It’s hard to find a movie star with a more varied career than Keanu Reeves, who found himself struggling over the years to break free from being typecast as a ditzy but good-natured flake. But with three successful original franchises under his belt, Reeves has proven himself to be a force in the business, whether he’s a cyber-superhero, a time-traveling teen, or the most lethal hitman in the world
To celebrate Keanu Reeves, we’ve picked out his 15 best movies, ranging from early ’80s efforts like River’s Edge to action classics like Point Break, Speed, and The Matrix. Let’s dig into Keanu’s catalogue and find the best of the best.
15. The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
Where to Watch: Tubi (w/ ads), or rentable on most platforms.
The Devil’s Advocate is a strange sort of hybrid film. It’s part John Grisham-style legal drama, part supernatural horror film, part psychological character study, and part homage to Paradise Lost. But it was a mix that mostly worked, resulting in one of the more unique bullet points on Reeves’ resume. He starred here as Kevin Lomax, a gifted attorney with no qualms about defending clearly guilty clients. An invitation to join a prestigious New York law firm leads to serious temptation when Lomax discovers that one of its partners, John Milton (Al Pacino), is actually Satan.
14. Constantine (2005)
Where to Watch: HBO Max, Peacock Premium, or rentable on most platforms.
From working for a demon to waging war agaisnt them, Reeves would star as John Constantine, an exorcist/demon hunter reluctantly caught up in the ongoing war between angels and demons on Earth. As far as comic book adaptations go, Constantine isn’t all that well-regarded, but ignoring the fact that it’s not a great adaptation of DC’s Hellblazer comics, Constantine is actually a pretty solid supernatural action flick. The movie borrowed from the seminal storyline “Dangerous Habits” in how it used Constantine’s terminal lung cancer as the driving force in his quest to cheat his demonic foes and avoid eternal damnation.
13. The Matrix: Reloaded (2003)
Where to Watch: HBO Max, or rentable on most platforms.
Keanu Reeves and crew returned for this blockbuster Matrix sequel which featured a flying Neo, a freeway chase sequence (that still stands as the best action scene in any Matrix movie), and a crazy Zion dance party (okay, that part’s kind of dumb). The Matrix: Reloaded wasn’t the instant classic the first film was, as the cyber-mythos began to take over and drag the saga down a bit, but this was still one of the biggest outings of Reeves’ career.
12. Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, Epix, or rentable on most platforms.
Bill & Ted stars Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter returned for this sweet, silly decades-later sequel — the third film in the franchise. The story follows the beloved San Dimas wannabe rockers as they work to figure out, after years and years, why they haven’t saved the world with their music like they were told they would. Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine also star, as Thea and Billie — Bill and Ted’s daughters, respectively — in one of the rare long-awaited follow ups that gets it right.
11. Parenthood (1989)
Where to Watch: Rentable on most platforms.
This 1989 Ron Howard movie — that would later get loosely adapted into a successful NBC drama series (after one failed attempt in 1990) — was an ensemble comedy starring Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Rick Moranis, Dianne Wiest, and more in a story about the foibles of family. This wasn’t a starring vehicle for Keanu Reeves but he was a part of the mix, playing the endearing “Ted”-style husband of Martha Plimpton’s character. It marked an important era when Reeves had solid supporting roles in big-name projects.
10. Always Be My Maybe (2019)
Where to Watch: Netflix
Speaking of solid supporting roles, Reeves played a gentle parody of himself, or at least of Hollywood types, in splendid rom-com Always Be My Maybe. As the brief boyfriend of Ali Wong’s character, Sasha — featuring a double date that was pretentious enough to throw Randall Park’s Marcus into a jealous tizzy — Reeves was a scene-stealer.
For more films from Netflix, check out our list of the best movies on Netflix right now.
9. Toy Story 4 (2019)
Where to Watch: Disney+, or rentable on most platforms.
Reeves joined the Toy Story saga in the franchise’s fourth (and so far, final) film, voicing Duke Caboom – an amiable Canadian daredevil with a white outfit, modeled after the 1975 Evel Knievel Rally Stunt Cycle toy. Reeves seemlessly slipped into the series and felt at home amongst the Toy Story favorites to help make it one of the best Pixar movies.
8. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Where to Watch: Paramount+, or rentable on most platforms.
To be fair, Keanu Reeves took it on the chin for his performace as Jonathan Harker in Francis Ford Coppola’s lavish, ghoulish 1992 Dracula film. Treading water a little bit opposite Gary Oldman, who was effortlessly chewing up the scenery around him, Reeves felt slight in the midst of Oldman and Sir Anthony Hopkins. The film itself isn’t hindered by any of this, though, and is still considered one of the best entries in early-90s prestige horror.
7. River’s Edge (1986)
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video, Hoopla, Tubi (w/ ads), or rentable on Amazon and Apple TV.
River’s Edge offers a simple but engaging conflict inspired by a real California murder case. John (Daniel Roebuck) brags to his group of high school friends (including Reeves, Crispin Glover, and Ione Skye) that he raped and murdered a girl. After finding her body, the typically disaffected and emotionally detached teens struggle with the desire to protect their friend and the need to do the right thing.
River’s Edge is an early example of the talent actors like Reeves and Glover possessed, and it’s as good an answer as anything to the argument that Reeves’ can’t do straightforward, dramatic roles.
6. Point Break (1991)
Where to Watch: HBO Max, or or rentable on most platforms.
Before there was a Fast and the Furious franchise, and before Kathryn Bigelow was making hard-hitting war dramas like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, there was Point Break. Point Break has essentially the same exact plot as the first FF movie, only it came out a decade sooner and featured surfing instead of drag racing as the adrenaline junkies’/criminals’ sport of choice.
Reeves starred as college football quarterback-turned-FBI agent Johnny Utah, tasked with infiltrating a band of surfers led by Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) whom is believed to be tied to a string of bank robberies. And much as Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner would do after him, Reeves’ Johnny Utah found himself torn between his duty and his newfound loyalty to the free-spirited Bodhi.
5. My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Where to Watch: Hoopla, or rentable on most platforms.
In the early ’90s, Reeves was no doubt looking for some meatier, more offbeat roles to prove he wasn’t just “that guy from Bill & Ted.” My Own Private Idaho might have reached a more limited audience, but it certainly proved there was more to Reeves than air guitar and a goofy smile.
Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho is very loosely based on Shakespeare’s plays Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V. River Phoenix starred as a street hustler named Mikey Waters, while Reeves played his friend and fellow hustler, Scott Favor. Though a bit light on plot, the film dealt with the struggles faced by these young men as they dealt with day-to-day trials, accepting their homosexuality, and Mikey’s quest to reconnect with his mother.
4. John Wick (2014)
Where to Watch: Rentable on most platforms.
It’s up to the individual fan to decide for themselves which John Wick film is their favorite (of the three released so far) but for simplicity’s sake, we’re using the the first chapter here, from 2014, as it’s a thrilling, straight-to-the-point revenge flick about a hitman who “gun-fu”s everyone into an early grave after his dog (gifted to him by his late wife) is killed. Keanu, free from the burden of having to prove himself as an action star all over again here, just became a murder machine and a brand new hit franchise was born.
3. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Where to Watch: Showtime and Showtime apps, Fubo, Hoopla, Roku (w/ ads), Tubi (w/ ads), Pluto TV (w/ ads), or rentable on most platforms.
For better or worse, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure defined Reeves’ career in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Reeves starred as the lovable but dimwitted Ted “Theodore” Logan, alongside Alex Winter’s equally goofy Bill S. Preston, Esq. Bill and Ted dreamed of pushing their band, The Wyld Stallyns, to rock & roll super-stardom, but first they needed to pass their history final. Luckily for them, the helpful residents of futuristic, utopian San Dimas, CA sent back a time-travelling phone booth to help Bill and Ted gather history’s most famous leaders for their project.
The result was a really fun, silly comedy featuring two heroes literally fighting against time, palling around with everyone from Billy the Kid to Abraham Lincoln to an ice cream-chugging, water slide-obsessed Napoleon. Reeves and Winter fit their roles like a glove, portraying Bill and Ted as equal parts surfer dudes and metal heads.
2. Speed (1994)
Where to Watch: Roku (w/ ads), Tubi (w/ ads), or rentable on most platforms.
Speed is one of the most solid, enjoyable action movies evder made. It’s a suspense-driven stunt spectacular that made the most of its straightforward premise with high-octane set pieces and a great supporting performance from Sandra Bullock.
Reeves turned in a commanding action hero performance as LAPD SWAT team member Jack Traven. Traven is front and center when a rogue bomber (Dennis Hopper) sabotages a city bus, holding the city hostage for millions while the bus is forced to drive over 50 miles an hour at all times (or else – kaboom!). And while that could have resulted in a very repetitive movie, Speed became one of the surprise hits of the mid-’90s action scene, helping cement Reeves’ reputation as a star in the process.
1. The Matrix (1999)
Where to Watch: HBO Max, or rentable on most platforms.
In 1999, The Matrix, quite simply, blew everyone’s damn minds with a unique blend of cyberpunk aesthetics and superhuman kung fu. Reeves starred as a hacker, Neo, who teamed with a band of freedom fighters led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) after learning that the world was nothing more than a complex digital simulation created by robots who used the human race as batteries to sustain their global empire.
The Matrix worked on multiple levels. It posed interesting philosophical questions about the nature of reality. It looked amazing, thanks to its inventive, 360-degree camera work and razor-sharp action sequences. Reeves himself was perfectly cast as the slightly spacey, emotionally detached loner who morphed into a martial arts wunderkind.
For more films as influential as this one, take a look at our list of the best sci-fi movies of all time.