Bradley Cooper Movies, Ranked
Local boy Bradley Cooper’s latest film, Joy, opens Christmas Day. There’s Oscar talk floating around this David O. Russell flick that also features Jennifer Lawrence. At 40, Cooper is entering the prime of his acting career, and there’s a lot to love about this charismatic actor from Jenkintown who’s already been nominated for three Academy Awards. But, as with any actor with a robust career, there have been some misses, too.
We open up the film vault and give you a guide to the films that made us want to bro-five our seat neighbors at the end, and the ones where we wanted to barf our movie popcorn right back into the bag. We’ve got high hopes for Joy, but until its release here’s a roadmap to navigate the highs and lows of Coop’s film repertoire. Scroll down for our rankings, or click straight through the section that interests you most.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
This Marvel movie, with Cooper’s voice for the tough-talking bounty hunter raccoon named Rocket, is a hoot. Chris Pratt is at the center of this funny, razzle-dazzle big-budget flick, which is just darn adorable. My favorite character though would have to be Vin Diesel’s depiction of a large, but sensitive walking tree, Groot. Directed by James Gunn, the movie is unexpectedly touching in pivotal moments in the action-packed character-respecting plot.
Wedding Crashers (2005)
One of Cooper’s earlier roles is small but memorable. Pompous, preppy and hyper-competitive “Sack” Lodge can’t contain his alpha-male impulses, whether it is mercilessly tackling Vince Vaughn’s character in a game of touch football, or imperiously belittling his betrothed who tries to comfort him while he’s huddled over a toilet being sick. Cooper plays an appropriately despicable foil to Owen Wilson’s likable leading man.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
This movie was not universally loved by critics upon its release, but I thoroughly enjoyed this goofy parody of ’70s-style summer movies like Meatballs. (Check out the Netflix television version of WHAS that came out this summer. Arguably it’s even better since the actors, many in their 40s now, play the same teen characters in this prequel!) The art direction is a spot-on triumph of ’70s era clothing and mood. The actors — including Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Christopher Meloni, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks and Judah Friedlander — ended up living in the summer camp infirmary while filming at Camp Towanda in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and there’s a real sense of camaraderie that comes through. Cooper plays a gay camp counselor who ends up marrying Michael Ian Black’s character by the lake in a very groovy ceremony. Cooper’s bit part blends in seamlessly with the rest of the ridiculously tongue-in-cheek acting.
The Even Better
American Sniper (2014)
You kinda knew this was going to be good because Cooper gives us “fat Bradley.” Gaining 40 pounds for this sensitive portrayal of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, Cooper is expertly directed by Clint Eastwood in this biopic. Cooper captures the torturous emotional middle-ground of soldiers returning home, but yearning to go back to active duty. This was particularly acute for Kyle, the Texan soldier who served four tours in Iraq and was billed as the most lethal sniper in American military history. Cooper got an Oscar nomination for this superb performance that was noted for its restraint and carefully calibrated descent into psychic distress. It is Cooper at his best to date.
American Hustle (2013)
This movie — a fun, sexy fictionalized caper about the FBI’s 1970s sting operation, Abscam — takes great liberties with the hunky good looks of Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper. After we had finished our little cry over Bale’s comb-over and Cooper’s perm, we enjoyed the delightful pleasure of this David O. Russell film that was nominated for 10 Oscars and was significantly improvised by the actors to great effect. The tempo in the film is as quick as the grift-themed banter, plus the costuming is disco-fabulous. Cooper’s character, FBI agent Richie DiMaso, gets played in such a spectacular way that it’s one of those truly memorable cinematic moments. His crestfallen return to Earth after a massive display of hubris is a joy to behold.
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
This unusual crime drama — told in three chapters covering a 15-year span — is completely mesmerizing. The opening shot alone is awesome with moody Ryan Gosling, a carnival trick motorcycle rider, marching with swagger and silkiness from the darkness outside of the circus tent into the steel cage, where he and another rider perform death-defying motor tricks. Gosling as the sexy outlaw is electric, and when his chapter of the film closes it is, frankly, disappointing. Enter Cooper’s Avery Cross, an aspiring young cop who runs into trouble with a dirty cop played by — who else — Ray Liotta. Cooper threads the needle with this tricky role where he has to be highly aspirational, bull-headed, yet decent and vulnerable. It’s a magic trick of acting that he pulls off. (We still wish Gosling had lived.)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
With an orgy of hometown Philly references, the screenplay is based on South Jersey boy Matthew Quick’s best-selling novel. This loopy, oddball conflation of unlikely storylines, plot points and unstable personalities works with the beauty of a Swiss watch under David O. Russell’s sure direction. Cooper as bi-polar, Eagles-fan Pat conveys the glitchy semi-filtered, good-hearted, impulsive and violent stew of personality traits in a way that endows his character with an unlikely charm. Cooper is undoubtedly assisted by his acting partner, Jennifer Lawrence, in this film that earned them both Oscar nominations — and a win for Lawrence.
This thriller is a surprise. It should be dismissible as formulaic, predictable dreck, but for some reason it’s totally, ridiculously, gripping. Neil Burger (Divergent, The Illusionist) directs this taut careful-what-you-wish-for movie. Cooper, as Eddie Morra, comes upon a mysterious pill that allows him to tap into 100 percent of his brain function giving him super powers, but soon enough he’s got Russians on his tail in search of the illicit substance. Shot partially in Philly — Rittenhouse Square, Del Frisco’s, even the building where Philadelphia magazine is located — the film features one of the most delectably outrageous scenes I’ve watched in a long time. Here it is: [spoiler alert] Cooper must drink the blood pooling on the floor from a Russian he’s just killed to stay alive. Awful or awesome? You decide.
All three Hangover films
The Hangover really shot Cooper’s career out of a cannon squarely into A-list territory. He was the cool, capable Phil with the carefully tousled hair and easygoing authority. The first of these three slapstick farces is shocking, decadent and hilarious. It was written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, but the other two were written by the director Todd Phillips. Part II is okay, but Part III is definitely missable.
The A-Team (2010)
I pity the fool who doesn’t like to see things get blown up, because a huge portion of this movie is devoted to only that. Cooper is mischievous Lothario Lt. Templeton “Face” Peck, one of the four Special Forces soldiers who goes rogue. Granted the plot and character development is scant if not completely absent, but there’s lots of dude-pleasing exploding mayhem to fill the void. This movie is so bro.
Burnt (2015), Serena (2014), The Words (2012), He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)
This film written, produced and directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) is such an absolute dud it’s clear no one around the director had the guts to say “no” or even “how about a rewrite?” Former Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal’s hacked emails revealed her succinct assessment: “It never, not even once, ever works.” Cooper plays defense contractor Brian Gilcrest in round after round of spectacularly awkward scenes with the annoying Emma Stone. This is on Crowe, not our boy Coop. Only an Alec Baldwin scene near the end manages to overcome this dreadful pile of poo.
Valentine’s Day (2010)
This is the kind of movie that makes me wonder if the actors have recently acquired a luxurious second or third home. Or perhaps, their children are enrolling in a pricey university or maybe alimony is calling? Because there is absolutely no redeeming artistic value, depth, bravery or innovation in this screenplay. How could they not see that? I watched the whole movie with that face you get when you see a drunk person give an inappropriate wedding toast to a room full of sober people. Why, just why, Bradley?
Case 39 (2009)
Renée Zellweger plays a social worker who adopts a 10-year-old who turns out to be a demon-child. Oops. This movie dud sat around the studio for almost four years before it was released. Cooper plays the child’s psychologist before being killed off by a swarm of hornets that emerges from inside him. It’s a banal middle-of-the-road genre film that doesn’t make a whole lotta sense. At least Cooper met former girlfriend Zellweger during the filming of this one. Fingers crossed they get back together.
All About Steve (2009)
The first time I saw this one was without sound on an airplane. I didn’t know how lucky I was. With sound, this movie starring Sandra Bullock as a ditzy stalker chasing Bradley’s character across the country is unbearable. That is all.
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