Keanu Reeves has been a star for something like 30 years now. In that time, he’s appeared in many, many movies. He’s been in action movies and comedies and dramas. He’s traveled through time and through planes of reality and through Los Angeles on a speeding bus. He’s killed Russian mobsters and infiltrated surf-based criminal organizations and battled demons from hell who are occasionally played by Al Pacino. The man has had a full career so far and, with the ascendance of the John Wick franchise, it shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.
What we’ve done here is take a look back at this career of his. Three of our Keanu-loving staffers — Brian Grubb, Josh Kurp, and Kimberly Ricci — dug through his filmography to identify his 15 best films and then attempted to rank those selections. It got ugly. No one killed a dog, though. Thank God. We all know how that ends.
15. The Replacements
The Replacements is one of those movies that I never considered seeing in the theater for even one second but have now somehow seen over 10 times on cable anyway. It’s an almost perfect “Saturday afternoon on TBS movie,” which was a very important genre before Netflix existed and is still surprisingly resilient in 2019. Keanu plays Shane Falco, a former star college quarterback whose professional prospects went in the tank after a disastrous performance in a bowl game but gets a second chance when a work stoppage opens up some roster spots. For those keeping score, this is the second movie in which Keanu plays a former star college quarterback, with the other being Johnny Utah in Point Break. Both played at Ohio State. This is fascinating to me on a number of levels. It’s fun to pretend all of his characters played quarterback for Ohio State. Do it while you’re reading this list.
Anyway, The Replacements is perfectly fine and very rewatchable and you could do worse on a boring Saturday afternoon. — Brian Grubb
14. A Scanner Darkly
The inventive visuals of this film introduced the public at large to the magic of rotoscoping. Yet that arguable gimmick — er, make that Richard Linklater’s experimental ways while adapting the Philip K. Dick novel — is only part of the attraction. There’s that captivating “vague blur” at the center of this existentially obsessed story, where identities morph and take Keanu into the void. As an actor, he’s game as hell to take the dive into drug addiction and lost identity, and the surreal and paranoid vibe of this film is further fed by Keanu’s voice pulsating through painted animation that feels almost like a mask over reality. The overall effect fuels a sense of paranoia that’s bolstered by an unbeatable supporting cast (Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr., and Woody Harrelson), all of which leads to possibly the most faithful adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel in cinematic history. It’s just plain trippy, man, and this movie’s a good one to revisit if one needs to be reminded that Keanu’s not simply a dude or a big-budget action star, although he’s definitely both those things, too. — Kimberly Ricci
Parenthood is probably better known at this point for the TV series that ran on NBC for six seasons. But don’t sleep on the movie: it’s a charming ensemble comedy starring Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Rick Moranis, Tom Hulce, Dianne Wiest, Martha Plimpton, Jason Robards, a young Joaquin Phoenix… the cast is so loaded that Keanu Reeves (who was coming off Dangerous Liaisons and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) is billed fifth on the poster. Fifth! He had an uphill climb to stand out in the Ron Howard-directed movie, but he succeeded by looking like every parent’s worst nightmare — I would be uneasy if my daughter or son dated someone with that haircut — while showcasing beneath-the-surface depth. As Julie’s racecar-driving husband Tod, he tells Mrs. Buchman that you can buy a license to buy a dog or catch a fish, but “they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father,” and of course there’s his advice to Garry about masturbation: “I told him that’s what little dudes do.” We should all want a Tod in the family. — Josh Kurp