Speed was the movie that shot Keanu Reeves to stardom in action films. It marked the beginning of a decade that saw him in hits like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and The Matrix trilogy. This movie was quite different from his previous funny roles, firmly establishing him as a cool and composed action hero.
His chemistry with Dennis Hopper in this intense thriller is unforgettable. Even the scene where Reeves explains to a young child about his past as an LAPD cop and a bad guy who used a library book as a weapon is spine-tingling. Reeves’ menacing presence and his Southern accent add to the suspense.
Reeves chose not to do a sequel to Speed to avoid being stuck in one type of role. Instead, he ventured into art-house cinema with films like The Neon Demon, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, and Ana Lily Amirpour’s post-apocalyptic movie The Bad Batch. Since then, he’s balanced between mainstream and art-house projects, acting in films like Constantine, A Scanner Darkly and even trying his hand at directing.
9. Point Break
Point Break was a turning point for Keanu Reeves. It introduced him to a new audience while he was trying to move away from his image as the goofy guy from Bill & Ted. In this period, he proved his ability to handle more serious roles in movies like Dangerous Liaisons and Parenthood.
He continued to evolve with smaller films such as My Own Private Idaho and the teen comedy The Night Before. However, it was Speed that really pushed him into the spotlight as an action star. While he had a few setbacks with movies like Johnny Mnemonic and Chain Reaction, it was The Matrix that firmly established his position in Hollywood.
The 1999 sci-fi blockbuster tells the story of a hacker trying to overthrow a dystopian regime, making Reeves a top Hollywood leading man.
8. The Devil’s Advocate
Keanu Reeves isn’t afraid to dive into darker stories, as seen in this thriller directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. In the film, Reeves plays a lawyer caught in a battle between good and evil when he takes on a seemingly harmless case.
While Reeves tries to stay composed while battling demons in this horror-thriller, the film doesn’t quite hit the mark. Despite a strong supporting cast, including Al Pacino and Charlize Theron, Reeves doesn’t quite steal the spotlight in this picture.
Before the classic “The Devil Wears Prada” movie, there was Keanu’s “Devil’s Advocate” movie. Reeves makes their blissful foolishness endearing, even when the film ventures into cheesy, clichéd territory. This marked a transition for Reeves towards more mature roles in his career.
7. John Wick
Since his excellent adventure with Bill & Ted, Keanu Reeves has become one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars. Thanks to his dedicated fan base and widespread admiration for his acting skills. His humility and charitable work have further endeared him to audiences.
John Wick left an indelible mark on science fiction and turned Reeves into a cultural icon. However, he has proven his versatility in various genres.
In this action-packed, theme ride of a drama, Reeves took on a tough yet likable role as a compassionate killer. His stoic demeanor and restrained acting suited the film’s grim atmosphere.
6. Chain Reaction
Keanu Reeves’ stardom soared even more after this major success. Chain Reaction is one of those movies that, despite how good it was, could have been even better. It features a strong cast, including Morgan Freeman and Rachel Weisz.
The film is a mix of science, unique dialogue, and underrated action sequences. He soon followed up with his cult classic John Wick.
This film catapulted him into the spotlight with a hero that suited him perfectly. He hasn’t looked back since, and for good reason. John Wick has become a classic.
5. Something’s Gotta Give
Keanu Reeves’ breakthrough role in the 1994 film marked him as a serious actor. It also marked the beginning of a five-year period. During which he appeared in films either subtle and small-scale or action-packed.
It wasn’t without a few missteps along the way. Reeves did a great job in the 1988 teen comedy he appeared in. Featuring a predictable plot and laughable jokes that haven’t aged well.
His performance in the drama about a young man’s suicide is far more memorable. It showcases his ability to convey complex emotions on screen. The movie is based on a real-life California murder case.
River’s Edge demonstrates Reeves’ skill at portraying characters without overdoing it. He delivers a compelling performance. Easily one of Keanu Reeves’ best films.
He was a member of the disaffected youth who discovered a murder but chose not to report it. This film might be one of Reeves’ darkest works.
Keanu had a different career before dodging bullets and taking down bad guys. Reeves starred in this gritty drama about a young, drifting couple. Directed by Gus Van Sant, the film offered one of Reeves’ most challenging roles.
He played Scott Favor, a sex worker with a tenuous grip on reality and hidden homosexuality. Favor falls for River Phoenix’s Mikey Waters in this gripping story of loss and redemption. Reeves’ performance in this edgy thriller marked a turning point in his career, propelling him into the realm of action stardom.
He also shines in this heartfelt drama, which explores the challenges of family relationships. The movie’s realistic portrayal of everyday life continues to resonate with audiences. It even earned several Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Reeves.
This 2001 sports tale remains a standout in Keanu Reeves’ filmography. Reeves delivers a captivating performance as Jonathan Harker. The young attorney is ensnared in the mystique of Count Dracula’s Transylvanian world.
Following the fast-paced thrill of Speed, Reeves faced being typecast as a tough action hero. Man of Tai Chi offered a slight departure from that formula, paving the way for John Wick the following year.
In this morosely poetic drama, Reeves and River Phoenix offer one of their most tender and contemplative performances. Gus Van Sant puts a surreal twist on Shakespeare’s enigmatic works in this drifting story of unreciprocated love. It marked a masterful shift in tone and genre for Reeves, solidifying his status as a cinema icon.
2. The Day the Earth Stood Still
There was a time, not too long ago when Keanu Reeves was branded as a stereotypical Hollywood tough guy. However, he managed to reinvent himself as one of the most captivating action stars of the 1990s. Today, he continues to thrive with films like John Wick.
Traditional Hollywood action heroes often embody a problematic form of masculinity. Leaving little room for genuine emotion. Reeves brings a sense of vulnerability to his characters.
From his portrayal of an everyday hero in Speed to his nihilistic character in the Matrix trilogy and his laconic demon-hunter in Constantine. Reeves’ characters share feelings of loneliness and longing.
Even in seemingly lighter films like the 1988 teen comedy River’s Edge, Reeves conveys this sense of isolation with subtlety and grace. He makes audiences believe in the sincerity of his characters’ words and actions, a feat few of his peers can achieve.
1. The Matrix
After his role in Jan de Bont’s 1994 film ‘Speed,’ Keanu Reeves could have settled into an action-hero groove like Bruce Willis. Fate had similar plans when he was cast as Neo. The Wachowskis’ groundbreaking vision of an alternate reality catapulted Reeves to the pinnacle of Hollywood.
To this day, few have combined world-building with storytelling as seamlessly. The Matrix arrived in style as the new millennium dawned, becoming one of the biggest movies of the decade and a pop culture phenomenon.
Its mind-bending special effects and cutting-edge science fiction narrative set a benchmark for modern action films and firmly established Reeves as a star. He portrays Neo with a unique blend of vulnerability and toughness, making the role his own.
It’s incredibly difficult to imagine anyone else in this defining performance of his career. The Matrix is easily one of the best Keanu Reeves films!