Not that you needed to be reminded, but the Keanussance is still alive and well in 2020. This might be because Keanu Reeves is a badass, has always been a badass, and will always be a badass. His movies have always been a testament to his badassery, as well as the characters he's embodied. But even when he’s chugging a Coke in a commercial or playing a tiny toy on a motorcycle, he still finds a way to be a badass. How does he do it?
I don’t know, but he does. Time and time again. And each time, he manages to be most excellent. This list, however, is of his best characters, ranked by their bad-assery. Every last one of them will make you go (wait for it) “Whoa.” Keanu is just that cool of a dude. And without further ado.
10. Ted "Theodore" Logan: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Strengths/Skills: Excellent on the air guitar, has access to a time machine
I know what you’re already thinking. “Hold the phone. You’re putting Ted on this list?” And I’m glad that you’re thinking about phones, since if Ted didn’t step inside that phone booth all those many years ago with his most righteous buddy, Bill, then I don’t know where our world would even be right now. But he did, and the world is all the better for it.
Let’s see. How many badass things has Ted done? Well, he survived Napoleon Bonaparte, cheated at Poker with Billy the Kid, battled an evil robot version of himself, and even faced off against the Grim Reaper, just to name a few. In fact, It’s hard to imagine how much more badass Ted “Theodore” Logan could possibly be, but I'm sure he will stun us yet again when he returns in Bill and Ted Face the Music. And you thought Ted was a joke pick. I told you he was badass.
9. The Neon Demon: Hank
Strengths/Skills: Running a Hotel full of minors, getting rid of mountain lions
In the dark, psychological thriller, The Neon Demon, Keanu Reeves, who we all know and love, plays a creep named Hank who runs a hotel. Remember how lovable Keanu was in Bill and Ted? Well, Hank is the complete opposite of that. Well aware that he has young women staying in his rooms, he even jokingly tries to direct somebody to one of the underage girls since he knows that the person is into some “real Lolita shit.” Just super skeevy.
But he's also super badass. How badass is he? Well, he’s so badass that he can look a mountain lion right in the eyes and not go running for the Hollywood hills. Now that’s tough.
8. Johnny Mnemonic: Johnny Mnemonic
Strengths/Skills: Storing Information in his head, fugitive stuff
In the year 2021 (Wow! That's just next year!) Keanu Reeves, as Johnny Mnemonic, will be the mnemonic currier to end all mnemonic curriers. What’s this mean? Well, it means that he will be able to store all the memes and gifs in his head that the internet could ever provide if he wanted to, and it could all be seen in super 90s virtual reality.
But seriously, could you imagine having unlimited knowledge in your head? I’m sure plenty of people would be after that kind of power. But Keanu takes it all in stride, looking cool as cool can be in this badass role. That is, of course, until he flips out and screams about how he wants “ROOM SERVICE!” and the “cold magic of beer.” Only Keanu Reeves could make those lines sound both hilarious and powerful at the same time. We’ll probably never get that virtual reality TV series, New Angeles, that Keanu was supposed to do with Roland Emmerich, but at least we’ll always have this 90s gem.
7. The Gift: Donnie Barksdale
Strengths/Skills: Threatening people, being a convincing MacGuffin
Keanu Reeves is a breathtaking gift to us all, but in The Gift (The 2000 one. Not the 2015 movie), Keanu Reeves plays yet another creep, but this time, he’s super scary. Keanu does not seem like the kind of guy who would threaten a woman and her kids. He also doesn’t seem like the kind of man who would make for an abusive husband. But in The Gift, you get a sense that Keanu has a deep-rooted anger lurking inside of him that’s just waiting to explode.
Now abuse is not badass, no matter how you try to spin it. But Keanu is such a badass, that even though this is a supernatural thriller, Keanu Reeves is still the scariest part about this movie. Just watch him flip from calm to furious in that courtroom scene. It's terrifying!
6. 47 Ronin: Kai
Strengths/Skills: Dueling to the death, magic
Though I’m pretty sure I'm the only person who actually saw 47 Ronin when it came out on Christmas day in 2013, I think it’s pretty obvious that anybody who does watch this movie will clearly see what makes Keanu such a badass. First off, Keanu has a sword in this movie, and he wields it against some massive villains.
And secondly, he can use magic. This couldn't be clearer than when he’s fighting that snake-looking dude in a cave and straight up turns into a whirlwind when he’s reaching for his sword. We already knew that Keanu Reeves was magic. But to see it play out on the big screen? Well, that’s the stuff that dreams are made of.
5. Constantine: John Constantine
Strengths/Skills: Can communicate with angels and demons, exorcisms
Could you imagine if John Constantine faced off against Al Pacino’s Satan in The Devil’s Advocate? Okay, fan fiction aside, while we’ll probably never get another Constantine movie (even though, Keanu says he would love to make another one) this occult detective movie bears the distinction of being the only film that I can think of where Keanu Reeves actually goes straight directly to Hell.
Keanu also makes exorcism look cool. Instead of all that lame sprinkling of holy water and brandishing the Bible, Constantine employs a mirror and a rope, and actually pulls the demon right out of a woman. Come on now. If badass was a word in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure a picture of Keanu Reeve pulling a demon out of some woman with a rope would likely be the word's accompanying picture.
4. Point Break: Johnny Utah
Strengths/Skills: Fighting with a surfboard, skydiving without a parachute
Before there was Jack Traven in Speed (I’ll get to him. Don’t worry), there was Johnny Utah in Point Break. Keanu Reeves’s first real break out role, in Point Break, Reeves plays a former football player turned FBI agent who goes undercover. That’s pretty badass already, and for any other actor, that would be enough.
But this is Keanu Reeves we’re talking about here. Johnny Utah fights beach bums with a surfboard, chases people on foot despite a bum knee, and even jumps out of an airplane… without a parachute. I know Keanu Reeves is just an actor acting in a movie, but I have to believe that the real Keanu Reeves could jump out of a plane without a parachute and survive if he wanted to. It’s pretty hard to imagine him not being able to do that.
3. Speed: Jack Traven
Strengths/Skills: Police training, quick thinking
Pop quiz, hot shot! Do you know the third most badass role Keanu Reeves has ever played? It’s Jack Traven from Speed, of course. Another question: Did you know that Keanu Reeves was put into “movie jail” after turning down that Godawful Speed 2: Cruise Control sequel? Well, apparently, it’s true. But as badass as Keanu Reeves is, it’s hard to imagine even him saving that turkey of a movie. That said, the original Speed is 100% pure octane madness, and it still holds up today. This is likely because a Keanu Reeves' performance never gets old. And if there’s any badass Keanu Reeves character who will live throughout the ages, it’s Jack Traven.
Coaching Sandra Bullock to keep a bus moving above 50 mph at all times is a feat in of itself, but jumping from a car to a moving bus, fighting Dennis Hopper in an elevator shaft, and wrestling on top of a moving train just could not be any more badass if you wanted it to be. Speed is, and always will be, the real deal.
2: The Matrix 1,2, and 3: Thomas Anderson, AKA, Neo
Strengths/Skills: Bullet time, learning kung-fu in seconds
To many, Neo is the defining role of Keanu Reeves. You can have your Jack Travens, your Ted “Theodore” Logans and your Johnny Utahs, but for many who grew up in the 80s and 90s, Neo is the most badass Keanu Reeves has ever been.
And is there any wonder why? Neo knows kung-fu, Neo knows how to fly, Neo can dodge bullets. In fact, what can’t Neo do? Neo may be the most simple anagram of all time (since he’s the “One”. Duh), but could there be any more fitting anagram for the “one” and only Keanu Reeves? Didn’t think so.
1: John Wick 1, 2, and 3: John Wick
Strengths/Skills: Killing every last person in the room, horse riding
It’s hard to admit this, but for a time, it seemed like Keanu Reeves might disappear off the face of the earth. It’s true. Following the massive success of The Matrix trilogy, Keanu Reeves hit a wall where he did a lot of low budget pictures that nobody wanted to see. And then came John Wick. John Wick may be the most badass character Keanu Reeves has ever played since it single-handedly brought his career back from the dead. There wouldn’t even be a Keanussance if there wasn’t a John Wick.
John Wick’s badassness is too numerous to name. The part in John Wick 3 where he’s throwing the knives is probably my favorite action scene of the past decade. And the scene where he’s shooting at Common in John Wick 2 with the silencer is probably my second. But the thing about John Wick that I think we have all fallen in love with is that he has such a sensitive side, just like how we all imagine Keanu Reeves is in real life. In case you don't remember, this whole murder spree began because people killed John Wick's dog. And if seeking vengeance for your canine companion is not the most badass thing any character has ever done, then I don’t know what is.
Keanu Reeves doesn’t seem to be stopping with the badass train anytime soon, and we’ll soon see him face off against his greatest foe of all when John Wick 4 and The Matrix 4 come out on the same day…himself. We’ll definitely be along for the ride when that day comes.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.