s versatility as a performer, reaffirming him as a top Hollywood star.

5. Moneyball (2011)

IMDB rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

Storyline: Pitt portrays Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, in this sports drama. Based on a true story, Beane uses unconventional methods and statistics to build up a competitive baseball team despite financial constraints.

Why it’s a major performance: In Moneyball, Pitt delivers one of his strongest performances demonstrating his ability to bring depth and humanity to his roles. Billy Beane is a character who’s driven and clever, and Pitt portrays this in a heartfelt yet subtle manner, making him relatable and likeable.

Why it’s a major performance: The success of the movie rests heavily on Pitt’s shoulders. He brings empathy to the role, making the audience root for a man in a tough situation trying to change the way things work. This film displays Pitt’s expert navigation of dramatic material, and spotlights his knack for creating flawed, human characters.

6. 12 Monkeys (1995)

IMDB rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Storyline: In this science fiction film, Pitt stars as Jeffrey Goines, a mental patient who may hold the key to preventing a deadly virus that wipes out most of humanity.

Why it’s a major performance: Pitt received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in ’12 Monkeys’. His portrayal of a mentally ill character was lauded for its authenticity and depth, marking a departure from his typical leading man roles.

Why it’s a major performance: Breaking away from his Hollywood heartthrob image, this role gave Pitt an opportunity to showcase his versatility and depth as an actor. His extreme acting choices, manic energy and nuances captured the character’s essence, proving his capability of delivering complex performances.

7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

IMDB rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%

Storyline: A unique tale of a man who ages in reverse, Pitt plays Benjamin Button who is born an old man and dies a baby. The film chronicles his life’s journey and his love for Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett.

Why it’s a major performance: Pitt’s performance in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ is deeply moving and required great skill to make the character believable. Despite the complex aging process of his character, Pitt brings sincerity and authenticity to every stage of Benjamin’s life, making the audience empathize with his unique predicament.

Why it’s a major performance: Beyond the physical appearance, Pitt conveys the emotional journey of Benjamin Button with subtlety and nuance. His abilities to portray such a character range was highly praised and he was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his outstanding performance.

8. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

IMDB rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Storyline: In Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film set in the Golden Age of Hollywood, Pitt plays the character of Cliff Booth, a stunt double and best pal to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton.

Why it’s a major performance: Brad Pitt adds depth and charisma to the rather cool and composed character of Cliff Booth, and his performance earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He masterfully depicts Booth’s loyalty, grit and laid-back demeanor, creating an intriguing character who leaves a lasting impression.

Why it’s a major performance: Cliff Booth is not just a stuntman, but also a friend, a war hero and suspect in a scandalous crime. Pitt manages to flawlessly bring out these dimensions in his character, marking it as one of his most lauded performances.

9. Burn After Reading (2008)

IMDB rating: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%

Storyline: In this black comedy from the Coen brothers, Pitt plays Chad Feldheimer, a dim-witted gym employee who gets entangled in a convoluted plot involving a misplaced disc containing CIA secrets.

Why it’s a major performance: In a departure from his usually suave personas, Pitt steals scenes as the goofy Chad in ‘Burn After Reading’. His characterization of Chad exhibits his flexible acting chops and ability to embrace comedic roles.

Why it’s a major performance: Pitt’s comedic timing and physical comedy in a film filled with heavyweight performers, including Frances McDormand and George Clooney, stood out, demonstrating his versatility as an actor. His performance was praised for the refreshing change it offered from his more dramatic roles.

10. Snatch (2000)

IMDB rating: 8.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%

Storyline: Directed by Guy Ritchie, ‘Snatch’ is a British crime comedy film where Pitt plays Mickey, a fast-talking, hard-hitting Irish gypsy and bare-knuckle boxing champion.

Why it’s a major performance: Brad Pitt’s performance in ‘Snatch’ was remarkable for his authentic portrayal of a pikey boxer. Pitt’s interpretation of the character, including mastering a tricky accent, showcases his dedication to embodying the characters he portrays.

Why it’s a major performance: This film added another layer to Pitt’s growing reputation as a versatile actor. His portrayal of a character who is simultaneously comedic, menacing and unpredictable contributes largely to the movie’s enduring popularity.