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Bradley Cooper's Best Movie And TV Roles

Bradley Cooper is one of the hottest movie stars on the planet today, but his ascension to fame was a slow climb rather than a fast bolt. The actor started his screen career in 1999 when, at age 24, he appeared in a tiny guest role on an episode of "Sex and the City." Two years later, Cooper's profile rose when he was cast in the ABC spy drama "Alias," which made its debut in the same year that Cooper appeared in the cult movie "Wet Hot American Summer."

Cooper kept solidly working throughout his 20s, but it was not until he entered his 30s that he started gaining real notice –- mostly for playing jerks and overgrown frat boys in films like "Wedding Crashers," "Failure to Launch," and "The Hangover." He eventually graduated to full-on superstar status after "The Hangover," and proved he could headline a movie with the box office hit "Limitless." Then came the awards-caliber performances, first in "Silver Linings Playbook," and then in trademark films like "American Hustle" and "American Sniper."

Cooper tends to balance prestige movies with big-budget fare, exploring different genres and time periods as frequently as the rest of us change our underpants. And while he has made the occasional terrible film –- like "All About Steve" or "Aloha" –- Cooper has proven that he has a pretty good eye for quality, both as an actor and a producer. Without further ado, here are some of Bradley Cooper's best television and movie roles to date.


While Bradley Cooper had a few credits under his belt by the time he booked "Alias" in 2001, the show was his first higher-profile project. Cooper appeared in a main role for Seasons 1 and 2 of the series, and later as a special guest in Seasons 3 and 5. He played Will Tippin, a friend of main protagonist Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner), whose career as a reporter gets him tangled up in her spy games. He later became a CIA researcher, and then, after nearly being offed by assassin Allison Georgia Doren, enters witness protection.

It's not because Cooper was not doing stellar work on "Alias," but because he was so dissatisfied with his shrinking screen time that he actually asked to be written off. "I would only work three days a week, and then for the second season I got even more sidelined," Cooper said in a 2013 GQ interview. "I was like, 'ugh.' And then next thing you know, I was like, 'I want to f***ing kill myself.'" A year after his stint on "Alias" ended (guest arcs notwithstanding), Cooper appeared on another acclaimed television series, "Jack & Bobby." Despite some awards attention for leading lady Christine Lahti, the show lasted only one season on the CW. Luckily for Cooper, he was soon to become a big star.

Wedding Crashers

Bradley Cooper's first big movie was 2005's "Wedding Crashers," which starred Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan as two, well, wedding crashers. The duo portrayed John Beckwith (Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vaughan), divorce mediators who use weddings to hunt for women to bed. After falling for two sisters at one of the weddings they crash, John and Jeremy end up spending a weekend partying with the family of the bride. Cooper had a supporting role as Sack Lodge, the fratty fiancé of John's potential love interest, Claire (Rachel McAdams). Sack is an unfaithful, uncaring, jealous jerk with a giant ego, and Cooper wonderfully played a man that we all wanted to see taken down a peg.

"Wedding Crashers" was a big hit, and, even though Cooper was not a main character, he left a memorable impression as Sack. Reviews focused largely on the main characters, but the film changed the trajectory of Cooper's career –- until then, he had been cast mostly as the nice-guy character. "That's the crazy thing about this business," Cooper said on an episode of "Inside the Actor's Studio" with James Lipton (via OK! Magazine). "On 'Alias' I played the nicest guy in the world and then I would try to audition for movies after that and the feedback was like, 'Wow, Bradley's such a nice guy,' 'Yeah, I don't really see him in that part,' and after 'Wedding Crashers,' 'Bradley? Yeah, he's an a**hole.'" "Wedding Crashers" likely set the stage for Cooper's breakout role, playing another self-absorbed jerk in "The Hangover."

The Hangover

Bradley Cooper was quite busy in the four years in between "Wedding Crashers" and "The Hangover," but none of his gigs were especially noteworthy. His most memorable roles during this time were as the lead character in the short-lived sitcom "Kitchen Confidential" (based upon the life of Anthony Bourdain), a six-episode arc on the bananas Ryan Murphy show "Nip/Tuck," and a turn as a cheating husband in the ensemble rom-com "He's Just Not That Into You." In 2009, "The Hangover" became a massive hit –- earning nearly $470 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo) and catapulting Cooper to leading man territory.

"The Hangover" focuses on a group of friends who travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, have a crazy, raucous night during which they lose the groom, and then retrace their steps the next day. Cooper plays Phil Wenneck, a married schoolteacher and leader of the "Wolf Pack," who is both charming and a complete douchebag all at once. Unlike its two sequels, the original "Hangover" film was well-received by critics, many of whom commented upon Cooper's portrayal favorably. Writing for Rolling Stone, legendary critic Peter Travers said, "Cooper, from 'Wedding Crashers,' can spoof his leading-man looks like a born goofball" and A.O. Scott of The New York Times said, "It is Mr. Cooper who offers the most interesting variation on an old standard, playing his aggressive, cocky frat boy with a snarl of rage that masks an anxiety as hard to account for as it is to miss."


If "The Hangover" was his breakthrough role, then "Limitless" was the one that cemented Bradley Cooper as a bona fide leading man. Though they did well financially, neither "The Hangover" nor 2010's "The A-Team" were marketed as "Bradley Cooper movies." But with "Limitless," Cooper's face and name were front and center in the marketing materials. He even served as an executive producer of the movie (and the television spinoff that came and went a few years later).

"Limitless" is a science fiction thriller wherein down-on-his luck writer Eddie Morra develops superhuman brain skills after taking a sample of a new drug called NZT. When the person who provided him with the pill is murdered, Eddie finds his stash, increases his dosage, and sets his sights on the stock market. Yet while Eddie begins to excel in all aspects of his life, things are far from perfect. Not only does he begin experiencing terrible side effects, but he also finds himself pursued by a stalker, the NYPD, and a Russian mobster.

The reviews for the film were mixed-to-positive, and many critics praised Cooper in his first true leading role. "Cooper looks every inch the movie star," wrote CNN's reviewer. "He inherited the role when Shia LaBeouf broke his arm, but Cooper comes through so strong that looks like a lucky break for the filmmakers." 

The Houston Chronicle's reviewer said, "Cooper is eminently watchable throughout, and his performance should dispel any lingering doubt that he has the chops to carry a movie alone."

The Place Beyond the Pines

It is a shame that "The Place Beyond the Pines" came out in 2012, the same year as "Silver Lining Playbook," because Bradley Cooper's performance in the latter overshadowed his performance in the former, which was itself quite solid. The film centers on three intertwining stories, set in two different time periods 15 years apart. Cooper plays Avery Cross, a young police officer who becomes a hero in 1995 when he shoots and kills motorcycle stuntman and career criminal Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) who has fled the scene after robbing a bank. After corrupt officers illegally seize the stolen money, Avery uses it as an opportunity to begin documenting the department's illegal ways, and then uses this information to score a job in the district attorney's office.

In addition to Luke's story and Avery's story, there is a third story -– set in 2010 –- featuring Luke and Avery's now-teenage boys. In the later story, Avery is running for district attorney and intervenes when the teenagers get arrested on drug charges –- which is also when he recognizes Luke's son Jason (Dane DeHaan) by name and orders his own son A.J. (Emory Cohen) to stay away. Neither kid knows the backstory of their fathers' connection, though Jason eventually finds out that Avery is the one who killed his father, which leads to a showdown. USA Today wrote that "Cooper is superb as a tortured hero," while Rolling Stone's review said that "Cooper's ferocity and feeling pull you in."

Silver Linings Playbook

"Silver Linings Playbook" is as much a romantic comedy as it is a drama. It deals with tough issues such as mental illness and grief, but in a darkly humorous manner. Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano Jr., a recently divorced man who has moved back in with his parents after an extended stay in a mental health facility, where he was being treated for his bipolar disorder after an incident of violence. While Pat seemingly wants to win his wife back, he eventually develops a strong connection with a young widow named Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), who herself is on a cacophony of drugs for her own mental illness. The two grow close while practicing for a dance competition (Pat agrees to participate in exchange for Tiffany delivering a letter to his ex).

"Silver Linings Playbook" marked Cooper's first time on the awards circuit. Amongst others, the actor received his first Academy Award nomination, British Academy of Film and Television Arts nomination, Golden Globe Award nomination, and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. He also won Best Actor in a Comedy at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards and Best Actor from the National Board of Review. "Cooper gives a twitchy, physical, marvelously alive performance as Pat Jr., who's barely aware how poor his impulse control is and doesn't seem to notice that his face is often marred with mysterious scars and bruises," wrote Salon's reviewer. The Hollywood Reporter said, "Cooper brings enormous heart to a role that easily might have veered toward the abrasive."

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

American Hustle

Bradley Cooper reteamed with both director and writer David O. Russell and actress Jennifer Lawrence when he appeared in the comedic crime movie "American Hustle," which received 10 Oscar nominations and was widely regarded as one of the best films of 2013. Not only does the film have an over 90% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes, but it also allowed Cooper to once again shine, earning him Best Supporting Actor nods at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, and the BAFTAs. The New York Daily News called his performance "terrific," and the New Yorker said it was "comically just right."

The film, which is set in the late 1970s, is inspired by a real-life FBI operation named Abscam and features Christian Bale as con artist Irving Rosenfeld. Irving and his mistress accomplice Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) become entangled in an entrapment scheme when a dodgy, hotheaded FBI agent blackmails them. A perm-sporting Cooper plays the FBI agent, Richie DiMaso, who, on top of everything, becomes enamored with Sydney. "Sporting a ridiculous home perm and a Tony Manero wardrobe, Cooper has never been funnier or more manic," said The Hollywood Reporter in its review. We have to agree –- and if for no other reason, check it out to see Cooper with his hair in pink mini-curlers.

American Sniper

A year after "American Hustle," Bradley Cooper found himself once again on the awards circuit, this time for his role in the war biopic "American Sniper," which he also produced. In the film, Cooper depicts real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, a master sniper who was tragically killed not in the line of fire, but by a veteran suffering from PTSD. The film focuses on Kyle's four tours in Iraq, as well as his home life with wife Taya (Sienna Miller). "American Sniper" is a great film -– albeit a bit reductive in its depiction of good versus evil. But there would be no film without Cooper's masterful, affective performance.

"'American Sniper' hinges on Cooper's restrained yet deeply expressive lead performance, allowing many of the drama's unspoken implications to be read plainly in the actor's increasingly war-ravaged face," wrote Variety's reviewer. "Cooper, who packed on 40 pounds for the role, is superb here; full of spirit and down-home charm early on, he seems to slip thereafter into a sort of private agony that only those who have truly served their country can know." For the third consecutive year, Cooper received an Academy Award nomination for his acting (as well as one for producing), as well as a Critics Choice Award for Best Actor in an Action Movie. And while he was overlooked by the other large awards bodies and smaller critics groups, USA Today was correct when they said, "It's clearly Cooper's show" and that he "embodies Kyle's confidence, intensity, and vulnerability."

A Star Is Born

Bradley Cooper made a couple of missteps after "American Sniper" -– namely the horrible movies "Aloha" and "Burnt" –- but he also turned out fine performances in Netflix's series "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp" and the film "Joy," his third team-up with David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence. But few (if any) Cooper performances can compare to his magnificent turn as Jackson Maine in the remake of "A Star is Born," which he also wrote and directed. The performance was described as "powerful" by the BBC, "soulful" by IndieWire, and "hauntingly raw" by The Atlantic. USA Today's reviewer wrote that, "Cooper turns in his best performance ever as a growling, flawed superstar who's the beating heart of the film."

In the 2018 film, Jackson is a beloved country singer with a medical issue and a substance problem, who falls for a waitress and singer named Ally (Lady Gaga). The pair meet in a drag bar, and the movie follows their love story, Ally's mounting fame, and Jackson's unraveling. In addition to many directing, writing, and producing honors, Cooper's performance earned him his forth acting Oscar nomination, and corresponding nominations from all of the other large award bodies and many critics groups. Slate's review said that, "Cooper inhabits his character more deeply than any he's played yet, lowering his voice by an octave to a gravelly mumble and making Jack's internal state of self-hatred and perpetual near-collapse as palpable as the joy he takes in watching Ally's career blossom."

The Mule

While Bradley Cooper was seemingly everywhere in 2018, most people were too busy talking about his performance in "A Star Is Born" to notice just how good his work was in "The Mule," a Clint Eastwood film that actually did quite well at the box office. The movie is a crime drama about elderly drug mule Earl Stone (Eastwood) and the DEA's quest to track down the source of cocaine shipments coming to Chicago from Mexico. Cooper portrays one of the DEA agents, Colin Bates –- the man loves playing law enforcement, doesn't he? –- who eventually arrests Earl at a drop point. The film is based on a real-life story, as detailed in a 2014 New York Times article.

"The Mule" received largely positive reviews from critics, many of whom complimented Cooper's performance despite it being a smaller part. For instance, Rolling Stone's Peter Travers said Cooper was "terrific in a small but pivotal role," and IndieWire's reviewer said he "strolls through his scenes with the cocksure swagger of a guy who already has 'A Star Is Born' in the can."

Licorice Pizza

Bradley Cooper is getting Oscar buzz for his supporting role in the new film, "Licorice Pizza," Paul Thomas Anderson's coming-of-age story about photographer's assistant Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and actor Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), who falls for her. Bradley Cooper plays a real person -– Jon Peters, the insufferable American movie producer and ex-boyfriend of superstar Barbra Streisand –- for whom Gary and Alana deliver and set up a waterbed. While it's a glorified cameo of a role, it is both extremely funny and incredibly unforgettable.

Thus far, reviews have been kind to the film as a whole (it currently has a superb critic score on Rotten Tomatoes), and more than a few critics have singled out Cooper's lively and comical turn. Critics have called it "untethered and hysterical" (the New York Post), "truly inspired" (Entertainment Weekly), and "wildly exuberant" (The Hollywood Reporter). And despite the small size of the role, Variety went so far as to say that "Bradley Cooper just about steals the show as Peters."

Nightmare Alley

In addition to the Oscar talk for his role in "Licorice Pizza," Bradley Cooper is also experiencing much acclaim for his starring role in "Nightmare Alley," the Guillermo del Toro movie that Cooper also produced. Cooper plays traveling carnival employee Stan Carlisle in the film noir, opposite Cate Blanchett as dangerous, manipulative psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Ritter. Carnie Stan begins by taking odd jobs at the carnival –- which is populated by many interesting characters played by actors like Toni Colette, Rooney Mara, and David Strathairn -– and eventually develops his own psychic show. He decides to run his grift on a wealthier set and eventually partners with the seductive, icy Lilith.

While "Nightmare Alley" has been reviewed by only about a dozen of the larger outlets, many of the critics who have seen the movie have been quite positive in their write-ups. "Building on the rise-and-crash arc of his 'A Star Is Born' has-been, Bradley Cooper delivers another terrific, tragic turn as ambitious huckster Stanton Carlisle," said Variety's reviewer, later adding that "Cooper comes to the table with charm in spades." The film is a remake of a 1947 one, but as Deadline said in its review, Cooper "grabbed the role in this new version, makes it his own, and brings frightening new layers to it." Whether he receives one, two, or no Oscar nominations this year, Cooper's contributions to 2021's film landscape cannot be denied.