Joaquin Phoenix: Ranked


Guessing the Top 4:
4. Her
3. Joker
2. Gladiator
1. Quills

John Callahan

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot, 2018
Directed by Gus Van Sant

The film definitely has its faults, but Phoenix turned in a really strong performance as the wheelchair bound cartoonist struggling with alcoholism and feelings of inadequacy. His journey from embittered drunk who lashes out at those around him to someone who is at peace and is able to forgive himself and those who he feels have wronged him feels very real and very touching.

Rank: 17
Film Rating:
Hotness Factor: 0 (The hair, it bothers me so much!)
Write-Ups: October 12, 2018, November 5, 2019
I really loved this movie. I could relate to his character since we're both in wheelchairs.

Arthur Fleck

Joker, 2019
Directed by Todd Phillips

Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely mesmerizing - and terrifying - as the downtrodden, mentally ill man who is driven to lash out at the society that ignores and abuses him. His transformation into Gotham's most iconic villain is chilling and his motives feel very authentic and - almost - understandable.

The film itself has been very divisive, but even most of the people that hated it have praised Phoenix's performance. It's a huge standout in a pretty amazing career and I am absolutely in awe of it, but I hesitate to call it his best and cannot bring myself to rank it any higher. I've seen the film three times and have been more and more impressed by him with each viewing, but he has other performances that blow me away and have been doing so for far longer. Perhaps with time, this will ascend the ranks even further, but for now I think #4 is more than fair.

Rank: 04
Film Rating:

Hotness Factor: 2 (Clowns creep me out and I'm not into the skeletal look.... but it could be interesting.)
Write-Ups: October 5, 2019, November 1, 2019


Gladiator, 2000
Directed by Ridley Scott

In the hands of a lesser actor, this sniveling emperor who lusts after his sister, fails to win the love of his father, and envies a man he sees as beneath him could easily have come off as caricature. Instead, we get a villain who is at once repulsive, terrifying, and just sympathetic enough to remind us that this monster is still very much human. And he looks pretty damn good doing it.

This is also the role that earned him his first Oscar nomination. Nearly 20 years later, he still has yet to go home with the trophy. I'm hoping 2020 will be the year that changes that. The academy vexes me. I'm terribly vexed.

Rank: 03
Film Rating:

Hotness Factor: 4 (He'd be a 5 if he wasn't so damn creepy.)
Write-Ups: February 23, 2016, January 19, 2018

Abbé de Coulmier

Quills, 2000
Directed by Philip Kaufman

The "Plot Keywords" section of the IMDb page for Quills includes, among others things: pubic hair, bondage, oral sex, penis, dildo, self-flagellation, writing with feces, child bride, severed head, masturbation, pyromania, rape, homoeroticism, and necrophilia. Sounds like a damn good time, right? I sure think so.

But despite how pornographic those words make the film seem, it's actually a well crafted drama (not a biopic, though) that comments on censorship, artistic and sexual freedom and expression, and the effects art can have on its creators and consumers. And what make this movie so wonderful - and have secured its place on my list of favorite films - are the performances.

Costars Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, and Michael Caine are all wonderful in their roles (Rush even got an Oscar nomination for his performance), but Joaquin is the standout for me. He is absolutely phenomenal as the Abbé, a priest who runs an insane asylum that houses the infamous Marquis de Sade. He's a kind man of principles and ideals but - as his life's work is destroyed and his ethics are corrupted - he descends into madness and depravity. Phoenix has a fair number of lines, but this is primarily a performance of facial expressions and body language and he completely embodies the character.

Although I loved him in Gladiator, this is the role that made me a fan.

Rank: 02
Film Rating:

Hotness Factor: 5 (Forgive me, father, for I want to sin... so very, very much. I'll get on my knees, but I ain't prayin'.... )
Write-Ups: September 26, 2012, November 4, 2014, February 6, 2016

Theodore Twomley

Her, 2013
Directed by Spike Jonze

In Her, Joaquin Phoenix was given an opportunity to shine like no other and to really show us what he's made of as an actor. He's in every scene of the film, often interacting only with a phone, and conveys so much emotion in his voice and his expressions. He is joyful, angry, confused, heartbroken, and lost and I feel all those emotions with him. It's a truly amazing performance and probably his most relatable character as well. This is, without a doubt, not only my favorite performance from him, but my favorite performance from any actor. Absolutely stunning.

Rank: 01
Film Rating:

Hotness Factor: 2 (More cute than hot, but not un-f***able. Let's leave out the dead cat, though.)
Write-Ups: April 26, 2016

Loved the list! Her is definitely my favorite Joaquin Phoenix movie as well.

A system of cells interlinked

You Were Never Really Here, 2017
Directed by Lynne Ramsay

Joe is a man traumatized by his life experiences. He's closed himself off to most of the world - both socially and emotionally. He's a man full of hurt who copes with his pain in acts of self suffocation and brutal violence. But neither give him any real relief and that anguish remains written plainly across his face and in his eyes. It's a powerful and affecting performance but it's one that's hard to watch as both the character and the film are completely without joy.

Rank: 6
Film Rating:
Hotness Factor: 3 (He doesn't look his best here, but the intensity he brings to the role is very attractive.)
Write-Ups: November 1, 2019
I found this film really unsettling. I also felt that the role was written with Phoenix specifically in mind, as I think with anyone else playing it, it wouldn't have worked as well.

Anyway - great list! I would probably place Her at the top, as well. Amazing film.
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” ― Thomas Sowell

2022 Mofo Fantasy Football Champ
I got it right! Id say Gladiator is my favorite performance of his and I am a Her can too. Still haven't seen Joker so I'll be waiting for that DVD.

The Films

1. Quills
(Philip Kaufman, 2000) IMDb

2. Gladiator
(Ridley Scott, 2000) IMDb

3. Her
(Spike Jonze, 2013) IMDb

4. Joker
(Todd Phillips, 2019) IMDb

5. Clay Pigeons
(David Dobkin, 1998) IMDb

6. Walk the Line
(James Mangold, 2005) IMDb

7. Return to Paradise
(Joseph Ruben, 1998) IMDb

8. Inventing the Abbotts
(Pat O'Connor, 1997) IMDb

9. You Were Never Really Here
(Lynne Ramsay, 2017) IMDb

10. Irrational Man
(Woody Allen, 2015) IMDb

11. U Turn
(Oliver Stone, 1997) IMDb

12. Buffalo Soldiers
(Gregor Jordan, 2001) IMDb

13. To Die For
(Gus Van Sant, 1995) IMDb

14. Hotel Rwanda
(Terry George, 2004) IMDb

15. Reservation Road
(Terry George, 2007) IMDb

16. The Village
(M. Night Shyamalan, 2004) IMDb

17. Signs
(M. Night Shyamalan, 2002) IMDb

18. Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot
(Gus Van Sant, 2018) IMDb

19. We Own the Night
(James Gray, 2007) IMDb

20. Brother Bear
(Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker, 2003) IMDb

21. The Sisters Brothers
(Jacques Audiard, 2018) IMDb

22. Inherent Vice
(Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014) IMDb

23. The Immigrant
(James Gray, 2013) IMDb

24. 8MM
(Joel Schumacher, 1999) IMDb

25. I'm Still Here
(Casey Affleck, 2010) IMDb

26. Ladder 49
(Jay Russell, 2004) IMDb

27. The Yards
(James Gray, 2000) IMDb

28. Two Lovers
(James Gray, 2008) IMDb

29. The Master
(Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012) IMDb

30. Lou
(Clara Balzary, 2018) IMDb / YouTube

31. It's All About Love
(Thomas Vinterberg, 2003) IMDb

32. Mary Magdelene
(Garth Davis, 2018) IMDb

Well done, honey. That was quite the undertaking, especially the discipline needed to distinguish between how hot he looks, how good a performance it is, how and good you think the film is. Not sure I could do the same with Drew.
5-time MoFo Award winner.

"Jocker" is the best film with this actor

(Clowns creep me out . . .)

Aside from the hurtful clown comments, this was a fun thread to catch up on. The explanations for your "Hotness Factor" ratings were amusing and . . . um, informative? (Note to self: Make sure I'm well groomed in the event I ever try to sex you up.) I've seen 24 of the films. Inventing the Abbots, Return to Paradise and Clay Pigeons are the main ones I need to seek out.

My favorite performance from Phoenix is probably a toss-up between The Master and Joker. I'm pleased to see how favorably you responded to the latter. Great movie, amazing performance. Joker is really just a dark character study à la Taxi Driver, and yet the movie has done gangbusters at the box office. The comic book connection feels like a sneaky way to trick mass audiences into watching a film that's darker and more daring than they'd typically pay to see, but I'm all for it.

Movie Forums Extra
Joker. Living legend.


to Joaquin Phoenix for a stellar awards season and for finally getting his Oscar!
It's well deserved and long overdue!