Our Favorite Joaquin Phoenix Roles

Close up of Beau holding an axe while in a garden in movie Beau is Afraid
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Joaquin Phoenix stars as the titular character in the upcoming A24 film, Beau is Afraid, from horror director Ari Aster. The film is a vibrant epic depicting Beau’s journey through grief after losing his mother. Phoenix’s incredible acting career spans over four decades. He has contributed so many compelling performances to modern film and he has several roles in the works for upcoming films. We can’t wait to see what he has in store! Let’s revisit just a few of our favorite characters ahead of Beau is Afraid.


Commodus in Gladiator (2000)

Phoenix stars as Commodus, son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. His own father doesn’t think he could be emperor, so he taps Maximus (played by Russell Crowe) to succeed him as emperor. Power-hungry Commodus slays his father for choosing Maximus over him, proceeding to punish Maximus for refusing to recognize him as the new emperor.

Phoenix had been in many roles prior to Gladiator since his acting career began, but this was his first major role in such a large blockbuster title. His performance earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.


Merrill Hess in Signs (2002)

His first foray into the M. Night Shyamalan filmography, Phoenix plays protective uncle Merrill Hess in the alien horror film, Signs. Merrill is a failed baseball player who has returned to live in the country with his brother Graham (Mel Gibson) to help with his two children Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Abigail Breslin) after the death of their mother. When crop circles begin to appear in their fields and then across the globe, the family has to band together to remain safe from combative aliens that have invaded Earth. Thanks in part to Merrill’s skills with a baseball bat, the family is able to fend off the aliens successfully.


Lucius Hunt in The Village (2004)

For his second role in an M. Night Shyamalan film, Phoenix plays a kind man named Lucius Hunt in a secluded village. The elders of the village forbid the community from leaving to visit the neighboring towns due to the danger of monsters beyond the perimeter of their village. Lucius becomes engaged to marry Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), a kind young blind woman who is the daughter of one of the village’s chief elders. After hearing the news, fellow villager Noah (Adrien Brody) stabs Lucius in a jealous rage. Ivy must venture out of the town to find medicine to treat Lucius’ wounds and brave the threat of monsters along her journey.



Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005)

Phoenix portrays beloved country music star Johnny Cash in the biopic Walk the Line. The film follows Cash’s life from his childhood to his rise to fame and of course covers his love story with June Carter Cash. In an iconic performance alongside Reese Witherspoon as June, Phoenix croons an impressive imitation of Cash’s signature bass voice. This performance earned Phoenix an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.


Freddie Quell in The Master (2012)

In The Master, Phoenix plays a Navy veteran after World War II who is exhibiting signs of suffering from PTSD. He is violent and unable to adjust to normal life after his time in the military. He meets Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour-Hoffman), the leader of a religious cult called the Cause. Quell is enamored with Dodd’s teachings and finally feels that he has a purpose. He begins to follow Dodd and spread his teachings. Their relationship becomes fraught and Quell must decide whether to remain a part of the Cause or go his own way. Phoenix’s role in The Master earned him another Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.


Theodore Twombly in Her (2013)

Set in the not-so-distant future, Theodore is depressed as he is recently separated from his wife. He becomes romantically involved with his virtual assistant Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johannson). Samantha is powered by AI and is hungry to learn everything she can to emulate a human existence. Eventually Samantha’s intelligence and desire for growth make her incompatible with Theodore. Although this film came out almost a decade ago, it’s more topical than ever with advances in AI. Spike Jonze’s imagining of the future wasn’t as far-fetched as it may have seemed at the time.


Arthur Fleck in Joker (2019)

This DC Comics villain origin story follows the storyline of Arthur Fleck as he discovers a truth about his childhood that his mother had kept from him. This discovery unlocks a series of horrific events and increasingly evil actions. Arthur’s descent into madness was perfectly executed by Phoenix in one of his darkest roles to date. His performance earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor. Joker earned Phoenix his fourth Academy Award nomination and his first win!

These characters are just a select few of Joaquin Phoenix’s many notable performances since his career began as a child in 1982. We can’t wait to see his next character come to life in Beau is Afraid

Beau is Afraid premieres in theatres on April 21st! See it at Regal. 

See Beau is Afraid at Regal

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