Total Recall

Total Recall: Bradley Cooper's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Hangover Part III star.

by | May 23, 2013 | Comments

Bradley CooperBefore he was an Oscar-nominated star of The Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper was one of Hollywood’s go-to guys for the sort of rakishly smarmy character that every truly great R-rated comedy really needs — comedies like, say, The Hangover, which shifted Cooper’s career into high gear in 2009. This week, as the Hangover trilogy prepares for its presumably Jeong-filled conclusion, we’re taking a moment to look back at some of the critical highlights from his filmography — and given that he only made his cinematic debut a little over 10 years ago, those highlights are more numerous (and more diverse) than you might think. It’s time for Total Recall!


10. Yes Man

For a fairly good-sized portion of the aughts, it seemed like Jim Carrey had lost the will to be funny — and while his newfound focus on sharpening his dramatic chops produced a number of fine films (including Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), it was hard for fans to keep from wishing he’d just cut loose with a good old-fashioned laffer after awhile. Sadly, when Carrey returned to broad comedy with Yes Man in 2008, the critics seemed to wish he’d stayed away even longer — although audiences clearly responded to the tale of a man who decides to turn his life around by saying “yes” to everything. Based on a memoir written by humorist Danny Wallace and featuring a supporting cast that included Cooper and Zooey Deschanel, it found favor with critics like Tim Evans of Sky Movies, who mused, “It’s that rare thing – an example of Hollywood getting hold of a good idea, working on it… and not screwing it up.”


9. The A-Team

The idea of a film adaptation of The A-Team kicked around Hollywood for years before finally grinding into gear, but all that extra time in development didn’t end up producing the box office blockbuster 20th Century Fox was hoping for. Still, Joe Carnahan’s cheerfully ludicrous big-screen take on the ’80s TV hit about a crew of war vets-turned-heroes for hire (here played by Liam Neeson, Sharlto Copley, Quinton Jackson, and Cooper) resonated with a number of critics who showed up looking for an undemanding comedy/action thriller and came away satisfied — including Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman, who marveled, “It’s trash so compacted it glows.”


8. Hit and Run

While it wasn’t a major critical or commercial success, 2012’s Hit and Run is, at the very least, an inspiration for every actor who begins his film career with a bit role like “Guy vomiting at party” — which is, not coincidentally, just what Dax Shepard did, a scant 14 years before making his screenwriting (and co-directing) debut with this low-budget comedy about a Witness Protection enrollee (Shepard) whose girlfriend (Kristen Bell) receives a job offer that puts him in danger of his shady past, which includes a trio of ticked-off former accomplices (including a rather hilariously bewigged Bradley Cooper). “Normally it’d be an insult to say the most interesting thing about a movie is one of the actor’s do’s,” admitted Simon Miraudo of Quickflix, “but seriously, you’ve got to see this thing sitting on Cooper’s head.”


7. My Little Eye

At first glance, My Little Eye‘s 65 percent might not seem like such a great accomplishment. But when you take into consideration the fact that it’s an early-aughts horror movie about a group of people being killed for fun as part of a jury-rigged “reality show” for depraved weirdos, it’s pretty impressive (consider, for example, the critical fates that befell the similarly themed Halloween Resurrection and the House on Haunted Hill remake). While it would be disingenuous to argue that this is anyone’s idea of great cinema, if you’re in the mood for a confidently nasty slasher with a handful of unexpected wrinkles (not to mention an early, effectively creepy appearance from Cooper), you could do worse than this. “It’s a lot of style over very little substance,” admitted Rich Cline of Shadows on the Wall. “But there are just enough twists in the tale to make it far more satisfying than almost any horror film in recent memory.”


6. Limitless

A sort of Flowers for Algernon with an action thriller’s pace and zippier cinematography, Neil Burger’s Limitless started from a timeless premise — what if you could finally tap into your full potential, even if it came with a terrible price? — and used it to add some extra dramatic heft to what might otherwise have been a fairly routine tale of gangland intrigue and corporate skullduggery. While a number of critics carped that Limitless seemed like the work of filmmakers who were operating at far less than 100 percent capacity, audiences turned out to the tune of a tidy $79 million gross — and most scribes agreed with Christy Lemire of the Associated Press, who argued, “You could pick the script apart for impossibilities. But why bother? It’s much more enjoyable to shut your brain off and have a good time.”


5. The Midnight Meat Train

Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, and Brooke Shields may not seem like the most likely horror-movie trio (or any type of movie trio, for that matter), but they combined to positive effect in 2008’s The Midnight Meat Train, director Ryuhei Kitamura’s fittingly creepy adaptation of the Clive Barker short story about a photographer (Cooper) who’s goaded by an art gallery manager (Shields) into investigating a serial killer who’s been offing passengers during late-night subway rides. The final act takes an over-the-top turn into the supernatural, but Anton Bitel of Little White Lies enjoyed the Train, calling it a “devilishly ambiguous thriller” that “leaves viewers to decide whether to take the conventional or the less-traveled tunnel through its narrative network – and the results are a stylishly bloody descent into madness, murder and hell itself.”


4. Wedding Crashers

Cooper’s frat-boy good looks were put to good use in Wedding Crashers, director David Dobkin’s 2005 smash about a pair of lecherous divorce mediators (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) whose wedding-crashing ways lead them into an often-disastrous courtship of sisters (Isla Fisher and Rachel McAdams). As Sack Lodge, one sister’s unbearably preppy boyfriend, Cooper gave Crashers a perfectly loathsome antagonist — and helped frame one of the most memorably abusive games of pickup football in recent cinematic memory. Suggested Salon’s Stephanie Zachareck, “Wedding Crashers may be the most optimistic Hollywood comedy of the year, because it restores at least some dim hope that directors, writers and actors with actual brains in their heads can somehow triumph over unimaginative studio execs.”


3. The Hangover

It’s a tale as old as time: Three mismatched bros, the Vegas strip, and someone’s impending nuptials. Give The Hangover credit, then, for adding a few new twists — such as a misplaced baby, a memorable Mike Tyson cameo, and a shrieking, naked Ken Jeong — on its way to setting off one of the most profitable R-rated comedy franchises in history. Its sequel may have served as a reminder that familiarity often breeds critical contempt — and more than a few of you are probably eyeing The Hangover Part III with apprehension — but the original is, in the words of the Boston Globe’s Ty Burr, “Rowdy, scurrilous, and, for about three-quarters of its running time, a lot more hilarious than it has any right to be.”


2. The Place Beyond The Pines

After delivering the goods with 2010’s Blue Valentine, writer/director Derek Cianfrance had enough clout to put together a good old-fashioned passion project — so he went and made The Place Beyond the Pines, a sprawling, 140-minute inter-generational epic about a desperate father (Ryan Gosling) who makes a crucial decision that forever alters not only his own life, but the life of a police officer (Cooper) after the two men find themselves fatefully at odds. “This naturalistic drama is ambitious to the point of being unwieldy,” admitted the Chicago Reader’s J.R. Jones. “But once the story has advanced from one generation to the next and its thematic sweep has become apparent, these flaws seem much more tolerable.”


1. Silver Linings Playbook

A mere three years after grinning and bearing All About Steve, Cooper executed an abrupt critical turnaround with his co-starring work in one of the most glowingly reviewed (and surprisingly successful) movies of 2012. Opposite an Academy Award-winning Jennifer Lawrence, he found himself surrounded with pretty much everything a modern actor could ask for — including a supporting cast that included Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker, and Jacki Weaver, as well as a screenplay from director David O. Russell — and he made the most of it, delivering a performance that demonstrated Cooper’s ability to incorporate elements of comedy and drama within the same scene, and earning an Oscar nomination in the process. “It’s a rom-com that succeeds in revitalizing that discredited genre where so many others have failed,” Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir wrote, lauding the Best Picture nominee for “injecting it with the grit and emotion of realist drama rather than with amped-up whimsy or social satire or montages of people walking on the beach.”

In case you were wondering, here are Cooper’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. Silver Linings Playbook — 88%
2. The Hangover — 87%
3. The Place Beyond The Pines — 81%
4. Limitless — 73%
5. Yes Man — 72%
6. The A-Team — 71%
7. Wedding Crashers — 70%
8. Failure to Launch — 60%
9. He’s Just Not That Into You — 60%
10. The Hangover Part II — 58%

Take a look through Cooper’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for The Hangover Part III.

Finally, here’s Cooper giving an interview in some other language:

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