Joaquin Phoenix is one of those versatile actors that can play any role. From comedy, true-life dramas to fighting off aliens, you can always count on this guy to deliver an entertaining performance. If you love his trademark intense acting but don’t know which of his many films are the best, then look no further. We already did the homework and selected his top 10 movies to start you off on an unforgettable Joaquin Phoenix journey!
1. Her (2013)
IMDB Rating: 8.0/10
Depressed by his impending divorce, Theodore Twombly buys an operating system with an ever-evolving AI called Samantha. At first, Samantha convinces him to sign his divorce papers and to go on a blind date. But then the day comes when Theodore falls in love with the AI – and she reciprocates his feelings.
But her strange attempts at intimacy and the fact that she also loves hundreds of other people bothers Theodore. He and his friend Amy, who had also fallen for an AI, get together to support each other when all the AIs leave Earth.
2. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10
In 1994, the ethnic tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi groups in Rwanda boil over and a civil war breaks out. During the days that follow, a genocide begins that would ultimately kill a million people, most of them Tutsi. The story follows Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu, who also runs a 5-star Belgium hotel in Rwanda.
As over a thousand refugees seek shelter at the hotel, Paul has to protect them from being slaughtered, find a way to feed them and all the while keep up the appearance of running a high-class hotel.
3. Walk the Line (2005)
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Singer Johnny Cash was known for his rich bass voice and taking country music fans by storm during the 1950s and 60s. The movie follows his early childhood and the traumatic loss of his brother and subsequent emotional abandonment by his father, who blamed Cash for the tragedy.
It also shows his crumbling first marriage, his growing love for a fellow country singer (not his wife…) and Cash’s spiral into drug and alcohol abuse. With the help of June, who would later become his second wife, Cash is finally pulled from his darkest hour and he finds new hope and reasons to live.
4. You Were Never Really Here (2017)
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Joe specializes in retrieving girls who have been kidnapped and trafficked. One day, he is given the assignment to rescue Nina, the abducted daughter of a New York State Senator, Albert Votto. But as soon as he extracts Nina from a brothel, things start to go wrong so perfectly that it soon becomes clear that Joe had stepped on powerful toes.
When Nina is kidnapped again and Joe’s life is pulled to shreds, he uncovers the powerful man behind the government’s active cover-up of trafficked girls and that Nina is his own personal intended victim. The movie is claimed to be one of Phoenix’s best gritty and haunting performances, so it is well worth a look!
5. Joker (2019)
IMDB Rating: 8.4/10
This movie is another take on the origin story of the Joker, the nemesis of Batman. In this version, Arthur Fleck is a party clown and aspiring stand-up comedian. But his struggle with mental illness and laughing at inappropriate times hamper his dreams and attempts to romance one of his neighbors.
After employees of Wayne Enterprises beat Fleck up on a train, it triggers a chain of events that not only explains how Bruce’s parents were murdered but also how Fleck adopted the “Joker” name and persona.
6. Inherent Vice (2014)
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10
In 1970, Doc is a hippy stoner and a private investigator. When his ex-girlfriend, Shasta, asks for his help to prevent people from kidnapping her new and wealthy boyfriend, Doc is thrown into the seedy world of the Los Angeles criminal underworld. Soon, both Shasta and her boyfriend is missing and three cases land on Doc’s desk – and they all seem to have something to do with it.
This movie is a great choice for private eye movie fans who also love the 70s. Phoenix’s depiction of an investigator trying to pull all the strings together – and not lose his life while doing so – is also incredibly riveting and entertaining.
7. Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
In 1989, Ray Elwood is already a deeply disillusioned soldier. He no longer cares about fighting and is increasingly becoming more bored. But his position as U.S. Army Supply Specialist (SPC) gives him the unique opportunity to run a black market where he is stationed in West Germany. Soon, Elwood gives over to his dark side and starts stealing everything he can and he also cooks heroin for other soldiers.
This black comedy goes the opposite direction of most soldier movies that aim to promote military life in the best light possible. But if you love dark humor and anti-heroes, then this could be the top Phoenix movie for you.
8. Signs (2002)
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10
The Hess family is devastated by the loss of Colleen, the mother and wife who died in a car accident six months earlier. As a result, her husband Graham has lost his faith and his younger brother, Merrill, moves to the farm to help run the place.
What little normality they have left is upended when crop circles start to appear on the property. At first, they believe the damage is caused by vandals but then mysterious figures dart around the corn and the house. Soon enough, they realize that there is a worldwide alien invasion and they barricade themselves inside the house. Their terrifying fight for survival begins as one of the aliens manages to get inside.
9. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10
This movie is based on the real story of John Callaghan, an alcoholic cartoonist. One night, while out partying and driving as a passenger, John is involved in a car crash that leaves him paralyzed in all of his limbs. Written as a comedy-drama, the movie follows John’s will to adapt to life as a quadriplegic, his budding romance with a nurse and the close friendship he develops with his sponsor, who is also going through his own crisis.
The movie takes an honest look at addiction and also the bright spirit of Callaghan as he tackles the road to recovery. A truly inspiring and heartwarming film if you are in the mood for fuzzy feelings.
10. The Master (2012)
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Freddie Quell is a veteran of World War II and after he returns home, he desperately struggles to adjust to civilian life. But his PTSD makes him violent and unpredictable. He finds work on a farm but he cannot stay out of trouble. After a co-worker dies and suspicion falls on him, Quell flees to San Francisco where he boards a stranger’s yacht, hoping to hide from the authorities.
The owner of the boat, Lancaster Dodd, welcomes him and explain that he is the leader of a growing philosophical movement. With Quell’s need to fit in and find safety, he becomes the perfect person to get absorbed into Dodd’s group. But the deeper Quell becomes involved with the movement, the more he loses his grip on reality.