If you have seen the new Joker movie, you have probably become a little obsessed with its star Joaquin Phoenix and just how good he is in that film.
The younger brother of tragic Hollywood heartthrob River Phoenix, Joaquin has been acting for more than 30 years since he was the tender age of 8-years-old. Over that time, he’s done some duds (child actors have to pay their dues), but he has also turned in some epic performances that have seen him nominated for a number of academy awards, among other accolades.
If you aren’t already familiar with his body of work, here are his twelve best films that show you exactly what this guy is made of!
This period epic about a gladiator that brings down the Roman Empire is mostly known for making Russell Crowe a household name in the leading role. However, while Crowe plays your standard hero, Joaquin Phoenix stands out as the emperor Commodus, a man born to power but considered unworthy by his own father. When he finds himself emperor of Rome, he is suitably evil and ominous as the villain, but also surprisingly sympathetic as a man just seeking love and acceptance.
In this biopic about the Marquis de Sade, Phoenix plays a supporting role to Geoffrey Rush as de Sade and Kate Winslet as his laundress muse at the mental clinic Maddie. Phoenix more than holds his own alongside these powerhouse actors as the Abbe du Coulmier, responsible for the mental clinic and trying to help the patients there, and as a man also smitten with the beautiful Maddie. This film is dark and gritty, and Phoenix shines with his signature sympathy.
Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
Showing that he can take on less serious roles, Phoenix stars alongside Ed Harris and Anna Paquin in this satire about the rogue activities if a group of U.S. soldiers in West Germany in 1989 just before the fall of the Berlin wall. Phoenix stands out as a soldier trying to make an extra buck for himself at the side and failing at every turn and being pushed to further depths.
Walk the Line (2005)
Phoenix stars as Johnny Cash himself in this biopic about the singer alongside Reese Witherspoon. Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his role in this pic in which he sings, and many critics noted on just how well he performed on stage (though naturally, he does not have the voice of Johnny Cash). The soundtrack features nine songs performed by Phoenix.
We Own the Night (2007)
Phoenix plays Bobby, a man who turns his back on his New York police family to run a hedonistic nightclub frequented by Russian gangsters. He soon finds himself caught up in his father and brother’s investigation into the gangsters, but refuses to cooperate. But everything changes after a particular fatality. Acting alongside Mark Wahlberg, while the film as a whole fails to live up to its potential, Phoenix stands out as a sympathetic character torn between two worlds.
The Master (2012)
Starring alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a WWII veteran who finds himself drawn into a religious cult movement known as “The Cause”. Freddie soon becomes more fanatical about the cause than the cult’s leader, making the two first allies and then enemies. Phoenix and Hoffman give compellingly contrasting performance, with Phoenix in particular often carrying the jolting, darker themes of the film.
The Immigrant (2013)
This film stars Marion Cotillard as a Polish refugee arriving in New York and trying to make her way. She is helped by Phoenix as Bruno, but her saviour proves to be a complicated person, both obsessed with the beauty and exploitative. Phoenix manages to make this dark villain relatable and sympathetic, that leaves audiences questioning black and white views of the world.
In this sci-fi drama, Phoenix plays a man who develops a romantic relationship with an artificial intelligence personal assistant named Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. The sci-fi scenario does not distract from the sweet, soulfulness of this story of love and loss, and Phoenix holds his own alongside an mostly female cast that also includes strong actresses Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde.
Inherent Vice (2014)
Phoenix leads an ensemble cast in this film about 1970s private investigator Larry Doc Sportello as he investigates three interrelated cases in the LA underworld following the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend. The case also includes Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro and many more, but Phoenix stands at as the star in this neo-noir, perfectly balancing the film with his performance.
Irrational Man (2015)
Phoenix stars alongside Emma Stone in this Woody Allen crime mystery. Phoenix plays a philosophy professor struggling with depression, but he finds new purpose and joy in life through helping other people, by killing “bad people” who are making their lives difficult. As he finally starts enjoying life, he becomes willing to do anything to avoid getting caught.
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Taking on the role of action star, Phoenix plats a mercenary hired by a business to rescue his daughter, who has been kidnapped by a human trafficking network. What follows is a violent action bonanza. While we might not think of Phoenix as ac action star, when an unfinished version of the film premiered at Cannes in 2017, Phoenix won the best actor accolade.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018)
Phoenix plays John, an alcoholic who finds himself paralysed after a car accident. Surprisingly, the turn of events gives his life new meaning, and he finds love, and a new career drawing off-colour cartoons for a newspaper. This biopic does not necessarily have the kind of plot that rises and falls like your typical Hollywood film, but Phoenix is very watchable.