Think of the greatest of action star of all time. Who comes to mind? Arnold Schwartzenegger? Tom Cruise? The Rock? There are no shortage of great action stars who have left their mark on the beloved genre with their own special brand of ass-kicking and you could argue for any of the esteemed names listed above, along with countless others. But ultimately, there is only one name that truly rises above all others in the world of action movies. A name that is as synonymous with action movies as cheesy puns and massive explosions. We’re talking, of course, about Keanu Reeves, the greatest action star in the history of action stars.
At first, the idea of someone like Keanu being the greatest action star of all time might seem impossible. After all, action stars are supposed to have muscles on their muscles, with the vein in their neck looking like it might explode at any second, right? Sometimes but there are also plenty of action stars who have an everyman look that is similar to Keanu. Bruce Willis is the star of the greatest action movie ever made yet John McClane isn’t some jacked up supercop who looks like he should’ve played baseball in the late 90s. Tom Cruise may be impossibly good looking but he’s also 5’7″ and nobody is going to be mistaking him for the Rock’s body double. Being an iconic action star isn’t about being the biggest or strongest, it’s about using your particular set of skills to kick as much ass as possible. And Keanu has made it abundantly clear he can kick ass with the best of them.
The biggest thing that sets Keanu apart from so many other action movie Hall of Famers is his versatility. Typically, someone finds their role in the world of action movies and then repeats that role as much as possible until audiences get bored. Think of Liam Neeson as the ass-kicking old dude in basically every movie he’s done since Taken or Chuck Norris playing Chuck Norris his entire career. Hell, even Tom Cruise, one of the few stars who has been able to sustain a career in the action genre that sustains several decades, has found almost all of his success as an action star with the Mission: Impossible franchise.
But Keanu has shown off his underrated range as an action star. In Point Break, he was the brash rookie FBI agent who ended up in over his head in an undercover mission. In Speed, he was the determined SWAT officer who would stop at nothing to take down his nemesis. In The Matrix, he’s the seemingly normal guy who must fulfill his destiny as “The Chosen One.” And in John Wick, he’s the guy you really don’t want to fuck with. Each role brings out a distinct side of Keanu and time after time he delivers unforgettable performances that could not be done by anyone else.
The other major factor that needs to be considered is longevity. Because while guys like Schwartzenegger or Stallone or Willis may have had the higher peaks in their heydays, their more recent action films have arguably tarnished their legacies. Stallone won’t stop making Expendables despite the fact that the gimmick was tired by the end of the first film, Willis is coming back to make another shitty Die Hard sequel (that’s also a prequel?), and Schwartzenegger hasn’t made a good action movie this century.
Keanu, on the other hand, has been kicking ass and taking names as an action star for nearly three decades and his stock is only rising. In an era where action movies are consistently forced to blend with other genres, most notably superhero movies, to survive, Keanu has become one of the few remaining bankable action stars thanks to the massively successful John Wick franchise. The first John Wick became a surprise hit, making nearly $90 million against a $29 million budget. And the sequel, which was released into theaters last year, far surpassed the success of the original, earning more than $170 million in the US alone. And now a third one, in which he appears to be riding a horse in Manhattan, is on the way, due to hit theaters next May.
So the next time your buddies are debating who is the one true champion of action movies, allow them all to make their incorrect arguments before letting them know that just like in The Matrix, Keanu is the answer they’ve been looking for all along. He has the versatility, longevity, and badassery that nobody else can match and he may just be getting started.