Josh Brolin is a veteran of the acting game, first appearing on screen as a teenager in 1985's The Goonies. Now well into his 50s, Brolin has appeared in over 50 movies.
He's an incredibly talented man and received Oscar recognition in 2009 when he earned a nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role in 2008's Milk.
In this piece, we'll take you through his 22 finest films, ending with the best. Be warned, Brolin's filmography is outstanding, so some great movies are missing from this list.
1. Everest (2015, directed by Baltasar Kormákur)
Everest is a biographical survival adventure movie based on the real-life events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, focusing on two expedition groups' survival attempts.
Brolin plays Beck Weathers, an American doctor and amateur mountain climber on a commercial expedition up the iconic peak. He's fantastic, as are Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, and Sam Worthington. Everest boasts incredible cinematography, dizzying camerawork, remarkable realism, and tension galore, but it's hard to watch due to its bleak outcome.
2. Inherent Vice (2014, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
Inherent Vice is a neo-noir period comedy mystery movie based on Thomas Pynchon's 2009 novel. In 1970 Los Angeles, the film concerns a drug-using, incompetent, well-meaning private investigator who investigates his former girlfriend's disappearance and three connected cases.
It has a unique feel and may require several viewings to absorb it all. The excellent cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, and Maya Rudolph. Brolin plays L.A. detective Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen, a man who helps Phoenix's private investigator, Larry “Doc” Sportello, with his investigation. Along with Phoenix, Brolin's superb performances makes him one of the film's highlights. Inherent Vice is funny, provocative, a little weird, and different from anything you'll ever watch.
3. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015, directed by Joss Whedon)
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a superhero movie, the sequel to 2012's The Avengers, and the eleventh installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In this one, the eponymous team of heroes faces off against Ultron, an artificial intelligence inadvertently brought to life by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner that intends to make humanity extinct.
The ensemble cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and James Spader as the voice and motion capture for Ultron. Brolin has an uncredited cameo as Thanos in the mid-credits scene setting up Avengers: Infinity War. Avengers: Age of Ultron is action-packed with excellent special effects and spectacular set pieces, brilliantly acted, and boasts one of the MCU's finest and most formidable villains.
4. The Dead Girl (2006, directed by Karen Moncrieff)
The Dead Girl is a drama thriller about a young woman's death and the clues that come to light, resulting in seemingly unrelated people's lives beginning to intersect.
The brilliant cast includes Toni Collette, Brittany Murphy, Rose Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Beth Hurt, and Kerry Washington. Brolin plays Tarlow, the client of a prostitute played by Murphy, in a brief role. The Dead Girl has heavy subject matter that sometimes makes it hard to watch, but it's terrifically performed, powerful, emotional, and boasts an incredibly atmospheric score.
5. The Goonies (1985, directed by Richard Donner)
The Goonies is an adventure comedy movie about the eponymous group of kids attempting to save their homes from foreclosure by following a treasure map to find the long-lost fortune of a legendary 17th-century pirate. On their quest, they get pursued by a criminal family who also wants the loot.
It's an iconic film that's a joy to watch and an essential part of an entire generation's childhood. Sean Astin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Ke Huy Quan, and Brolin portray the Goonies. Brolin plays Brandon “Brand” Walsh, the oldest group member, in his first movie credit and is excellent. The Goonies is funny, fast-paced, imaginative, and entertaining as hell.
6. The People Speak (2009, directed by Howard Zinn, Chris Moore, and Anthony Arnove)
The People Speak is a feature-length documentary movie based on Howard Zinn's 1980 book A People's History of the United States and his 2004 book Voices of a People's History of the United States, which he co-wrote with Anthony Arnove. It looks at the war, class, race, and women's rights struggles experienced in the United States.
It has input from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Danny Glover, Don Cheadle, John Legend, Kerry Washington, Marisa Tomei, Morgan Freeman, P!nk, Rosario Dawson, Sandra Oh, Sean Penn, Viggo Mortensen, and Brolin. These great stars give a fantastic history lesson in The People Speak without any spin, and it's dynamic, informative, and incredibly eye-opening.
7. American Gangster (2007, directed by Ridley Scott)
American Gangster is a biographical crime movie that fictionalizes the criminal career of Frank Lucas, a gangster and heroin smuggler from La Grange, North Carolina, who used American service planes returning from the Vietnam War to transport drugs and his capture by an elite task force.
Brolin plays corrupt New York City detective Nick Trupo, a man Lucas bribed, and he does so in a formidable fashion. The terrific cast includes Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Ted Levine. American Gangster is gritty and reminiscent of classic mob films. It's excellently acted, thoroughly entertaining, and has a genuinely gripping story.
8. Grindhouse (2007, directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino)
Grindhouse is a double-feature movie combining Rodriguez's Planet Terror, an action horror following a group of people fighting zombie-like creatures, and Tarantino's Death Proof, a black comedy action thriller about a stuntman who murders young women using modified vehicles.
The combined cast included Kurt Russell, Rose McGowan, Michael Biehn, Rosario Dawson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Brolin, who plays Dr. William Block, the secondary antagonist of Planet Terror, with a sinister air. Grindhouse is a brilliant tribute to 1970s exploitation movies and is funny, wonderfully zany, action-packed, and incredibly graphic.
9. Deadpool 2 (2018, directed by David Leitch)
Deadpool 2 is a superhero movie, the sequel to 2016's Deadpool, and the eleventh installment in Fox's X-Men film franchise. The plot follows the eponymous antihero as he forms the quirky X-Force team to protect a young mutant from the time-traveling cybernetic soldier Cable.
It's a meta, joyous, hilarious, hectic, violent, dark movie that's action-packed with amazing special effects. Ryan Reynolds is typically fantastic, funny, and charismatic in the eponymous role, and Brolin is perfect as Cable, making a superb foil for Reynolds. The extended cast includes Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, and T.J. Miller.
10. Dune (2021, directed by Denis Villeneuve)
Dune is an epic sci-fi action movie, the first of a two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert's 1965 novel and the third adaptation following David Lynch's 1984 film and John Harrison's 2000 television miniseries. It follows a noble family thrust into a war for a deadly, barren desert planet.
It's an ambitious, thrilling, awe-inspiring film with fantastic special effects and an intriguing, albeit complex, story. Dune‘s star-studded cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Charlotte Rampling, and Jason Momoa. Brolin plays Gurney Halleck, a weapons master, and is suitably authoritative. Dune received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. It won six for Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Visual Effects.
11. Avengers: Infinity War (2018, directed by the Russo Brothers)
Avengers: Infinity War is a superhero movie, a sequel to 2012's The Avengers and 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the nineteenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The plot concerns the eponymous team and the Guardians of the Galaxy‘s efforts to stop Thanos from collecting all six Infinity Stones and erasing half of all life in the universe.
Brolin plays Thanos, and it's unbelievable that he didn't receive an Academy Award nomination for this effort. This film made Thanos a bona fide cinematic icon. The fantastic cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Mark Ruffalo, and Elizabeth Olsen. Avengers: Infinity War is a spectacular epic adventure of a film with genuine peril, great performances, outstanding special effects, and great action.
12. Hail, Caesar! (2016, directed by the Coen Brothers)
Hail, Caesar! is a period black comedy movie about Eddie Mannix, the real-life studio fixer who attempted to keep scandals in the Hollywood film industry out of the press in the 1950s. Specifically, in the film, he tries to discover what happened to a star actor while filming a biblical epic.
Brolin plays Mannix in a brilliantly brutal, honest fashion. The superb cast includes George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Wayne Knight, Christopher Lambert, and Jonah Hill. Hail, Caesar! is a funny, raucous, and charming movie that's easy to watch.
13. Only the Brave (2017, directed by Joseph Kosinski)
Only the Brave is a biographical drama movie based on the GQ article “No Exit” by Sean Flynn. It's about an elite crew of firefighters from Prescott, Arizona, called the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who suffered 19 of 20 casualties while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013.
The star-studded cast includes James Badge Dale, Jeff Bridges, Miles Teller, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Hardy, Andie MacDowell, and Jennifer Connelly. Brolin stars as Eric Marsh, the team's superintendent who sadly perishes along with 18 of his teammates.
14. Flirting with Disaster (1996, directed by David O'Russell)
Flirting with Disaster is a black comedy about a young father searching for his biographical parents with his wife and incompetent case worker.
Its solid core cast includes Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Téa Leoni, Alan Alda, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Lily Tomlin, and Richard Jenkins. Brolin plays an ATF agent called Paul, who's in a homosexual relationship with Tony, another agent played by Jenkins, and he throws himself into the role. Flirting with Disaster is a thought-provoking, darkly comic, brilliantly written, and excellently cast film that's an underrated gem.
15. Sicario (2015, directed by Denis Villeneuve)
Sicario is an action thriller about an FBI special agent tasked by the government with taking down the leader of one of Mexico's most vicious and powerful drug cartels.
Brolin plays Matt Graver, a no-nonsense CIA officer, in a role perfect for him. Other stars in the movie include Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Daniel Kaluuya, Jon Bernthal, and Victor Garber. Sicario is brilliantly acted, gritty, dark, edgy, and thoroughly entertaining, with some great set pieces.
16. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, directed by James Gunn)
Guardians of the Galaxy is a superhero movie and the tenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the film, a misfit group of space criminals, each decent people at heart, go on the run after stealing a powerful artifact before forming a team to defend the cosmos from evil.
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper are superb as the eponymous team, with Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, and Benicio del Toro excellent in supporting roles. Brolin has a cameo as Thanos, his first appearance as the character, and is perfectly imposing. Guardians of the Galaxy is a blast from start to finish, with spectacular action, visuals and special effects, and bags of humor and heart.
17. The Tillman Story (2010, directed by Amir Bar-Lev)
The Tillman Story is a feature-length documentary movie about the death of former professional football player Pat Tillman, who died after being shot by friendly fire in the War in Afghanistan. It discusses the cover-up of his death's circumstances and his family's struggles to unearth the truth.
Brolin narrates this with clarity and assurance. It's a passionate, insightful, and informative documentary that fully conveys the anger Tillman's tragic death and the subsequent cover-up caused. It also succeeds in letting viewers know what an inspirational man Tillman was and how he achieved a lot in his short life. The Tillman Story will surely get under your skin and affect you profoundly.
18. To Each His Own Cinema (2007, directed by 36 acclaimed directors)
To Each His Own Cinema is a French comedy-drama anthology. It's a collection of 34 short films, all three minutes long, made by 36 top directors who were encouraged to express “their state of mind of the moment as inspired by the motion picture theatre.”
Brolin plays a cowboy in the World Cinema segment, which the Coen Brothers direct. He gives it his all for the three minutes and is brilliant. Other directors involved include Lars von Trier, Roman Polanski, David Cronenberg, Ken Loach, and David Lynch. To Each His Own Cinema is a great reminder of how good movies can be, with some magnificently entertaining and funny shorts.
19. Milk (2007, directed by Gus Van Sant)
Milk is a biographical movie about the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, the first openly homosexual male to get elected to public office in California as a San Francisco Board of Supervisors member.
Sean Penn is phenomenal in the eponymous role and rightly won the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance. The film received seven more nominations, winning the gong for Best Original Screenplay. Brolin plays Dan White, a fellow Supervisor of Milk's and a veteran of the police force, fire service, and Vietnam, who murdered him. He earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his intense performance. Milk is intelligent, tender, brilliantly written and acted, and a significant triumph of biographical filmmaking.
20. No Country for Old Men (2007, directed by the Coen Brothers
No Country for Old Men is a neo-Western crime thriller based on Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel. It follows a trio of characters; a Vietnam War veteran and welder who finds a vast amount of cash in the desert, a hitman sent to recover the money, and a sheriff investigating the situation.
Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss, the Vietnam veteran, and he's superb alongside Javier Bardem as the hitman and Tommy Lee Jones as the sheriff. No Country for Old Men received eight Academy Award nominations, winning four, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Bardem. The fabulous supporting cast includes Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, and Stephen Root. It's engaging, tense, suspenseful, technically brilliant, superbly performed, and suitably grim.
21. Avengers: Endgame (2019, directed by the Russo Brothers)
Avengers: Endgame is a superhero movie, a sequel to 2012's The Avengers and 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a direct followup to 2018's Avengers: Infinity War. In this one, the surviving heroes from Avengers: Infinity War attempt to undo Thanos' life-erasing exploits from that movie.
Brolin reprises his role as Thanos and a version of the Mad Titan from the past. He's as good as he was in the previous movie, giving an iconic villainous performance. The terrific ensemble cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Paul Rudd, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Karen Gillan, Brie Larson, and Bradley Cooper. Avengers: Endgame received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects. It's spectacular, action-packed, and humorous, with one of the most epic battle scenes in film history and a solemn but satisfying ending.
22. True Grit (2010, directed by the Coen Brothers)
True Grit is a Western movie based on Charles Portis' 1968 novel and the second adaptation of the book after the 1960 film starring John Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell. It's about a teenager who asks a tough U.S. Marshal to help track down her father's murderer.
The incredible cast includes Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper, Domhnall Gleeson, and Brolin, who ruthlessly portrays the hired hand, Tom Chaney, the murderer getting tracked. True Grit received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Bridges, and Best Supporting Actor for Steinfeld. It won none, which was a tragedy. It's a masterpiece that's atmospheric, awe-inspiring, occasionally darkly funny, and brilliantly written, performed, and directed.
Writer and editor with ten years of experience working full-time in this capacity. I've written over 2000 pieces of published work and managed teams of 50+ writers. I've produced content for some of the world's most prominent entertainment and sports platforms. My published work includes feature articles, news and opinion pieces, listicles, quizzes, voice-over scripts, viral content, and more. I'm a British 80s kid who loves movies (horror, superhero stuff, and all things 80s are my favorites), boxing, and football (soccer), a former business owner and executive headhunter, and a Tottenham Hotspur FC fan for my sins.