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The 15 best Bradley Cooper movies and TV shows, ranked

From his breakthrough role in "The Hangover" to his Oscar-nominated turn in "Maestro," here are the actor's finest films.

<p>Netflix; Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett; Frank Masi/Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett </p>

Netflix; Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett; Frank Masi/Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett

Bradley Cooper is difficult to pin down. In some ways he’s like a classic Old Hollywood actor, commanding the screen with his star power alone; in other ways he’s a reliable comedic performer, stealing the show even in small supporting roles. He’s helmed prestige projects from auteurs like Guillermo Del Toro and David O. Russell and taken creative risks with films out of left field (see: American Sniper).

The acclaimed actor, director, writer, and producer has garnered 12 Academy Award nominations over the years, with three currently pending for his latest project Maestro. Time will tell if the biopic will finally bring his first win, but until then, EW is taking a look back on his prolific career thus far.

Ahead of the 2024 Oscars, here are the 15 best Bradley Cooper movies and TV shows, ranked.

15. Alias (2001–2006)

<p>Mitchell Haaseth /Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images</p>

Mitchell Haaseth /Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Cooper cut his teeth in the industry by playing Will Tippin, the best friend and confidante of Jennifer Garner’s CIA double agent Sydney Bristow. Here, Cooper is a typical aughts co-lead: charming, fun, not particularly strong as an actor, but good enough to work on a genre series (in this case, a beloved sci-fi vehicle by J. J. Abrams). He would of course improve his craft over time, but the absolute charisma Cooper possesses is clear at his career’s onset, acting confident and smooth while still being too fresh-faced to do much else.

Where to watch Alias: Amazon Prime Video

14. Burnt (2015)

<p>Alex Bailey/The Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett </p>

Alex Bailey/The Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett

Though it got a bad rap, this film about a drug-addicted chef on a redemption arc showcases the core tenets of Cooper’s acting approach: he’s meticulous, obsessive, and electric. But these traits can’t carry a script that doesn’t work. (Cooper loves a comeback character, but he needs more grace notes to stick the landing.) Still, the actor’s dedication is clear, as seen in his on-screen cooking chops after studying in real kitchens for the role. Cooper even carried this skill off-set, and occasionally whips up Philly cheesesteaks in a food truck. That doesn’t make up for Burnt’s shortcomings, but it speaks to Cooper’s zeal for craft.

Where to watch Burnt: Paramount+

13. Aloha (2015)

Neal Preston/Sony
Neal Preston/Sony

Cooper flew under the radar as a playboy military contractor caught between an old flame (Rachel McAdams) and a new prospect (Emma Stone) while stationed in Hawaii. Though Cameron Crowe’s film doesn’t quite match the pitch of past rom-com projects like Jerry Maguire, Cooper blossoms under his direction much like how Tom Cruise did back in ‘96. It’s not the most dynamic role the writer/director has ever penned, but he still keeps his leading man grounded while Cooper delivers a mostly believable and amply charming turn.

Where to watch Aloha: Starz

12. War Dogs (2016)

<p>Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett</p>

Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett

Cooper rarely gets to be menacing, but in this reunion with Todd Phillips (The Hangover), he lets loose as a firearms dealer who is equal parts smooth talker and towering inferno. The actor doesn’t quite chew the scenery, but he’s clearly having a great time wreaking havoc by ordering kidnappings and calling chaotic shots. War Pigs is far from Phillips' best output, and Cooper can’t elevate a surface-level script, but it’s still nice to see him have fun in a small guest part beside Jonah Hill and Miles Teller.

Where to watch War Dogs: Hulu

11. The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

<p>Atsushi Nishijima/Focus Features</p>

Atsushi Nishijima/Focus Features

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper’s worlds collide in this terse crime thriller that sees them spar as two fathers — a bank robber desperate to provide and the police officer hot on his tail — who pass their conflict down to their sons. Cooper’s cop with a guilty conscience allows the actor to tap into his tender side, giving a soulful performance in moral shades of gray. The Place Beyond the Pines won’t be remembered as his best dramatic turn, but it’s still a solid entry in the upper echelon of his career.

Where to watch The Place Beyond the Pines: Peacock

10. Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

<p>Focus Features</p>

Focus Features

Wet Hot American Summer marked the first time Cooper truly dazzled onscreen. It wasn’t a leading role, but camp drama teacher Ben was an early showcase for the qualities that later made Cooper one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. He’s wiley in a way that’s hard to nail down, and everything from his face to his torso is always moving with big energy despite his brief screentime. Cooper’s comedic precision here is arguably on par with some more seasoned costars like Amy Poehler and David Hyde Pierce, though the odd frequency he’s operating on can be difficult to provide space for. Thankfully, director David Wain understands how to ground that absurdity and sets Cooper up for success.

Where to watch Wet Hot American Summer: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

9. Licorice Pizza (2021)

MGM
MGM

One of Cooper's greatest supporting roles sees him stir the pot as a coked-out hairdresser in an extended bit involving a water bed delivery. He plays Jon Peters, the ex-partner of Barbra Streisand, as a combustible man with equal parts rage and anxiety, but he also adds whimsy to some more vulnerable moments. He makes a meal out of every line, savoring each word while also chewing the scenery just by being in the shot. Alana Haim goes toe-to-toe with Cooper in her debut role, balancing out his boisterous shaggy mess of a Hollywood icon. In the hands of director Paul Thomas Anderson, any actor can be good, but Cooper feels like he walked out of the screen and into reality.

Where to watch Licorice Pizza: Amazon Prime Video

8. The Mule (2018)

<p>Netflix</p>

Netflix

Clint Eastwood’s gritty crime drama (a drop in the actor/director’s bucket, truly) sees Bradley Cooper play a DEA agent in a talented ensemble including Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, and Dianne Wiest. When Cooper is cast as a government agent, he usually rises above the one-dimensional hardliner types typical of other lesser performers, instead imbuing the character with real humility. Cooper is at his best when he has meatier material, a role that's a real challenge. He largely succeeds here, but this is a more serviceable vehicle for Eastwood by way of Eastwood.

Where to watch The Mule: Netflix

7. American Sniper (2014)

<p>Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett</p>

Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett

Still the biggest creative gamble he’s ever made, Cooper took on a more politically pointed role as Chris Kyle, a real-life religious soldier who stands for American values. As an A-list actor who isn’t Clint Eastwood, this is a hard type to take on, but Cooper does a fine job becoming the sniper and embodying all the nuances of the complicated character. There’s an ache and a stillness to the performance, and it’s his most careful turn to date. American Sniper is also notable for broadening Cooper’s appeal across demographics, regardless (or maybe because) of the controversies surrounding the film’s take on the Iraq War.

Where to watch American Sniper: Max

6. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

<p>Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett </p>

Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett

This is a quirky film, sure, but beyond Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana knocking around a CGI world, the wildest aspect is Bradley Cooper voicing a sassy raccoon. Here, he exudes joy, familial love, and outright sorrow through Rocket’s words and his utter decency as a hero. He colors the character with shades of anger and wryness, and it’s astounding how much he accomplishes (and surprises) without ever actually appearing onscreen.

Where to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: Disney+

5. The Hangover (2009)

<p>Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection</p>

Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection

The Hangover was the movie that put Bradley Cooper on the map. He helms the classic comedy as ringleader Phil, a cocky jerk in the mold of an early Matthew McConaughey character. As the instigator of a bachelor party gone horribly awry, Cooper aptly carries the film, building the foundation of a stunning career (both comedic and dramatic) in the process. So much of Cooper’s performance depends on his ability to sell smug selfishness, and he delivers in spades while growing a substantial fanbase that would follow him for the years to come.

Where to watch The Hangover: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

4. Nightmare Alley (2021)

Kerry Hayes/Searchlight Pictures
Kerry Hayes/Searchlight Pictures

Guillermo Del Toro’s odd, stately neo-noir follows the rise and fall of a career con artist who gets a second wind at the circus. There, his deceit takes a new form as a phony mentalist, but his lies soon catch up to him in a stunningly dramatic conclusion. Cooper gives a stellar showcase of what makes him first on the call sheet, turning up the charm while remaining transparent enough to show the audience his character’s hollow center. It’s a delicate balancing act, juggling paper-thin poise and manic desperation with ease.

Where to watch Nightmare Alley: Hulu

3. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Weinstein / TWC
Weinstein / TWC

A lesser actor could have taken the role of Pat Solitano, a volatile divorcee with bipolar disorder, and played up the chaos factor while neglecting the nuance — but Bradley Cooper did no such thing. Rather, he helped translate David O. Russell’s comedy of errors into a poignant drama and unconventional love story for two unstable people. The electricity between Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany, a widow with a destructive streak who coaxes him into a dance competition, is unlike anything he’ll find onscreen again. His command over the character is on full display as he moves his body to the music, so locked in yet loose, that the camera almost threatens to capture the real him.

Where to watch Silver Linings Playbook: Netflix

2. Maestro (2023)

Netflix
Netflix

This portrait of Leonard Bernstein — a renowned composer, conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and coconspirator of Stephen Sondheim — is as beautiful, searching, and intimate as his music. Cooper excels both on and off camera, making the set feel alive while transforming into the maestro. The actor/director’s careful poise and methodical expressions craft an honest incarnation of the historical figure, always moving and straining to live up to the legacy culture casts upon him. Time will tell if this film will finally earn Cooper an Oscar (and he’s up for multiple categories), but even if he doesn’t walk away with a trophy, his performance will always be a cornerstone of his formidable career.

Where to watch Maestro: Netflix

1. A Star Is Born (2018)

Peter Lindbergh/Warner Bros.
Peter Lindbergh/Warner Bros.

Bradley Cooper’s best performance to date is also his most understated, playing a reserved and disturbed country artist who discovers a show-stopping singer (Lady Gaga) and embarks on a doomed love affair. Cooper completely transforms here with a previously unseen stillness, from the slow drawl of his speech to the swagger in his walk to his gravitas on stage (yes, that’s really him singing). He also doses out devastating tenderness in scenes with Gaga and moments alone as he battles the demons at the bottom of a bottle. A Star Is Born may as well be a meta title, because even if Cooper was already a household name, this was the turn that truly defined his career.

Where to watch A Star Is Born: Hulu

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Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.