5. My Own Private Idaho (1991)
My Own Private Idaho was a defining moment in New Queer Cinema, a term coined for independent films in the early 1990s featuring LGBT characters. Gus Van Sant’s drama follows the story of Mike Waters (River Phoenix), a gay hustler who lives on the streets in Portland, Oregon. He suffers from narcolepsy and often dreams about his mother, who abandoned him and his brother when he was a baby.
Keanu Reeves portrays the role of Scott Favor, Mike’s best friend and the son of a mayor who rebels against his luxurious lifestyle by also selling his body for cash. Together, the two friends travel to Idaho and then to Italy to track down Mike’s mother.
My Own Private Idaho is worth watching purely for the remarkable performances by Reeves and Phoenix. An example of their great chemistry together is shown in a heart-breaking scene where Mike and Scott are talking while sitting near a campfire.
Phoenix showcases Mike’s vulnerability as he confesses to Scott that he is in love with him. However, he is turned down by Scott, who explains that he only sleeps with men for money and that two men shouldn’t love each other. Despite this, Scott embraces Mike in a hug as he continues to support him throughout his journey to find his mother.
4. Point Break (1991)
After appearing in teen-oriented films during the 1980s, Keanu Reeves claimed his first action role in Katheryn Bigelow’s Point Break. Reeves’ character Johnny Utah, an FBI agent, goes undercover to track down a gang of bank robbers who disguises themselves by wearing masks of former presidents.
However, when he befriends a group of surfers including their free-spirited leader Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), he suspects that they are the targeted criminals he was looking for. During his mission, Johnny meets and falls for Tyler (Lori Petty), his surfing instructor and Bodhi’s ex-girlfriend.
The film is known for its intense adrenaline-filled stunts where Johnny, Bodhi and the rest of the gang go surfing and sky-diving. The slow-motion shots of the characters surfing in the ocean and the extreme wide shots of their sky-dive are extraordinary, making Point Break a perfect action-packed film to watch during the summer.
In addition to that, the film also features one of the best foot-chase scenes ever where Bodhi (wearing a suit and a president’s mask), sets a gas station on fire before being tackled by Johnny. Bodhi manages to get away, leading Johnny to chase after him through random people’s houses and gardens.
3. John Wick/John Wick: Chapter 2 (2014-2017)
John Wick is notable for reviving Keanu Reeves’ career after a series of unsuccessful films. Directed by Matrix stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, Reeves stars as the titular character, a former assassin who comes out of retirement to seek revenge on Russian hooligan Iosef (Alfie Allen) for stealing his car and killing his dog. Aside from Iosef, his father Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), a crime boss, also serves as the antagonist of this film.
After hearing his son’s actions, Viggo sends his henchmen to kill John Wick and even places a $2 million contract on him. Obviously, this does not affect John as he is highly skilled in judo and jujitsu combined with tactical gun work. It was mentioned by Viggo at one point that John managed to kill three men with a pencil, earning him the nickname ‘’Baba Yaga’’.
Reeves delivers a brilliant performance as the deadliest hit-man alive who the audience can root for and sympathise due to his pain and suffering. This makes the character as iconic as Reeves’ previous roles such as Neo, Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan and Johnny Utah.
Three years later, he reprises his role in John Wick: Chapter 2. Set in the luxurious backdrop of Italy, John Wick is ordered to assassinate the sister of Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scarmarcio) but discovers that many assassins are out to get him. The sequel is marked as a reunion for Reeves and Laurence Fishburne (who portrays The Bowery King), as they have previously worked together on The Matrix Trilogy.
2. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey (1989 – 1991)
It may be difficult to imagine Keanu Reeves in a comedy film nowadays due to his status as a serious action star but in 1989, he starred as Ted ‘’Theodore’’ Logan, the airheaded best friend of Bill S. Preston Esq. (played by The Lost Boys’ Alex Winter) in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Bill & Ted are two high school students from San Dimas, California who are attempting to start a rock band called the Wyld Stallyns. However, when they discover that they are failing history class, they meet Rufus (George Carlin), a mysterious man who claims to be from the future.
With Rufus’ help, Bill & Ted use a time-machine (disguised as a phone booth) to travel back in time and collect many historical figures for their final history presentation such as Socrates, Napoleon and Joan of Arc. The film provides many laughs, mainly from Reeves and Winter, who have an amazing chemistry as the two dim-witted slackers with unforgettable catchphrases such as ‘’Be excellent to each other’’ and ‘’Party on Dudes!’’.
The two actors reprised their roles in the sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, where the titular characters are killed by evil androids. Throughout the film, Bill & Ted attempt to contact their families as ghosts and escape hell. In a memorable moment, they also challenge the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) in a series of games so they can be resurrected and save their girlfriends from the robots. Despite the comedic elements, Bogus Journey is darker than Excellent Adventure due to its plot and the bizarre fantasy sequences set in hell.
1. The Matrix Trilogy (1999 – 2003)
In 1999, The Wachowskis created one of the most innovative films in cinema called The Matrix. The film’s protagonist Thomas A. Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a computer programmer for the Meta Cortex software company.
Outside of his professional life, he is a hacker under the name ‘’Neo’. Neo’s ordinary life changes when he meets two mysterious hackers named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who reveals to Neo that humans are created by machines and their minds are imprisoned in a simulated reality called The Matrix. Together, the three characters team up to battle the Agents, sentient programs disguised as men wearing black suits.
The Matrix is notable for its ground-breaking visual effects such as the ‘’Bullet-time’’, a technique where a character’s actions are viewed in slow motion while the camera tracks around the character in normal speed. Aside from the visual effects, the Wachowskis’ original concept and the fighting choreography has helped The Matrix become one of the greatest science-fiction films of all time, winning four Academy Awards.
Although Reeves was already an established actor with a few successful films under his belt, The Matrix catapulted him into international stardom. This made Neo, one of the coolest heroes in science-fiction, the most recognizable character in Reeves’ career. Neo’s story is explored further in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions where he adjusts to his superhuman abilities and attempts to defeat the central antagonist Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving).
Author Bio: Hasena Ali is a film student from Oxford, United Kingdom. He’s interested in books, music and movies, especially the horror genre. His ambition is to become either a critic or work in post-production.