Keanu Reeves has maintained his career for over three decades. Starring in notable household named franchises such as The Matrix and Bill & Ted, Reeves has also sustained the title as the nicest man in Hollywood (a hard one to dethrone). Reeves’ influence in front of and behind the screen is second to none. As Reeves gets ready to star in The Matrix: Resurrections, DC’s League of Super-Pets, both BRZRKR projects, and John Wick‘s 4 and 5, we wanted to take a look back at some of his roles over the years.
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
My Own Private Idaho is special to me for several reasons. One of those reasons is that it was the last time Reeves would be seen on screen with his best friend, River Phoenix (the first would be a year previous in I Love You to Death). Reeves plays Scott Favor, a hustler determined to defy his father, who just so happens to be the mayor. Scott is loosely based on Henry IV from the Shakespearean era, a riveting rich kid set to inherit his father’s fortune. Midway through the film, Scott and Mike (Phoenix) are shown fireside airing out all their dilemmas, as friends do. When Mike confesses his feelings to Scott, Mike is brushed off when Scott replies, “two guys can’t love each other.”
Reeves’ performance in this scene alone is enough to break hearts in a matter of minutes every single time. Despite Scott being a complete jerk of a character, the movie was one of the first films to spark change in the New Queer Cinema movement, and rightfully so — it’s tragic yet beautiful all at once.
Long before there was John Wick, there was John Constantine. Reeves’ interpretation of the character is one of many, and he gave a solid performance as the demon slayer. The 2005 film is an adaptation of DC/Vertigo’s Hellblazer comics and offered an Americanized version of John Constantine. Although this aspect wasn’t met with the widest reception at the time, many now welcome the film with open arms (and are still campaigning for a sequel!). Francis Lawrence’s adaption followed Constantine (Reeves) who knew that when he eventually died, he would have a one-way ticket to hell.
The only way out of this is to earn enough goodwill to ascend to Heaven. Constantine soon finds himself in the middle of heaven and hell when he aids officer Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) in an investigation to help her find out more about her twin sister’s apparent suicide.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
The film that wasn’t supposed to be but was — Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and excellent it is. Reeves plays Ted Logan, a silly romancer who swiftly walks through life with rose-colored glasses. Although there are now three movies to the franchise, this is the first time viewers would be introduced to Bill’s better half. Excellent Adventure follows high school best friends Bill and Ted who are in a band together, Wyld Stallyns. They need to pass their oral history report, or they’ll fail so the people of the future enlist emissary Rufus to help. The two go through space and time to collect notable members of history to have them participate in their project and although that goes well, the two soon find out that they need to create the song that will save the universe as they know it.
This is one of Reeves’ earlier roles where he gets to be loose and silly. Although this role is worlds different than some of his more cut-throat action roles, he plays Ted convincingly, as aforementioned, Ted is more of an airhead, and that’s a trait not everyone can pull off so effortlessly.
Always Be My Maybe (2019)
So, we’ve established Reeves is a phenomenal actor, but couple that with him getting to play himself? I’m all in. Asian American representation as a whole in Hollywood is slim, so to see Reeves, of Chinese descent, star alongside other phenomenal actors and actresses who are also underrepresented, is an entirely important concept. In the 2019 Netflix comedy, Reeves takes jabs at his own career and mystique while also playing the lover of Sasha, played by Ali Wong. The chaos eventually ensues, though, and soon enough Marcus (Randall Park) is in a full-on brawl with Reeves.
His role may be short in the film, but those who have seen it won’t forget the hilarious cameo, and said appearance doesn’t take away anything from the plot — it enriches it and adds dimension to the countless number of films or television shows where celebrities play heightened versions of themselves.
River’s Edge (1986)
While most people know Reeves for his action films, he also plays another distinguished group very well — the angsty teen. Reeves plays Matt, the high school kid frustrated with life and the world, searching for a way out. Matt is extremely protective over his siblings, namely his sister because he doesn’t want them to feel the way he does, neglected and misunderstood by his peers. River’s Edge was Reeves’ breakout role as an actor, and much like his character, this film often goes overlooked.
It’s not a lighthearted film by any means. In fact, it’s loosely based on a true story. In 1981, a 16-year-old led a group of his friends to the body of a teenage girl he had strangled. Their reactions upon discovering her are what make it extra chilling.
Point Break (1991)
Upon first glance, one wouldn’t believe that gunfights and surfing go hand in hand … but they do. Reeves teams up with the iconic late Patrick Swayze, and if you ever wanted to know what a bromance looks like, look no further than Johnny and Bodhi. Point Break follows Johnny Utah, an undercover agent on a quest to infiltrate a gang of robbers to catch them. When Johnny begins spending more time with the surfer group, he falls for Tyler (Lori Petty), who is extremely close to the gang, and it begins to complicate the mission.
Swayze and Reeves work really well together on screen, especially in their action scenes. Instead of this being a film that explores the “bad guys versus good guy” rhetoric, the exploration more so follows the subculture and how that really messes with people’s heads. Their chemistry makes for a great piece of cinema. They achieved something not easily done between co-stars on set. Following a good plot, it is an action movie after all, and director Kathryn Bigelow proved that as it still holds up against other 90s heavy hitters and even the modern era. The film reinstates the belief that people are out to catch the wave of life hoping to find that endless ride.
Destination Wedding (2018)
Frank and Lindsay (Winona Ryder) meet at the airport ready to board their flight. Little do they know they’re not only going to the same place but they’re also going to the same wedding. They’d heard of each other before, as Frank is the half-brother of the groom, Keith, who was once engaged to Lindsay. When the annoyance wears off, events take place at the wedding, convincing Lindsay they are soulmates Frank believes love is basically pointless, telling her they can’t be together.
Reeves and Ryder have crossed paths on-screen multiple times over the year, most notably in 1992’s Dracula. Their dynamic is like a well-oiled machine. Reeves’ straight-to-the-point attitude with Ryder’s dry quips gives a new look at romantic comedies. The realistic approach is a reminder that not all love stories begin with love at first sight.