Ever since John Wick became a surprise critical and commercial success at the box office in October 2014, we’ve been in the midst of what can only be called a Keanussaince. Not only did that film kick off what has become an increasingly successful franchise for star Keanu Reeves, it elicited a swell of public adoration for the actor, who all but disappeared from the big screen following the release of the 2008 big-budget sci-fi remake The Day the Earth Stood Still, in which he starred as the alien messenger Klaatu.
The box office road ahead looks increasingly bright for Reeves, who is set to star in a fourth John Wick installment as well as belated follow ups to two of his most beloved franchises: Bill & Ted Face the Music (currently slated for August 21, 2020) and The Matrix 4 (May 21, 2021). Here’s a look back at some highlights from the mega-star’s filmography.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Though Reeves began working steadily in the mid 1980s with both starring and supporting roles in films like River’s Edge, Dangerous Liaisons, and Permanent Record, he wouldn’t become a star until the release of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Released in February 1989, the Orion comedy—about two Southern California slackers who travel back in time using a magical phone booth—became a surprise hit, opening to $6.2 million on 1,196 screens and ending its domestic run with $40.5 million off a budget estimated to be between $6.5 and $10 million (depending on which source you read). The film was followed two years later by Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, which debuted to $10.2 million in July 1991 and grossed $38 million domestically off a steeper $20 million budget.
Point Break (1991)
Reeves’ Hollywood heartthrob status was cemented by his starring role in Point Break opposite Patrick Swayze. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and released by 20th Century Fox only a week prior to the debut of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the $24 million action film opened to $8.5 million on 1,615 screens and became a modest sensation, finishing its run with $43.2 million domestically and $83.5 million worldwide. That film’s success transformed Reeves into a bona fide action star—a role that would ultimately come to define his career.
Reeves’ star continued to rise in the early ‘90s, with roles in the acclaimed gay drama My Own Private Idaho (1991), Francis Ford Coppola’s blockbuster horror film Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), and Kenneth Branagh’s star-studded Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing (1993). But his career as a leading man would reach new heights with the release of Speed. Directed by Jan de Bont and co-starring future superstar Sandra Bullock, the 20th Century Fox release opened to $14.5 million in June 1994 and remained in the top ten for seven weeks, ultimately closing out its domestic run with $121.3 million. It went on to nearly double that number overseas, leading to a final global tally of $350.5 million off a $30 million budget and solidifying Reeves’ reputation as one of Hollywood’s most bankable leading men.
Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Reeves’ next film after Speed was Johnny Mnemonic, an adaptation of the William Gibson short story. Starring the actor as a man seeking to remove a cybernetic data storage device implanted in his brain, the heavily marketed Sony release was savaged by critics and virtually ignored by audiences, grossing just $6 million on its opening weekend and a total of $19.1 million in North America off a $26 million budget. Though Reeves had starred in flops before—namely the 1993 Bernardo Bertolucci epic Little Buddha—Johnny Mnemonic was his first wide-release studio film to tank at the box office. His career would continue on uneven ground over the next several years, during which his major releases would include the modestly successful romantic drama A Walk in the Clouds (1995), the box office misfire Chain Reaction (1996), and The Devil’s Advocate (1997), a supernatural horror film co-starring Al Pacino that enjoyed a strong run in both North America and overseas, landing at $60.9 million domestically and $153 million worldwide.
The Matrix (1999)
And then The Matrix happened. Directed by the Wachowski siblings and starring Reeves as a man who discovers humans have been imprisoned inside a simulated reality, the cyberpunk action film became a sleeper hit and a cultural phenomenon. Debuting to $27.8 million over Easter weekend 1999, the critically acclaimed Warner Bros. release captured the zeitgeist and went on to enjoy a remarkable run, remaining in the top ten for a jaw-dropping 13 weeks and grossing $171.5 million in North America and $465 million worldwide off a budget of $63 million.
The Matrix‘s overwhelming success kicked off a multimedia franchise that resulted in two cinematic sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, which were shot back-to-back and released within six months of each other in 2003. While extremely commercially successful—Reloaded debuted to a huge $91.8 million weekend after a Wednesday launch, the second-highest three-day opening up to that point—both sequels were considered critical disappointments that failed to live up to the promise of the first film, and the franchise concluded on something of a sour note. Nonetheless, the trilogy grossed a combined $1.63 billion worldwide—a phenomenally successful total for an original franchise that made the prospect of an eventual reboot an all-but-foregone conclusion.
The Replacements (2000)
Though not particularly notable on its own, The Replacements is indicative of Reeves’ non-Matrix releases in the early 2000s, none of which made a particularly strong showing at the box office. Released in August 2000, the sports comedy—which stars Reeves as a former All-American quarterback who is chosen to lead a pro football team comprised of “replacement” players—grossed a decent $44.7 million in the U.S. and $50 million globally. Unfortunately, the film’s budget was reported to be $50 million, marking the Warner Bros. title as a box office disappointment.
Other non-Matrix releases for Reeves during this period included Universal’s serial killer thriller The Watcher ($28.95 million domestic, $47.3 million global, $30 million budget), which the actor notably refused to promote and claimed he was tricked into starring in; Warner Bros.’ romantic drama Sweet November, opposite Charlize Theron ($25.3 million, $65.8 million, $40 million budget) and released February 2001; and Paramount’s Hardball, a sports dramedy that was likely hobbled somewhat by its release on the first weekend after the 9/11 attacks. Opening to $9.4 million, that film ultimately grossed $40.2 million in North America and $44.4 million globally off a budget of $32 million—another commercial disappointment whose impact was nonetheless dulled by the success of The Matrix during the same period.
With the Matrix trilogy concluded, Reeves took a starring role in another potential franchise kickstarter with Constantine, a big-budget adaptation of DC’s Hellblazer comic. Released in February 2005, the $100 million Warner Bros. title debuted to $29.8 million and went on to gross an underwhelming $76 million in North America, but this shortfall was made up by its performance overseas, where it more than doubled its domestic total. The film’s final global tally landed at $230.9 million, which—while seeming to justify the investment on paper — apparently wasn’t enough to justify a sequel (though Reeves has indicated his willingness to return to the role).
Without the Matrix series to bolster his A-list credentials, Reeves nonetheless scored some modest commercial successes over the next several years. Though none of his major studio releases were received warmly by critics, he scored at the box office in a wide range of genres, including 2006 romantic drama The Lake House opposite his Speed co-star Sandra Bullock ($52.3 million domestic, $114.8 million global, $40 million budget); 2008 action film Street Kings ($26.4 million, $66.5 million, $20 million budget); and 2008 sci-fi remake The Day the Earth Stood Still, which nearly tripled its $79.4 million domestic total with overseas earnings and finished with over $233 million worldwide off a budget of $80 million.
47 Ronin (2013)
Following the release of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Reeves shied away from major studio films to focus on starring and supporting roles in independent films, including The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009), Henry’s Crime (2011), and Generation Um… (2012). In 2013, he made his directorial debut with (and starred in) the martial arts action film Man of Tai Chi, which received a limited release and grossed just $5.4 million worldwide off a $25 million budget. But that box office disappointment was only a prelude for what would become the biggest flop of Reeves’ career: Universal’s mega-budget samurai action film 47 Ronin.
Released in December 2013, 47 Ronin was lambasted by critics and opened to just $9.9 million in North America—a disastrous number in light of the film’s bloated $175 million budget. Starring Reeves as a half-Japanese, half-English samurai, the film went on to gross just $38.4 million in North America and $151.8 million worldwide, and Universal was later reported to have taken an unspecified writedown on the film.
John Wick (2014)
Though 47 Ronin was an unmitigated flop, Reeves recovered quickly with the October 2014 release of John Wick, an R-rated action film that stars the actor as a hit man who comes out of retirement to track down the group of gangsters who killed his dog. Produced for $20 million, the Lionsgate release opened to $14.4 million and went on to gross $43 million in North America and $86 million worldwide, laying the groundwork for a franchise that has continued to grow in popularity with each new installment. In February 2017, John Wick: Chapter 2 opened to $30.4 million and grossed $92 million domestically and $171.5 million worldwide off a $40 million budget, while John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum wowed the industry when it debuted to $56.8 million in May 2019 and finished its run with $171 million domestic and a whopping $326.7 million worldwide off a budget of $75 million.
Like The Matrix before it, the enormously successful John Wick franchise has served to dull the impact of whatever flops come Reeves’ way. Indeed, the actor’s January 2019 sci-fi film Replicas, which stumbled with just $4.1 million in North America and $9.3 million global off a $30 million budget, felt like a mere blip on the radar.
With three major franchises now under his belt, Reeves’ upcoming releases will look to capitalize on his greatest hits. The actor’s Bill & Ted/Matrix/John Wick-centric release slate represents something of a full-circle moment for his career, which is much more notable for its successes than its failures and has remained remarkably sturdy over the course of three-plus decades.