Without a doubt in the last 10-15 years one of the most reliable stars has been Jeff Bridges. In the last 6-7 years he’s enjoyed the height of his career without question. After winning his first Academy Award for Crazy Heart, he followed up with another nomination the next year for his remake of True Grit. He would do a Tron sequel and several other movies where he was the leading man, unlike he had ever been.
This has got me to thinking. The years leading up to his massive boom in success what were some of his truly under appreciated films. I went back as far as 1988, when he was a name but not the legend his now. He comes from Hollywood Royalty so it only makes sense that with the direction his career has gone he has become royalty himself. I was 8 years old in 1988 and it’s the first film I remember seeing this larger than life actor. We will touch on that film later, though it is the oldest in my list of underrated Jeff Bridges movies.
When Dr. Mark Powell (Bridges) first meets Prot he feels he just dealing with another mentally disturbed man who needs his help. Prot (Kevin Spacey) soon starts to have the doctor doubting his own advice and question his knowledge. Bridges plays a character unafraid of questioning himself and his world. The heart that Bridges gives to the character is not unfamiliar. He has a knack for doing that.
4. The Vanishing (1993)
The Vanishing may seem a little similar to another film on this list in the doubt it plants in the viewer’s mind, but it nonetheless is a top-notch thriller and some even classify it as a horror film. One thing is for sure, it is an intense ride. Barney Cousins is the boyfriend of a woman who gets abducted and he never gives up the search for her no matter the opposition he runs into. Terrifying enough is that the abductor is watching his search the whole time. Bridges plays the role perfectly. I believe this is due to the fact that he is relatable and plays and Everyman so well.
This is the film I first remember seeing Jeff Bridges, in. I was a mere 8 years old and became fascinated with Tucker automobile and what he had invented. With no internet to do research, this film was all I had. Jeff Bridges wasn’t an actor to me at that point, he was Preston Tucker. You could feel Tucker’s passion for his car and innovations come through Bridges performance. Sadly is was such an underrated film and not really seen by many.
2. Arlington Road (1999)
These next two films I truly believe, in my heart, that no one could have played these parts and would have conveyed exactly the feelings they should. Michael Faraday is a widowed man with a 9-year-old son. He is a professor of terrorist acts at a Washington university who lost his FBI agent wife in an unexpected raid. He soon begins to suspect his new neighbors of suspicious activity. His paranoia almost takes over the shattered life he is attempting to live until he has proof that his suspicions are real. Bridges runs the gamut of emotions and thoughts through the whole movie that you hang on every move he makes.
1. White Squall (1996)
The role of Captain Sheldon was nothing short of difficult. He played a hard disciplinarian, teacher, and captain in 1960. When he takes aboard 8 teenage male students with various shortcomings, they discover hardship, camaraderie, and brotherhood. Various events test the limits of all their loyalty. Captain Sheldon never abandons the boys and his responsibility, even in the face of the worst storm he’s witnessed and the loss of much of the crew including his wife. He still strives to teach the boys in his actions far after the tragedy. No one could play this role and emit the feelings and emotion of Captain Sheldon and his crew and life and his loss. It was a top-notch performance and film that never got it’s just due.