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In Keanu Reeves' Action Career, One Movie Stands Above The Rest

Keanu Reeves is one of Hollywood's most beloved movie stars. He's not one of the greatest actors –- even his biggest fans will admit he has a limited range and can be a little stiff –- but he knows how to pick interesting scripts that play to his strengths. As a result, he's put together an extremely impressive body of work that includes classic movies in the genres of comedy (the "Bill and Ted" trilogy), indie drama ("My Own Private Idaho"), and, especially action. He's been in a higher number of outstanding action movies than almost anyone. There are his '90s popcorn classics "Point Break" and "Speed," the latter of which has the highest Rotten Tomatoes critical score of any of his action films with 94%. There are cult favorites like the comic book adaptation "Constantine." And of course, there are the two franchises that have arguably made him a first-ballot Hollywood Hall of Famer, "The Matrix" and "John Wick."

It's difficult to compare the first three films of each series (both have a fourth on the way) because the franchises are so different. "The Matrix" is a philosophical sci-fi action series that changed movie special effects forever, while "John Wick" is a traditional action movie done extraordinarily well, and is particularly notable for how much of the fight scenes involve real stunts and not special effects. "John Wick" has better physical Keanu, but "The Matrix" has better spiritual-mental Keanu.

There's also the question of consistency. "John Wick" varies less in quality through the first three movies than "The Matrix." But if we're talking about the single best movie of Keanu Reeves' action movie career, there's one that possibly stands above the rest, no matter how much you love "John Wick."

The Matrix is arguably Keanu Reeves's best action movie

In terms of demonstrable cultural impact, the original "The Matrix" might not have any equal in Keanu Reeves' filmography. The Wachowskis' 1999 movie about a computer hacker who learns he's the chosen one who has to free humanity from enslavement by AI machines introduced images and concepts that entered the bloodstream of pop culture.

There's the "bullet time" special effect, where time slows down around a character so much that they can dodge bullets, accompanied by spinning, seemingly airborne camera moves. There's the wire-fu fight choreography, which the Wachowskis adapted from Hong Kong cinema and popularized in Hollywood filmmaking. Then there's also the concept of the "red pill vs. blue pill," where "taking the red pill" is to learn how to see society as it truly is so that the pill's taker is freed from mental imprisonment. (The concept has been co-opted by the political right, but the Wachowskis originally intended "The Matrix" to be an allegory for trans identity, via The Independent.)

But there's perhaps no greater proof of relevance than if something is popular enough to be parodied. "The Matrix" has been spoofed in "Scary Movie," "Chappelle's Show," and "Shrek," among many other shows and movies (via Vulture).

"The Matrix" has also won several awards and achievements. The film won all four Oscars for which it was nominated: Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects. And finally, in 2012, "The Matrix" was added to the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." That hasn't happened for any other Keanu Reeves movie ... yet.