Laser amplifiers and methods for amplifying a laser beam are disclosed. A representative embodiment of the amplifier comprises first and second curved mirrors, a gain medium, a third mirror, and a mask. The gain medium is situated between the first and second curved mirrors at the focal point of each curved mirror. The first curved mirror directs and focuses a laser beam to pass through the gain medium to the second curved mirror which reflects and recollimates the laser beam. The gain medium amplifies and shapes the laser beam as the laser beam passes therethough. The third mirror reflects the laser beam, reflected from the second curved mirror, so that the laser beam bypasses the gain medium and return to the first curved mirror, thereby completing a cycle of a ring traversed by the laser beam. The mask defines at least one beam-clipping aperture through which the laser beam passes during a cycle. The gain medium is pumped, preferably using a suitable pumping laser. The laser amplifier can be used to increase the energy of continuous-wave or, especially, pulsed laser beams including pulses of femtosecond duration and relatively high pulse rate.