The Best Movie Ever | Best Keanu Reeves Movies List

30 years in the industry, approximately 70 movies to his name. Keanu Reeves may not look like he’s aged a day since the 1990s but he’s been a constant presence in the cinema for decades, and the time has come to look back at his filmography and decide which of his films really are The Best Keanu Reeves Movies Ever.

Joining us are the CraveOnline film critics – William Bibbiani, Witney Seibold, Fred Topel and Brian Formo – who were each challenged to pick one, just one movie that they can stand by as the best Keanu Reeves movies ever. 

Best Keanu Reeves Movies List

But we all have our favorites, so after you read their picks – and their rationales for picking them – scroll down to the bottom of the page to vote for your own favorite Keanu Reeves movies. And be sure to come back every Wednesday for another installment of The Best Movie Ever, where settle your arguments once and for all.

 

Related: The Best Movie Ever: World War II

 

Fred Topel’s Pick: Parenthood (1989)

Parenthood

While this wasn’t a Keanu Reeves vehicle, it is the best movie he’s been in. Hot off the heels of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, when Reeves showed up in Ron Howard’s family dramedy, we all recognized him as Ted. Before the Emmy-winning TV series, the 1989 film was a comedy about the Buckman family. Anchored by Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen, Gil Buckman (Martin) deals with the motional needs of his son while his brother-in-law (Rick Moranis) pressures his daughter to be a child prodigy. Gil’s brother Larry (Tom Hulce) shows up with a then-controversial African-American son and his sister Helen (Diane Wiest) is dealing with her divorce, dating again, her son Garry (Joaquin Phoenix)’s isolation, and later his discovered budding hormones.
 
Reeves plays Tod, the new husband of Helen’s daughter Julie (Martha Plimpton). The premise is that Helen is flighty and impetuous, but learns to accept the commitment she made with Tod. Tod also provides some poignant advice for Garry, who is struggling with his father’s abandonment. To paraphrase Tod, you need a license to drive a car or catch a fish, but they’ll let any A-hole be a father. 
 
This all sounds very heavy but what makes Parenthood a classic is it’s so damn funny with all these messages. Gil’s fantasies about parental success and disaster, the diarrhea song, the cowboy birthday party, and a vibrator at a family reunion are brilliant set bits that also illustrate the absurdity of family life. So, Speed, Bill and Ted, The Matrix and Point Break are all great, but Parenthood is the Best Keanu Reeves movie Ever. 
 

Brian Formo’s Pick: My Own Private Idaho (1991)

My Own Private Idaho

The best movie that Keanu Reeves has ever starred in is My Own Private Idaho. Idaho was an adaptation of parts of William Shakespeare’s play “Henry V.” It involves a lot of posing: a trust-fund kid (Reeves) posing as a bohemian with young male street prostitutes; and straight boys posing as gay, confusing queer boys who pose as uncaring about having their love returned.
 
Idaho was the punctuation point in Reeves’ phenomenal year of 1991 — released after Point Break and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Adventure. At the time, My Own Private Idaho could be viewed as a young actor taking risks with a respected indie director, as many young actors do (Gus Van Sant was just coming off of Drugstore Cowboy). But two decades later, it reveals itself as the quintessential Reeves performance.
 
Before filming a three-way sex scene (with Udo Kier, who seduces them by playing his German band’s mixed tape and dancing with a lamp, one of my personal all-time favorite scenes in cinema), River Phoenix reportedly warned Reeves that his “500 millions of fans will be watching this.” Phoenix told Interview magazine that he felt bad because this comment made Reeves feel a little self-conscious. But it actually was a perfect reminder for Reeves’ character. Reeves’ Scott is trying to not care about his image because his image comes from his father, a mayor. But while he half-engages in street life, he always is conscious that he has an out from this life and that he can never be associated with these people again.
 
I saw Idaho as a nine-year old because I was living in Idaho and it had Idaho in the title. I’ve revisited it many times since. I love it more after moving to the actual Pacific Northwest (the film is mostly set in Portland). It’s a region that attracts many liberals, California runaways and kids with big bank accounts back East. It’s a region of others, tucked away at the end of continental America, with rare — but appreciated — sunshine. But seeing it again recently, with decades of action-hero Reeves logged into my brain, it’s additionally fascinating for Van Sant’s early understanding of Reeves as an actor. He’s a little uncomfortable, he’s a little self-conscious, and he’s, perhaps, more than just a little aware of how people perceive him. And that is inherent to Scott’s character.
 
In My Own Private Idaho, Scott is introduced to us posing shirtless on a “Male Call” magazine cover . His portrait comes alive as he describes what he’ll do in addition to posing. Ashamed and aware of the audience’s gaze, he rarely makes eye contact with the camera– until he says he’s game for anything if he’s getting paid. And then his attention is focused. And in Idaho, Scott Favor is game for anything — until his trust-fund kicks in. In his privileged brain, everything is a transaction. Including family. Including love. 
 

William Bibbiani’s Pick: The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix

Keanu Reeves is 50 years old. Let that sink in for a moment. He looks like he hasn’t aged in 20 years. The continuity of his screen presence is so unfettered – he cut his hair in the early 90s, and sometimes shows up with a beard in indie projects – that it’s easy to lose sight of just how long he has been entertaining us. It’s also easy to forget just how many great films he’s starred in over the years. For every lousy Chain Reaction or The Watcher there’s at least one I Love You To Death or A Scanner Darkly to make up for it.

So picking the best Keanu Reeves movie ever is a bit harder than I first thought it would be, but I think I came up with the answer. Unfortunately (for my street cred, at least) it’s also the most obvious answer imaginable: The Matrix, that kung fu head trip directed by Wachowski Starship. It’s not even one of my favorite movies. I admire the film’s ingenuity and dedication to blending ideas from multiple genres, but it’s also clunky and awkward and full of more exposition than it really needs. 

But The Matrix is undeniably ambitious, and it speaks well of Keanu Reeves that he recognized just how much potential this weird-ass movie – which no one expected to become a pop culture event – had to reach audiences in search of new ideas and inventive action sequences. He may have been typecast as the “Whoa” guy, but Keanu Reeves is a smart person, and he let the intelligence that’s so obvious in interviews come out in his choice of material. The Matrix takes advantage of Reeves’ public persona as a “blank slate” actor, but for the purpose of tricking them into experiencing something wholly unusual, and unusually smart. He knew his place in the movie, he played it beautifully, and helped raise the standards of a generation of movie-goers. That’s gotta be the best Keanu Reeves movie ever… doesn’t it?

 

Witney Seibold’s Pick: Side By Side (2012)

Side By Side

The dude’s dude, the steely action hero, the swoony teeny-bopper idol, the mocked would-be thespian, and the earnest admirer of the cinematic form, Keanu Reeves is a divisive figure to say the least. When I was a youth, films like Dracula and My Own Private Idaho cemented him as a sex symbol for both straight girls and gay boys everywhere, even while Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure left him in airhead surfer territory, and Much Ado About Nothing assured that he would forever be remembered as a bad actor. Overall, the best adjective to describe Reeves would be “inscrutable.” He is talented and fascinating… most of the time. He has starred in some terrible movies and given some bad performances, but he has also appeared in some legitimate classics like The Matrix and Speed

While it may not be objectively his best film, the project that best exemplifies Reeves as a whole figure who is worthy of a place in film history is the 2012 Christopher Keneally documentary Side By Side, produced and hosted by Reeves. 2011 was a watershed moment in film presentation, as that was the year most theaters made the final switch from 35mm film to digital projection. Reeves, along with a lot of people in the business, were ambivalent about the sudden and dramatic change in format, and he felt that this change needed to be discussed. What were the advantages and disadvantages of the change? Your average filmgoer probably doesn’t think too much about the format on which they see their movies, and Side By Side points out the differences and the disadvantages of each format. Reeves talks earnestly with Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, David Fincher, James Cameron, and many others about what all this tech shifting means for the business and and the business in the future. 

Reeves clearly has a deep interest in this discussion. He knows his stuff. He may be an actor first, but he is also a lover of movies, and I think that makes him mare dynamic and interesting than any of his other feature films. 

Don’t forget to let us know what you consider to be the best Keanu Reeves movies ever in the comment section below.

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