Critic's Picks: Bradley Cooper's 10 Best Performances

6:40 AM 10/6/2018

by Stephen Dalton

The leading man/director gives what many are touting as a career-best turn in 'A Star Is Born,' but these ten performances already established Cooper as one of our finest actors.

'The Hangover', 'American Sniper', 'American Hustle'
'The Hangover', 'American Sniper', 'American Hustle'
Photofest
  1. 10
    10

    The A-Team

    2010

    20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

    Sure, director Joe Carnahan's big-screen revival of the iconic 1980s TV show about a renegade team of ex-military crime-fighters is a big, loud, dumb, incoherent mess. But Cooper's smirking stand-out presence as Templeton "Face" Peck somehow elevates the whole ludicrous enterprise, chiefly thanks to his innate charm and some killer deadpan quips.

  2. 9
    10

    Guardians of the Galaxy

    2014

    Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Photofest

    James Gunn's box office-busting, franchise-launching comic-book space epic is stuffed with live-action stars, yet Cooper still manages to stand out with his wise-cracking vocal performance as the genetically engineered, raccoon-like bounty hunter Rocket. Gunn copied some facial expressions and movements from Cooper for the character.

  3. 8
    10

    The Midnight Meat Train

    2008

    Lions Gate/Photofest

    Cooper was still best known for lowbrow fratboy comedy roles when he starred in J-horror director Ryuhei Kitamura's lurid psycho-thriller, based on a short story by Candyman creator Clive Barker, about a vegan photographer pursing a murderous butcher who preys on late-night subway passengers. As the obsessive antihero Leon, Cooper lends depth to a lurid comic book role and showcases his budding star potential.

  4. 7
    10

    Wedding Crashers

    2005

    New Line/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Despite being billed well below co-stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, a virtually unknown Cooper emerges from David Dobkin's boorish comedy with flying colors as the superbly named Sack Lodge, the steroid-pumped uber-jerk boyfriend of Rachel McAdams' eco-activist, Claire. Full marks to Cooper for embracing such an unsympathetic role with lusty relish, from barking like a seal to projectile vomiting.

  5. 6
    10

    Limitless

    2011

    Shifting gear impressively from disheveled loser to super-slick success story, Cooper stars in Neil Burger's hit sci-fi thriller as Eddie Morra, a struggling writer who uses a new wonder drug to supercharge his brain and reboot his life. Cementing his nascent leading man credentials, Cooper transcends a pulpy premise and uneven script with his magnetic performance.

  6. 5
    10

    American Hustle

    2013

    Columbia Pictures/Photofest

    Cooper earned his second Oscar nomination for his livewire performance in David O. Russell's zingy comic retro-thriller, which is loosely based on real events. Maintaining an admirably straight face despite his pink hair rollers and Travolta-style disco moves, Cooper plays rogue FBI agent Richie DiMasio, who enlists a team of criminal con artists to mount a sting operation against a crooked New Jersey mayor. 

  7. 4
    10

    The Hangover

    2009

    Warner Bros./Photofest

    It may sit uncomfortably alongside Cooper's later, more critic-friendly roles, but the first chapter in director Todd Phillips' phenomenally successful slapstick bromedy franchise is full of inspired comic swerves and incongruously subtle performances. Cooper deserves credit for making juvenile slimeball Phil Wenneck relatable and even sympathetic, helping to push box office returns for the trilogy north of a billion dollars.

  8. 3
    10

    The Place Beyond the Pines

    2012

    Focus Features/Photofest

    Holding his own opposite Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, Cooper gives a fine-grained, naturalistic performance to match the novelistic texture of Derek Cianfrance's multigenerational crime saga. Cooper chronicles the 15-year emotional journey of Avery Cross, a guilt-haunted hero cop whose good deeds do not go unpunished.

  9. 2
    10

    Silver Linings Playbook

    2012

    THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY

    Cooper shows his sensitive, vulnerable side as Pat Solitano, a depressed divorcee struggling to fix his broken life, in the first of a trilogy of darkly comic collaborations with co-star Jennifer Lawrence and director David O. Russell. Cooper's unshaven, intense, nervy performance earned him his first Oscar nomination, one of eight garnered by the film, but it was Lawrence who scooped a statuette as Tiffany Maxwell, the fellow depressive who puts Pat back on his dancing feet.

  10. 1
    10

    American Sniper

    2014

    Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

    Clint Eastwood gave Cooper the role of a lifetime as Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, in this heart-rending true story. Bulked up and bearded, Cooper disappears into his immersive performance as taciturn Texan Kyle, earning his third Oscar nomination in three years. Eastwood's blockbuster battlefield biopic became the most successful war movie ever, with box office returns totaling over half a billion dollars.