10 best performances of Joaquin Phoenix

Child of the Hollywood industry and brother of the late River Phoenix, Joaquin had a troubled shadow to begin with. But, since his debut in the 1980s, crashing onto the stage during his escape, Ron Howard’s Parenthood, Joaquin has carved out a Hollywood niche for himself similar to Christian Bale.

His versatility knows no bounds, often transforming his body and face to match the role he takes on. The depth of humanity he brings to his roles translates into poignant depictions of despair, loneliness and a search for redemption. He turns to meanness quite often, but also leans towards his sexy and charismatic side when it has to. Phoenix has become a reliable leader while always keeping the public on their toes.

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Here are his top 10 performances.

dixturn around

turn around

Although he is not the head of turn around and only in a few scenes, Joaquin makes a memorable entry into this insane hallucination of a detective film by renegade author Oliver Stone. Phoenix’s performance as the silly minded southerner “TNT” was the perfect prerequisite for what would become of his hot-blooded portrayal of the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. A perfect combination of cool and warm charisma.



Alongside Mel Gibson in Panels and being part of another great M. Night Shyamalan concept, it might have been easy for Joaquin’s brother character “Merrill” to get lost in the shuffle. Living on the farm with his preacher brother and children, Phoenix shines as a reluctant hero, but also adds bits of humor and levity when needed. He must either choose to believe in the miracles of God or to act against the forces of extraterrestrials closing in on them. Phoenix gets another memorable round of support as a small town faded athlete.

8Don’t worry, he won’t walk far

Don't worry, he won't walk far

Phoenix’s first collaboration with Gus Van Sant since 1995 Die for, Don’t worry, he won’t walk far sees Joaquin as the famous cartoonist “John Callahan” and his long battle with alcoholism. Joaquin wears an orange fringed wig and is confined to a wheelchair due to a horrific drunken accident. Breathing life and humanity into desperate characters can be one of Joaquin’s greatest gifts as he saves a movie that might have been too dark to fold in on itself, as his portrayal of Callahan shows that no one is too far from being saved.

7Inherent vice

Inherent vice

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Psychedelic and Misty Mystery adapted from the almost inaccessible Thomas Pynchon, Inherent vice works like a movie because its lead is up to par. Phoenix as a drugged private detective “Doc Sportello” in all his mutton chop madness matches the story’s weird and quirky temperament from scene to scene. Navigating the narcotic smog of 1970s SoCal, Phoenix delivers one of the funniest performances of his long career.

6You ain’t never really been there

You ain't never really been there

Lynn Ramsay doesn’t make movies for the disgusted. His sparse, minimal but heartbreaking pulp story starring Joaquin Phoenix as the brutal hitman “Joe” was an unfailing look at violence and its effects on the viewer. Phoenix fills the frames You ain’t never really been there barely uttering a word but instead forcing his will in a grim transformation – and perhaps his greatest depiction of brutality to date while escaping the film as a hero.

5The master

The master

In his second collaboration with PTA, Joaquin turns into a fugitive from the navy “Freddie Quell” who crosses paths with the megalomaniac “Lancaster Dodd”, played by the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The master himself is less preoccupied with narrative conventions and instead rests his laurels on Phoenix’s shoulders as he takes us through the psyche of a troubled and haunted man. Joaquin creates a character in many different colors, from fiercely psychotic, desperate, lonely, and romantic with a sense of discovery just on the horizon. Her performance earned her her third Oscar nominee.


The gladiator

At the edge of the precipice, the young Joaquin decided to play in his turn the role of the antagonist “Commodus” in the Roman epic of Ridley Scott. Gladiator. Opposing Russell Crowe’s iconic turn as the tragic hero “Maximus,” Phoenix injects the film with a slimy, whining, and sneaking villainy to the throne. Phoenix won his first Oscar nominee in the Support category, proving he could be fully watchable even when playing scum.



In Joaquin’s sweetest role to date and one of the best movies he’s ever had the chance to play, here’s the eerily heartfelt love story of Spike Jonze in the digital age. To. Heartbroken as a lonely “Theodore Twombly” writer, Phoenix falls in love with an artificial intelligence device voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Partly both comedy and heartbreaking tragedy, Phoenix sells what shouldn’t work and imbues the performance with enough humanity that you can’t help but understand its unfortunate romance.

2Walk the line

Walk the line

Earning Joaquin his second Oscar nomination and his first as a lead actor, Phoenix manifests Johnny Cash before our eyes in Walk the line, turning into the legendary bad boy of country music. Not only did he get the smooth charismatic energy of the singular Cash, but Phoenix also did all of his vocals and learned to play guitar just like Cash. Joaquin has proven he can star in a mainstream biopic without losing his artistry, putting him at the top of the Hollywood food chain.



Following Heath Ledger’s final performance as the Joker, it was hard to believe anyone could follow him with any integrity. But that’s exactly what Joaquin Phoenix did with “Arthur Fleck” and created another seminal portrayal of the famous Batman villain standing alone alongside the performances of Ledger and Jack Nicholson. Phoenix created a character in Joker which became immediately recognizable. From the piercing cackle to the distorted shape of his body and his transformation from a failed comedian to an evil savior of Gotham’s dirty streets, Phoenix won Oscar gold that night. He became the second actor to do so after the tragic death of Heath Ledger.

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10 best performances of Joaquin Phoenix