Keanu Reeves is something of a rarity in Hollywood. He has enjoyed an acting career that has spanned over three decades, including several acclaimed blockbuster franchises, juxtaposed with smaller roles in interesting and quirky independent projects. Yet, he is one of those actors that seems to divide opinion. Some critics and fans love his work, and feel his particular brand of laid back charisma and laconic delivery is perfect for his movies. Others feel that he is capable of being extremely wooden on film, with little emotional range and deadpan delivery.
In truth, it's likely that none of these people are wrong about Keanu. He is all of those things, and more. But over the course of his career, his diverse roles have yielded some truly incredible films and he has been excellent in quite a number of them, so perhaps that's enough to outweigh his various misfires.
He is currently enjoying something of a renaissance, thanks to his role as a certain taciturn gun-toting hitman, and has another two films scheduled for release in 2017. He is also starring in a TV miniseries entitled Rain...as an assassin. Well, if it works for him!
This quiz spans the length and breadth of Keanu's storied career, from his many high points to his equally plentiful low points. How many of his movies will you be able to identify simply by looking at a picture?
This 2014 action film became a sleeper hit
By the time 2014 rolled around, Keanu Reeves hadn't had a bona fide box-office hit in years. A few attempts at blockbuster franchises had been received poorly and had failed to become sufficiently profitable to garner any talk of sequels. And then he starred in a mid-budget action film, with a generic title, a modest advertising campaign and a plot that sounded fairly thin. And it turned out to be awesome! This was arguably the best pure action film to come out of Hollywood in half a decade, and audiences responded so well that it did indeed get a sequel in February 2017.
The pitch for this 1989 sci-fi buddy comedy is weird, to say the least. We follow two amiable teenage slackers as they travel through time, inside a phone box, in order to assemble a group of historical figures that will help them pass their history presentation. In the end, the bizarre blend of stoner comedy and high school history lesson was a beautiful combination, and this became an undisputed cult classic. It's extremely quotable, as well, and features two of the most likeable leads in comedy history.
This 2005 comic-book action horror movie was controversial amongst fans
For our money, this is one of Keanu's most underrated movies, and it always bummed us out that it never got a sequel (despite doing pretty good business at the box-office). Based on a beloved comic book, Keanu plays a world-weary occult detective who tries to help a police detective (Rachel Weisz) learn the truth of her twin sister's death. They wind up uncovering a much bigger plot involving the duelling forces of heaven and hell. And Keanu gets to shoot demons with a badass crossbow gun!
Keanu romanced Diane Keaton in this charming romcom
In 2003, Keanu starred as Diane Keaton's much younger lover in this Nancy Meyers-directed romantic comedy, which also starred Jack Nicholson, Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand. The movie was a big hit worldwide, and Keaton even garnered an Academy Award nomination for her performance. Keanu starred as Julian, Nicholson's 36-year-old doctor, who falls for Keaton's Erica, the mother of the young woman (Peet) that 63-year-old Nicholson is dating. Eventually, Nicholson and Keaton realize they love each other, meaning Keanu loses his lady to a man nearly 30 years older than him! Poor Keanu.
This 2013 flop took Keanu to feudal Japan
You remember when, in the entry for John Wick, we said that Keanu hadn't had a box-office hit in years? Well, this 2013 misfire was one of his attempts at box-office glory that went sideways. To the tune of a loss of around 150 million dollars for the Universal film studio. Yikes. Here, Keanu plays Kai, a half-Japanese half-English outcast who leads a group of warriors on a mission to avenge the death of their lord. All while fighting witches and giants!
'Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus...'
Over the course of his career, which has spanned more than 30 years, Keanu Reeves has starred in a handful of stone cold action movie classics. This is one of them. The plot is so simple that it's perfect. A madman has rigged a city bus with a bomb that is programmed to explode should the bus slow down below 50 miles per hour. Keanu plays Jack Traven, the LAPD cop tasked with saving the civilians on the bus, while he and his colleagues also try to figure out who the terrorist is and where he is operating from.
This weird sci-fi movie used groundbreaking rotoscope animation techniques
This 2006 sci-fi thriller is one of the oddest entries on Keanu's CV, but it's arguably one of his best. It co-starred Robert Downey Jr, Woody Harrelson and Wynona Ryder. Based on a novel by Philip K. Dick (whose stories were adapted into movies like Total Recall and Blade Runner), the movie was filmed in live-action by director Richard Linklater (School Of Rock), and then animators traced over every frame of footage using a revolutionary animation technique known as 'interpolated rotoscope'.
This 90's legal drama had a supernatural spin to it
In this 1997 legal drama, based on a novel by Andrew Neiderman, Keanu plays hotshot lawyer Kevin Lomax. He is a defence lawyer who has never lost a case, and at the beginning of the movie he secures a 'Not Guilty' verdict for a child molesting client, even though he knows the man is guilty. Not cool, Keanu. He is then hired by a prestigious New York City law firm, and forms a relationship with his boss John Milton (Al Pacino)...who is actually the Devil himself. Yep. Satan!
This literary horror movie features one of Keanu's worst performances
We're back in literary horror territory in this film, which features, for our money, Keanu's worst screen performance. Based on a classic 1897 Gothic horror novel, the movie was directed by Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and starred Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins and Winona Ryder. Keanu played Jonathan Harker, and his performance as the posh English lawyer has been widely derided. He was described as out of his depth, and his acting was routinely blown away by Oldman and Hopkins. Oh dear.
This stone cold classic 1999 sci-fi action movie changed everything
"So, what do you need? Besides a miracle?" "Guns. Lots of guns." That was just one of the iconic moments in this sci-fi action spectacular, that took the world by storm in 1999 and changed the course of blockbuster filmmaking. Directed by the Wachowski siblings (Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas), and co-starring Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving, this movie gave Keanu his third classic action movie, and spawned a lucrative franchise. The story and the high-concept ideas at the heart of the movie were the driving force of the narrative. But when coupled with some truly breathtaking action and groundbreaking SFX, it's easy to see why people lost their minds for it.
This 1991 indie drama paired Keanu with the late River Phoenix
In this low-budget 1991 indie drama, Keanu starred alongside the late great River Phoenix (Stand By Me). Directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting), this movie told the story of Mike and Scott, two friends who embark on a journey of self-discovery that takes them to Mike's hometown in Iowa, and then on a search for Mike's mother in Italy. Phoenix was widely acclaimed for his performance as Mike, a gay street hustler, and won Best Actor awards from the Independent Spirit Awards and National Society Of Film Critics.
This comedy sequel was most excellent
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was a big hit in 1989, and a sequel was quickly put into production. Released in 1991, the sequel wasn't as well-received as the original, but has since gone on to become something of a cult classic. Probably because Bill and Ted are murdered by evil robot versions of themselves in it, and then end up playing Twister and Battleship with Death whenever he tries to claim their souls. Critic Roger Ebert was quoted as saying he wound up 'admiring the originality that went into creating this hallucinatory slapstick'. We agree with him!
Keanu has a small, but memorably despicable, role in this Sam Raimi thriller
This supernatural thriller was released in 2000, and was directed by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man). It starred Cate Blanchett as a fortune-teller, with strong extrasensory perception, who becomes involved in a murder case due to her keen psychic knowledge of the crime. Keanu played Donnie Barksdale, the violent husband on one of Blanchett's clients (played by Hilary Swank). Donnie is the prime suspect for the murder of Jessica King (Katie Holmes), the fiance of a local schoolteacher (Greg Kinnear).
This time-travelling romantic drama reunited Keanu and Sandra Bullock
In 2006, Keanu reunited with his Speed co-star Sandra Bullock in a time-travelling romantic drama, which was a remake of an acclaimed South Korean film from 2000. The plot centred on two lovers who are separated by two years, but who manage to correspond with each other via letters left in the mailbox of a property they both lived in at different times. Critics accused the film of, well, not making any sense, no matter which way you sliced it. But it went down a treat with audiences, who were won over by the romance of it all!
This mid-90's virtual reality sci-fi was a dud
In 1995, Keanu starred in a cyberpunk sci-fi movie which dealt with concepts of virtual reality. He played a man with a cybernetic implant in his head that could store information. The movie was based on a story by legendary sci-fi author William Gibson. It's well known that the Wachowski siblings were influenced heavily by Gibson's work when they were crafting The Matrix, and the characters of Neo and Trinity are similar to characters in Gibson's Sprawl trilogy. And who played Neo in The Matrix, four years after he ALSO starred in this film? Keanu, of course!
This 2008 sci-fi remake cast Keanu as an emotionless alien
Many critics of Keanu's work over the years had a field day when they realized he was playing an (intentionally) emotionless and cold alien being in this remake of a 1951 sci-fi classic. There were a lot of snide and snarky asides thrown his way here, but we reckon his performance is perfect for the role, and the movie is pretty underrated overall. The movie co-starred Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler and Jaden Smith, and was directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Doctor Strange).
This sexy 1988 costume drama paired Keanu with Uma Thurman
In 1988, a then-unknown Keanu nabbed a supporting role in this prestige historical drama, based on a classic 18th Century French novel and the subsequent adaptation into a play by Christopher Hampton. The marquee stars were John Malkovich, Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer and the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Keanu made a big impression on audiences as Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny, alongside another newcomer who would go on to become a big star, Uma Thurman, who played the naive Cecile.
The world awaited this sci-fi sequel with baited breath
In 1999, The Matrix blew audiences away all over the world, and revolutionized blockbuster cinema. Naturally, the studio wanted a sequel, as they realized they had a cash-cow on their hands. Therefore, 2003 became the year of The Matrix. Two sequels were filmed back to back, with one being released in May and the follow-up in November. A collection of nine animated shorts and a video game were also released. Sadly, the sequels were largely disappointing (though they made a truckload of money). This picture is from the first sequel...
Keanu is victimised by two young women in this Eli Roth thriller
In 2015, Keanu collaborated with Eli Roth, writer/director of horror movies such as the Hostel and Cabin Fever franchises. The movie was a remake of a 1977 horror film entitled Death Game (although very few people would have been aware it was a remake). Keanu played Evan, a happily married man with the house to himself for a weekend, who answers the door to two beautiful young women named Genesis and Bel. They then proceed to torture him psychologically, sexually and physically.
Surfing bank robbers and Keanu as the FBI Agent on their tails. Classic 90's action.
Keanu's first modern classic action movie came in 1991, when he starred alongside Patrick Swayze in a story concerning a string of bank robberies that may have been committed by a gang of surfers. Keanu was FBI Agent Johnny Utah, who goes undercover amongst the surfing community and forms a complex relationship with Swayze's Bodhi, the leader of the gang. The movie was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who would go on to direct such stellar films as The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.
This 1993 drama cast Keanu as an Ancient Indian...
In this Italian/French/British drama, Keanu played Prince Siddhartha, a member of ancient Nepalese royalty. Which is pretty different from his other recent roles of a dim-witted stoner wannabe rockstar, and a surfing FBI Agent! See? Keanu has range. The film was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci (The Last Emperor, Last Tango In Paris), and co-starred Bridget Fonda and Chris Isaak, the rock n' roll musician who was criticized for his performance. He was even nominated for a Golden Raspberry award. Poor guy.
This 1996 sci-fi action movie paired Keanu with Morgan Freeman
The mid-90's were a rough period for Keanu on-screen, and this 1996 actioner was one of his many duds. Starring alongside Morgan Freeman and Rachel Weisz, Keanu played Eddie Kasalivich, a machinist working on a project at the University Of Chicago to create a new non-contaminating power source. He is forced to go on the run with co-worker Lily Sinclair (Weisz) after he is framed for the murder of his boss, and is tracked by sinister US government agents who want to prevent the spreading of the new technology.
Keanu played a deeply corrupt cop in this crime drama
This star-studded gritty crime thriller was released in 2008 and was directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad, Fury). Keanu took the main role of Tom Ludlow, a disillusioned LAPD Vice Detective, and his co-stars included Chris Evans, Hugh Laurie, Forest Whitaker, Naomi Harris and Common (who would later go on to star with Keanu again in John Wick: Chapter 2). The film's screenplay was initially titled The Night Watchman, and was written by legendary crime author James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia)!
Keanu...the serial killer?!
In the year 2000, Keanu played a terrifying serial killer, nicknamed The Watcher, who stalked and taunted a retired FBI Agent who had failed to catch him. The FBI Agent was played by James Spader (who we know these days as the dynamic criminal Red Reddington at the heart of NBC's The Blacklist). Marisa Tomei co-starred as his love interest. Unfortunately, The Watcher turned out to be, well, not very terrifying. In fact, the movie was panned by critics, and Keanu received yet another Razzie nomination.
This Key & Peele comedy features Keanu in a big way...
Okay, so Keanu's involvement in this one is less obvious than many of his other starring roles. But he is in the film, for sure! Hilarious sketch comedy duo Key & Peele wrote and starred in dual roles in this action comedy, which was released in 2016. Jordan Peele (who would go on to write and direct 2017's smash-hit horror movie Get Out) played Rell, a man who is dumped by his girlfriend but then finds an impossibly cute kitten on his doorstep and takes a liking to it. The cat is then kidnapped by drug dealers, and Rell and his best friend Clarence go on an amusing mission to rescue his beloved pet.