Top 10: Keanu Reeves Performances

Keanu Reeves looks to have quite a 2019. Sure, this week’s new release, “Replicas,” won’t exactly contend at next year’s Oscars. The film casts Reeves as Will Foster, a scientist (LOL…I know) who brings back his family after a car crash claims their lives. Perhaps touting “From the Producers of ‘Transformers’” isn’t the biggest vote of confidence. However, this January goofy thriller isn’t the only Reeves film to open in 2019. The third chapter of the John Wick franchise opens later this year. Additionally, Reeves joins the voice cast of “Toy Story 4,” due this summer. As we brace for a Keanu Reeves filled 2019, lets take a look back at his top 10 past performances.

10“Dangerous Liaisons” (1988)
dir. Stephen Frears

When one catches up on their 80s Best Picture nominees, they don’t expect to see Keanu Reeves pop up. However, Reeves makes his mark on “Dangerous Liaisons.” The Stephen Frears directed film plays each of its characters like devilish, scheming chess pieces. The film pairs Reeves with fellow then-newcomer Uma Thurman. Thurman plays Cécile de Volanges, a virginal bride who falls for Reeves’ Chevalier Raphael Danceny, who becomes her music teacher. Though their bond is carefully plotted by Glenn Close’s Marquise de Merteuil, Thurman and Reeves’ chemistry works well.

9“Much Ado About Nothing” (1991)
dir. Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy ranks among the best of his adaptations. It may not be as flashy as his other adaptation, but there’s an effortless fun that brims from every corner of the screen in every scene. On the surface, Reeves comes off as miscast as Don John, the villain of the piece. He appears to ignore the natural flow of the iambic pentameter. Reeves overplays so many of the motions. However, the piece is a party and Reeves fits strangely well in the loosey-goosey vibe of the piece. It’s an odd performance, but one I have a bit of fondness for.

8“Hardball” (2001)
dir. Brian Robbins

Cheesy? Yes. Affecting? Yes. Now hand me some tissue. “Hardball” is far from high art. However, its high pitched melodrama still works. Reeves headlines the drama as Conor O’Neill, a ne’er do well who spends his time gambling, drinking and other no good, very bad deeds. In order to get a loan from his friend, Conor agrees to coach an inner-city little league team. What happens is lots of personal growth, both on the part of the coach and the kids. The movie plays out exactly as one expects. However, Reeves’ connects really well with his young actors and sells the movie’s tearjerking finale.

7“Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989)
dir. Stephen Herek

Before “Dumb and Dumber” or “Wayne’s World,” Bill & Ted were the original Neanderthal buddy duo. Keanu Reeves’ Ted is the yin to Alex Winter’s Bill. In their first film adventure, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” Reeves and Winter form a unique buddy dynamic that people still quote today. Reeves monotone and dumbed expressions work like gangbusters, especially for a stoner audience. Even now, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is currently in pre-production. Even 30 years later, Bill and Ted live on.

6“Parenthood” (1989)
dir. Ron Howard

Reeves’ Tod is the most enduring of one of his most frequently occurring roles. No one plays the dumb boyfriend parents don’t approve of quite like Reeves. Tod possesses a sweet-heart, nerves of steel when it comes to drag racing, and even a smidge of emotional intelligence. Reeves gets plenty of great moments with both Martha Plimpton as his girlfriend Julie and Dianne Weist as her mother, Helen (Oscar-nominated for this performance). One of the particular best involves Tod explaining to Helen how to talk to her son (a young Joaquin Phoenix) about masturbation.

5“The Matrix” (1999)
dir. The Wachowski Siblings

The Wachowski Siblings genre-defying blockbuster probably sits as Reeves’ career-defining role. “The Matrix” broke new ground in terms of visual effects technology and the stories that blockbusters can tell. In many ways, “The Matrix” is about people acting as vessels. They are empty shells going about their day until disrupted by the forces that control their lives. Reeves’ Neo approaches this newfound woke-ness with a crusading energy that can only come from an action star. More than anything, Reeves evokes coolness as Neo. His walk, his costume, his essence has been parodied for almost two decades.

4“Something’s Gotta Give” (2003)
dir. Nancy Meyers

Keanu Reeves, like any one of us, found himself at home in a Nancy Meyers joint. He plays Julian Mercer, an attractive young doctor who begins a romance with playwright Erica Berry (played by Diane Keaton). Reeves strikes just the right note as a boy toy with substance. His chemistry with Keaton provides for lots of fun. In a movie with an ensemble that includes Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Frances McDormand and Amanda Peet, Reeves was never going to be the best in show. However, he adds just the right dose of youth and fun that enhances the already great film.

3“John Wick” (2013)
dir. Chad Stahelski

“John Wick” understands what makes Keanu Reeves such an odd, enticing actor. His blank slate makes him the perfect person for warped comedy. “John Wick” is an ultra-violent action flick where the title character mows down an endless stream of nameless bad guys. The reason? Someone killed his beloved dog. Reeves commits to the bit with great vigor. His John Wick treats every moment with grave severity. His heart was broken, so he’s out to break some bones. It’s a fascinatingly straight-faced action movie that, in turn, unearths the comic potential of the genre.

2“Point Break” (1991)
dir. Kathryn Bigelow

Keanu Reeves was made for “Point Break.” Or perhaps “Point Break” was made for him. (Let’s ignore the obvious, the movie was 100% made for Patrick Swayze.) The film casts him as Johnny Utah, a name that can only go to an actor of Reeves’ set of skills. Utah is a FBI agent, who goes undercover as a surfer to infiltrate a gang of bank robbing surfers. This easily is the most layered role of Reeves’ career. Still, Reeves forms a palpable, entertaining bond with Swayze’s Bodhi that makes for an incredibly re-watchable film. Future Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow knows how to maintain the movie’s specific tone, and uses Reeves appropriately.

1“Speed” (1994)
dir. Jan de Bont

“Speed” holds quite a special place in the canon of ridiculously fun 90s action thrillers. First, one can’t beat the high concept logline of the film. A bus cannot go below 55 mph or else it will explode. As Jack Traven, a police officer tasked to diffuse the bomb on the bus, Reeves finds a sort of lunkhead charisma. This pairs well with Sandra Bullock’s Annie, a woman with multiple speeding tickets whose forced to drive the bus. The film features all the elements that add up to a perfect use of Reeves as an actor. It’s an action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, features a great co-star to raise the bar and perfectly understands Reeves’ appeal. He’s a likable meathead who knows best how to deliver the most absurd of action lines.

What’s your favorite Keanu Reeves performance? Let us know in the comments below.