Began his career as an actor in the late 1950s, wrote many shows for TV (including 18 episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents") and received his first feature credit in 1966, as co-writer of "The Appaloosa". Bridges made his directing debut with "The Baby Maker" (1970), a finely observed film about a middle-class couple who hire a hippy to bear their child after the wife discovers she is infertile.
Not a prolific director, Bridges wrote the screenplays for all but the last of the eight films he made between 1970 and 1988. He hit his peak with "The China Syndrome" (1979), a suspenseful and potent indictment of both the nuclear power industry and the electronic media starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas. Bridges also helmed the popular John Travolta vehicle "Urban Cowboy" (1980) which, despite a weak storyline, affectionately captured its Texas milieu. "The Paper Chase" (1973) was a highly praised law-school drama that earned John Houseman an Oscar; "Mike's Murder" (1982) was a muddled, messy thriller; and "Perfect!" (1985) was a superficial flop. Bridges replaced Joyce Chopra as director of what proved to be his last film, the screen adaptation of Jay McInerney's sobering account of a "cocaine yuppie", "Bright Lights, Big City" (1988).