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 indeed 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 eight 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.
5. K-Pax (2001)
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 advice and question his knowledge. Bridges plays a character unafraid of challenging himself and his world. The heart that Bridges gives to the character is not unfamiliar. He has a knack for doing that.
4. The Vanashing (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 quest the whole time. Bridges plays the role perfectly. I believe this is because he is relatable and plays an Everyman so well.
3. Tucker (1988)
This has got to be the film I first remember seeing Jeff Bridges. I was a mere eight years old and became fascinated with the 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 it was such an underrated film and not seen by many.
2. Arlington Road (1999)
These next two films I genuinely 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. Jeff 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 challenging. He played a hard disciplinarian, teacher, and captain in 1960. When he takes aboard eight 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.