Actor Tommy Lee Jones poses for a portrait during the 2010 Sundance Film Festival held at the Getty Images portrait studio at The Lift on January 23, 2010 in Park City, Utah / Actor Tommy Lee Jones on the set of the Soap Opera "One Life To Live" Circa 1971 in New York City, New York
Photo by Matt Carr/Getty Images / Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Tommy Lee Jones Through the Years: From Soap Actor to a Western Star


Is there anyone who doesn't love Tommy Lee Jones? There's just something so endearing about his grumpy quick wit. Without even cracking a smile, he can make audiences howl with laughter simply by delivering his signature scowl. The Texas native grew up playing football and became a Harvard grad before hitting the theater scene in New York City and pursuing a professional acting career. He's now one of the most celebrated men of his generation and an easy fan favorite for good reason. Jones is the kind of actor who will draw audiences in by just announcing he's in something. Whether or not the movie ends up being good, he's always worth watching.

Just take a moment to think about all of the iconic movies Jones has starred in throughout his incredible career. Men in Black was literally the sci-fi hit of the '90s, and The Fugitive, which earned him an Oscar, is one of the best thrillers of all time. Not to mention he was absolutely made to play Loretta Lynn's husband Doolittle in Coal Miner's Daughter. While he definitely has his 'thing' that sets him apart from other actors, he's managed to develop an acting resume that is fairly diverse. Everything from westerns and thrillers to science fiction and romantic comedies. His gruff charm fits pretty much into any genre, and he's managed to be a star who is beloved among audiences of all ages.

Here are some notable Tommy Lee Jones moments over the years, from movie stills to red carpet events.

1971 - One Life to Live

 Actor Tommy Lee Jones on the set of the Soap Opera "One Life To Live" Circa 1971 in New York City, New York

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The first TV role Jones booked was as Dr. Mark Toland on the long-running soap opera One Life to Live. It kind of feels like the least Tommy Lee Jones role on his resume (other than Two-Face), but guaranteed, he showed up to set like a pro and rocked that role until his onscreen death.


1978 - Tommy Lee Jones Portrait

Actor Tommy Lee Jones poses for a portrait in circa 1978

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Just a handsome portrait of Jones at the young age of 32. This was around the time he played Howard Hughes in a TV film and appeared opposite Faye Dunaway in the thriller Eyes of Laura Mars.

1979 - Coal Miner's Daughter

1979: Tommy Lee Jones and Sissy Spacek in the film 'Coal Miner's Daughter'.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Of course, one of Tommy Lee's best-known roles is from early on in his career opposite Sissy Spacek. He played Oliver "Doolittle Mooney" Lynn, the longtime husband of Loretta Lynn, in the story of her rise to country music fame. Jones earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the expert way he captured Doolittle.

1988- Gotham

Tommy Lee Jones during Press Party For Showtime's "Gotham" at Rainbow Room in New York City, New York, United States

Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In the TV thriller Gotham, Jones starred opposite Virginia Madsen. Here he is at a publicity event sporting a Sam Elliott-worthy mustache. This feels like a look we really could have enjoyed more of.

1994 - Blue Sky

Tommy Lee Jones dressed in a full military uniform in a scene from the film 'Blue Sky', 1994

Photo by Artisan Entertainment/Getty Images

Jones has a very serious tone which actually makes him play a perfect member of the armed forces or law enforcement. In this particular movie, he starred as Major Hank Marshall in the dramatic story of a nuclear coverup.


1997 - Men in Black

Tommy Lee Jones in publicity portrait for the film 'Men In Black', 1997

Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

Agent K is definitely one of Jones' most beloved characters. Men in Black is still good, decades later, and led to two sequels. Part of the appeal is Jones doing his usual thing opposite Will Smith's crazy energy. It's just a pairing that doesn't get much better. His ability to keep a straight-face while dealing with ridiculous aliens the entire movie is also admirable because I'm going to guess it's not really his thing in real life.

2000- Rules of Engagement

Tommy Lee Jones sitting sternly in a scene from the film 'Rules Of Engagement', 2000

Photo by Paramount/Getty Images

Another military role! This time, it's a war drama, and Jones is rocking that military haircut. This was around the same time he starred in Space Cowboys and Double Jeopardy with Ashley Judd...another really good thriller.

2002- Men in Black II

Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones during Men in Black 2 Hollywood Premiere in Los Angeles, California

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

Jones put his black suit back on to play Agent K for a second time opposite onscreen partner Will Smith as they battle even more threats to the universe in Men in Black II. Who doesn't enjoy watching Jones deliver his snippy one-liners to CGI aliens? It's always entertaining.

2005 - Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Director Tommy Lee Jones attends a photocall promoting the film "Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" at the Palais during the 58th International Cannes Film Festival May 20, 2005 in Cannes, France

Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images

He's not just an actor...he's a talented filmmaker. This was one of a few films Jones directed and starred in himself. It was a western inspired by the true story of a border agent killing someone along the Texas/Mexico border. If you haven't seen this movie yet, check it out. It's Jones at his absolute best.


2007 - No Country for Old Men

Actors Tommy Lee Jones (L), Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem (R) pose at the premiere of Miramax Films' "No Country for Old Men" at the El Capitan Theater on November 4, 2007 in Los Angeles, California

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

It's no secret Jones is a big western guy. He's been a notable presence in the genre over the years from the miniseries Lonesome Dove to Ron Howard's The Missing. One of the most popular modern westerns is definitely No Country For Old Men, the Coen Brothers' adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel. Jones plays a sheriff hunting down a brutal serial killer.

2012 - Lincoln

Tommy Lee Jones at the "Lincoln" Press Conference at Le Parker Meridian on November 19, 2012 in New York City.

Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage

Just one of the many Oscar-winning films Jones has appeared in over the years was this incredible portrayal of the life and legend of President Abraham Lincoln in an award-winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. Jones played Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch supporter of emancipation.

2015 - Texas Film Awards

Tommy Lee Jones poses on the red carpet during the Austin Film Society's 15th Annual Texas Film Awards at Austin Studios on March 12, 2015 in Austin, Texas

Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images

A native Texan supporting the arts in his home state. You don't always get a smile from Jones, but anytime you see it, it really warms my heart.

2019 - Ad Astra

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 18: Tommy Lee Jones arrives at the Premiere Of 20th Century Fox's "Ad Astra" at The Cinerama Dome on September 18, 2019 in Los Angeles, California

Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

One of Jones' most recent performances was as Brad Pitt's father in the science fiction thriller Ad Astra. It was a really interesting film, and it's worth watching just to watch these two icons play opposite each other.


READ MORE: The 12 Best Tommy Lee Jones Films, Ranked

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