Bradley Cooper has skyrocketed to stardom in the last 20 years since making his film debut in David Wain’s cult classic, “Wet Hot American Summer” (2001).
Cooper got his Hollywood bearings in comedies like “Wedding Crashers” (2005), as the jerk boyfriend Sack in the Golden Globe winner for best comedy, and “The Hangover” (2009), as the Wolfpack leader Phil.
After making a stop in the action genre with “Limitless” (2011), it was the one-two punch the following year with Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines” and David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” that clued everyone in on what he could achieve in more substantive, challenging projects. In “Pines,” Cooper stands out in the three-linear narrative structure as ambitious police officer Avery, who takes on a corrupt department and has a troubled son. In “Playbook,” he plays Pat, a man with bipolar disorder who tries to navigate moving back in with his parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver) following his release from a psychiatric hospital. The film was not just a financial success, grossing more than $235 million worldwide, but garnered rave reviews from critics. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best actor for Cooper. He and Russell re-teamed the following year for the dramedy “American Hustle,” and Cooper nabbed another Oscar nom for supporting actor.
After executive producing many of his films, he finally received his P.G.A. mark for Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” (2014), the true story of Chris Kyle, who became the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history. The film was a box-office smash and became the year’s highest-grossing film domestically, edging out “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the latter of which Cooper voiced the wise-cracking Rocket Raccoon. For his turn as Kyle, Cooper received two Oscar noms for best picture and actor, which he would also repeat with his directorial debut “A Star is Born” (2018), the fourth remake of the classic story. He sits alongside Warren Beatty (4) and Eastwood (2) as the only filmmakers to have achieved this feat more than once. In addition, he raised his Oscar nominations count as one of the producers for Todd Phillips’ “Joker” (2019).
He could add more noms to his tally with two projects this year. He’s one of the producers on “Nightmare Alley” from Guillermo del Toro, in which he also stars. The other is in his brief but memorable role as Jon Peters in “Licorice Pizza” by Paul Thomas Anderson. Check out the Oscar predictions to see where he and his films rank.
To celebrate his birthday, Variety is ranking the 10 best performances of his career.
Honorable mentions: “Burnt” (2015), “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), “Limitless” (2011)