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Joaquin Phoenix Movies You Really Should Have Seen By 2021

Joaquin Rafael Phoenix is an American actor, producer, and animal rights, activist. He has won many awards for his dark and unusual roles in indie films, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Grammy Award, and two Golden Globe Awards. He was rated 12th on The New York Times' list of the 25 Greatest Actors of the Twenty-First Century in 2020.

Phoenix started his career in television alongside his brother River in the early 1980s, after being born in Puerto Rico and raised in Los Angeles and Florida. His first big cinematic appearances (1989) were in SpaceCamp (1986) and Parenthood (1987), which were his first big studio appearances (1986). During that time, he was known as Leaf Phoenix, a moniker he created for himself.

Phoenix reverted to his real name in the early 1990s, and his supporting roles in the comedy-drama film "To Die For" (1995) and the historical picture "Quills" (2000) earned him critical praise.

He received additional critical acclaim for his performance as Commodus in the historical drama film Gladiator, as well as his first Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (2000).

He achieved success with the horror films Signs (2002) and The Village (2004), the historical drama Hotel Rwanda (2004), and his depiction of singer Johnny Cash in the biopic Walk the Line, for which he earned a Grammy, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (2005).

Before taking a hiatus from acting, Phoenix continued to earn praise in two films directed by his regular collaborator James Gray: the action thriller We Own the Night (2007) and the romance drama Two Lovers (2008).

Phoenix returned to acting in the 2010s to great acclaim. He received his third Academy Award nomination for his performance in the psychological drama The Master (2012), for which he won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor.

For his performances in the romantic drama Her (2013) and the criminal satire Inherent Vice (2014), he earned Golden Globe nominations, and for his portrayal in the psychological thriller You Were Never Really Here, he won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor (2017).

Phoenix received an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a second Golden Globe Award (2019) for his portrayal of the title character in Joker.

Joaquin Phoenix Movies
Joaquin Phoenix Movies

Buffalo Soldiers (2001)

"Buffalo Troops," based on Robert O'Connor's 1993 book, is a satirical dark comedy about a renegade squad of soldiers stationed in West Germany. It's 1989, the Berlin Wall is about to collapse, and US Army Supply Specialist Ray Elwood (Phoenix) has little actual duty and much too much free time.

As a result, Elwood goes to the illicit market to supplement his income, selling heroin to the military police. Col. Berman (Ed Harris), Elwood's amiable boss, has no idea that Elwood is having an affair with his wife (Elizabeth McGovern).

However, Elwood's behind-the-scenes maneuvering goes awry when a tank crew under the influence (due to his supply) smashes into a petrol station, killing two troops.

Robert E. Lee (Scott Glenn), his tough new sergeant, is now on to him. What better way to retaliate against your sergeant than to date his daughter, Anna Paquin? From there, things only get crazier and more brutal.

As a consequence, the film is described by Felix Vasquez of Cinema Crazed as "in the chaotic tradition of 'Dr. Strangelove,'" with "spot-on" performances from the main actors by Roger Ebert.

Quills (2000)

"Quills," an arthouse period drama based on the life and work of the French philosopher Marquis de Sade, is adapted from the 1995 play of the same name by Geoffrey Rush.

The Marquis was renowned for his outspoken writings and unrestricted freedom views, which drew the attention of authorities, who condemned him to decades of imprisonment in jails and asylums.

The film depicts the last year of the Marquis' life, which he spent in the Charenton mental hospital. Phoenix takes on the role of Abbe de Coulmier, a French Catholic priest in charge of the institution.

Madeleine (Kate Winslet), a laundress in the asylum, falls in love with Abbe. She rejects his desires as he teaches her to read and write and he has no idea that she is smuggling the Marquis' writings to the outside world. "Quills" was noteworthy for its daring explorations of forbidden creativity and the limitations of genuinely free speech, while being condemned for historical errors.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot (2018)

In "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot," Phoenix plays John Callahan, an alcoholic whose life is turned upside down when he gets into a vehicle with a drunk driver, which leads to a horrific automobile accident that leaves Callahan, paraplegic.

The film recounts the narrative of Callahan's journey to recovery, which is based on his true-life book of the same name. The story bounces about in time, showing Callahan's carefree days before the tragedy and his years of suffering through psychotherapy and physical treatment after being paralyzed from the chest down.

And it's via Alcoholics Anonymous that Callahan meets his sponsor, Donnie Green (Jonah Hill), who is going through his own crisis.

The film is an open and honest portrayal of addiction, rehabilitation, and Callahan himself a colorful and creative guy who became a cartoonist and used his work to convey his dark, sarcastic sense of humor.

Inherent Vice (2014)

"Inherent Vice," directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and based on Thomas Pynchon's book, stars Joaquin Phoenix as Larry "Doc" Sportello, a Los Angeles investigator who enjoys solving crimes and getting high.

And in this extremely twisted thriller, Doc examines three perplexing cases linked by his ex-mysterious girlfriend's disappearance and her new lover, a rich real estate tycoon.

Doc's efforts to solve the interconnected cases lead him into the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles, where he meets a variety of strange and unpleasant people, including Josh Brolin's hard-nosed cop and Martin Short's coke-snorting dentist. Despite mixed reviews, several reviewers thought "Inherent Vice" had the makings of a contemporary cult classic.

In a review for the Sydney Morning Herald, reviewer Jake Wilson stated, "Really it isn't one picture but several, an anthology of masterfully reproduced genre clichés, from fog-shrouded noir to sunny paranoia." It's not a simple story, and you'll definitely get lost in this maze of a mystery, but for neo-noir aficionados, it's a difficult yet gratifying experience.

Signs (2002)

M. Night Shyamalan's surprise endings aren't usually well received by reviewers or moviegoers, but his sci-fi picture "Signs," released in 2002, was a hit.

Mel Gibson plays Graham Hess, a former Episcopal priest who abandoned his religion when his wife was tragically murdered in a car accident, and Phoenix plays his younger brother Merrill, a failed minor-league baseball player, in this film.

Graham, Merrill, and Graham's two children live on a secluded farm in rural Pennsylvania, and when crop circles emerge in their fields one night, they mistakenly believe it is vandalism.

Strange occurrences begin to occur all across the globe, signaling the start of a global extraterrestrial invasion. Following the discovery of aliens on their property, the family must band together to survive.

The suspense rises as Graham and Merrill realize their family is in danger, resulting in frightening jump scares and scenes that will leave viewers gasping for air. "Signs" is a fascinating thriller that will have you looking for shadows long after the credits have ended.

The Immigrant (2013) 

Phoenix had a great year in 2013, with films like Her and The Immigrant assisting in his comeback from the I'm Still Here fiasco and its aftermath. Five minutes into the future, The Immigrant makes for an interesting and pleasant double bill.

Her, in which Phoenix reunites with filmmaker James Gray for the fourth time in a slow-burning, emotionally complex relationship. Bruno Weiss, the proprietor of a theater that also doubles as a bordello, is played by Phoenix.

Bruno falls for fresh Ellis Island immigrant Ewa (Marion Cotillard) while supervising a prostitution ring in 1921, and quickly puts her to work.

Their connection is both disturbing and fascinating, and it's a shame Gray's picture was mostly ignored by The Weinstein Company throughout its theatrical run since it's essential watching for Phoenix aficionados.

Bruno is another scary, wounded figure Phoenix is more than capable of bringing to life, but he does it in a manner that makes you want to assist this shattered guy put himself back together.

Gladiator (2000)

"Gladiator" is a timeless vengeance story and memorable picture that transports spectators to a violent power battle in ancient Rome thousands of years ago. When Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) is assassinated by his son, his former military commander, Maximus (Russell Crowe), is sold into slavery and forced to fight as a gladiator... but he will go to any length to get revenge for his losses.

While Crowe is the uncontested star of the picture as Maximus, Phoenix is as impressive as Commodus, Marcus Aurelius' power-hungry son who murders Maximus' family and his own father in order to prevent Maximus from attaining power.

Ridley Scott's historical drama was hailed by reviewers as "one of the defining pictures of the 2000s," "a fiercely entertaining spectacle," and an example of "monumental movie-making."

It earned more than $460 million globally and five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Phoenix was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his unsettling portrayal as a sick, cowardly monarch in the film.

Her (2013)

Early on in filmmaker Spike Jonze's Her, there's a moment that perfectly defines Phoenix as a performer. As a greeting card maker in the not-too-distant future, Theodore is responsible for expressing others' romantic or loving emotions, despite his own lack of such affection.

Phoenix's eyes reveal an emptiness in the midst of performing such a gratifying service, and this image depicts that contradiction with devastating accuracy. Her is more than simply a film about a man who falls in love with a smart artificial intelligence (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).

It's about the complexity of human relationships, and how a computer can assist humans in better grasping and comprehending the awful luxury of love and establishing connections even ones and zeros.

Phoenix shows off his lovely and sincere side in this film, giving his most likable and accessible performance to date.

I’m Still Here (2010)

I'm Still Here depicts an intriguing period in the actor's life. Director Casey Affleck's "documentary" follows what seems to be Phoenix's real-time nervous breakdown engulfed in a mental health spiral as the actor grew out his hair and beard and declared his ambitions to become a hip-hop sensation.

According to Phoenix’s post-release, what seemed to be a continuous trainwreck with one of the greatest performers alive turned out to be a performance piece of sorts.

Yes, according to Phoenix and Affleck, the entire event was manufactured. It's debatable whether viewers and fans believe it, but there's no doubting Phoenix's unwavering dedication to executing whatever is going on here both on and off-camera.

The Master (2012)

The Master is worth seeing only to see Phoenix's troubled follower, Freddie Quell, fight with the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman's mysterious cult leader Lancaster Dodd, who is loosely based on Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Quell is Phoenix's first part after taking a self-imposed hiatus from acting following his erratic public appearances after 2010's I'm Still Here, and it allows him to do what he does best: portray both intense and vulnerable characters.

Forced to go through "processing" for Dodd's The Cause, Quell is unmade as a man on his quest for meaning that no religion can save what a man must finally discover in himself. Phoenix has had some of the most dramatic moments in his career as a result of his difficult self-discovery quest.

About The Authors

Adaline Fritz

Adaline Fritz - Adaline's upbeat, can-do attitude and nurturing disposition make her perfect for understanding each client's wants and needs and skillfully directing them toward their real estate objectives. Adaline has experience in all facets of the real estate process, having started in the administrative sector and progressed to operations before achieving success in real estate sales. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from San Diego State University and Western Oregon University, and returned to the Portland area in 2011 to pursue a career in real estate. She also loves traveling, working out, and spending time on the water during Portland's beautiful summers.

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