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Every Keanu Reeves action movie ranked worst to best

Keanu Reeves has had a bountiful career since his cinematic debut in 1986's Youngblood. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, he grew up in Toronto, Canada, and dropped out of high school early to pursue an acting career. His first name means "a cool breeze over the mountain" in Hawaiian, and it certainly fits his chill persona.

Reeves' early years are probably best remembered for his portrayal of Ted Logan, the time-traveling California slacker of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. But when Speed was released in 1994, Keanu Reeves the action star was born. Since then, Reeves has appeared in a number of action movies that have put his abilities to good use. He's a pretty subtle actor, so any movie that can take advantage of his physical skills is all the better for it. Of course, while some of them have been great, Reeves' action flicks haven't all been hits. Here are Reeves' action movies, ranked worst to best.

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Jonny Mnemonic

Based on the cyberpunk novel of the same name by William Gibson, 1995's Johnny Mnemonic follows the story of a man with a cybernetic brain implant that helps him store information. As is the standard for Gibson novels, humanity's reliance on technology and the dystopian corporate environment of the future keep people in a kind of servitude. Reeves stars in the title role, with supporting performances from Dolph Lundgren and Ice-T.

But sadly, Johnny Mnemonic's premise just isn't exciting to watch, despite the action being pretty heavy. As Johnny tries to recover his own childhood memories that have been replaced by years of data smuggling, the main conflict loses tangibility, and no amount of watching Johnny as an observer is enough to make us care about his plight. Johnny Mnemonic is basically a guy running around a sci-fi future trying to remember something he forgot, which doesn't make for a great cinematic experience. The reviews, in this case, say it all.

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47 Ronin

47 Ronin was one of the biggest box office bombs of 2013, as chronicled in Variety. The overly-ambitious project reportedly fell victim to a constantly-shifting focus in production and a lack of experience on the part of first-time director Carl Rinsch. There was also internal debate about the balance between Eastern themes and a perceived need for "more Western touches."

One of those Western touches was the addition of Reeves to the mostly Japanese cast of this telling of an old legend about 47 rogue samurai avenging the death of their master. What really brought 47 Ronin down was that, despite its well-choreographed fight scenes and slick use of 3D and CGI special effects, the movie was surprisingly dull, with little to no development from Reeves or any of the other one-dimensional characters. But don't worry — Reeves went on to make another martial arts movie in 2013 that turned out much better than 47 Ronin. We'll get there.

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Chain Reaction

1996's Chain Reaction, starring Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman, suffers from being just downright confusing. Reeves stars as a machinist who discovers some new convoluted thing about hydrogen energy and then his lab explodes and he and his colleague (Rachel Weisz) are framed for the bombing. Freeman plays the wealthy doctor funding their project, to whom they turn for help, though of course he turns out to be the bad guy… or something.

But much like Johnny Mnemonic, Chain Reaction has no tether for the audience to grasp onto for stabilization. Reeves' character is framed for something that isn't clear, while Freeman's character is after something that is never really clear either. It's a mess of a movie whose only saving grace is a few (admittedly pretty good) action sequences. There were a lot of these formulaic action movies in the '90s that somehow had something to do with science or government or spies. Unfortunately, Chain Reaction wasn't one of the good ones.

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The Matrix Revolutions

The final film in the Wachowskis' Matrix trilogy has the benefit of bringing the epic story to a close, granting it the opportunity provide a rousing climax and closure to its philosophical journeys. That didn't save it from receiving the worst reviews of the series, largely because it sucks all of the fun out of the entire franchise. Not only does Revolutions end on a downer of a conclusion — with Trinity killed in action and Neo sacrificing himself for peace between the humans and the machines — but the final showdown turned out pretty underwhelming in itself.

The program known as Agent Smith, played brilliantly by Hugo Weaving, wants to destroy the Matrix, the machine world, and the human world, for reasons that are never really clear other than he's a broken outcast and wants revenge. A rogue virus, Agent Smith was apparently supposed to be deactivated, but has instead decided to kill everyone. Additionally, the characters we know and care about kind of get lost in a jumble of side characters, overwhelming robot battle sequences, and a convoluted plot. The Matrix movies will always have really cool action scenes and intriguing ideas, but this one was a bit of a bummer.

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Constantine

Constantine is one of those movies that should have been really cool (and was an okay supernatural flick), but didn't really live up to its potential. Based on DC Comics' Hellblazer books, Constantine tells the story of a mortal human who can see the celestial angels and demons who infiltrate and manipulate humanity. Rachel Weisz co-stars as a police detective whose sister's death reveals a plot that upsets the balance between the living and the dead.

Constantine has a great cast, including an androgynous Archangel Gabriel played by Tilda Swinton, a demon played by Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, and a slick, well-dressed Lucifer played by Peter Stormare. Some of the fight scenes are really fun, too. But ultimately, the plot isn't one that translates well onto the screen. As a result, the movie became simultaneously convoluted and predictable. Roger Ebert gave the film one-and-a-half stars, while his TV co-host Richard Roeper wrote, "It's just so awful that the crew must have been snickering."

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The Matrix Reloaded

While 1999's The Matrix was hailed as an exciting new entry into the sci-fi genre with groundbreaking filmmaking techniques, its two sequels weren't as well-received as that first hit. The two Matrix sequels weren't great mainly because, much like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2, they felt like they should have been a single movie, but the plot had expanded and bloated to the point where the powers that be decided two would be cooler.

The second movie in the trilogy, 2003's The Matrix Reloaded, was praised for its action and style but panned for its portrayal of the humans who live in Zion, humanity's haven outside of the Matrix. We know this movie is from 2003 and all, but it's hard to believe that every free human would just be partying half-naked at a giant rave. Between that and Reloaded's over-reliance on philosophical conversations at the expense of the action, it doesn't live up to the first Matrix movie, despite Reeves' excellent fighting skills.

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Man of Tai Chi

A lot of actors try and dip their toe into the directing world, and not all of them are any good at it. Thankfully, Reeves' first directorial outing was actually pretty decent. Man of Tai Chi, a Chinese-American martial arts film, was a love letter to his stuntman friend, Tiger Chen, inspired by his life and experiences. Man of Tai Chi came out the same year as 47 Ronin, but managed to avoid the same mistakes that brought that movie down. For one thing, Man of Tai Chi embraced its Chinese roots, cast, and environment, rather than a shoehorning a white, Western viewpoint into an ancient story. 

The critical consensus was that Man of Tai Chi didn't do anything groundbreaking, per se, but that the story hearkened back to a style of martial arts movie that hadn't been seen in quite some time, which Reeves lovingly embraced and paid tribute to in his directorial debut. Manhola Dargis of The New York Times wrote, "the movie finds a Januslike Mr. Reeves looking in two directions at once: toward the old-school kung-fu movies of once upon a matinee time and the modern China emblemized by the high rises that slice through smog-swathed Beijing." Reeves' respect for China, and the style of filmmaking that served as a personal tribute to his friend, is evident here.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

It's impossible to stop John Wick. It's also impossible to dislike his movies. Mash the beauty of ballet with the madcap action of Buster Keaton, then toss in a couple of buckets of blood, and bam, you've got John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. The third installment of the franchise picks up right after Chapter 2 (more on that one later), with John being declared excommunicado. Haunted by the memory of his dead wife, John prepares for war and finds himself wandering through the Sahara, battling the Chairman of Iron Chef fame, and taking a horse for a nice evening gallop down the streets of New York.

In other words, it's all adrenaline, all the time.

Needless to say, the stunts are superb, and while there might be a bit of movie magic in that motorcycle chase scene, all that crazy stuff going down in the stables is absolutely real. And what about those furry, flying Belgian Malinois? The ones leaping through the air and climbing up walls? That's all totally real too. And whether he's swinging swords, trading blows with the cast of The Raid 2, or throwing down with an NBA player, the fight scenes are all jaw-droppingly good — especially that moment when John's tossing knife after knife after endless knife.

Of course, Reeves isn't the only one having fun here. Halle Berry steals the show as a pistol-packing, dog-loving, MMA-expert assassin who should get her own franchise, and even Lance Reddick helps battle an army of gun-toting goons. Everybody here is having a blast. Chapter 3 doesn't have quite the emotional impact of the first Wick film or the incredible world-building of Chapter 2, but it's still an exhilarating entry in Keanu Reeves' coolest and craziest franchise.

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Point Break

If ever there was a spiritual successor to Ted "Theodore" Logan of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, it's surfer FBI agent Johnny Utah of Point Break. The film, directed by the future Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow, tells the story of a gang of crooks known as the "Ex-Presidents" because they wear rubber masks of Nixon, Reagan, Johnson, and Carter while they rob banks. They also happen to be expert surfers, and rookie undercover agent Utah infiltrates their ranks, eventually embracing his destiny as a wave rider.

Point Break, in addition to having some thrilling action and killer surfing scenes, is also a lovely way to remember Patrick Swayze, who plays surfer squad leader Bodhi. Swayze passed away in 2009 from Pancreatic Cancer. After Swayze's death, Reeves told People Magazine, "He was a beautiful person, an artist. Patrick, he just wanted to experience life… he lived life to the fullest."

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John Wick: Chapter 2

Granted, all of the John Wick movies are great, and it's hard to rank them. John Wick: Chapter 2 comes in just behind the first because, well, the first was kind of a surprise comeback film for Reeves. But we'll get to that. 

John Wick: Chapter 2 begins just a few days after the events of John Wick, and finds the former assassin continuing his rampage of revenge — only this time with a new dog, a pit bull without a name. The film features just as much violence and absolutely insane fight sequences, which are just as well-shot and sleek as in the first film. John Wick: Chapter 2 also takes a trip over to Rome for some international espionage and action scenes among the ancient ruins of the eternal city, proving that Wick is truly an international assassin of the world. John Wick: Chapter 3 is heading to theaters this year. With a global contract out on Wick's head, will he survive? Probably!

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John Wick

Despite having starred in numerous films — particularly in the action genre — John Wick might be Keanu Reeves' grand opus of a role. This 2014 neo-noir action film tells the story of a former assassin, drawn back into a life of killing after car thieves kill his puppy, a memento left behind by his late wife who died of cancer. The role is absolutely perfect for Reeves, whose sleek looks, naturally stoic nature, and incredible action skills are all put to great use in the movie.

Everyone was kind of surprised by how good John Wick was, and how perfect Reeves is for the part. It was labelled as a career comeback for Reeves — he never really went anywhere, but like other big names of the '90s, Reeves's star had kind of dwindled. "It wasn't too long ago that critics were bemoaning the presumed end of Reeves' career as a leading man," wrote Birth.Movies.Death, noting that Reeves had told Indiewire that he hadn't been getting many offers from studios… which, he said, sucked. But the John Wick franchise has helped bring Reeves back into the spotlight, and with that deadly glare, he's calling the shots. 

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Speed

Never before and never since has a city bus had such a grand movie moment. Speed is the film that put Reeves on the action radar, and is still a great watch 25 years later. Reeves stars as Los Angeles SWAT officer Jack Traven, who boards an LA bus that's rigged with a bomb that will explode if the vehicle's speed drops below 50 miles per hour. Sandra Bullock co-stars as a passenger named Annie who takes over driving duties while Jack tries to defuse the bomb and save the other passengers.

Speed's premise is a tad ridiculous, and there are plenty of unbelievable moments throughout the movie (including when the bus manages to somehow launch itself into the air to clear a freeway jump), but its absurdity is overshadowed by the fact that it's so darned fun. Reeves and Bullock have great chemistry, and his action prowess here is accompanied by his endless charm.

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The Matrix

This is the movie that Reeves will probably be remembered for, for the rest of his life and beyond. It's also the franchise that put sci-fi masters the Wachowski Sisters on the movie map. By utilizing new filmmaking technology and tapping into the exploding Internet zeitgeist, The Matrix was able to become an action movie for the budding new millennium.

Reeves stars as Thomas Anderson, a computer programmer who lives a double life online as the hacker "Neo." After he's contacted by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), he finally learns the truth about the world. Artificial intelligence has taken over the planet and robot overlords use humans for their bio energy, keeping them in a catatonic state while their minds believe they are living in the regular world. This false consciousness is called "The Matrix," and Neo joins the quest to free humanity from its grasp. 

The movie used innovative camera techniques to amp up the many awesome fight scenes, including 360-degree camera movement and extreme slow motion to make even more of a mind bender out of an already interesting premise. By utilizing Reeves' natural stoic nature and his sleek movements, The Matrix became his best action movie ever.