Acting throughout four decades, Keanu Reeves has long been a household name, but it seems that in the last few years his star has been shining brighter. Whether it’s his recent roles, such as playing a tongue-in-cheek version of himself in Always Be My Maybe or a vengeance-seeking John Wick in the eponymous film, or the fact that he’s one of the few unproblematic celebrities left, he has amassed a legion of fans. The mysterious actor opts to stay out of the public eye, though directors have described him as incredibly hardworking, which no doubt comes across on-screen.
The Canadian actor was actually born in Beirut, Lebanon, to a father of Native Hawaiian and Chinese heritage, and a British mother. He grew up all over the world, living in New York City and Sydney, Australia, before his family settled in Toronto. He started acting at the early age of nine, and chose to make it his career when he was only 15. Before then, he was seriously considering a career as a professional hockey player, aspiring to play for the Canadian Olympic team. Since starring in a Canadian short in 1985 and a few made-for-TV movies in 1986, Reeves has appeared in over 70 films. Out of the whopping number of roles, these are the 15 best Keanu Reeves movies.
A period drama and romance film directed by Stephen Frears, Dangerous Liaisons is based on a French film and stageplay, which were adapted from a French novel from 1782. With a star-studded cast inlcuding Michelle Pfeiffer, Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Uma Thurman, and more, the 1988 film no doubt helped to propel the career of a young Keanu Reeves. The film won Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 61st Academy Awards.
Another film early on in Keanu Reeves’ impressive career is the incredibly-dark crime drama River’s Edge. In the film, Reeves plays Matt, an older teen caught up in an increasingly-disturbing murder scenario. With plenty of underage drugs, sexuality, and violence, the film, which also stars Crispin Glover, Ione Skye Leitch, and Dennis Hopper, paints an extremely bleak picture of American teenager-hood, but is an excellent vehicle for Reeves’ acting skills.
An ensemble comedy, Parenthood} was directed by Ron Howard and features big names like Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, and Dianne Weist, to name a few, with Reeves in a smaller supporting role. The movie was a huge box office success, earning $126 million on a $20 million budget. It was later adapted into a TV series twice, rebooted 20 years after the first failed run in 1990. The 2010 version of the show lasted for six seasons, starring established television names like Peter Krause, Dax Shepard, and Lauren Graham.
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Bill & Ted Face the Music is the third Bill & Ted movie, released in 2020 nearly twenty years after the first sequel. In the unusual comedy with quite a roster of current celebrities, the stars, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, reprising their roles as Ted and Bill, are tasked with making a song in order to save the world. From rapper Kid Cudi to Glee star Jayma Mays to Saturday Night Live‘s Beck Bennett, the movie truly has all its bases covered. For a modern comedy that went simultaneously to Video-on-Demand and theatrical release, it saw a generally positive critical reception.
Under the Influence
Under the Influence is a made-for-televison movie that came out in 1986, one of Keanu Reeves’ earliest projects, and stars Andy Griffith. The CBS film is par for the course in terms of TV movies, a melodrama centering around the alcoholism of a father, played by Griffith, and how it affects his family, leading his son, played by Reeves, to follow in his unfortunate footsteps. The flick is nearly impossible to find, only available on DVD and with copies out of stock from most sellers.
Always Be My Maybe
Always Be My Maybe is a Netflix-produced romantic comedy starring stand-up comedian Ali Wong opposite Randall Park as childhood friends who are reunited years later. A recurring theme in the film is how Park’s character is less successful than Wong’s character, which is never more obvious than when they have dinner with Keanu Reeves, playing an uber cool, over-the-top, fictionalized version of himself in the film, serving as the perfect foil to hilariously make Park’s character feel insecure and inadequate in comparison, as anyone would.
Keanu Reeves stars in the titular role in John Wick, which was so successful that it spurred two hit sequels. The entire film trilogy hinges on Wick’s desire for bloodthirsty revenge, spawned from the moment that three Russian gangsters kill his beloved dog, who was a gift from his late wife before she died. If the death of a sweet beagle named Daisy isn’t enough of a justification to send any man into a blind, murderous rage, then what is?
In the 1991 action-thriller film Point Break, Reeves plays an FBI agent, Johnny Utah, who goes undercover to catch a band of bank robbers. Determining that the robbers are also surfers based on a hunch from his coworker, Utah learns how to surf and works his way into the surfing community in order to catch the criminals. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the movie also starred Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey, and was such a cult hit that it inspired a 2015 remake.
Much Ado About Nothing
Shakespeare film adaptations can be extremely polarizing–viewers either love them or hate them. For fans of the bard, however, 1993’s Much Ado About Nothing was a smash hit. In the poetic romantic comedy, Reeves plays Don John, the evil half-brother of Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, played be Denzel Washington. The movie was directed by and stars Kenneth Branagh alongside Emma Thompson, Michael Keaton, and a young Kate Beckinsdale.
A Scanner Darkly
Richard Linklater is a director known for taking risks with his films, for example choosing to shoot the film Boyhood over the course of several years with the same actors, giving a documentary aspect to the scripted coming-of-age film. For A Scanner Darkly, a science fiction film adapted form a Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, Linklater used the animation technique of rotoscoping, where real actors are filmed, and then animators trace over the footage frame-by-frame to give the imagery a dream-like quality. Reeves stars in the trippy film as a police officer in a world where a huge swath of the population is addicted to a mysterious hallucinogenic drug.
Another film on the list with an unusual premise, Speed is all about a bus that has been equipped with a bomb that will explode if the vehicle drives under 50 miles per hour. Keanu Reeves stars as a talented LAPD officer who receives a phone call from a terrorist, alerting him about the status of the public bus. He boards the vehicle, and thrilling action ensues, with most of the 116-minute movie taking place on the bus. The film also stars Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper.
Something’s Gotta Give
A Nancy Meyer rom-com starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, this role was a diversion from Keanu Reeves’ typical casting. In Something’s Gotta Give, Nicholson’s character has a heart attack while on vacation in the Hamptons with his significantly-younger girlfriend and her mother (Keaton). His doctor (Reeves) orders him to stay a few extra days in the area for observation, during which sparks fly with Keaton’s character, who happens to be more age-appropriate, however, she ends up falling for the doctor. Reeves excels as the doctor caught up in a complicated web of relationships.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
A science fiction comedy unlike any other project Keanu Reeves has been a part of, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is at its core a story about a time traveler from hundreds of years in the future tasked with helping two high schoolers in 1988 with passing their history course. Starring Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as Bill and Ted, respectively, the 1989 movie also stars comedy legend George Carlin. A massive box office success, the movie grossed $40.5 million on a budget of $10 million.
My Own Private Idaho
One of his more difficult roles, demonstrating his immense acting talent, Reeves plays the character of Scott Favor, a fellow sex worker and friend of River Phoenix’s Mikey Waters. In the heartbreaking, gritty indie film My Own Private Idaho that deals with heavy themes of poverty, mental illness, and closeted homosexuality, Mikey confesses his love for Scott, who then rebuffs him, falling in love with a woman. In the end of the Gus Van Sant film, the boys are separated by consequence, with Scott falling into money and opportunity and Mikey perhaps left worse-off than before.
While The Matrix might not be Keanu Reeves’ most impressive acting role to date, not showing the range of Point Break or My Own Private Idaho, it might be his most iconic. One of the more successful film franchises of all time, and certainly one of the most referenced in pop culture and internet memes, Reeves stars as a hacker nicknamed Neo who uncovers the truth about humanity’s takeover by artificially intelligent robots. Clad in small sunglasses and a floor-lenght leather duster, it’s no doubt Reeves’ most recognizable part.