He knows kung fu. And air guitar. And avenging puppies. And demon exorcism. And speeding buses. And surfing. And just being himself.
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Keanu Reeves has made a fascinating array of characters his own since the 1980s, from dimwits to chosen ones, and created an iconic career as a beloved movie star. One of his most notable personalities takes the big screen again in the action thriller “John Wick: Chapter 4” (in theaters Friday), with Reeves reprising his role as a pained hitman laying waste to assorted goons and baddies.
In honor of Wick’s return, we’re ranking Reeves’ essential film roles:.
10. Evan Webber (‘Knock Knock’)
A highlight of the mid-2010s Keanussance, the psychological thriller/cautionary tale casts Reeves as an architect whose family is away for the weekend. A pair of attractive strangers (Ana de Armas and Lorenza Izzo) show up at his house looking for help, he spurns their advances before giving in (not what he was supposed to do), and the “good dad” turns into a primal animal when his perfect life is at risk.
9. Scott Favor (‘My Own Private Idaho’)
Reeves had one of his best dramatic roles early on in his career in Gus Van Sant’s 1991 cult classic, an indie reworking of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” centered on friendship and gay prostitution. Reeves and the late River Phoenix play street hustlers who hit the road and have sex for money, with Reeves’ character the son of a Portland mayor who has his eyes on wealth and power.
8. Keanu Reeves (‘Always Be My Maybe’)
There have been various meta cameos in Reeves’ filmography – playing a wise tumbleweed in “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” for example, or voicing the title kitty of Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael-Key’s “Keanu.” The best is him playing a suave and pretentious version of himself in the 2019 rom-com “Maybe,” spawning a popular meme and inspiring the clever rap song “I Punched Keanu Reeves.”.
7. Shane Falco (‘The Replacements’)
A former Ohio State quarterback, who wound up cleaning barnacles off fishing boats after a disastrous Sugar Bowl, gets a second chance at football glory when a strike hits and the replacement Washington Sentinels need a field general. The 2000 sports comedy rounds up the most motley team of misfits ever, led by Reeves’ comeback passer and Gene Hackman’s hard-nosed motivational coach.
6. Jack Traven (‘Speed’)
Pop quiz, hotshot: Who else is better equipped to deal with a bus that explodes if it drops below 50 miles per hour and a stressful bunch of passengers (including Sandra Bullock)? In the 1994 thrill ride, Reeves’ hero cop is targeted by an unhinged bomber (Dennis Hopper) and boards a wheeled death trap facing a variety of issues, including a wounded driver, pesky news crews and LA traffic.
5. Johnny Utah (‘Point Break’)
Another former Ohio State quarterback, Reeves’ rookie FBI agent goes undercover to infiltrate a group of surfers – including their charismatic leader, Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) – and find out if they’re also a gang of masked robbers known as the Ex-Presidents. Their adrenaline-fueled existence and Bodhi’s philosophy on life is intoxicating to Johnny, who is forced to choose between doing the right thing and his new bud in the 1991 hit.
4. Neo (‘The Matrix’ movies)
Though the sci-fi action franchise has had ups and downs in quality – the influential 1999 original remains top of that heap – Reeves’ character from the start is the cool dude who kept even the most bonkers stuff somewhat grounded. A computer programmer’s world is rocked when he learns his “reality” is a simulation to distract from a machine-run dystopia, and Neo becomes a messianic figure for the rebellion with sweet fight moves.
3. John Constantine (‘Constantine’)
Until he joins the Marvel universe – because pretty much everyone does – the hard-living paranormal investigator from the 2005 horror film ranks as Reeves’ best comic-book character. Diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and able to communicate with angels and demons, Constantine is on the case when a detective (Rachel Weisz) seeks the truth about her twin sister’s death and key figures from heaven and hell get involved.
2. Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan (‘Bill & Ted’ trilogy)
A generation of youngsters grew up with a surprising interest in Socrates and Napoleon, thanks to Reeves and Alex Winter’s righteous time-traveling dudes in 1989’s original “Bill & Ted” movie. The founding members of Wyld Stallyns put together the best high school history project ever and even played board games with Death while espousing a message we honestly could all use: “Be excellent to each other.”.
1. John Wick (‘John Wick’ movies)
It’s an out-of-the-box way to create an incredibly relatable ex-hitman, having him go after the bad guys who killed his dog – a last gift from his dead wife – with all guns blazing in the 2014 original. But aside from the firefights and epic action, that’s what makes Reeves’ Wick a stellar antihero: We understand that hard decision to return to the violent life he left behind, and ever since he has been an embattled soul his enemies hate and movie fans love to watch navigate an expansive modern mythology in bloody fashion.