Bradley Cooper has made a name for himself as one of Hollywood’s most dependable leading men. Since he came to public attention in the mid – ’00s, the 48-year-old American actor and filmmaker has earned himself a string of award nominations, including nine Oscars and a Tony Award, while also winning two Grammys and a BAFTA. Cooper appeared on the Forbes Celebrity 100 three times and on Time‘s list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2015. On top of it all, his films have grossed $11 billion worldwide, and he has been placed among the world’s highest-paid actors on four occasions.
Update August 18, 2023: In honor of the trailer for Maestro being released, this list has been updated with even more great Bradley Cooper performances.
Cooper has had an incredible 2023 so far. He reprised his role as Rocket Racoon in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which was a hit at the box office. He also had an incredibly funny cameo in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, which was one of many great things about an incredibly underrated movie. With his upcoming film Maestro – a movie about the life and work of Leonard Bernstein that he also wrote and directed – due to be released on Netflix on November 22, 2023, here’s a closer look at the best films to star the Hollywood powerhouse that is Bradley Cooper.
10 American Hustle
Following the success of Silver Linings Playbook, Cooper teamed up with Russell and Lawrence again for American Hustle. The dark comedy—whose outstanding ensemble cast also features Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and De Niro in a surprise cameo—was inspired by the FBI operation of the late ’70s and early ’80s. It opened to enthusiastic acclaim from critics, who praised its screenplay and ensemble cast.
American Hustle received ten nominations at the 86th Academy Awards. It received three BAFTA Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Loosely based on the 2001 novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, Limitless sees Cooper playing Eddie Morra, a struggling New York City author who takes a pill that allows him to access 100% of his brain’s abilities. This includes giving him perfect recall and the capacity to analyze information at incredible speeds. However, he soon becomes addicted. Directed by Niel Burger (who would go on to make Divergent), the film also stars Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, and Robert De Niro in what would be the first of four collaborations between the two men.
Though the ‘protagonist gains access to 100% of their brain’s capacity’ is a bit hokey and has been done before and since, Limitless manages to pull it off in an interesting and grounded way. The film received mostly positive reviews, with much of the praise directed at Cooper’s charming lead performance. It was also a box office success, which led to a TV spin-off being created.
8 American Sniper
A biographical war drama film by Clint Eastwood, American Sniper scored big at the box office during its release. Loosely based on the memoir American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, the movie follows the life of Chris Kyle (Cooper), who became the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history. While Kyle was celebrated for his military successes, his tours of duty took a heavy toll on his personal life. The movie was also produced by Cooper, among others, and co-stars Sienna Miller as his Kyle’s Taya.
American Sniper became a major success, with a worldwide gross of over $547 million, making it Eastwood’s highest-grossing film to date. Although criticized for some of its violent depictions, it overall received mostly positive reviews from critics. At the 87th Academy Awards, the movie received six nominations, including Best Actor for Cooper.
2015 biographical drama Joy tells the true story of Joy Mangano (played by Jennifer Lawrence in one of her best roles to date), a single, working mother who became a self-made millionaire when she invented the self-wringing mop. Cooper plays Neil Walker, an executive at the shopping channel QVC, who agrees to sell her mop on TV. Joy marks the fourth collaboration between Cooper and Lawrence and the third one to be directed by David O. Russell.
While the film as a whole has been quite polarizing since it was first released, the performances of the cast have been praised, with Lawrence gaining herself an Academy Award nomination. The chemistry between Lawrence and Cooper was also considered a highlight by many reviewers.
6 The Hangover
Cooper has had a long and varied career in film, and while he may now be better known for his more dramatic roles, there was a time when he mostly starred in comedies. He had supporting roles in Failure to Launch, Yes Man, He’s Just Not That Into You, and Wedding Crashers. However, none of those compete with The Hangover, which also happened to be his first film as a leading man. Directed by Todd Phillips, the film tells the story of three friends (played by Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms) who wake up from a bachelor party in Las Vegas, with no memory of the night before and with a Bengal tiger in their room. They must retrace their steps to find the groom and get him to the wedding on time.
The Hangover was a surprise commercial and critical hit, earning $469 million on a $35 million budget and gaining a ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Though the two sequels pale in comparison, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the original is a truly hilarious watch.
5 Licorice Pizza
Celebrated director Paul Thomas Anderson delivered another stand-out entry in his filmography when he released 2021’s Licorice Pizza. Set in Los Angeles in 1973, the film centers on the relationship between Alana (played by Alana Haim), a photographer’s assistant, and Gary (Cooper Hoffman), a 15-year-old student, who first meet on the latter’s school picture day. Gary gets a job selling waterbeds, and that’s where Bradley Cooper comes in. He plays a version of the real-life film producer Jon Peters, who mocks and threatens Gary when he delivers a waterbed to Peters’ home. Fortunately, Gary gets his revenge in true Anderson style.
Cooper’s role in the film may not be that big, but it certainly is memorable, and he even bagged himself a number of award nominations for Best Supporting Actor. The film itself also received critical acclaim and was nominated for four Oscars. Licorice Pizza is a controversial movie, but there is no doubt Cooper’s performance stole the show, and for anyone who has heard Kevin Smith’s story about Jon Peters on Superman Lives knows this isn’t an exaggerated performance at all.
4 Nightmare Alley
Based on the 1946 novel of the same name by William Lindsay, the 2021 neo-noir thriller Nightmare Alley, follows low-ranking carnival worker Stan Carlisle (played by Cooper) as he works his way up to becoming a lauded psychic medium. However, his shadowy past threatens to stop him from exceeding. The second film adaptation of Lindsay’s book, this one was directed by acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and features an all-star cast that also includes Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Ron Perlman, Willem Defoe, and Rooney Mara, among others.
Like the original novel, the film is a commentary of the sleazy and fickle nature of show business and depicts how a man’s deluded belief in his own abilities can get the better of him. As well as starring in it, Cooper was also a producer and while may not have received the same kind of universal acclaim as other entries in del Toro’s filmography, it still managed to bag four Academy Award nominations.
3 Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell’s 2012 hit earned Cooper his first Oscar nomination. The film was based on Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel of the same name and also stars Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker. Set in Pennsylvania, Cooper plays Pat, a man with bipolar disorder released from a psychiatric hospital to move back in with his parents (De Niro and Weaver). Pat is determined to win back his estranged wife but meets a young widow (Lawrence), who offers to help him get his wife back if he enters a dance competition with her.
Silver Linings Playbook opened to significant critical acclaim, with praise centering on Russell’s direction and Cooper and Lawrence’s respective performances. Among its many accolades, the film received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay. In fact, it became the first movie since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby to be nominated for the Big Five Oscars.
2 Guardians of the Galaxy Trilogy
Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters in 2014 and became the third-highest-grossing film that year. It was also praised by critics for many aspects, including Cooper’s comic-relief voiceover work as Rocket Raccoon. Moreover, the movie spawned an entire MCU franchise: its first sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was released in 2017, with a follow-up titled Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 finding its way onto screens in 2023.
At the 87th Academy Awards, Guardians of the Galaxyreceived nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, in particular, has earned incredible reviews for Cooper’s vocal performance of Rocket, diving into the character’s tragic backstory. Rocket is a great example that even if Cooper isn’t present on screen, he is still able to give an incredible performance that is as good, if not better, than many live-action performances.
1 A Star Is Born
A Star Is Born marks Cooper’s directorial debut, co-stars Lady Gaga, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay and Sam Elliott, and is the fourth adaptation of the 1937 classic. It was ultimately a critical and commercial success, grossing over $436 million worldwide and receiving praise for the lead performances as well as Cooper’s direction and, of course, the music.
The hit film received numerous accolades, including eight nominations at the 91st Academy Awards (among them Best Picture, Best Actor, Actress, and Supporting Actor) and a win for Best Original Song for “Shallow.” Not only is Cooper a great actor but also a talented director, and audiences are excited for his directorial followup, Maestro.
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