The best actors working in the world of filmmaking usually have an incredibly diverse and oftentimes unpredictable career path, and Keanu Reeves is no exception. Since his big-screen debut in the 1986 indie crime drama River’s Edge, Keanu has explored a wide variety of roles that include dramatic heroes to unmistakable renegades.
From that point onwards, Keanu has worked his way not just into pop culture immortality, but also the public consciousness, with stories about how nice he is spreading as fast as urban legends. In honor of Keanu’s colorful filmography and his recently explosive career comeback that culminated with him voicing an action figure in Toy Story 4 and a cyborg in Cyberpunk 2077, here are his 10 most memorable roles to date.
10 Johnathan Harker – Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
For a time, Keanu was the poster-boy for wooden acting due to how emotionless his line reading could be. No other movie he starred in highlighted this worse than Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula adaptation in which he portrayed the clueless real estate agent who helped the immortal vampire move to London.
Keanu’s stilted delivery was already problematic, but his awkward British accent and poorly dyed hair only made matters worse. Though obviously not his best role, Keanu’s trip to Transylvania and back is both laughable and painfully hard to forget, hence its placing on this list.
9 Hank – The Neon Demon (2016)
Generally speaking, Keanu is a nice guy who’s all but universally loved by the movie-going public. This doesn’t only make him a fan-favorite actor, but someone who turns heads whenever he plays someone distinctly not nice. Enter the sleazy motel owner Hank.
Though he only shows up for less than ten minutes, Keanu leaves an unforgettable impression and mark on the movie by being as lecherous as possible. While thankfully not shown, it’s heavily implied that Hank raped a 13-year old tenant because he’s just that depraved. Seeing Keanu be a creep is uncomfortable, to say the least.
8 Agent Johnny Utah – Point Break (1991)
As the law-abiding foil to the ex-Presidents’ ringleader Bodhi, Johnny Utah is best known for trying—and failing—not to fall for the notorious adrenaline junkie’s philosophy and charisma. Keanu’s grounded and raw performance sold the character, making him believable and relatable in the face of someone as deceptively alluring as Bodhi.
Granted, Agent Utah is mostly remembered today for being lampooned by Nick Frost in Hot Fuzz—an affectionate parody of cop movies—but this can be seen as proof that shows how significant Point Break has become in retro 90s pop culture.
7 Jack Tavern – Speed (1994)
The 90s are known for excessively intense cop protagonists, and Jack Tavern is no exception. Jack may have only been in one movie, but his continued relevance is driven by his self-serious attitude in a cheesy action ride, his life-threatening practical stunts, and the tragic fact that River Phoenix’s—Keanu’s close friend—passing informed his emotional moments.
The character, and Speed as a whole, also garnered newfound interest thanks to recent interviews from Reeves and co-star Sandra Bullock, who admitted to liking each other during filming but were too shy to admit it at the time.
6 John Constantine – Constantine (2005)
Despite the stark differences between the very British John Constantine and the American version, Keanu owned the role and delivered the bitter exorcist (instead of a magician) who was promised. In fact, he expressed that he’s always wanted to revisit the character.
Even with Keanu’s good faith, the reason why Constantine is still relevant is either because of its cult status or when it’s cited negatively in comparison to the Hellblazer comics. Constantine’s accuracy to Vertigo Comics’ resident mage is certainly up for debate, but Keanu’s time as the titular character is still an underappreciated and overlooked one.
5 Keanu the Cat – Keanu (2016)
When the first trailers for Key and Peele’s comedic gang war over a cute kitten debuted, people jokingly wondered if Keanu was involved in the production. To their surprise, the question was answered in the most unexpected yet hilarious way possible.
While on a surreal drug trip, Clarence gets some excellent spiritual advice from the titular kitten who’s voiced by Keanu Reeves himself. An obvious homage to the franchise that catapulted Keanu into stardom would’ve been enough in a comedy named after him, but it was immensely improved with a kitten voiced (and meowed) by the man himself.
4 Ted – Bill & Ted (1989/1991/2020)
One of Keanu’s most beloved characters is a rocking, time-traveling manchild, but Ted’s undying optimism and excellence are what make him and his friendship with lifelong buddy Bill a joy to watch. Considered to be The Dude(s) of the early 90s, Bill and Ted continue to be popular role models for slackers who refuse to take life too seriously and chill out as much as possible.
Seeing how Ted grapples with age, fatherhood, and unfulfilled ambitions in Bill & Ted Face the Music won’t just be a nostalgia trip, but a proper farewell for him and his inseparable counterpart.
3 Neo – The Matrix Trilogy (1999/2003)
If you ever wondered why Keanu was associated with slow-motion and being blandly surprised about knowing kung-fu, thank the savior of the Wachowski siblings’ dark future: Neo. The gun-wielding martial artist redefined action and cyberpunk in the early 2000s, with the deconstruction of what it meant to be a prophesized “Chosen One” adding intriguing subtext and pathos to the man once called Mr. Anderson.
For the longest time, Keanu was defined by the robot apocalypse’s Messiah, and it got to the point where people thought he’d never leave the Matrix’s shadow—that was until someone killed his dog in 2014's John Wick.
2 John Wick – The John Wick Series (2014/2017/2019)
After changing action movies with The Matrix, Keanu changed everything again through John Wick, where he plays the titular legendary assassin who forged an unstoppable warpath to avenge his dog.
In a time where superheroes overtook gunslingers in popularity, Wick’s stoic rage, fighting prowess, compelling tragedy, and boundless creativity for murder, especially with a pencil, cemented him as a modern action icon. Further proof of this can be found in the number of dog-lovers who threaten to emulate Wick if someone endangered their beloved pets. Like Keanu, Wick’s return took everyone by storm and won’t be ending anytime soon.
1 Keanu Reeves – Always Be My Maybe (2019)
Even before his career resurgence, Keanu became a god-of-sorts among moviegoers for reputedly being the nicest guy in Hollywood. None of his roles embodied this adoration better than his turn in Always Be My Maybe, where he plays the obnoxious opposite of himself.
While this contradicts every heartwarming encounter he had with fans, this alternate Keanu only exists because of his infallible Nice Guy image, with the humor being derived from how out-of-character he is. If anything, this self-parody in Netflix’s romantic-comedy is a testament to how Keanu became a generation’s unofficial Patron Saint of Wholesomeness.