5 definitive Joaquin Phoenix performances to watch if you loved Joker

Image Credit: Sarah Dunn

Joaquin Phoenix is essentially a household name these days following the roaring success of Joker, which happens to be Phoenix’s most successful movie till date, despite all the controversies. But people who have been following him for a while now; knows his propensity to play complex, dark and nuanced characters with such reckless abandon, it almost gets difficult discern the real from the reel. He may not have been a Hollywood A-lister but his body of work is the envy of one and all.

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Perhaps pedigree as an actor or past or various ups and downs in life, whatever, definitely has a hand in creating this reclusive actor who excels in getting into the skin of characters, giving us some of the most memorable performances of the past decade. We are just plain grateful to have him grace our screens, so, let’s take a look at his five best performances before Arthur Fleck blew us away.

The Master

Image Credit: The Weinstein Company

This Paul Thomas Anderson movie got Phoenix a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actor. This riveting drama about a disturbed World War II veteran, Freddie Quell (played by Phoenix), struggling to adjust to the changing world until he comes across as an enigmatic cult-like leader, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his ‘The Cause.’ The intense performance of Phoenix is hailed as his greatest till date that is saying something since a certain Philip Seymour Hoffman was sharing the screen space with him.


Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

What do you get when you get a director like Spike Jonze, who specializes in themes of loneliness, to direct an elusive loner like Phoenix? The answer is pure cinematic brilliance. The beautiful movie about a loner falling in love with Artificial Intelligence system plays to the themes of loneliness, alienation, and love in our time, perfectly. Add to that an amazing voice performance of Scarlett Johansson as the Artificial Intelligence, you truly get a gorgeous cinema. However, it is the relatable reclusive loner, Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), who remains the heart and soul of the movie, tying every bit of it together into a cinema that is near perfect. The subtle yet troubled Twombly will remain in our memories for as long as there is cinema.

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Ridley Scott’s Gladiator is a classic in its own right. This historical drama about a Roman general, Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe), exacting revenge on the EmperorCommodus for the killing of his family is a lesson in masterful storytelling and epic in its scale. Even among this grand scale, Phoenix stands out as the sly, conniving and mentally unstable, Commodus, whose thirst for power and evil nature plays a perfect foil to Crowe’s quintessential good and honourable general, Maximus.

Walk the Line

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

This James Mangold directed biopic of legendary country singer, Johnny Cash, will go down in the annals of biopic history thanks in no small part to amazing performances Reese Witherspoon as June Carter (incidentally this won her an Academy Award for Best Actress among other accolades) and Phoenix’s turn as the titular character (which earned him his Academy Award for Best Actor nomination). Phoenix went up and beyond to portray the legend of Johnny Cash, going so far as to learn guitar and singing to get the play and embody the essence of the character. He got so adept at it; he literally became Johnny Cash, and probably could sell out stadiums himself. The nuanced performance depicting the highs of fame while falling into the vicious circle of drugs and loss never looked so convincing onscreen.

Inherent Vice

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Another Paul Thomas Anderson feature based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name provides Phoenix in the character of an eccentric yet maverick detective investigating the case of his missing ex-girlfriend. This almost dark-comedy portrays a different side of Phoenix where he literally delivers a tense yet Chaplin-esque performance. This is an absolute delight for any Phoenix fan who wants to see him in a different light.

Notable Mention: I’m Still Here

Image Credit: Magnolia Pictures

This supposed “documentary” by Casey Affleck is a brilliant commentary on celebrity culture and a star staring down the barrel. Phoenix actually declared retirement from acting and embarked on a career of hip hop. He was acting out life as himself for a project, going as far as performing on several shows, which included a disastrous appearance in Late Show with David Letterman. And his slow descent into insanity along with the performance was so convincing that had it not been him who broke it as an act, nobody would have known.

Tags : GladiatorHerInherent ViceJoaquin PhoenixJokerThe MasterWalk the Line
Tuhin Roy

The author Tuhin Roy

Anything and everything at 24 fps interests me. Trying to learn new things about it everyday.

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