We already know that C’mon C’mon , Joaquin Phoenix’s most recent role, definitely earns a place in our top 5 of his best renditions. Phoenix shows a different side of itself that we really appreciate. He is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, and a personality who lives for his craft but not for the bells and whistles around it. These are our five favorite roles.
Honorable Mention: The Master
Unfortunately, it’s been too long since I’ve seen The Master in full, so I didn’t include the movie in the list. In this drama by Paul Thomas Anderson, Joaquin Phoenix is a disillusioned veteran seeking direction in life and falling under the spell of a cult. I desperately need to rewatch this one, because Joaquin Phoenix teamed up with Phillip Seymour Hoffman , which delivered sizzling cinema and a rendition that earned Phoenix its third Oscar nomination.
Phoenix won a cartload of awards for this movie, so I can’t help but add Joker to the list. But oh man, this movie still tires me out. One tweet about Todd Philips’ Martin Scorsese fanfiction and you get a whole army of “fans” on your roof because you don’t understand the movie. Fortunately, there was Phoenix’s kinetic and downright scary portrayal of Arthur Fleck, a failing comedian who loses his job and slowly derails, or I wouldn’t have finished watching the film.
Phillips twists and turns to show how badly the world bullied Fleck and turned him into the Joker. For Phoenix, it was one of his most physical roles and he indeed goes to great lengths to use as many muscles as possible (including the one in his back). As good as he is, after an hour of dancing and comments about his appearance, you’ve seen most of it.
In an ideal world, Phoenix would not have won his Oscar for this film. Only Joker ‘s almost revered status proves that the world is indeed far from ideal. Actually, I should have just been brave and chose The Sisters Brothers here , but the world made me that way.
Joaquin Phoenix’s big break also immediately earned him his first Oscar nomination. In Ridley Scott’s Gladiator , he delivers an extremely entertaining performance as the ruthless Commodus. As the son of Marcus Aurelius who crowns himself emperor, he plays the perfect flail who misappropriates something and does everything he can to keep it that way.
The contrast between Phoenix’s bright blue eyes, dark hair, and his slightly snake-like face (I mean this as a compliment) only adds to his evil look and sneer. And then we forget how he puts his most gruesome sentences of dialogue in the most conversational, mundane tone. In the scene where Commodus tells his sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) the miserable fate he has planned for her and her son, for example. Only at the end does he scream the iconic phrase “Am I not merciful?” , the epitome of a real psychopath. And if we are to believe IMDb , that was a bit of dialogue improvised by Phoenix.
At the age of 26, Phoenix delivered a serious business card and more than held his own alongside Russell Crowe. A thumbs up has rarely been so terrifying. An interesting addition: next year Phoenix and Scott will be working together again after more than 20 years. In Napoleon Phoenix plays (you guessed it) Napoleon Bonaparte, and that again promises to be a juicy role.
3. You Were Never Really Here
Joaquin Phoenix plays antiheroes quite often, but one of his most interesting roles in that category is in You Were Never Really Here . In this underrated psychological thriller from Lynne Ramsay, Phoenix plays Joe, a hit man who tries to keep the darkness away by rescuing victims of human trafficking. An abusive father and a troubled FBI and military history have left him traumatized and suicidal. On his jobs he does not shy away from using extreme violence.
And yet the need to do good continues to propel him forward. That and his mother, whom he takes care of at home. Joe is tasked with saving Nina, the daughter of a senator. Only things go wrong and it becomes the riskiest mission of his life.
Joe is a genuinely fascinating rendition of a man who clings almost desperately to one last ray of hope in life. You immediately believe that he is capable of a lot, but also that he is genuinely committed to Nina. Joe only speaks when he has to, so Phoenix’s rendition is almost completely physical. So much violence and at the same time that indispensable core of tenderness would perhaps be caricatured in a more exuberant rendition, but with Phoenix the strength lies in what he does not do. A dark performance that leaves you hopeful at the end.
The people who hand out awards in Hollywood don’t seem too fond of a Joaquin Phoenix who isn’t intense or slightly tragic. Otherwise they would have given him an Oscar nomination for Her , Spike Jonze’s delightful romantic sci-fi drama. Phoenix is Theodore, a writer who writes letters for others and is finalizing his own divorce. In his spare time he games and hangs out with friends, but the loneliness still rears its head. He decides to buy an advanced OS, an artificial intelligence that could evolve and learn like a human.
Samantha turns out to be much more than he hoped, and he soon falls in love. The two start a relationship, and more and more OSes are also appearing in Theodore’s environment. But this relationship is also one with ups and downs and also unique challenges. Her is a bittersweet but wonderfully beautiful film that is fully supported by Joaquin Phoenix. Theodore is far from perfect, but you have sympathy for him at almost every moment. Phoenix exudes so much emotion in a subtle way. Impressive how he can do so much without an opponent, because he and Scarlett Johansson ( and Samantha Morton, who first had the part) never came face to face. Also in terms of styling, it’s a relief that Phoenix was once not seen as a rather rustic-looking man, and even wears brightly colored shirts!
Phoenix’s new movie C’mon C’mon is in the same vein as Her , in the sense that Phoenix plays an almost everyday man and does his own thing with it. While we are unbelievable fans, it seems Hollywood will ignore this tender rendition as well. That’s why we ask you: start watching from next week! And also search for Her on Amazon Prime. You won’t regret it.
1. Walk the Line
There I am again with my ideal world, but in a more just world in the multiverse, a golden statue has been on the cupboard at Joaquin Phoenix’s home since 2005. Then he played music legend Johnny Cash in James Mangold’s Walk the Line . Phoenix never met Cash because the singer died in 2003, but he agreed with the announcement that he would play him. Completely justified when you see what a versatile man Cash was. His childhood and early life were rather tragic, as he lost his brother and actually his father, who couldn’t handle it. Music is Johnny’s passion, but he already has a family and a job that he hates before he really goes for it.
Success follows quickly, and with it the pitfalls of a fleeting life on the road . Drink, drugs, his marriage is going wrong. Thanks to June Carter, he climbs out of the abyss, and thanks to his prison concerts, he is once again known and admired. It is a role in which Phoenix could show almost all aspects of one’s life. Indiscretion, sadness, anger, despair, love—we see every emotion and the actor throws himself completely into it.
In addition, Phoenix learned to sing for the part and tried to approach Cash’s voice. A real assignment, but always an added value for musical films or biopics . By throwing himself completely, he reinforced his respectful and intense interpretation even more. It’s a role to remember, and Walk the Line is one of my favorite movies in large part thanks to him. Would you like to see him again? Disney+ is your friend!