Joaquin Phoenix has proven time and time again that he is an amazingly diverse actor. This guy has played almost everything from an Emperor to Johnny Cash. Phoenix seems like he never plays the same character twice and transforms into his characters in every role. Phoenix is a very underrated actor and can give emotion in a scene by the littlest things as facial gestures. With the Joker origin movie coming into theaters later this year starring Phoenix in the lead role, here is a list of my personal top five favorite Joaquin Phoenix performances.
5. You Were Never Really Here
You Were Never Really Here is the modern remake of Taxi Driver with the same slow burn atmosphere. Phoenix gives a dramatic performance as Joe, a veteran traumatized by his past life. After the Senator's daughter goes missing, Joe is thrown into a conspiracy that will lead down a dangerous road. With the heavy burden of his past on his shoulders, Joe will stop at nothing to do the right thing. Phoenix delivers a heartfelt performance from a character who does not say much. I love this role because Phoenix makes us feel so much for this character who seems so lost in the world he lives in. With the brief shots shown of his past, we really get to see how broken this character is and how he came to be that way. We believe that this character has been through hell and just wants to do the right thing. Even though he is hurting people, bad people, we are rooting for this character to succeed in the end.
Phoenix plays the brother of Mel Gibson in this creepy science fiction movie from M. Night Shyamalan. This movie alone is amazing. It is both silly and scary and delivers a heartfelt story along the way. Phoenix has some really funny scenes while also having some really dramatic ones also with his interactions with Gibson. This character, like his role in You Were Never Really Here, does not have much to say. In Signs, his character is also in a slow burn type of movie, but again, with the way Phoenix delivers the character to the screen sells the whole thing. This role shows off how goofy Phoenix can be. It is a serious movie, but it is also a Shyamalan film so it is also quirky. Phoenix gets a chance to really play that quirky element to his character and it works for this type of movie.
Her, directed by Spike Jonze, is a unique movie to say the least. Phoenix plays Theodore, who falls in love with his computer. Only Joaquin Phoenix can make us love a character like this one. The way he portrays this character as this lonely person longing for love makes us cheer, laugh, and cry. He made me believe in love... even though it is with his computer. He sells the character so much, I forget that his love is even for a technological device and I buy into it completely. This is a movie not everybody will love, but if you have seen it, you can't deny the amount of emotion Phoenix brings to this character. This character will bring you to tears. There are so many sweet moments that happen in this movie and it is all due to Phoenix's portrayal. This was a one man show. He did not have anyone right in front of him to work off of- this was all him. He carried this film's emotions on his shoulders. No one but Phoenix could have played this role as good as he did.
Gladiator is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Phoenix as a corrupt emperor. This film is different than those on this list as Phoenix is not as sympathetic as the previous characters. In this film he plays a very evil man in a time when people fought each other for the death for sport. Phoenix delivers his performance as a believable evil in this film. He is terrifying and ruthless. This is one that I grew up on because my father loved it so much. This may have a lot to do with why it is one of my all time favorites of his. With that out of the way, it is pure enjoyment to watch Phoenix become this corrupt emperor in this bad ass movie. I wouldn't say you will be rooting for Phoenix when it comes to the end of the film, but you will be enthralled by his performance. Just as it is with his previous characters, Phoenix loses himself in the role and is totally believable as the bad guy.
1. Walk the Line
In the number one spot is Walk the Line where Phoenix portrays Johnny R. Cash. Walk the Line is not only my favorite Joaquin Phoenix performance but one of my favorite movies of all time. This movie has it all with the familiar songs and the heart wrenching comeback story of the greatest country singer ever. Phoenix becomes Johnny Cash through the look, personality, and the singing. I mean, he IS Johnny Cash on screen. We see his rise and fall due to drugs and fame. We see Phoenix lose himself again in an amazing performance that makes you stand up and cheer at the end of the movie. He makes this performance so believable that it feels like a documentary rather than a movie. I can't say enough about his performance. He brings out the dark side of Cash that Johnny Cash sang about in his songs. He brings the demons of Cash to life in pure Johnny Cash style.