Keanu Reeves is one of the most iconic actors in Hollywood and a box office king. He has had a long career in show business, spanning several decades. As an actor, he has made many dramas, comedies, thrillers, action movies, and sci-fi films. Recently Keanu Reeves has reprised his role as Neo alongside Carrie Anne Moss (Trinity) in The Matrix Resurrections.
This article will review Keanu Reeves’ personal life, career, and philanthropy to give you an ultimate guide on this very talented actor!
Born Keanu Charles Reeves
Keanu Reeves was born Keanu Charles Reeves on September 02, 1964, in Beirut, Lebanon. His first name is Hawaiian for “Cool Breeze,” a fitting description for the often laid-back actor. His mother, Patricia Taylor, was from England, and his father, Samuel Nowlin Reeves, Jr., is a Chinese Hawaiian-born American of British, Portuguese, Native Hawaiian, and Chinese descent. Patricia was a showgirl and costume designer, and Samuel was a geologist. Growing up, he was surrounded by Chinese art, furniture, and cuisine (due to his Grandmother’s ethnicity). He was imparted with English manners from his mother, manners he carried well into adulthood. When Keanu was three years old, his parents split. Along with his mother and sister Kim Reeves, Keanu relocated to New York City. They would later move to Toronto, where Reeves grew up.
Reeves had an estranged relationship with his biological father. Keanu Reeves’ last contact with his biological father was when he was 13 years old. However, for a brief part of his life, a stepfather, Patricia’s second husband, Paul Aaron, played an essential role in his introduction to movie-making. While the relationship between Patrica and Paul would not last long, Keanu was put as a production assistant to a movie Paul was working on. Paul Aaron would continue to stay close to Keanu, even after the split, giving him advice from time to time.
Keanu’s first stage production would be at age nine in Damn Yankees. After that, he’d play Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet before debuting in a TV comedy called Hangin’ In.
Reeves went to four different high schools as a young adult. A sometimes ‘mouthy’ kid, Reeves was expelled from the Etobicoke School of The Arts. At De La Salle College, he earned the nickname The Wall as a capable goalie for the school’s hockey team. He considered dreams of playing for the Canadian Olympic Hockey team before deciding to be an actor at 15. He would later attend the Avondale Secondary Alternative School. This allowed him to get an education and pursue his dreams of becoming a successful actor. Yet, he would drop out of high school at age 17 to pursue his dreams full-time. He would obtain a green card and move to Los Angeles three years later through his American Stepfather. He has remained there and continues to live in Los Angeles today.
After making his feature film debut in 1986’s Youngblood, Keanu Reeves has had an illustrious career. He has starred in some iconic movies such as The Matrix Trilogy, Point Break, Speed, John Wick, and many more.
Reeves started off his movie career with roles in films like River’s Edge and Dangerous Liaisons before landing the part that would make him a household name- Ted Logan in 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. He would follow this appearance with roles in Parenthood and I Love You To Death, the latter of which where he met his best friend, River Phoenix.
But, Keanu Reeves struggled to escape from the reputation that his character Ted Logan created. Typecast as a goofy stoner, Keanu did his best to escape from under this umbrella by staring in some more serious roles like My Own Private Idaho and Dracula. This was followed by starring roles in action classics like Point Break and Speed, cementing Keanu as an action star. Valuing artistic quality over big paychecks, Keanu would juggle between small and big-budget films. He would pass on the Speed sequel, causing Fox to block him out of spite for over a decade. While some would consider such a move as career suicide, Keanu’s career found yet another box office hit in 1999 when Reeves starred in The Matrix. With this, Reeves became a global phenomenon.
Reeves has since starred in many movies, from heartwarming dramas like The Lake House to dark and gritty thrillers like John Wick. He has also shown his comedic chops in films like Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and the rom-com Something’s Gotta Give.
Here is a brief guide to some of his films and appearances, from his humble beginnings as a TV movie star to today’s blockbuster actor.
Hangin’ In (1980s TV Series)
Keanu Reeves made his television debut in acting on the TV series Hangin’ In, which aired between 1981 and 1987. The show was about a drop-in youth center in Toronto and featured many guest appearances, including a young Keanu Reeves.
Under The Influence – TV Movie (1986)
Released in 1986 as a CBS-made for TV movie, Under The Influence is one of Keanu Reeves’ first projects. In it, he stars alongside Andy Griffith and Season Hubley.
Reeves plays Eddie Talbot – a young man who struggles to deal with his abusive alcoholic father. Griffith’s character Noah Talbot becomes very ill from his alcohol addiction and is hospitalized. This sends the Talbot’s home life into turmoil. Reeves’ performance is compelling, being one of the early indications that despite being most famous as an action hero, he can also play several roles, including drama, very well.
Keanu Reeves starred in this 1986 hockey movie alongside Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe. As his first significant role, the movie follows a young goaltender named Dean Youngblood (Rob Lowe), trying to make it onto the professional hockey scene. In the film, Keanu played Heaver.
Youngblood was met with mediocre reviews from critics. It, however, became popular via video rentals and Cable TV showings.
River’s Edge (1986)
Tim Hunter directed this 1986 crime drama. It follows a group of teenagers exposed to violence, drugs, and the harsh realities of growing up after one among them commit murder. The movie also starred Crispin Glover as Layne, Daniel Roebuck as Samson Tollet, Ione Skye Leitch as Clarissa, and Dennis Hopper.
Reeves shared billing on this film alongside some very seasoned actors but held his own against veterans like Dennis Hopper on screen. The movie was critically acclaimed and put Keanu Reeves on critics’ radars.
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Keanu Reeves played the role of Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny in this 1988 adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 18th century novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The movie was directed by Stephen Frears and starred Glenn Close, John Malkovich, and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
One of Keanu Reeves’ first big successes, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, would see Reeves playing one of his most iconic roles. Reeves played Theodore “Ted” Logan, alongside Alex Winter, who played Bill Preston. The movie’s plot revolves around two teenagers who are given a time machine that sends them back to various historical points to study for their upcoming history exam.
The movie was applauded by critics and became a classic after its release, spawning two sequels- Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and Bill & Ted Face The Music.
Keanu Reeves starred alongside Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, and Dianne Wiest in this 1989 comedy about the Buckman family. The movie follows Gil Buckman (Steve Martin) as he tries to juggle work life with taking care of his three children after his wife confesses that she is pregnant with a fourth.
Reeves played Tod Higgins – the boyfriend of Gil’s sister’s daughter, Julie.
Upon its release, the film was a commercial success and earned an impressive $126 million against a budget of only $20 million. It was also critically acclaimed and currently sits at over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I Love You To Death (1990)
This romantic comedy was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and starred Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman and Joan Plowright, and River Phoenix.
Reeves played the supporting role of Marlon James, one of two stoners hired to kill Joey Boca (Kevin Kline) after his wife Rosalie (Tracey Ullman) discovers his infidelity. It was loosely based on a 1983 attempted murder in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Francis Toto repeatedly tried to kill her husband to no avail. This film and Bill & Ted contributed to the public perception of Keanu Reeves as a dimwitted stoner, a typecasting he fought hard to erase with his future films.
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Gus Van Sant’s 1991 independent drama My Own Private Idaho was based on Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V. It follows Mike Waters (River Phoenix), a narcoleptic gay hustler, and Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves) as they attempt to search for Mike’s mother. The movie was directed by Gus Van Sant and also starred James Russo, William Richert, and even Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers!
Point Break (1991)
In this 1991 action classic, Keanu Reeves played the role of FBI agent Johnny Utah who goes undercover to investigate a group of surfers suspected of being bank robbers. The movie was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starred Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, and Lori Petty.
Upon its release, point Break was a commercial success and has since become a cult classic.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Reeves starred alongside Winona Ryder in this onscreen retelling of the Bram Stoker classic. In a funny twist, the wedding in the film was done by a real-life ordained priest, thus making Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves real-life husband and wife. While they are not an actual couple, and Keanu is in love with artist Alexandra Grant, the duo often pokes fun at the insane true story, with Winona occasionally texting “hey, husband.”
Speed is one of Keanu Reeves’ most successful and well-known movies. Released in 1994, it follows LAPD officer Jack Traven who teams up with Annie Porter (played by Sandra Bullock) to stop a madman from detonating a bomb onboard a city bus that will explode if the speed drops below 50 mph.
The movie was a critical and commercial success, achieving 350 million box office on a budget of around 37 million.
The Matrix Films (1999-2003, and later 2021)
The Matrix Trilogy made Keanu Reeves a worldwide phenomenon. The first matrix movie was released in 1999, starring Reeves as Neo/Thomas Anderson alongside Laurence Fishburne, who played Morpheus. This movie is considered one of the best sci-fi movies ever produced and is credited with popularizing the “bullet time” effect found in many action films that followed.
Reeves reprised his role in the Matrix sequels (The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions). After receiving critical acclaim for its spectacular visual effects and mind-bending action scenes, the first Matrix also won four Academy Awards, including Best Visual Effects.
All three films were successful, earning over 400 million worldwide at the Box Office.
Recently, fans were surprised by the announcement of a new Matrix movie by Lilly Wachowski titled The Matrix Resurrections, released 18 years after the last matrix film. The new Matrix is currently streaming on HBO Max. Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss reprise their roles as Thomas Anderson/Neo and Trinity for this film.
Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
One of Keanu Reeves’ most fun roles was a lighthearted romantic comedy called Something’s Gotta Give. In it, he starred opposite Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Released in 2003, the movie follows successful record executive Harry Sanborn, who only dates 30 and under. Upon a visit to the Hamptons, he falls for the mother of the woman he is dating, Erica. What ensues is a series of hilarious as both Harry and Erica try to come to terms with their feelings for each other while putting up a front to hide it from their significant others.
After years of being typecast into action roles, it also saw Reeves channeling his sensitive side as doctor Julian Mercer.
Constantine is an American movie based on the DC comic Hellblazer. It stars Reeves as John Constantine- an exorcist and occult expert who teams up with policewoman Angela Dodson to investigate her sister’s suicide.
The film was released in 2005, and despite negative reviews, it proved popular among audiences earning over $230 million worldwide. It also boasts one of Hollywood’s most iconic villains, Gabriel, portrayed by Tilda Swinton, who intends to unleash hell on earth.
The Lake House (2006)
Another heartwarming movie starring Reeves is The Lake House, where he plays Alex Wyler. Alex is an architect living alone in a lakeside house. One day he begins to receive letters from a woman named Kate (played by Sandra Bullock) who lives in the same place two years later. They fall in love with each other through their correspondence and meet up in person.
The movie was released in 2006 to mixed and negative reviews. However, it proved popular among audiences, earning over $114 million worldwide.
John Wick Series (2014 and beyond)
The first installment of John Wick was released in 2014 to critical acclaim and was a box office hit. It earned almost $86 million on a $20 Million budget. Reeves plays ex-hitman John, who seeks revenge after his beloved puppy is killed, and gangsters steal his car after John refuses to sell them the vehicle. It received rave reviews from critics due to director Chad Stahelski’s spectacular choreography, with Reeves praised for his performance.
The second installment of John Wick (John Wick Chapter 2) was released in 2017 and managed to make even more money at the Box Office than the first. It raked in over $171 million on a budget of only $40M, thus doubling the original film’s gross. The third installment, John Wick Chapter 3, continued the series’ box office dominance. It currently has a gross of $326 Million, the largest of the series’ box office returns.
Of course, with the massive success the John Wick films have had, it should come as no surprise that a fourth and even fifth John Wick film (likely to be called John Wick Chapter 4 and 5 respectively) is in the works. John Wick Chapter 4 will be released in 2023, and the release date of Chapter 5 is TBA.
Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)
Keanu Reeves appeared in the 2020 video game Cyberpunk 2077 as Johnny Silverhand- a charismatic cybernetically enhanced musician who helps the player navigate the dark and violent world of Night City. While Cyberpunk was much maligned for its unfinished state and many bugs upon release, Keanu Reeves’ performance is a highlight and one of the most enjoyable parts of the game.
In recent years, Keanu Reeves has started to focus on producing. In 2013, he co-founded his own production company, Company Films, which produced Man of Tai Chi. Reeves directed the movie and also starred in the film. Since then, Company Films has helped make many films, including Keanu Reeves’ popular John Wick series.
Has Keanu Reeves ever won an oscar?
Despite starring in several big movies, Keanu has never won an Oscar, let alone been nominated for one.
As of 2021, Keanu Reeves’ net worth is estimated to be $380 million. This wealth comes from a mixture of his movie paychecks and business ventures.
One of Keanu Reeves’ most notable business ventures includes founding the motorcycle manufacturer Arch Motorcycle Company. Arch Motorcycles customize each bike to the buyer, creating what Arch calls a ‘bespoke motorcycle.’
As mentioned earlier, he has also been involved in other business ventures. Such as owning a production company called Company Films. Since then, the company has produced movies such as Henry’s Crime (2010) and Man Of Tai Chi (2013).
Tragedies in Keanu’s life
Death of Best Friend
In 1993, Reeves’s friend and co-star River Phoenix passed away due to a drug overdose. The two had been close friends since they met on the set of I Love You To Death. The two had also appeared together in My Own Private Idaho (1991). Reeves famously rode his motorcycle over 1,000 miles to River to hand-deliver the script as he felt the role of Michael Waters would be perfect for him. River’s performance went on to be one of his most critically acclaimed.
Phoenix’s death hit Reeves hard. “He was a special person. So original, unique, smart, talented, fiercely creative. Thoughtful. Brave. And funny, and dark, and light.”
Loss of Child and Death of Jennifer Syme
In 1999 while filming The Matrix – Reeves’ girlfriend Jennifer Syme gave birth to their daughter Ava Archer Syme-Rose who was stillborn. The couple was so devastated by the tragedy that they broke up soon after.
Then in 2001- Syme was killed in a car accident when she lost control of her Jeep Cherokee.
Since becoming a successful actor, Keanu Reeves has used his fame and fortune to support various philanthropic initiatives. Reeves has also been known for his many kind deeds, both on and off the set. He famously gave up back-end profits on The Matrix (which would’ve earned him more than 50 million) to save jobs on the set and ensure the special effects team would not go over budget. Additionally, he provided all the stuntmen with motorcycles. He also gave one of the set builders $30,000 to help them get back on their feet. He regularly hangs out with homeless people and gives back to them whenever he can.
Witnessing his sister’s battle with leukemia, Keanu Reeves founded a private cancer foundation to help Children’s hospitals and aid in cancer research.
And of course, there’s the famous moment where Keanu Reeves, still traveling via subway despite being wealthy enough to do other forms of travel, gave up his seat so a woman carrying a heavy bag could have a more leisurely ride. All in all, Keanu is one hell of a guy.
Keanu Reeves- A Living Legend
Keanu Reeves is a living legend with an iconic career spanning over 30 years. He’s been in some of the most memorable movies and has won many awards. He is a role model both onscreen and off. He continues to push boundaries even at this stage of his career, proving that age isn’t anything but another number!
Over thirty years into his acting career, it seems like Keanu Reeves still hasn’t lost any of that charm or charisma- making him one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors! As a random fan once yelled to him at a Cyberpunk event, Keanu Reeves: You’re breathtaking!