Neo. John Wick. Ted Logan. Has another actor played quite as many iconic characters as Keanu Reeves? He has a varied resume filled with hit after hit, and we've rounded up the very best Keanu Reeves movies ever.
It's a hard task to pick out just 20 brilliant Keanu Reeves films, but that's exactly what we've done. Our list has everything from an animated take on the war on drugs, to what happens if you have the literal Devil as your boss, to a time-traveling adventure – and characters that range from a villain in a Shakespearean romp, to Canada's greatest stuntman, to the underworld's most skilled assassin. There's enough below to plan a mega Reeves marathon ahead of his return as Neo in the upcoming The Matrix Resurrections. Scroll on to see our rundown of the best Keanu Reeves movies, ranked from least to most excellent. Party on, dudes!
20. Man of Tai Chi
Reeves' directorial debut, the 2013 martial arts actioner Man of Tai Chi. The film sees Tiger Hu Chen's young Tai Chi expert 'Tiger' Chen Lin Hu drawn into a mysterious underground fighting ring by Reeves' sinister Donaka Mark. Reeves proves himself to be as much of a talent behind the camera as he is in front, bringing his own considerable experience in the action genre to capturing some long, intricate, and excellently choreographed fight scenes.
While Man of Tai Chi's plot is a little predictable at times, it's a skillfully made ode to a genre Reeves loves. Here's hoping the actor hops back in the director's chair for another project sometime soon.
19. Johnny Mnemonic
Where to even begin with Johnny Mnemonic? Based on a William Gibson short story, this film takes place in a pandemic-ravaged 2021 (sound familiar?) where megacorporations rule the world, and so-called mnemonic couriers smuggle data from client to recipient with a special implant in their brains. Reeves' Johnny is one of these messengers and is tasked with delivering some very important data. The catch is, he's hugely overloaded his capacity, and if he doesn't get the information out ASAP, it will kill him. There's also the threat of the Yakuza on his trail, who are quite literally out for his head.
This film is wild from start to finish, and we'd be remiss not to include something on this list that's just so much fun. Come for Keanu Reeves, stay for Dolph Lundgren as an assassin dressed like Jesus, and a cybernetic, war veteran dolphin named Jones. Yes, you read all of that right.
Reeves' foray into the DC universe is a darkly unique entry in the superhero genre. John Constantine is a cynical, sarcastic fellow, grimly dispatching demons back to hell, investigating the arcane, and dealing with a terminal lung cancer diagnosis. Rachel Weisz co-stars as Angela Dodson, an LAPD detective whose twin sister recently died by suicide. Angela is convinced there's something else going on, though, and ends up working with Constantine to unravel a truly devilish plot.
The version of Constantine played by Reeves has very little in common with the one found in the pages of DC Comics, but there's much to love about this take on the character – particularly the dry sense of humor. Reeves has said he'd like to play Constantine again, so this might not be the last we see of him as the supernatural detective.
17. River's Edge
One of Reeves' earliest roles, this is a murky, grimy movie that doesn't really make for pleasant viewing – but does showcase Reeves' acting abilities. The film, released in 1986, focuses on a group of teenagers in high school. But John Hughes this ain't: one of them, Daniel Roebuck's Samson, has killed his girlfriend and left her body out in the open. The reaction to the awful crime varies from indifference to a frenzied Crispin Glover trying to protect Samson from the police (none of the teenagers seem to be that saddened by the murder of their friend). Dennis Hopper co-stars as drug dealer Feck, who gets caught up in the fallout.
As uncomfortable as this film is, Reeves is excellent as the troubled Matt, and his talent is clear even this early in his career.
16. The Devil's Advocate
Constantine isn’t Reeves' only tangle with the Devil. The actor played someone who worked for Satan back in 1997's The Devil's Advocate – yep, not just a difficult boss, but actual Lucifer himself. Reeves' Kevin Lomax is a hotshot young lawyer in Florida who has never lost a case in his life, poached to work at a New York law firm led by Al Pacino's John Milton. He and his wife Mary Ann, played by Charlize Theron, move out to the big city, and it all seems too good to be true – so naturally, it is too good to be true.
As great as Reeves is as the cocky young lawyer, Pacino runs away with the film. He's a delight as Milton, bringing all the theatrics the role deserves, knowing when to stay grounded and when to take his performance stratospheric. Though you might see some of The Devil's Advocate's revelations coming from the start, you're still going to enjoy watching those twists and turns unfold as Kevin's morality is repeatedly tested.
15. A Scanner Darkly
Reeves plays undercover cop Bob Arctor in this film based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, directed by Richard Linklater. A Scanner Darkly envisions the United States in the grip of a hallucinogenic drug called Substance D – Arctor, living among addicts to investigate the supply chain, becomes hooked on the reality-altering substance himself. Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder co-star.
A Scanner Darkly is far from a comfortable watch, but Reeves brilliantly captures Arctor's unnerving spiral into addiction, and the unique visual style is used to great effect as reality and hallucination blur (the animation process, completed after the film was shot in its entirety, took 18 months).
14. Much Ado About Nothing
If Denzel Washington, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, and Kate Beckinsale cavorting about in the sunshine wasn't enough, Much Ado About Nothing also boasts a glowering Keanu Reeves as Shakespeare's Don John.
Branagh directs a lively adaptation of the Bard's work that just bursts with joie de vivre, and Reeves nails the contrastingly dark and brooding nature of the villainous Don John. One of Shakespeare's comedies, the film focuses on two couples: Hero (Beckinsale) and Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), who scheme with Washington's Don Pedro to get their friends Beatrice (Thompson) and Benedick (Branagh) together. The catch is, Beatrice and Benedick can't stand each other, and Don John is busy plotting behind the scenes. The film is practically a who's who of formidable talent, with Michael Keaton, Brian Blessed, and Imelda Staunton also among the ensemble.
13. Bill & Ted Face the Music
Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Reeves) returned to us when we needed them most – the dark days of 2020. No other cinematic duo could have boosted our spirits quite like these two best friends returning for another adventure, this time with their daughters Kelly (Kristen Schaal) and Thea (Samara Weaving) along for the ride. While their daughters travel through time to unite famous faces throughout history for an epic, show-stopping song that will save the universe, Bill and Ted visit strange (and hilarious) versions of themselves in the future to try and steal the all important tune from themselves.
The pure and wonderful message of unity and rocking out couldn't have been more needed when Bill & Ted Face the Music released, and even in brighter times it remains a film that doesn't so much boost your spirits as blast them into space.
Parenthood is a warm comedy about the ups and downs of family life, with a massive cast that includes Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, and Rick Moranis. It's a funny but profound exploration of what it means to be a parent, as well as what it means to be married, told through a look at one big – but not always happy – family.
Reeves has a small part in the film but makes a big impression. As the teenage boyfriend of Martha Plimpton's Julie, he brings comic relief in spades – as well as a particularly moving moment with Dianne Wiest's Helen, reflecting on the importance of father figures. He also shares the screen with a young Joaquin Phoenix (who went by Leaf at the time).
11. The Matrix Reloaded
Reeves donned the black sunglasses once again in 2003's The Matrix Reloaded. This time around, Neo has come into his powers as the One, and it's nothing short of exhilarating to watch him take on countless Agent Smiths, stop a hail of bullets with one outstretched hand and a completely unfazed expression, and literally fly to his friend's rescue during that epic highway chase.
Alright, that scene with the Architect is very confusing, but once you've figured out what's going on, it's actually a fascinating inversion of the classic Chosen One trope. There's maybe too much of Zion (but then again, it is a reminder of what exactly Neo and co. are fighting for), and it doesn't quite reach the dizzying heights of the original movie, but The Matrix Reloaded is another thrilling, fun, and just plain cool entry in the franchise.
Reeves plays NYPD officer Jack Traven in this high-octane thriller, which has a very simple premise: Traven is trapped on a bus that can't go below 50 miles an hour, or it'll explode. Sandra Bullock co-stars as Annie, who gets stuck driving the bus, while Jeff Daniels plays Traven's partner Harry, and Dennis Hopper is the explosion-obsessed mastermind behind the whole ordeal.
If you thought watching a bus drive around for nearly two hours would be boring, think again. Each near-miss and twist will get your heart rocketing up to your mouth. Plus, Traven and Annie are both so likeable that you're not only rooting for them to survive, but also for them to get their happy ending together.
9. John Wick 3
Any fears that the Wick franchise would start getting stale were put to rest by John Wick 3, which plunged straight back into pulse-pounding action with that library fight – if you thought a pencil was an impressive enough murder weapon, wait till you see what Wick can do with a book. And, of course, there are guns. Lots of guns.
The third movie once again ups the ante and the world building of the universe. It's edged out by the second movie on our list purely because that film had such an intense game of cat-and-mouse that it just slides in ahead of John Wick 3. But that isn't to say this film is a step down. Once again, we learn more about the strange underworld the assassins inhabit, see Wick fighting for his life, and are primed for an explosive sequel.
8. John Wick 2
It's a John Wick double bill, because both sequels are so great it's impossible to split them apart. This film expands the universe by taking Reeves' titular assassin on an adventure to Italy. He's compelled to re-enter the criminal underworld by a bargain made years before with Riccardo Scamarcio's coldly ambitious crime boss Santino D'Antonio, and things quickly spiral out of control, leaving John once again ensnared in the underworld.
Common co-stars as assassin Cassian, while Ruby Rose plays D'Antonio's bodyguard Ares, and there's a mini Matrix reunion with Laurence Fishburne entering the Wick-verse as the Bowery King. Just like its predecessor, John Wick 2 has all the heart-stopping and inventive action you could want (just look at Wick dispatching adversaries in the hall of mirrors), and on a larger scale this time round.
7. Toy Story 4
Who doesn't want to see Keanu Reeves as Canada's greatest stuntman? In the fourth Toy Story movie, he plays Duke Caboom, a toy version of just that. He's suffering from a crisis of confidence, because he can't quite live up to the daring jump promised in the commercial – and was abandoned by his kid as a result.
Toy Story 4 is beautifully animated with a moving storyline that justifies re-visiting this world for a fourth time, and is unlikely to ever leave a dry eye in the house. Reeves' wonderfully impassioned performance as Duke Caboom is one of the film's highlights, and is as funny as it is a joyful lesson on self-esteem. Yes we Canada!
6. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
A most bodacious entry on our list, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a blast from start to finish. Reeves plays Theodore 'Ted' Logan while Alex Winter is Bill S. Preston, Esq., both the sole members of the band Wyld Stallyns. They're also very important to the future of the human race, but they're in danger of bombing a big history report – which means Ted could end up in military school, splitting him apart from his best buddy Bill. Rufus (George Carlin) arrives from the future with a time-travelling phone booth, so the duo can collect some famous figures, finish their report, and remain inseparable.
Bill and Ted's adventure through the past isn't just hysterical, it's also incredibly wholesome. The entire film can be summed up with one of its most enduring (and endearing) quotes: "Be excellent to each other… and party on dudes!"
5. Bram Stoker's Dracula
A few years before The Devil's Advocate, Reeves played another young lawyer: Jonathan Harker in Francis Ford Coppola's take on Dracula. Reeves is part of a stacked cast that includes Winona Ryder as Mina Murray, Richard E. Grant as Dr. Seward, Cary Elwes as Arthur Holmwood, Monica Bellucci as one of Dracula's Brides, Anthony Hopkins as vampire hunter Van Helsing, and Gary Oldman as the titular bloodsucker himself.
While Reeves' English accent isn't strictly up to scratch, it's easily (mostly) forgiven when the rest of the film is so macabrely brilliant. Bram Stoker's Dracula is an intense retelling of the famous gothic tale, unafraid to be lavishly excessive and deeply unnerving. Every inch of this film is darkly enchanting, from Jonathan's nightmarish stay in Castle Dracula to Mina and Dracula's strange courtship.
4. John Wick
Nobody sees John Wick coming, and that couldn't be more true of the original film itself. Nothing about the unassuming title suggests you're about to see an all-timer of an action movie, with gloriously long takes, exceptionally choreographed fights, and fascinating, immersive world building.
Reeves plays the titular John, a former hitman still feared by the entire criminal underworld, who retired to be with his wife. When she dies, she leaves him a dog for companionship. But Alfie Allen's Iosef Tarasov, the cocky young son of John's former employer, brings the full force of Wick's considerable wrath on his head when he breaks into the hitman's house and kills his dog. Cue a stylish, slick, and oh so satisfying revenge story that thrills for every second of its 90 minute runtime.
3. Point Break
Patrick Swayze. Keanu Reeves. Surfing bank robbers. Need we say more? The action-packed Point Break follows Reeves' Johnny Utah, a newly minted FBI agent on the hunt for the Ex–Presidents, a group of bank robbers who wear masks of – you guessed it – former US presidents to carry out their heists.
But Kathryn Bigelow's take on the genre is far from a testosterone-fuelled shoot 'em up: at the heart of the film is the compelling relationship between Johnny and Swayze's Bodhi, the figurehead of the Dead Presidents. To see how complicated that bond becomes, just look at that incredible chase sequence that ends with Johnny shooting the sky and screaming in frustration that he couldn't bring himself to shoot at Bodhi, or that breath-taking skydiving scene that sees agent and criminal soaring through the air together.
2. My Own Private Idaho
Tender, heartbreaking, and utterly spellbinding, My Own Private Idaho follows the late River Phoenix's Mike Waters, a street hustler with narcolepsy. Reeves co-stars as Scott Favor, who is working the streets to avoid his wealthy family – and who Mike is in (unrequited) love with. The duo eventually embark on a road trip to find Mike's mother, which leads them to Idaho and Rome.
Phoenix brings an aching vulnerability to Mikey, while Reeves adeptly plays the complexities of Scott: in turns lively as he holds court among his fellow hustlers, deeply caring in the way he takes care of Mike, and cold and remote when it comes to his family. The film, loosely based on Henry IV, is infused with a sense of inescapable melancholy, not least because Phoenix died just two years after the film's release.
1. The Matrix
And here it is – number one (or should that be the One?) on our list is none other than The Matrix. The Wachowski's bold vision blew audiences away when it debuted in 1999, and more than holds up today. Reeves plays Neo, a computer programmer who discovers reality is not all that it seems, with the help of Laurence Fishburne's Morpheus, Carrie Anne-Moss' Trinity, and a red pill.
With innovative, mind-bending action sequences, deft handling of tricky concepts like fate and the very nature of reality, and one of Reeves' best ever performances, there's really no other choice for the top spot. The Matrix has left a huge mark on pop culture, and you need look no further than Neo's prolonged subway fight, frantic chase sequence, and final showdown with Hugo Weaving's Agent Smith to understand why this film is so groundbreaking. Whoa indeed.
Before The Matrix Resurrections, get up to speed on the franchise with our ultimate Matrix recap.