9 Milestones in the Evolution of Brad Pitt

In Terrence Malick's Tree of Life, Brad Pitt assumes the role of 1950s disciplinarian whose no-nonsense form of parenting complicates the evolution of his own offspring. How did Pitt transform himself from the free-spirited cowboy hitchhiker in Thelma & Louise to the stern father who escorts his sons to church every Sunday in this weekend's Palme d'Or-winning drama?

You can always trace a direct line through a few important roles to illustrate what led to an actor's current success. So let's look at nine pivotal performances that track the evolution of Brad Pitt.

Dallas (1987)

After landing a few bit parts in projects like Less Than Zero and Growing Pains, the Missouri native landed his first recurring role on the CBS soap opera Dallas. For five episodes, the future A-lister played the idiot boyfriend of Priscilla Presley's onscreen daughter. It was also on Dallas that Pitt had his first onscreen kiss with co-star Shalane McCall.

Thelma & Louise (1991)

Four years later, Pitt scored his first breakout part as the scene-stealing shirtless cowboy who charms his way into Louise's convertible and Thelma's hotel room before making off with Louise's life savings. The career-boosting role was originally supposed to go to Billy Baldwin, who had to drop the project when he was cast in Backdraft.

A River Runs Through It (1992)

Following a starring role in the ill-received Tom Di Cillo indie Johnny Suede, Robert Redford cast Pitt as his lead in this Academy Award-winning period drama. As a rebellious minister's son whose own interests don't necessarily align with his father's, Pitt was finally given the chance to showcase his talent (and not just his looks) onscreen. This role is often cited as Pitt's career-making performance.

Legends of the Fall (1994)

Just a month after his Anne Rice adaptation Interview with a Vampire hit theaters, Brad Pitt returned to the multiplex for Legends of the Fall. Like in A River Runs Through It, the actor again portrayed a free-spirited brother in a period film, this time opposite Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn and Julia Ormond. His role in this forbidden romance earned him his first Golden Globe nomination and almost as important to his career (if not more so), the title of People's Sexiest Man Alive.

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  • Troy Box Office, A Mighty Heart, etc. says:

    Interesting- really looking forward to seeing Brad in Tree of Life. BTW, Troy made over $497 million, so it wasn't a flop- some people liked it! Brad also produced Departed & A Mighty Heart- both great movies. Angelina's performance was incredible, which made it all the more special to Brad.

  • The Winchester says:

    Fascinating how his conscious decision to lose his pretty boy looks (and locks) for Seven and 12 Monkeys (where he earned his first Oscar nod) warrants a sentence compared to the cinematic masterpiece that is Meet Joe Black.

  • cashpiles says:

    I guess by "defining" you mean popular because how could 12 Monkeys not be a defining moment in his career? I haven't seen Meet Joe Black or A River Runs Through It because I used to think those were "chick flicks." Good choice with Mr. and Mrs. Smith.