Various actors have recurrent actions or phrases that make it to almost every movie they’re in, but few are more memorable than Keanu Reeves', who likes to say “whoa!” a lot. Keanu Reeves has become one of the most praised (and beloved) actors thanks to the variety of roles he has played and for his down-to-Earth personality. His cinematic career began in 1986 in the sports drama Youngblood and his big break came in 1989 with the comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Since then, Reeves has taken part in a number of movies from different genres, such as the buddy cop action movie Point Break, Francis Ford Coppola’s gothic horror Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the sci-fi franchise The Matrix, and the romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give. Reeves has done a bit of everything, all with versatility and range that only he can bring, but there’s another detail he adds to most of his movies: many styles of “whoa!”.
Because a sci-fi “whoa!” is not the same as a rom-com “whoa!”, Keanu Reeves has brought a number of these to his movies – and has found the way to incorporate them to the story very, very smoothly. Reeves’ “whoas!” go back to 1986's TV movie Babes in Toyland, where a young Keanu Reeves shared his first “whoas!” in different contexts. He then took this short but powerful word to the big screen in The Night Before, and the rest is history from there. The bulk come in Bill & Ted, but none are more iconic than Neo's "whoa!" in The Matrix. Here’s the list of Keanu Reeves movies he has said “whoa!” in (hat-tip to Owenergyfor their complication video):
- Babes in Toyland - 2 times, when slipping on ice getting into his car and later when his car goes over a bump.
- The Night Before - 11 times, including when talking to himself in the mirror, winning hundreds of dollars and losing his balance on a fire escape.
- The Prince of Pennsylvania - 1 time, when jumped on at the Nights of Dallas dance.
- Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure - 27 times, throughout the movie, including when first seeing the telephone box, when traveling in time, and pretty much any time he sees something new.
- I Love You to Death - 1 time, during the failed assassination attempt.
- Tune in Tomorrow - 1 time, when getting free champagne.
- Point Break - 7 times, when pretending to surf, when surfing, and when skydiving.
- Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey - 27 times, throughout the movie (see: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
- The Matrix - 6 times, when seeing Morpheus jump a city block, in reaction to the deja vu cat, and otherwise when falling.
- Sweet November - 11 times, all in the same sentence.
- Knock Knock - 13 times, when talking to his wife and being seduced by the two girls.
- The Neon Demon - 5 times, when Jesse threatens to call the police.
- Toy Story 4 - 1 time, in the post-credits scene after given Combat Carl, Jr. a high five.
Some “whoas” are more subtle than others, and can easily slip among the action or drama going on in the movie, but Keanu Reeves has proven that he can add at least one no matter the genre, no matter the context, and he can give different tones to it. Fun and surprised “whoas”? There go the Bill & Ted movies. Concerned “whoas”? Knock Knock is the one. Many "whoas" in a row? Sweet November has them. A meta-whoa? Toy Story 4. Just as there’s a Keanu Reeves for everyone, there’s a “whoa!” for every taste too.
The origin of it is unknown, but it has become a running joke (and possibly a trademark, depending on who you ask) in his career. There’s not one complaint about the use of “whoa!” in his movies, and it shall continue like that as it has become a part of him by now. Here’s to more “whoas” from Keanu Reeves in future movies.
- Bill and Ted 3/Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) release date: Aug 21, 2020