(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
All Keanu Reeves Movies Ranked
He’s traveled through time in search of knowledge, saved Sandra Bullock from getting blown up on a bus, freed humanity from being enslaved by computer overlords, and delivered some of the most righteous vengeance ever exacted on behalf of a murdered puppy — and all that really only scratches the surface of all the stuff Keanu Reeves has been up to on the big screen. Since making his mark as a quirky young lead in the ’80s, Reeves has followed his cinematic muse all over the genre map, from hit comedies like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to blockbuster action thrillers like Speed, John Wick, and Point Break, as well as dramatic showcases like Dangerous Liaisons and My Own Private Idaho. Also, he knows kung fu. Whoa.
On the horizon, we got The Matrix Resurrections and another John Wick. Now, we’re ranking all Keanu Reeves movies by Tomatometer.
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
In New York, an escort-service driver (Keanu Reeves) and his two pretty friends (Bojana Novakovic, Adelaide Clemens) document their escapades... [More]
Adjusted Score: 8662%
Critics Consensus: Exposed lays its flaws fittingly bare for all but the least discerning viewers to see, starting with a dull yet convoluted plot that utterly overpowers the efforts of an intriguing cast.
While investigating the death of his partner, a detective (Keanu Reeves) uncovers police corruption and a dangerous secret involving a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 13076%
Critics Consensus: The Watcher has Keanu Reeves cast against type, but the movie is short on thrills, suspense, and believability.
"The Watcher" is an exciting psychological thriller that takes a unique look into the minds of both a serial killer... [More]
Adjusted Score: 12677%
Critics Consensus: Equal parts plot holes and unintentional laughs, Replicas is a ponderously lame sci-fi outing that isn't even bad enough to be so bad it's good.
Neuroscientist William Foster is on the verge of transferring human consciousness into a computer when his beloved wife and children... [More]
Adjusted Score: 14148%
Critics Consensus: Icily inhospitable to compelling performances or a sensible narrative, Siberia offers audiences a harsh and seemingly interminable exile from entertainment.
An American diamond merchant and his lover get caught in the crossfire when a business deal goes wrong in Russia.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 14497%
Critics Consensus: Clumsily derivative, shoddily assembled, and fundamentally miscast, Feeling Minnesota sets out for romantic comedy and gets irrevocably lost along the way.
Sam Clayton's (Vincent D'Onofrio) marriage to ex-stripper Freddie (Cameron Diaz) comes about when she's strong-armed into the match by Red... [More]
Adjusted Score: 18441%
Critics Consensus: Schmaltzy and manipulative, Sweet November suffers from an implausible plot and non-existent chemistry between its leads.
Nelson Moss (Keanu Reeves) and Sara Deever (Charlize Theron) have nothing in common except an hour spent in DMV hell.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 17985%
Critics Consensus: 47 Ronin is a surprisingly dull fantasy adventure, one that leaves its talented international cast stranded within one dimensional roles.
In feudal Japan, Lord Asano rules his province with fairness. However, jealous Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) fears that the shogun... [More]
Adjusted Score: 18434%
Critics Consensus: Ironic given the scientific breakthrough at the story's core, Chain Reaction is a man-on-the-run thriller that mostly sticks to generic formula.
At a Chicago university, a research team that includes brilliant Eddie Kasalivich (Keanu Reeves) experiences a breakthrough: a stable form... [More]
Adjusted Score: 19618%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
A beautiful young woman with unusually big thumbs, Sissy Hankshaw (Uma Thurman) decides, fittingly enough, to become a hitchhiker. After... [More]
Adjusted Score: 19874%
Critics Consensus: As narratively misguided as it is woefully miscast, Johnny Mnemonic brings the '90s cyberpunk thriller to inane new whoas -- er, lows.
In this film based on the William Gibson story, Johnny (Keanu Reeves) is a data courier who has a secret... [More]
Adjusted Score: 27788%
Critics Consensus: Heavy on special effects, but without a coherent story at its base, The Day the Earth Stood Still is subpar re-imagining of the 1951 science-fiction classic.
Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), an extraterrestrial visitor to planet Earth, becomes the herald of upheaval on a global scale. As the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 35512%
Critics Consensus: The Whole Truth, unfortunately, is that courtroom drama fans have already seen better examples of everything this lazy entry in the genre has to offer.
A defense attorney (Keanu Reeves) tries to get his teenage client (Gabriel Basso) acquitted for the murder of his father... [More]
Adjusted Score: 41479%
Critics Consensus: The plot of The Lake House is a little too convoluted, and the film fails to pull off the sweeping romance it aims for.
A lonely doctor (Sandra Bullock), who once lived in a beautiful lakeside home, falls in love via letters with its... [More]
Adjusted Score: 41560%
Critics Consensus: A disappointing conclusion to the Matrix trilogy as characters and ideas take a back seat to the special effects.
In a dystopia overrun by robots, Neo (Keanu Reeves), mankind's greatest hope, is trapped in a limbo world. Meanwhile, the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 41798%
Critics Consensus: Street Kings contains formulaic violence but no shred of intelligence.
Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves), a veteran member of the LAPD, is still mourning the loss of his wife and trying... [More]
Adjusted Score: 39317%
Critics Consensus: Knock Knock brings a lot of talent to bear on its satirical approach to torture horror, but not effectively enough to overcome its repetitive story or misguidedly campy tone.
Two nubile, stranded women (Ana de Armas, Lorenza Izzo) reveal a sinister agenda after they spend the night with a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 44159%
Critics Consensus: Although Hardball contains some touching moments, they are not enough to transcend the sports formula.
Conor (Keanu Reeves) is a ticket scalper, gambler and, now, Little League coach for a rag-tag team of kids in... [More]
Adjusted Score: 43785%
Critics Consensus: The cliched characters and obvious outcome make all the fun and excitement amount to nothing.
It's late in the season; the playoffs are fast approaching; and the Washington Sentinels have just gone on strike. Scrambling... [More]
Adjusted Score: 42369%
Critics Consensus: Supporting actors Vera Farmiga and James Caan give the movie a little heft, but Henry's Crime is an otherwise predictable heist/comedy with slow pacing.
After serving time for a crime he did not commit, a man (Keanu Reeves) conspires with his former cellmate (James... [More]
Adjusted Score: 42941%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Dean Youngblood (Rob Lowe) is an exceptionally skilled young ice hockey player trying to make a name in the Canadian... [More]
Adjusted Score: 46256%
Critics Consensus: A Walk in the Clouds aims for sweeping period romance, but quickly unravels thanks to a miscast leading man and a story that relies on cheap melodrama.
When soldier Paul Sutton (Keanu Reeves) is on his way home after World War II, he realizes that he barely... [More]
Adjusted Score: 51930%
Critics Consensus: The Bad Batch has its moments, but it's too thinly written and self-indulgent to justify its length or compensate for its slow narrative drift.
Arlen is abandoned in a Texas wasteland that is fenced off from civilization. While trying to navigate the unforgiving landscape,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 55279%
Critics Consensus: Despite solid production values and an intriguing premise, Constantine lacks the focus of another spiritual shoot-em-up: The Matrix.
As a suicide survivor, demon hunter John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) has literally been to hell and back -- and he... [More]
Adjusted Score: 50043%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Soap-opera scribe Pedro Carmichael (Peter Falk) has been hired to juice up the scripts at a radio station in 1950s... [More]
Adjusted Score: 50254%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
High school student David (Alan Boyce) appears to be totally happy, as well as bright, funny and well-liked. However, the... [More]
Adjusted Score: 55525%
Critics Consensus: Destination Wedding reunites Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder for a sour comedy whose initially promising misanthropic twist overpowers the chemistry of its leads.
When Frank and Lindsay meet on their way to a destination wedding, they soon discover they have a lot in... [More]
Adjusted Score: 57174%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Joey (Kevin Kline) and his wife, Rosalie (Tracey Ullman), run a pizza joint with the help of Devo (River Phoenix),... [More]
Adjusted Score: 58835%
Critics Consensus: Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey has the same stars -- and cheerfully wacky sense of humor -- as its predecessor, but they prove a far less effective combination the second time around.
Amiable slackers Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are once again roped into a fantastical adventure when De Nomolos... [More]
Adjusted Score: 61406%
Critics Consensus: With a reported budget of around 10 million, The Gift is obviously a labor of love for those involved. Unfortunately, the A-list cast can't prevent the movie from becoming a by-the-numbers whodunit with an ending that's all but unsatisfactory.
In the tiny town of Brixton, Georgia where nothing is private, a woman with supernatural clairvoyance, a young beautiful socialite... [More]
Adjusted Score: 74225%
Critics Consensus: The Neon Demon is seductively stylish, but Nicolas Winding Refn's assured eye can't quite compensate for an underdeveloped plot and thinly written characters.
Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles just after her 16th birthday to launch a career as a model. The... [More]
Adjusted Score: 65187%
Critics Consensus: Though it is ultimately somewhat undone by its own lofty ambitions, The Devil's Advocate is a mostly effective blend of supernatural thrills and character exploration.
Aspiring Florida defense lawyer Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) accepts a high-powered position at a New York law firm headed by... [More]
Adjusted Score: 69256%
Critics Consensus: Although its story may leave fans on the surface, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run is a wondrously wacky visit to Bikini Bottom that retains the charm of the original series.
In the first-ever all CGI SpongeBob motion picture event, THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN, SpongeBob SquarePants, his best... [More]
Adjusted Score: 74088%
Critics Consensus: Absurd, over-the-top, and often wildly entertaining, Point Break is here to show you that the human spirit is still alive.
After a string of bizarre bank robberies in Southern California, with the crooks donning masks of various former presidents, a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 75003%
Critics Consensus: A faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel, A Scanner Darkly takes the viewer on a visual and mind-blowing journey into the author's conception of a drug-addled and politically unstable world.
In the near future, as America virtually loses the war on drugs, Robert Arctor, a narcotics cop in Orange County,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 66520%
Critics Consensus: Little Buddha's storytelling may be too childlike to best service its audacious plot, but Bernardo Bertolucci's direction and Vittorio Storaro's cinematography conspire to deliver a visually strong epic.
A Buddhist monk, Lama Norbu (Ying Ruocheng), believes that a 10-year-old American boy, Jesse (Alex Wiesendanger), is the reincarnation of... [More]
Adjusted Score: 73182%
Critics Consensus: To the Bone offers an insightful, empathetic look at a widespread issue, led by exemplary work from Lily Collins in the central role.
Ellen is an unruly 20-year-old anorexic girl who spent the better part of her teenage years being shepherded through various... [More]
Adjusted Score: 71230%
Critics Consensus: Reverential and offbeat, the road trip film Private lives of Pippa Lee takes emotional detours and is elevated by great performances, particularly that of Robin Wright-Penn.
Pippa Lee (Robin Wright Penn) is a middle-aged woman married to a much older man named Herb (Alan Arkin), a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 72045%
Critics Consensus: It may not be groundbreaking, but Man of Tai Chi represents an agreeably old-fashioned picture for martial arts fans -- and a solid debut for first-time director Keanu Reeves.
A young martial artist's amazing skills in tai chi grant him entry into an underworld fight club.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 75272%
Critics Consensus: Though quirky coming-of-age themes are common in indie films, this one boasts a smart script and a great cast.
In the strange land known as suburbia, introverted adolescent Justin (Lou Pucci) spends the majority of his life pining after... [More]
Adjusted Score: 76793%
Critics Consensus: Though it occasionally stumbles into sitcom territory, Something's Gotta Give is mostly a smart, funny romantic comedy, with sharp performances from Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, and Keanu Reeves.
When aging womanizer Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) and his young girlfriend, Marin (Amanda Peet), arrive at her family's beach house... [More]
Adjusted Score: 81666%
Critics Consensus: Though its heady themes are a departure from its predecessor, The Matrix Reloaded is a worthy sequel packed with popcorn-friendly thrills.
Freedom fighters Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) continue to lead the revolt against the Machine... [More]
Adjusted Score: 79909%
Critics Consensus: Overblown in the best sense of the word, Francis Ford Coppola's vision of Bram Stoker's Dracula rescues the character from decades of campy interpretations -- and features some terrific performances to boot.
Adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic vampire novel. Gary Oldman plays Dracula whose lonely soul is determined to reunite with his... [More]
Adjusted Score: 83193%
Critics Consensus: A tantalizing glimpse of a talented director and his stars all at the top of their respective games, Gus Van Sant's loose reworking of Henry IV is smart, sad and audacious.
In this loose adaptation of Shakespeare's "Henry IV," Mike Waters (River Phoenix) is a gay hustler afflicted with narcolepsy. Scott... [More]
Adjusted Score: 85237%
Critics Consensus: Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are just charming, goofy, and silly enough to make this fluffy time-travel Adventure work.
Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are high school buddies starting a band. However, they are about to fail... [More]
Adjusted Score: 100373%
Critics Consensus: As wholesomely goofy as its heroes, Bill and Ted Face the Music is a rare long-belated sequel that largely recaptures the franchise's original charm.
The ruler of the future tells best friends Bill and Ted they must compose a new song to save life... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95288%
Critics Consensus: Stylish, thrilling, and giddily kinetic, John Wick serves as a satisfying return to action for Keanu Reeves -- and what looks like it could be the first of a franchise.
Legendary assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) retired from his violent career after marrying the love of his life. Her sudden... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87795%
Critics Consensus: A harrowing tale of aimless youth, River's Edge generates considerable tension and urgency thanks to strong performances from a stellar cast that includes Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves, and Ione Skye.
Teenage burnout Samson (Daniel Roebuck) has murdered his girlfriend and left her naked body lying on the bank of a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95175%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to the Wachowskis' imaginative vision, The Matrix is a smartly crafted combination of spectacular action and groundbreaking special effects.
Neo (Keanu Reeves) believes that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), an elusive figure considered to be the most dangerous man alive, can... [More]
Adjusted Score: 108749%
Critics Consensus: John Wick: Chapter 2 does what a sequel should -- which in this case means doubling down on the non-stop, thrillingly choreographed action that made its predecessor so much fun.
Retired super-assassin John Wick's plans to resume a quiet civilian life are cut short when Italian gangster Santino D'Antonio shows... [More]
Adjusted Score: 110173%
Critics Consensus: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum reloads for another hard-hitting round of the brilliantly choreographed, over-the-top action that fans of the franchise demand.
After gunning down a member of the High Table -- the shadowy international assassin's guild -- legendary hit man John... [More]
Adjusted Score: 92748%
Critics Consensus: Kenneth Branagh's love for the material is contagious in this exuberant adaptation.
In this Shakespearean farce, Hero (Kate Beckinsale) and her groom-to-be, Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), team up with Claudio's commanding officer,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94500%
Critics Consensus: Carried by the infectious charms of Ali Wong and Randall Park, Always Be My Maybe takes familiar rom-com beats and cleverly layers in smart social commentary to find its own sweet groove.
Childhood sweethearts have a falling out and don't speak for 15 years. They reconnect as adults when Sasha runs into... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95630%
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by a delightful cast, Parenthood is a funny and thoughtfully crafted look at the best and worst moments of family life that resonates broadly.
Perfectionist Gil Buckman (Steve Martin) struggles with the deficiencies of his children, thinking they reflect poorly on his parenting --... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94685%
Critics Consensus: Stylish, seductive, and clever, Stephen Frears' adaptation is a wickedly entertaining exploration of sexual politics.
The Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) display the petty jealousies and jaded insouciance... [More]
Adjusted Score: 98621%
Critics Consensus: A terrific popcorn thriller, Speed is taut, tense, and energetic, with outstanding performances from Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, and Sandra Bullock.
Los Angeles police officer Jack (Keanu Reeves) angers retired bomb squad member Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) by foiling his attempt... [More]
Adjusted Score: 124739%
Critics Consensus: Heartwarming, funny, and beautifully animated, Toy Story 4 manages the unlikely feat of extending -- and perhaps concluding -- a practically perfect animated saga.
Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang embark on a road trip with Bonnie and a new toy... [More]
On the final frame of 2013, studios shoved six new wide releases into the marketplace but holiday moviegoers chose holdovers instead as The Hobbit stayed at number one while the month-old animated smash Frozen enjoyed a Christmas surge finishing close behind in second. Of the new faces, only one – The Wolf of Wall Street – posted impressive results with the rest attracting sales that ranged from mediocre to disastrous.
Topping the charts for the third straight weekend, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug won a slim victory with an estimated $29.9M over the Friday-to-Sunday period boosting the cume to a healthy $190.3M. Off just 5% from last weekend, the Middle Earth saga grossed a hearty $49.7M over the five-day period from Christmas Day Wednesday to Sunday. Smaug continues to run 15% behind the pace of last year’s film An Unexpected Journey at the same point in the release. IMAX screens have accounted for $26M of the cume on the new Bilbo flick (about $50M worldwide) and this weekend’s share rose to 17% of the gross as fans continue to pay extra for the premium experience. A massive $98.3M overseas this weekend pushed the international tally to $423.8M and the global haul to $614.1M.
The Disney animated blockbuster Frozen enjoyed a huge 47% jump from last weekend and grossed an estimated $28.8M in its fifth round of nationwide play. With positive buzz and no major competition for kids, the PG-rated smash has now amassed a stellar $248.4M making it the studio’s second biggest non-Pixar toon of all-time trailing just 1994’s The Lion King. Breaking $300M domestic seems likely. Frozen was red hot overseas too with new openings helping the international weekend gross reach $50.5M for a $79.3M global weekend. New cumes are now $243.5M overseas and $491.9M worldwide with Brazil, Japan, and China still to open.
Dropping 25% from its opening weekend was the holiday season’s top broad comedy Anchorman 2 with an estimated $20.2M pushing the cume to $83.7M for Paramount putting it a day away from surpassing the $84.1M total of its 2004 predecessor. Close behind was the all-star awards contender American Hustle with an estimated $19.6M, up 2% from its wide debut last week. Sony has banked $60M to date.
Fifth place went to the excesses of the finance world as Martin Scorsese’s raunchy new film The Wolf of Wall Street delivered the best opening among the half-dozen new releases with an estimated $18.5M over three days and $34.3M across the five days since its Christmas Day launch on Wednesday. The three-day average was $7,296 from 2,537 locations – solid for an R-rated film running three hours long.
Earning strong but not sensational reviews, the director’s fifth outing with Leonardo DiCaprio skewed incredibly old playing more like a Marty film than a Leo one. A whopping 90% of the crowd was over 25 and 54% were male. Paying audiences did not like what they got as the CinemaScore grade was a troubling C which was among the lowest of any film this holiday season. With a budget of about $100M, Wolf will try to have the kind of legs that older-skewing movies do and if it secures a Best Picture Oscar nomination a few weeks from now, that could help it stay afloat too.
The feel-good Tom Hanks-Emma Thompson pic Saving Mr. Banks surged 50% despite no increase in screens and grossed an estimated $14M. Averaging a solid $6,645, the Disney release has collected $37.8M thus far.
Fox’s PG-rated film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty bowed to an estimated $13M from 2,909 locations for a mediocre $4,469 average. Total for the Ben Stiller project since its yuletide launch is $25.6M. Reviews were mixed and the CinemaScore was a B+. Demos were 52% female and 64% over 25.
Jumping 16% was the Katniss tentpole The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with an estimated $10.2M in its sixth weekend and $391.1M overall making it 2013’s second biggest blockbuster after Iron Man 3 ($409M) which it may surpass before its run is through. The Lionsgate release has climbed up to number 18 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters.
Keanu Reeves delivered a bomb with his pricey period adventure 47 Ronin which started with a solid opening day on Wednesday but then quickly lost its audience. The weekend saw an estimated $9.9M while the five-day period brought in just $20.6M. With a budget estimated to be in the range of $150-175M, the Universal release never generated interest outside of a core subset of the male action crowd. Reviews were terrible but the CinemaScore grade was a decent B+. There was a heavy male skew (62%) while 53% were over 30. Overseas results are not much better with $22.3M total to date from 29 markets including Japan where it is now in its fourth frame.
Rounding out the top ten was A Madea Christmas with an estimated $7.4M, down just 12%, for a $43.7M total for Lionsgate. It should surpass $50M like so many previous Tyler Perry movies including all the Madea titles.
Also rejected by critics and paying audiences alike was the Sylvester Stallone-Robert DeNiro boxing comedy Grudge Match which opened just outside the top ten to an estimated $7.3M over the weekend from 2,838 locations for a wimpy $2,576 average. The PG-13 pic earned a B+ from audiences and had only $13.4M in box office over five days. Older men, as expected, made up the core crowd as 55% were male and 68% were over 25. Reviews were dreadful and with so many better options, ticketbuyers took a pass on this fight.
Two more films debuted nationwide but failed to crack the top ten posting weak grosses. The Idris Elba pic Mandela followed a prolonged one month run in platform release with an expansion into 975 theaters but grossed an estimated $2.4M for a lousy $2,484 average. Cume for The Weinstein Co. is $4.7M with a rocky road ahead.
The supposedly-retired pop singer Justin Bieber failed to make his fans come out to theaters with his new music doc Believe which debuted to an estimated $2M from 1,037 locations for a flimsy $1,942 average. The five-day tally since its Christmas launch was a measly $4.3M which is a fraction of the $30.3M that his 2011 film Never Say Never opened to. Believe had only one-third of the screens and was released by Open Road which does not have the marketing muscle of Paramount and its MTV sibling. But still, the new film did not generate any impressive turnout with its opening weekend down an alarming 93% from Bieber’s last film.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $171.4M which was up 8% from last year when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey stayed at number one with $32.9M; and up 27% from 2011 when Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was in the top spot with $29.4M.
Compared to three-day projections, The Wolf of Wall Street came in a little below my $22M forecast while The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was on target with my $13M prediction. 47 Ronin was close to my $9M projection and Grudge Match came in below my $13M forecast. Believe debuted well under my $6M prediction.
Also opening this week in limited release:
August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in a dramedy about a deeply dysfunctional family reunion, is at 81 percent.
The Invisible Woman, starring Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones in a period drama about the woman who became the object of Charles Dickens’ extramarital passion, is at 73 percent.
Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg and Taylor Kitsch in a drama about a group of Navy SEALs on a dangerous mission to take out a Taliban target, is at 72 percent.
Like a cool breeze blowing through the mountains of modern movies, Keanu Reeves has endured as something of an unlikely cinema icon. Not just the star of summer smashes such as Speed and The Matrix, he’s also amassed an impressive resume that includes performances in left-field American classics like River’s Edge, A Scanner Darkly and My Own Private Idaho, while continuing to flourish in the popular imagination, of course, as the irrepressibly excellent stoner, Theodore “Ted” Logan.
Having served as the inquisitive anchor on last year’s digital-vs-film documentary Side by Side, Reeves recently made his feature directing debut with Man of Tai Chi, a kung fu tournament movie wrapped in a reality-TV-style satire. With the movie releasing on Blu-ray and DVD this week, we talked with Reeves about his filmmaking inspirations, his acting career, and more.
First up, he ran down his five favorite kung fu movies.
Enter the Dragon (Robert Clouse, 1973; 95% Tomatometer)
Alright, so to begin this list I’m going to start with one of my first impressions of kung fu films; my childhood experience. So: Enter the Dragon. As a young child, you must see Bruce Lee, and Enter the Dragon.
It’s ground zero for kids getting into kung fu movies.
It is. It is for many people. I grew up in Toronto, and in the late ’70s, early ’80s, there was an independent channel that would show kung fu movies late at night. And as a young kid I had a little black-and-white TV set, and so I was exposed to these films — but I couldn’t tell you their titles, because I was 11- and 12-years-old. [Laughs] I didn’t write them down in my diary. But I remember really enjoying them: the costumes, the fighting, the stories, you know; I mean, just all the different styles, and watching these people do these amazing things. But then there was Enter the Dragon, which I actually saw in a movie theatre. I saw it in Times Square; I was taken there by my stepfather. And that film — I mean, what a charismatic performance, right? And that story. The drugs, the mystery, the sex; it was very James Bond-ian, wasn’t it? I’d been exposed to that kind of storytelling. But again, the drama, the music, the flashbacks, the beginning — as the tournament fights are starting — very, very cool. The super fight at the end, the fight in the mirrors, the claw! [Laughs] So that was fun.
5 Fingers of Death (Chang-hwa Jeong, Chung Chang-whu; 1973; 83% Tomatometer)
Then at the time there was also a film called 5 Fingers of Death. That might have been a Shaw brothers film. Oh wait, no, no, no — who are those other cats?
I think it might be a Shaw brothers one.
Yeah? Well, what struck me as a kid was when the guy jumps up in the air and takes the eyeballs out. I mean, I was a young person; I was just like, “What?!” [Laughs] Yeah! And I saw that on the big screen, so I always remember that making an impression. And I’m sure there were things going on in there — about the gangs, and the betrayal, and the student and the revenge — that were a bit above my consciousness at the time. I don’t know, but I always felt like there was some kind of political and social agenda in there somewhere.
It does, but when you’re a kid, what you remember is the guy getting his eyeballs snatched out.
Yeah… but even there, I mean, the film had a duplicity, right? People were lying and pretending to be things, and he kind of goes on this quest to avenge all of that. He’s a truth-seeker and he gets used. [Laughs] And it was moody. I remember it as being moody. It was night-time. And also the composition: people just huddled on one side of the room, talking. And it had some martial arts. I don’t remember it having a lot of [camera] under-cranking in it. I’m sure there was. You know, doing 22-frame, 22-23-frame stuff.
Was this sort of thing on your mind when you were shooting Man of Tai Chi? ‘Cause there’s not a lot of slow-mo. I mean, there are a few shots, but it seems like you were consciously going for a more old-fashioned style.
Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of old, and a lot of modern. There’s the Steadicam stuff — there’s a lot of Steadicam stuff in the fight scenes.
I feel like a lot of your conversation scenes in this were just as active in terms of camera movement.
Sometimes. [Laughs] Absolutely, sometimes. And sometimes it’s just two-shots. I think what I tried to do, especially with out Hong Kong stuff, was to try and have a lot of angles. So also, in the fights, you’re seeing the scene, but you’re seeing it from different perspectives. You know, when someone gets a phone call, it’s like “Whoosh!” Up-top. On-the-side. Down-below. You know? A lot of what the film’s about is perspective. I tried to put people there for the moment, whatever that moment may have been. [Laughs]
Fist of Legend (Gordon Chan, 1994; 100% Tomatometer)
Let’s go to Fist of Legend. Yuen Woo-ping directing [choreography for] Jet Li. I was shown that film by the Wachowskis before shooting The Matrix, and that was like, “This is amazing.” The storytelling and the fights are what I really like. It’s just good, hard, Yuen Woo-ping choreography; Jet Li’s awesome; there’s a lot of fighting… yeah, I’m definitely gonna say that one. A good, clean, awesome fight movie.
Tai Chi Master (Yuen Woo-ping, 1993; 86% Tomatometer)
I kinda wanna go to Jet Li again, which is kinda not right — we should probably do some Jackie Chan, right? Drunken Master, Drunken Master II, maybe? I don’t know, I just wanted to do a costume one, you know — like Tai Chi Master. There’s something really beautiful about that one, the scope. Sometimes the scope doesn’t have power to it. This one does. I’m gonna put that one in here as a “highly recommend.”
The Matrix* (Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski, 1999; 87% Tomatometer)
You know, I’m gonna throw The Matrix out there, I think.
[Laughs] I think I’m gonna throw The Matrix out there as a seminal, modern kind of “keeping the dream alive” of the kung fu movie. Does it need an asterisk? I don’t know. Is it a kung fu movie? I would say there’s enough kung fu in there to make it a kung fu movie. I think so.
The kung fu is solid in that movie.
It’s solid! I think the subway fight is pretty good. Yeah… I don’t know. But I think if we were just going by kung fu fight, then I think you’d have to take Reloaded. If we’re just going by fights. Even just that one sequence, with the Smith fight, and the choreography in that — when all those Smiths come out — I mean, that’s just insane, that fight sequence.
I’ll put an asterisk next to it for you.
Next, Keanu Reeves on his unlikely inspiration for Man of Tai Chi, which sequels he would and wouldn’t do, and his future plans for directing. Plus, see an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip.
Reeves directs star Tiger Chen in Man of Tai Chi
Was there any particular film, or films, that you looked at to prepare for Man of Tai Chi? You obviously have a head full of kung fu movies.
Keanu Reeves: You know, we looked at the cinematography of the films Tiger [Chen] had acted in. We looked at a lot of films. I was looking at them mostly for camera angles and editing, just to see how they were shot and what people were doing. I kinda just went into the library. But mostly, for me aesthetic-wise, the film that I was probably looking at the most was Funny Games by Michael Haneke.
That’s interesting. I guess you’ve got the whole “reality TV/ fight” angle going in Man of Tai Chi.
Yeah, ’cause I wanted to play with the subjective and the fourth wall a lot in Man of Tai Chi, and with Funny Games I liked the composition and those characters looking into the camera. I liked how that worked. So that film, I would say, had the most impact for me, cinematically, on this one.
Looking at your career, you basically went to the best film school in the world; I mean, the people you worked with — from Francis Coppola to Gus Van Sant to the Wachowskis to Richard Linklater, the list goes on — was there a specific moment where you caught the directing bug, or did it happen organically over time?
I mean, catching a bug is pretty organic. [Laughs] You know, when I was acting, I always loved the floor — where was the camera going, you know? I’m one of those actors who likes to see the finished film, as opposed to not, ’cause I wanna see what the directors did.
So many actors never watch their film, which is weird.
Yeah. I mean, I get it. But for me, I like to see, when you go to tell this story, how did they tell it?
You’re a student of cinema, as you showed in Side by Side.
With River Phoenix in Gus van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho
Was there any film of yours where you went, “Wow, I didn’t know it was going to turn out like that“? I guess The Matrix might be the obvious answer there.
For sure. If only for the simple reason of having the visual effects in it. But I would say another experience of that, for sure, would be My Own Private Idaho. Gus [Van Sant] did such a lovely story. And River [Phoenix], of course. That film, definitely; I was very curious to see what that would be.
There were some stories recently to mark the 20th anniversary of River’s death. Was he on your mind?
Yeah, of course. Absolutely. I miss him very much.
Okay, I’m not gonna ask you about Bill and Ted ’cause I’m sure you’re sick of answering the third movie questions — and don’t get me wrong, I love those movies.
But let me ask you this: Are there any other of your movies that, in a fantasy world, you’d love to do a sequel to?
Ah, I wish I had a chance to play Constantine again. I liked that character. I wish the producers had followed up on that more than they did. I think that Francis Lawrence did a great job. It’s definitely an adaptation of the source material, but I thought we did it in the spirit of it, certainly. I really did enjoy playing that role.
Have you ever talked to Kathryn Bigelow about making a sequel to Point Break?
[Laughs] Yeah… I don’t know. I think there was talk of it many, many, many years ago, but I guess it never came to pass. I guess that journey was done, you know? Vaya con dios. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Don’t mess with what’s perfect.
I’d like to see you revisit the characters from River’s Edge.
Oh my gosh, like, “Where are they now?”
Where do you think those guys would be now, if they’re even alive?
I just hope [Reeves’ character] Matt’s not selling insurance. [Laughs]
[Laughs] That’s the worst possible outcome.
Yeah, I know. That’d just be bad.
Now that you’ve made your first film, are you gonna be directing more? It feels like, between this and Side by Side, your interests might be gravitating to behind the camera.
Yeah, I would love to. I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking for a story to tell. Absolutely.
How about you just direct the third Bill and Ted?
Well, I’d go direct it with Alex Winter. [Laughs] No, absolutely not.
You know, I think it’s time Alex got back behind the camera — Freaked is really something.
Ahhhh, yes! That’s a good movie! “Leader of the freaks!”
Your performance as the dog boy is very moving.
Thank you so much. [Laughs] It’s pretty surreal.
It’s pretty weird.
It’s very weird!
Below, go behind-the-scenes with Keanu Reeves with an exclusive look at the making of Man of Tai Chi.
Man of Tai Chi is released this week on Blu-ray and DVD, and is available through iTunes and VOD.