A retrospect of Joaquin Phoenix films


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Joaquin Phoenix attends the 68th Berlin International Film Festival in 2018. Before seeing Phoenix’s new film “Beau is Afraid,” check out past films of his.

By Eli Tecktiel, Senior Lifestyle Writer

Whether it’s a mainstream box office hit or an experimental indie drama, Joaquin Phoenix’s vast, versatile filmography proves him to be one of the most significant talents of his generation.

Phoenix often finds himself in dark, mysterious roles, playing the part of the depressed, disillusioned and deranged man so naturally and authentically that you almost start to worry about his own well-being.

For all the mystique he’s built into his public persona over the years, one thing is for sure: There’s never a dull moment in a Joaquin Phoenix film.

Before checking out Phoenix’s new film “Beau is Afraid,” directed by Ari Aster, take a look back at some of the actor’s greatest performances from over the years.

“The Master” (2012)

In director Paul Thomas Anderson’s unsung masterpiece “The Master,” Phoenix plays a traumatized, emotionally damaged World War II veteran who is roped into a mysterious new organization led by the charismatic Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

The film is a thinly veiled interpretation of the early days of Scientology, a modern religion said to operate in a cult-like manner, with Hoffman’s character heavily based on the religion’s founder L. Ron Hubbard.

In this performance, Phoenix masterfully demonstrates his ability to take on the psychological baggage of a character, wholly embodying all of their flaws and trauma. 

“Joker” (2019)

It would be hard not to include “Joker” on a list of Phoenix’s best roles. Though the film lifts far too heavily from the films of Martin Scorsese, Phoenix’s performance leaves very little to be desired.

As a classic character who has previously been tackled by the likes of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, Phoenix had some pretty big shoes to fill, and, for the most part, he filled them.

Rather than presenting a typical portrayal of the Joker, who was first introduced over 80 years ago, the film dives deep into his origins in a way that no other live-action Batman film had done before.

“Walk the Line” (2005)

In one of his most enduring roles, Phoenix played iconic country singer Johnny Cash.

One of the most highly regarded music biopics of all time, “Walk the Line” presents Cash at face value, never shying away from his flaws or the uglier details of his life.

While Phoenix is by no means a dead ringer for Cash and didn’t quite capture his personality or mannerisms, the audience gets the sense that he had a deep understanding of the man he was portraying, giving the film an extra layer of authenticity.

“C’mon C’mon” (2021)

A rare, heartwarming, wholesome role for Phoenix, “C’mon C’mon” tells the story of a lonely radio host reconnecting with his estranged nephew.

Though the whole “adult forms an unlikely bond with child” premise isn’t particularly original or groundbreaking, Phoenix’s performance stands out. After decades of playing the darkest and most unhinged characters imaginable, he shows his range with this lighter performance, though the darkness and flaws we’ve come to expect from Phoenix are still very much there under the surface.

“Her” (2013)

More relevant than ever as the power and prevalence of artificial intelligence is rapidly increasing, Spike Jonze’s film “Her” is about as modern as modern love stories can get.

Phoenix plays a lonely professional letter writer who, after purchasing a new computer operating system, falls in love with the system’s virtual assistant (similar to Alexa).

By all counts, this is the role that Phoenix was born to play, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in his place. He’s always excelled at playing the offbeat lonely sad sack and does so perfectly here.