Best Joaquin Phoenix Movies of All Time Ranked
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SpaceCamp” was Joaquin Phoenix’s first feature picture appearance, and he earned his start in television as a young actor. Tod Phillips’ “Joker,” which he portrayed with horrifying realism, earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in 2020. It’s safe to say that Phoenix has come a long way in the world of film and television.
He’s known for playing the Clown Prince of Crime, but Phoenix has also starred in a number of other notable roles. Assassins, singers, and drugged-out detectives have all been roles he’s played in the past. He’s been to the American West, the Roman Empire, and the cornfields of Pennsylvania in the course of his life. Whether it’s horror, drama or comedy, he’s done it all, and it’s been a genuinely fascinating career for him. As a result, in honor of Joaquin Phoenix and his illustrious career, we’ve compiled this list of the actor’s top flicks.
16. Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” stars Joaquin Phoenix as a Los Angeles investigator, Larry “Doc” Sportello, who has a talent for solving mysteries and smoking marijuana. A wealthy real estate developer, Doc’s ex-girlfriend, has mysteriously vanished along with her new lover, a shady businessman, in this twisting drama.
There are many strange individuals Doc encounters in the criminal underground of Los Angeles, including Josh Brolin’s hard-nosed police detective and Martin Short’s cocaine-snorting dentist. Some critics felt that “Inherent Vice” had the makings of a modern cult classic, despite the film’s mixed reviews.
“Really it isn’t one film but several, an anthology of beautifully replicated genre cliches, from fog-shrouded noir to sunshine paranoia,” critic Jake Wilson said in a review for the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s not an easy picture to follow, but for neo-noir enthusiasts, it’s a satisfying challenge.
15. Buffalo Soldiers
“Buffalo Troops,” a satirical black comedy based on Robert O’Connor’s 1993 novel, depicts the story of a renegade unit of soldiers stationed in West Germany. U.S. Army Supply Specialist Ray Elwood (Phoenix) has no real responsibilities and a lot of free time in 1989, when the Berlin Wall comes down. So Elwood goes to the black market and sells heroin to the military police in order to make some more cash. And even Col. Berman (Ed Harris), Elwood’s friend and mentor, is blissfully unaware that he is having an extramarital affair with his wife (Elizabeth McGovern).
Two troops were killed when an intoxicated tank crew crashed through the fueling station thanks to Elwood’s supply of alcoholic beverages. Robert E. Lee (Scott Glenn), his severe new sergeant, is on him now. When it comes to retaliation, what better way to do it than by dating your sergeant’s daughter? As far as I can tell, things just get wilder from there. What comes out of this is a film that Felix Vasquez of Cinema Crazed likens to the “chaotic tradition of Dr. Strangelove,” with “spot-on” acting from the key actors.
While critics and moviegoers may not always agree with director M. Night Shyamalan’s twist endings, his 2002 sci-fi thriller “Signs” was a hit. Graham Hess, a former Episcopalian priest who rejected his faith after his wife was tragically killed in a car accident, is played by Mel Gibson, and Merrill Hess, a minor-league baseball player, by Phoenix.
In rural Pennsylvania, Graham, Merrill, and Graham’s two children are still reeling from the death of their mother, and when crop circles appear in their fields one night, they initially believe they were the work of vandals. However, weird events begin to take place over the earth, indicating that an alien invasion is imminent. Moreover, the family must band together to survive after detecting aliens on their property
Tension mounts as Graham and Merrill come to terms with the reality that their family is in jeopardy. This results in terrible jump scares and tense moments for the audience. It’s hard to stop studying the shadows after the credits have rolled on “Signs.”
Arthouse historical drama “Quills,” which is based on the life and works of the French philosopher Marquis de Sade, was adapted from a 1995 play of the same name (Geoffrey Rush). As a result of his outspoken works and his belief in unbridled freedom, the Marquis was sentenced to decades in jails and asylums by the authorities.
During the final year of the Marquis’ life, he was imprisoned in the Charenton mental asylum. A French Catholic priest named Abbe de Coulmier (Phoenix) emerges as Abbe de Coulmier to manage the asylum. Madeleine (Kate Winslet), an asylum laundress, catches Abbe’s attention and their romance blossoms. To his surprise, she resists his sexual advances while learning to read and write. He also doesn’t realize that she is sneaking his writings to the outside world.
“Quills” was attacked for its historical inaccuracies, but its bold explorations of taboo creativity and the limits of really free speech made it a remarkable film.
One of the greatest revenge stories ever told, “Gladiator” transports audiences back in time to a brutal battle for dominance in ancient Rome. Maximus (Russell Crowe), a former military officer of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), is dragged into slavery and becomes a gladiator, but he will not rest until he avenges his father’s death. Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, is the film’s undeniable star, but Phoenix’s performance as Marcus Aurelius’s power-hungry son, Commodus, is nothing short of breathtaking.
One of the most critically acclaimed pictures of the decade, Ridley Scott’s period piece was described as “a savagely entertaining spectacle” and an example of “monumental movie-making” by the reviewers. It raked in $460 million throughout the world and won five Oscars, including Best Picture. Also nominated for Best Supporting Actor was Phoenix for his eerie portrayal of the cowardly emperor in The Emperors New Groove.
11. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Do not fear, he will not get far on foot in this situation. A quadriplegic alcoholic named John Callahan featured in Phoenix’s “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” which tells the story of Callahan’s life-changing car accident.
Callahan’s real-life memoir of the same name provides the basis for the film’s narrative. Revelatory and harrowing details of Callahan’s life before the tragedy as well as his years of rehabilitation after he was crippled are revealed in the tale. Donnie Green (Jonah Hill), Callahan’s sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous, is going through a crisis of his own.
Addiction, recovery, and Callahan himself are depicted in the film in an open and honest way.
Help is available if you or someone you love is dealing with addiction concerns. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or call 1-800-662-HELP for further information (4357).
10. Walk the Line
One of Phoenix’s most memorable roles came in 2005, when he played Johnny Cash in the biopic “Walk the Line.” Even while Phoenix felt confident in his ability to portray Cash, he was apprehensive about singing his songs, knowing that some of his fans might be dissatisfied. Reese Witherspoon, as June Carter, garnered a lot of accolades for her role as his wife, Phoenix. As for singing, he had no prior experience, but with the help of his instructor, he was able to pull it off.
For Victoria Segal, writing for The New Statesman, Phoenix “impressively harnesses some of his subject’s tuberous quality, and seems as if someone dug him right out of the Arkansas soil,” she said. Cash’s death-or-glory guitar grip is perfected, and though his singing voice is not that of the Man in Black, it has the same spirit.” Despite the fact that he didn’t win, Phoenix’s performance as Cash earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, making him one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors.
9. Two Lovers
Dostoevsky’s short novella, “White Nights,” was the inspiration for “Two Lovers,” which stars Phoenix as a neighbor with a tangled love to Gwyneth Paltrow.
Leo (Phoenix) is a man who has tried to take his own life numerous times due to a series of tragedies. In the wake of their divorce, his parents are now trying to find him a new partner. They seek to ignite a romance between him and Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the daughter of his father’s prospective business partner. Leonard, on the other hand, can’t help but fall in love when he meets his new neighbor, Michelle (Paltrow), a troubled woman with some major secrets.
Some reviewers believe this picture to be Phoenix’s best work to date, despite the fact that it wasn’t as successful with the general public. “Joaquin Phoenix stars and delivers his most self-scourging performance in James Gray’s tense and gloomy Brighton Beach romance,” writer Richard Brody wrote in his review for The New Yorker.
1-800-273-TALK (8255) is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for those who are contemplating suicide.
8. The Master
Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” a World War II soldier striving to adapt to post-war society. For whatever reason, his outbursts and behavior are unexpected and aggressive. He is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Following an allegation that one of his co-workers was poisoned by him, he finds himself on the run.
On a stranger’s yacht in San Francisco, Quell evades capture. Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a philosophical movement known as “The Cause,” is the stranger in question. When someone like Dodd is looking for a vulnerable, lonely, and desperate recruit like Quell, he knows exactly what he’s looking for. As he gets closer to Dodd and this bizarre new movement, Quell’s grasp on reality continues to loosen.
It’s largely accepted that “The Master” is one of the greatest films of the 21st century, and Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for his performance.
7. The Immigrant
Ewa (Marion Cotillard) and Magda (Angela Sarafyan) arrive to Ellis Island with the intention of starting a new life in the United States. James Gray’s “The Immigrant” chronicles their narrative. Ewa’s future becomes uncertain as Magda is threatened with deportation because of her health. Ewa’s condition is seen by Bruno (Phoenix), a man who appears to be compassionate and promises to assist her. Ewa gets persuaded into a sex worker’s life by Bruno, who has ulterior reasons, since she is desperate. Then Emil (Jeremy Renner), an illusionist, comes into her life and gives her hope.
Though it didn’t do well at the box office, this 2013 melodrama’s big scope and beautiful photography and rich mood were praised by critics. The film’s stars, Phoenix and Marion Cotillard, lovers and foes and something beyond, are “elevated by Gray’s sure touch,” according to Tom Long of the Detroit News.
6. The Sisters Brothers
This isn’t your average cowboy movie, but Joaquin Phoenix is amazing in it. Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie Sisters (Phoenix) are assassins who roam the American West, based on Patrick deWitt’s acclaimed novel. This is an action-packed and brutal hunt between two men (Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal) who have partnered up to find gold.
As a result, “The Sisters Brothers” failed to make any money at the box office at all. When compared to the $38 million it cost to produce, it only brought in $14 million in revenue. Even though it didn’t attract a large audience, the picture was praised by critics. However, despite the film’s relentlessly gloomy tone, the casting was flawless. This is a testament to the great performances by Reilly, Phoenix, Gyllenhaal and Ahmed that the picture remains so compelling despite its narrative digressions and periods of really dismal violence,” observed critic Geoffrey Macnab in a review for The Independent.
5. To Die For
A high school student she had been having an affair with helped Pamela Smart plot the murder of her husband in 1990, and she was sentenced to life in prison. She attracted a lot of attention since this was one of the first trials in which cameras were permitted into the courtroom. “To Die For,” a novel written by Joyce Maynard and made into a film by Gus Van Sant in 1995, was inspired by the real-life case.
Phoenix plays Jimmy Emmett, a youngster who is part of a documentary project in “To Die For.” Nicole Kidman’s Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) is a desperate director who believes her husband is preventing her from being renowned. To get rid of her husband, she chooses to seduce Jimmy in the hopes that he will do her bidding.
A grim comedy and a terrible drama are both on display in “To Die For.” The reviewer Owen Gleiberman described Phoenix as “dead-eyed yet touchingly vulnerable—a mush-mouthed angel” in one of his first parts, despite the fact that it was one of his earlier appearances.
4. You Were Never Really Here
“You Were Never Really Here,” a film adaptation of Jonathan Ames’ novella, portrays Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, a hired gun who saves females from human trafficking. To put it mildly, he’s notorious for his use of excessive force, and he’s plagued by unsettling memories of his past. When he’s recruited to retrieve the kidnapped daughter of a state senator, his life takes an even darker turn. As Joe prepares to embark on a brutal rescue mission, he begins to suspect a conspiracy involving government officials at the highest levels and those willing to do whatever to conceal their crimes.
One of Phoenix’s most memorable roles is in Lynne Ramsay’s psychological thriller. Though he’s known for his over-the-top portrayals, Phoenix is best known for playing a gentler figure in “You Were Never Really Here.” Picture reviewer Priscilla Page calls it a “reimagining of masculinity and the myths that romanticize it.” If you want to see Phoenix’s full spectrum, this dark, scary film is a must-see.
“Parenthood” is an ensemble family comedy that pokes fun at the numerous difficulties and Kodak moments that every parent is familiar with. It features one of Joaquin Phoenix’s earlier performances. In addition to Steve Martin, Keanu Reeves, and Rick Moranis, there are a number of other well-known performers in the crew. While Phoenix plays Garry, a young kid who is struggling to come to terms with his father’s absence,
“Parenthood” was a big hit with critics. For its relatability, even when the characters were embroiled in exaggerated scenarios, as well as for the great performances from everyone involved, it was acclaimed Film critic David Nusair ofReel Film Reviewsdescribes it as “an entertaining and frequently riveting picture that benefits considerably from the efforts of a uniformly excellent cast.” It’s not your normal Phoenix film, but it’s still a wonderful comedy, and it’s a delightful glimpse at how the Oscar-winning A-lister got his start.
2. Hotel Rwanda
The true story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) and Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), who sheltered over 1,200 people at their hotel during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, is depicted in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. It’s a story about incredible bravery in the face of unimaginable horror.
Jack, an American journalist who has arrived to Rwanda to document the situation, is Phoenix’s supporting role in this film. However, he does not believe that he will be able to have a significant difference with his work in the near future. As a result, he fears that people will only peek at the television, comment on how awful the situation is, and then go on.
One of the most talked about movies of the year, “Hotel Rwanda” was nominated three times for an Academy Award. From the Balcony’s Bill Clark noted, “The film is a monumental, depressing, and moving effort. You don’t want to see “Hotel Rwanda,” but it should be essential viewing for everyone.”
One of Phoenix’s best films, “Her,” was created by Spike Jonze. Despite his previous roles in romantic comedies, “Her” is unlike anything else he’s done. Theodore (Phoenix) is a man who falls in love with someone new after splitting from his wife in this 2013 dramedy starring Phoenix. Theodore’s love interest, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), is an artificial intelligence, complicating the relationship.
He does most of the heavy lifting because his love interest isn’t a physical or on-screen presence. (Also, kudos to Johansson for her excellent voice work in this movie.)” A difficult feat for any actor, but as Melissa Anderson noted in ArtForum, “Phoenix is suffused with such genuine heartsickness that Theodore’s meditations on why his marriage… came apart ring of piercing, real-life regret, not breakup bromides.”.
Best Original Screenplay went to “Her,” which was nominated for five Oscars. Playing Theodore was a risky move for Phoenix, but it paid out in the long run.