Keanu Reeves has had a successful and extremely varied career in Hollywood with John Wick: Chapter 4 serving as a standout role in 2023. After some small roles in TV shows and TV movies in the early 1980s, Reeves caught the attention of moviegoers and critics alike with his powerful performance in Rivers Edge in 1986. Since then, some of his best roles in movies have gone on to become major box office successes.
While many actors slow down as they age, and veer into less physically demanding roles like comedies and dramas, Keanu has done quite the opposite. In 2014, Reeves shocked the world and re-positioned himself as perhaps the biggest action star in the world. A handful of his movies have gone on to become critically acclaimed, box office smashes and turned into some of the most successful franchises ever made. Here are six of the best Keanu Reeves roles in movies.
1. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was the role that shot Reeves into fame. The movie follows two young rockers on the brink of failing high-school. When the two hapless teens are coincidentally approached by a time machine, they have the opportunity to form the ultimate history presentation. The movie was a big success and went on to build a huge cult following that still grows year by year.
Two sequels and a brief animated series followed on from the original picture, and it influenced a sub-genre of teen movie. Bill and Ted put slacking rockers at the forefront of teen comedy movies and switched the tables on these types of characters. Up to this point, rocker characters were always painted as losers or even evil types, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure turned this on its head and arguably created two of the most well-liked comedy duos in cinema.
2. Point Break (1991)
Following on from a Bill and Ted sequel (Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey), Keanu Reeves was on moviegoers mind as the next big thing in comedy. However, he took on a role that shot him in another direction and showed off his tremendous versatility. Point Break was an action extravaganza from director Kathryn Bigelow, and follows an FBI Agent who goes undercover and infiltrates a gang of surfers who may be dangerous bank robbers.
Reeves starred opposite Patrick Swayze, who was also on his own path to superstardom following on from the massive success of Dirty Dancing and Oscar winning picture, Ghost. The movie reinvented the undercover cop drama, by creating one of the original “bromances” in cinema history. It also boasted what is regarded as one of the most exhilarating action scenes ever caught on film, in the thrilling skydive sequence.
3. Speed (1994)
Speed is highly regarded as one of the best action movies ever made. It is one of the original contained thrillers in cinema and influenced many copycat movies after its release, spawning a whole new genre. While Keanu had already proved himself as an action hero to watch out for, Speed cemented him further as one of the true action greats of Hollywood.
The movie of a bus that will explode if it drops below 50 mph was a smash hit and shot Keanu into a whole new realm of fame. His frenetic energy in the movie was unmatched and his chemistry between Sandra Bullock showed that he could handle dramatic weight with ease. It was a seismic role that he had clearly been preparing himself for since his break into Hollywood, and it only served as a boosting board for bigger things.
4. The Matrix (1999)
In 1999, The Wachowski sisters revolutionized how action movies were made and delivered a truly unique piece of cinematic history. The Matrix follows Neo (Reeves), a computer hacker who is led into a forbidden underworld where he discovers that the life he knows is an elaborate deception of a powerful cyber-intelligence. Keanu carried the huge weight of the movie and still delivered a stellar performance.
The Matrix was unlike anything that had ever been done before in cinema. Its massive budget, unprecedented stunts and effects, and its awe-inspiring mind-bending plot, served as a propeller to become one of the most successful movies ever made. The Matrix spawned three sequels and an Anime spin-off that delves deep into the complex world of The Matrix. The popular franchise proved that Reeves was one of Hollywood’s strongest leading men, and he didn’t intend on going anywhere anytime soon.
5. John Wick (2014)
At 49 years of age, Keanu Reeves took on the biggest challenge of his career and played John Wick, a hard as nails, highly-trained, world class killer. After retiring from his deadly profession, Wick is thrust back into the ultra-violent world when he exacts revenge against the man that killed his puppy. But it wasn’t just any puppy, it was the last gift Wick received from his late wife. This sets off a chain of events that sends Wick on a killing spree of epic proportions.
Keanu pushed himself to new levels for John Wick, training in many forms of combat sports and martial arts, and learned how to handle and shoot a massive selection of firearms. His showcase of a grieving man, filled with intense rage is a heartbreaking rendition for his impressive portfolio. However, it’s the physical aspects of the role where Reeves really impresses.
John Wick has some of the most innovative and dazzling action sequences in cinema history, coining its own genre, “Gun-Fu”. It has gone on to become one of the most successful franchises ever, with 3 sequels to date and another on the way. It has proven that Keanu clearly has no desire to slow down, and he will keep pushing himself above and beyond. Keanu Reeves‘ rise to superstardom has tied in directly with some of the most memorable moments in cinema and positioned him as a true Hollywood great.
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