Bridges made his first screen appearance at the age of almost two years in The Company She Keeps in 1951.
In his youth, Bridges and brother Beau made occasional appearances on their father's show Sea Hunt (1958–1961) and the CBS anthology series, The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962–1963).
His first major role came in the 1971 film The Last Picture Show, for which he garnered a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
He co-starred in the 1972 critically acclaimed neo-noir boxing film Fat City, directed by John Huston.
After graduating from high school, Bridges moved to New York City, where he studied acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio.
Also, after turning 18, Bridges joined the United States Coast Guard Reserve, where he served for seven years.
In 1969, he played Cal Baker, a Jobs Corps crew member, in the TV series Lassie episode "Success Story".
In 1971, he played the lead role Mike in the TV movie In Search of America.
This film was a commercial success, earning million worldwide, more than triple its million budget, and also winning an Academy Award for special effects.
One of his better-known roles was in the 1982 science fiction film Tron, in which he played Kevin Flynn, a video game programmer (a role he reprised in late 2010 with the sequel Tron: Legacy).
Crazy Heart also won him the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.
Bridges received his sixth Academy Award nomination for his role in True Grit, a collaboration with the Coen brothers in which he starred alongside Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, and Hailee Steinfeld.
" His character in Crazy Heart, Bad Blake, was later based partly on Kristofferson.