They say you never forget your first.
And it’s true: I’ll never forget my first Keanu Reeves movie. It was, fittingly, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, on New Year’s Eve during my senior year of high school. That same night, we watched Speed in a miraculous double-feature, and I fell completely in love. I maintain, to this day, that it’s the third best film ever made (the first being The Princess Diaries, the second being When Harry Met Sally, I won’t be taking any questions at this time). My mom sometimes says that we don’t have any traditions, but somehow it’s become our family law that we watch Speed to ring in the new year…which, in my opinion, is the most important tradition of all.
Truly, that final night of December 2016, a love affair began: me and Keanu. This was important for a few reasons: the primary one being that watching a Keanu Reeves movie was a surefire way for my family to agree on something. My mom and I are noted rom-com aficionados, and my dad likes things with car chases. There’s very little overlap between those two genres. But we found a constant with Keanu — whether we were settling down to jump into Point Break, The Matrix, or, that one time we watched Destination Wedding (it’s maybe not so good, guys, but it’s still a lot of fun!), we were able to be united in our admiration of one very good man.
There are three defining films in the Keanu Reeves Cinematic Universe that have dominated dinner table conversations with my parents and me. These are the three that, while objectively might not be his best, are the films that solidified him as number one in my heart.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
This movie is so dumb. It is literally so stupid. If, somehow, you haven’t seen this cinematic masterpiece, I implore you to check it out. Keanu (and we are on a first-name basis, thank you for asking) plays Ted “Theodore” Logan, an absolute ding dong who is in danger of failing out of high school with his equally ding dong-like best friend, Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winters). The two have to pass their history final in order to avoid Ted being sent to military school! Drama! Intrigue! Luckily, and extremely realistically, a time traveler from the future (George Carlin) shows up to save the day with a time-traveling phone booth (not the last time that Keanu makes use of time travel — please stay tuned) that can help save their grades.
From there, Bill and Ted travel through time, collecting historical figures among the likes of Joan of Arc, Sigmund Freud, Genghis Khan, and Napolean, just to name a few. Hijinks ensue. It is a very, very fun time, and I love this movie with every inch of spare space in my heart. My dad has been quoting this film for probably half my life (“Strange things are afoot at the Circle K…”), and it’s one of my favorite comfort films. It’s a most excellent tale of friendship, and the day that I am seated in my local cinema watching Bill and Ted 3 will probably be the best day of my life. I think what I love most about this movie is its earnestness; Bill and Ted themselves are earnest in their dedication to their horrible band (The Wyld Stallyns), but more importantly, in their devotion to one another. They like each other so much! They really would do anything for each other! And I would do anything for them. My love for Ted Logan knows no bounds.
I don’t know what to tell you if you haven’t seen this movie. It’s incredible. Keanu is joined by Sandra Bullock in quite possibly the most thrilling adventure ever put to screen (do not fact check me on this. I’m right). What is Speed (1994) about, you ask? Where do I begin!
To keep things short, Mr. Reeves plays a Los Angeles police officer who must save the lives of a dozen people after a bomb is planted on a city bus. The big kicker is that the bomb will detonate if the bus’s speed drops below fifty miles per hour — which, of course, it does. Sandra Bullock steals every scene she’s in as Annie, a young woman who ends up driving the bus after the original bus driver is accidentally shot by one of the passengers (this movie is truly bananas, I’m not making any of this up) and is thus tasked with ensuring everyone’s safety.
What’s my favorite part of this movie? Impossible for me to decide. Is it the completely implausible jump that the bus makes over a missing chunk of interstate? Or is it Sandra Bullock’s bangs and the frilly socks that she wears? Who’s to say. I’ve seen this masterwork five times and it never stops being the greatest thing in the world.
It’s difficult for me to articulate just how much I love this film. There’s not really any sort of hidden depth regarding my emotional attachment to it — I just love it. It brings me pure, unabashed joy. I know that, objectively, it’s entirely unrealistic…but I don’t care! The world is hard, people are mean, and sometimes it’s easiest to watch Keanu Reeves attempt to dismantle a bomb from underneath a moving vehicle.
The Lake House
Interesting choice, no? Undoubtedly, this is not Keanu’s finest work. He reteams with Sandra Bullock to tell a (somewhat confusing) tale of two people who fall in love through sending letters…the only catch is that Keanu’s character is living in 2004, and Bullock’s is living in 2006.
“But wait!” You say. “How is this possible?” Dear reader, they correspond by sending these letters through a mailbox that travels through time. I think. I’m going to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure.
If we’re being real, I’m not quite sure if I even like this movie. It’s convoluted and filled with more angst than the films to which I usually gravitate. But this is another one I watched with my parents on New Year’s Eve, and it’s become extricably linked with them (my dad, in particular). I remember that there were fireworks in one scene, and the explosions onscreen occurred (unplanned) right at the stroke of midnight. My dad and I looked at each other (my mom was dozing on the couch) and exchanged smiles. How funny, we thought.
And then we finished the movie and went to bed. But the next morning, we dissected the film over eggs and toast, and it became clear that I would never understand it — and I’d likely never watch it again. It’s not Keanu’s best. It’s not my favorite. But it holds a special place in my heart, which is why when I saw a copy on sale at a thrift store, I bought it anyway.
Keanu Reeves and his movies (good, bad, weird, iconic, and otherwise) have become linked with comfort to me. He reminds me of my parents and the time we’ve spent together. I love him, and I love them, and when the three of us are together, we exchange whatever recent Keanu news that we’ve uncovered on the Internet since we’ve been apart. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s home. No matter how silly or implausible or convoluted the film is, we never get up from the couch feeling like we’ve wasted time.
As a resident Keanu Reeves scholar, I find it an egregious error that I somehow spent eighteen years of my life without seeing one of his movies. One thing is certain: I don’t want to live in a world where a new year doesn’t start with watching Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock sail a bus through the air. Long live Speed. Long live Keanu.