Many Faces of Keanu Reeves: Look back at actor's diverse career

Keanu Reeves's swift transition from romantic lead to bounty hunter comprises a mesh of roles in between

By Ellen James March 18, 2023

Keanu Reeves has garnered fitting respect for his role as an action hero in the film industry as well outside of it. Only some of us are aware of the diversity of roles he has played in the span of his decades-long career. For starters, the John Wick star has embodied a romantic lead, a comedian of his own accord, and a voiceover actor, alongside a string of action roles.

Reeves kicked off his acting career with various stage shows and a lesser-known television program. He didn’t give up when he couldn’t get a big role right away; instead, the Matrix star powered his way through the top with experience and ended up building an empire that could now be witnessed from miles away. 

Keanu Reeves Film Debut:

Reeves made his film debut with 1986’s sports-drama film Youngblood. In the film itself, the actor brought his unique sense of perspective and delivered an extraordinary performance – too nuanced for a beginner like him. He also tried his hands on a crime drama with River’s Edge later in the year, which saw Keanu deliver one of the best performances of all time.

Keanu Reeves Comedy Stints:

Following a series of supporting roles, Reeves got on board to shake things up in his career with timeless comedy films like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and The Devil’s Advocate. As a slacker teenager in the former, Reeves welcomed genuine laughter with the enamored portrayal of his character. 

Contrary to his role in John Wick and other action movies, Reeves demonstrated his capability to work in a team, blending in with their styles and producing the content at its best.

For a time being, Reeves remained established as a comedy actor in the industry as he went on to star in a number of films, nailing each and every one of them.

The Big Breakthrough:

1991 brought the much-needed transition in Reeves's career as the actor began undertaking adult roles. With his critically acclaimed performance in My Own Private Idaho, Reeves saw unprecedented praise and appreciation for his ability to pull off roles one could only envisage him in.

Reeves stepped into the world of action soon after by starring in an action thriller Point Break alongside Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, and Lori Petty. 

Among the many qualities of Reeves as an epitome of action movies, one thing that always stood him apart has been the authenticity and relatability he brings to his characters. 

No, Reeves is not the invincible action hero who defies all odds at all times, escaping injuries like he’s some character in the comic books. Instead, Reeves approaches his characters with a sense of complexity and loyalty that could only be longed for in today’s actors.

To give the best of his performances, it is a widely known fact that Reeves does his own stunt work and starts training months prior to swiftly stepping into the shoes of his characters.

For his role in John Wick, Reeves revealed that he trained alongside former Navy SEALs and other fighting experts to get the choreography of his fight scenes right. He also got training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and other martial arts for his roles in Man of Tai Chi and 47 Ronin.

Keanu Reeves Caught in a Storm:

Reeves' acclaim as an action hero was followed by a chain of critical failures as the actor seemed to be preferring quantity over quality. 

In 1995, audiences were able to gush about Reeves in the role of a romantic hero in A Walk in the Clouds, the performance that established Reeves’ persona as a serious actor.

Keanu Reeves and The Matrix: A Love Story for the Books

Taking on the role of a computer programmer in The Matrix franchise, Reeves played his hands on a precarious gamble, especially after a series of science fiction dips in his film career. 

Before the filming, Reeves scoured through hundreds of books that focused on the phenomenon of machine learning he later translated into the film. The final product was better than anyone could’ve imagined.

After the success of the first installment of The Matrix, Reeves opted for a few low-budget films in an attempt to not lose himself in the fame. He ultimately returned to the world of sci-fi with the sequels of The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matric Revolutions both in the same year, 2003, and took the action world by storm once again.

Keanu Reeves and John Wick:

The unwavering sense of belonging Reeves felt in the world of action films brought him to embody the complex character of John Wick. And although he continued taking roles in different genres of films after his resurgence in the late 2000s, Reeves never truly let go of the character he created with his intricate style.

As Reeves gears up to star in the fourth installment of John Wick, the actor’s career is far from the finish line. Among the many undisclosed film projects, Reeves is expected to partake in an upcoming Netflix series, Conquest as well as a self-written comic book series titled, BRZRKR.