Whether it's his easygoing nature on screen or in real life, Keanu Reeves has, through a number of starts and stops, been able to reinvent himself in a number of roles that, despite what some would call a limited talent, led to gaining an almost cult-like status as a performer. With that in mind, we celebrate what we think are the 20 best roles in Reeves' career.
There are a bevy of critics who singled Reeves out as the weak link in Francis Ford Coppola's take on the classic vampire tale, and if you're comparing him against, say, Gary Oldman or Anthony Hopkins, you certainly have a point. But it's hard to have this list and not include Reeves' performance as ill-fated Jonathan Harker at least somewhere. Maybe it was his perception as a stoner thespian in a whole new realm that tainted critics' opinions, but maybe we're giving him points for effort alone.
An older and more subdued (how can that be possible) Reeves has the tables turned on him when he finds himself in the crosshairs of a pair of young girls in Eli Roth's "Knock Knock." As seemingly happily married Evan Webber, Reeves puts on a square face as a family man driven by his work until a rainy night brings strangers Genesis and Bel to his front door. Although he tries to be hospitable, temptation has a way of turning even the strongest people inside out, and temptation turns into terror as Evan's attempts to get rid of the seductive pair only leads to him to go from host to hostage.
In a slightly warped version of the square-jawed hero from better-known films like "Speed," Reeves stars as jaded LAPD vice cop Tom Ludlow in David Ayer's "Street Kings." After an undercover sting gone wrong, Ludlow finds himself getting deeper and deeper into a web of corruption and deceit until he becomes the target of his own police force. Reeves is more than serviceable here, aptly taking the reins of a good man in free fall in what is a largely understated performance.
Reeves turns in a solid supporting role as Dr. Julian Mercer, an affable physician caught in the middle of a love triangle anchored by Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, in Nancy Meyers' "Something's Gotta Give." As the much younger love interest of Erica Barry (Keaton), Mercer is also the doctor of Harry Sanborn (Nicholson), a man who generally dates only younger women. As the comedy continues, it's Mercer who inadvertently brings the couple together.
Director Bernardo Bertolucci's dual-story drama casts Reeves in the role of Prince Siddhartha, the future Buddha. Siddhartha turns his back on comfort and fortune to seek a path of enlightenment and total consciousness. Reeves does better than expected, delivering his usual Zen charm in a role that seemed made for him as a performer.
Reeves takes on a smaller yet somewhat significant role as Tod Higgins, an aloof high schooler who falls in love with, marries and soon after impregnates a classmate, forcing himself into an adulthood he's not ready for as he joins an extended family in Ron Howard's comedy-drama "Parenthood." While the role is supporting, Reeves manages to find a way to stand out in his scenes, lending his spacey charm to a role that absolutely calls for it.
If "Constantine" was anything other than an adaptation of a much-beloved comic that managed to change just about all the core elements of the source material, it would've likely been regarded better than it was. That said, what remains is more than compelling, as Reeves stars as a detective and wielder of magic caught in the middle of the never-ending battle between good and evil, this time on a biblical scale. Reeves does more than an adequate job as the tortured John Constantine, who is tasked with fighting a war both inside himself and out.
Reeves plays against type in a largely thankless supporting role in Sam Raimi's supernatural whodunit "The Gift." Here, Reeves plays Donnie Barksdale, a violent man sent to prison for a murder he didn't commit. In one of the few roles where he plays a bad guy (if not the bad guy), Reeves' performance is both jarring and compelling despite its limited size. If anything can be taken from this turn, it's that while his range may be questionable, he manages to hold a few surprises up his sleeve, even in a supporting role.
1986's "River's Edge" represents Reeves' earliest performance on our list, and for some time, one of his more overlooked. Despite critical acclaim, this tale of teens involved in a murder may feel by-the-numbers, and the result is a glimpse at a future group of true talents and Reeves, who displays his signature Zen stoner method that would become a hallmark of his career.
Reeves stars as Shane Falco, a down-on-his-luck quarterback who gets one last chance as the head of a group of replacement players during a pro football strike in "The Replacements." Reeves more than aptly plays the role of aloof hero, as he has just enough charisma to band together a team of misfits who aren't expected to succeed but have nothing to lose under the watchful eye of Gene Hackman, in one of his final film roles.
Reeves finds himself in good company in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of the Shakespeare classic tale of love, honor and constant scheming. Reeves takes a villain turn as Don John, the evil half-brother of Don Pedro (Denzel Washington) who after a failed attempt on Pedro tries to ruin the honor and wedding of a good woman only to find himself falling into ruin. One of the more successful cinematic Shakespeare adaptations, Reeves does a solid job in a rare heel turn.
The devil is absolutely in the details, as Reeves plays cocky Florida attorney Kevin Lomax who gets an offer he can't refuse from a scenery-devouring Al Pacino as John Milton in the ludicrously awesome "The Devil's Advocate." Good and evil play themselves out largely in this morality play, as Lomax finds himself succumbing to all manner of temptation as he learns his new boss may not be who he says he is.
Reeves joins an ensemble cast in Richard Linklater's trippy rotoscoped sci-fi drama "A Scanner Darkly." Based on Philip K. Dick's 1977 novel, Reeves stars as Bob Arctor, an undercover agent whose addiction to substance D begins to warp his reality, leaving him to question his very existence. Starring alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson, Reeves is more than at home in this deeply weird and compelling adaptation.
Of all his roles, Reeves as Theodore "Ted" Logan alongside Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston, Esq. might be his most beloved. "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" is an infectious adventure through time, as valley numbskulls Bill and Ted are tasked with passing history or face dire consequences when they run into Rufus, a man with a time-traveling phone booth, who tells the dimwitted duo that they're the key to the future. Little about the film makes sense, but that never gets in the way of a good time as the excellent duo romps through time, collecting significant historical figures along the way.
Possibly Reeves' most challenging role, he stars alongside the late River Phoenix in Gus Van Sant's indie drama about a pair of young hustlers who hit the road on a long journey turning tricks with both sexes along the way to support their habits, reaching a dramatic climax that still haunts to this day. As an actor, Reeves may have been at his creative height here, and "Idaho" survives as a glimpse into a young actor who wanted more from his craft than maybe his talent could support.
What do you get when you mix cheese, surf and action? An instant classic. Reeves stars as Johnny Utah, a former college quarterback who trades in the pigskin for an FBI badge, hot on the trail of a group of bank robbers known as the "ex-presidents." During his investigation into a string of robberies, Utah befriends the enigmatic Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and his band of beach bums. As Utah gets closer to Bodhi and his friends, he careens nearer to danger, punctuated by a classic scene where Reeves rolls on the ground in frustration, firing his gun and giving us all an image never to forget.
Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch shocked filmgoers and action fans everywhere by reigniting Reeves' dormant career as an action hero and elevating him to god-level in "John Wick." Starring as a recently widowed former hitman who runs afoul of an arrogant gangster who appreciated Wick's Mustang a little too much and his dog not nearly enough, Wick is brought out of retirement to seek a gloriously violent revenge. Reeves transforms his trademark Zen into silent rage in a way that hypnotized audiences with gun play, leaving them begging for more.
In what could be considered the pinnacle of his career as an action star, Reeves trades his calm demeanor for that of the square-jawed hero in Jan De Bont's ridiculous but infectiously entertaining "Speed." Reeves stars as SWAT officer Jack Traven, called in to stop an out-of-control passenger bus that can't go under 50 mph lest it will explode, killing all on board. Traven faces off against an ex-cop turned mad bomber played by a fantastically maniacal Dennis Hopper while aided by a young Sandra Bullock as a passenger who becomes Traven's partner-in-need.
The only reason that the sequel to breakout hit "John Wick" is ranked higher than the original is that everything is simply bigger and better, with Reeves even more comfortable in the shoes of the titular boogey-hitman. Where the original established the mythic Wick as he goes on his kinetic campaign of revenge, "Chapter Two" raises the stakes by creating an entire world in which the killer elite roam and even more ground for Reeves to practice his near perfect gun play as Wick. It's a violent masterpiece that enjoys the rare distinction of a sequel being better than the original.
From the first time Agent Smith uttered the words "Mr. Andersonnnn" to the moment he realized he knew kung fu, Reeves had audiences locked in with his portrayal of virtual messiah Neo in the Wachowskis' groundbreaking sci-fi opus "The Matrix." Of all the ups and downs in his acting, no role defines Reeves' career like this film, and it's hard to say if there's a single movie in his filmography that's more beloved.