Upon first thought, it's hard to believe there are underrated Keanu Reeves movies. After all, he's had a slew of massive hits, from Speed to The Matrix to the Bill & Ted and John Wick franchises. Like most actors who have been consistently employed for almost four decades, though, he's also had his share of films that made a smaller footprint. No one hits a home run every time out. Fortunately, these pictures give us a chance to go back and rediscover some of Reeves's most noteworthy work.
What makes these performances and the films that contain them underrated? Some came out at times when the competition was stiff, making it hard for them to gain traction at the box office. Others are small, independent productions that didn't have huge advertising budgets or massive hype machines. One or two feature him in a supporting role, rather than a lead, so they're not necessarily viewed as a "Keanu Reeves movie." And then there are those that simply weren't well-regarded at the time yet play a little differently in retrospect. Is every title here a masterpiece? Certainly not, although Reeves is good in all of them, and they all offer at least a little bit of fun.
Which of the following Keanu Reeves performances is the most underrated? Your votes will decide.
- 189 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros. Pictures
Keanu Reeves plays the title character in Constantine. He's a man who gets a second chance at life after both heaven and hell reject him. His days are spent tracking down "half-breeds" - aliens and demons who walk the Earth trying to influence the behavior of humans. A police detective approaches him, hoping he will look into the suicide of her sister, which she believes actually has some kind of demonic explanation.
Constantine is based on the popular comic books, and Reeves proves a good fit to star. The character definitely has his troubles, but he also aims to redeem himself by doing good. Reeves gets that dichotomy across in a subtle yet potent way. A lot of themes relating to life/death and good/evil can be found in the story. With his naturally pensive manner, Reeves helps them register strongly by making us understand how much the man he's portraying is affected by them.
- Actors: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, Max Baker
- Released: 2005
- Directed by: Francis Lawrence
- 210 VOTESPhoto: Paramount Pictures
When you think of classic '80s teen movies, you probably don't think of Permanent Record, and that's a shame. The movie never quite found its audience, making it ripe for discovery by modern audiences. Reeves plays Chris, a high school student whose best friend David has just taken his own life. At first, he thinks it was an accident - that David simply fell off a cliff. But then he gets a letter his late friend mailed to him that reveals how much pain was going on inside.
Permanent Record is about teen suicide, but it's also about survivor's guilt. Reeves brings out the sorrow and regret Chris feels for having failed to notice the anguish his friend was experiencing. A scene where he breaks down to David's father was an early indicator of the promise the actor would quickly fulfill in his career. It's a gut-wrenching performance in a sensitive, thoughtful movie. Yes, the subject matter is inherently downbeat, but this is an important picture that could help viewers remember to be alert to the mental well-being of their family and friends.
- Actors: Alan Boyce, Keanu Reeves, Michelle Meyrink, Jennifer Rubin, Pamela Gidley
- Released: 1988
- Directed by: Marisa Silver
- 340 VOTESPhoto: Warner Independent Pictures
In Richard Linklater's trippy, mind-bending thriller A Scanner Darkly, Reeves plays Bob Arctor, a cop trying to infiltrate the criminal underworld, where a dangerous hallucinogenic is being trafficked. The hitch is that Bob is hooked on the stuff himself, which vastly complicates his investigation. The drug's intense effects cause him to occasionally forget who he is. The movie was made using a special animation technique that "paints" over live performances, giving it a look to replicate the substance's effect.
One of Reeves's most interesting traits as an actor is his ability to play "blank." He can convincingly register a vacant expression and remove all affect from a character's personality. That comes in handy in A Scanner Darkly, giving weight to the danger Bob is in, not just from the people he's looking to bring down but also from himself. Thanks to the star's efforts, you can see how Bob's grip on reality alarmingly begins to fade.
- Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, Alex Jones
- Released: 2006
- Directed by: Richard Linklater
- 432 VOTESPhoto: Tri-Star Pictures
Conventional wisdom has it that Johnny Mnemonic isn't a very good movie. Actually, that's kind of true. But that widsom was formed when the film came out in 1995. Since then, public opinion on it has evolved a little bit. An appreciative cult audience now recognizes that it has a level of wild, off-the-wall fun if you approach it from the right angle.
Reeves is the title character, a courier who has information implanted into his brain, which he then takes from location to location. When a massive file is put in there, he's only got a few days to make the delivery or else he'll suffer irreversible damage. Some very bad people want to make sure that info never reaches its destination.
Johnny Mnemonic is a goofy futuristic tale, for sure. Look at how committed Reeves is to it, though. Even in mindless genre fare, he comes in and gives 100%. In fact, his commitment is what has helped people warm up to the film. It's a pre-Matrix sci-fi adventure for those times when you don't want the philosophical heaviness of his 1999 blockbuster.
- Actors: Keanu Reeves, Dolph Lundgren, Takeshi Kitano, Ice-T, Dina Meyer
- Released: 1995
- Directed by: Robert Longo