Joaquin Phoenix has carved out a distinctive career as an actor, choosing his roles carefully and giving his heart and soul to each rich, varied performance. That continues with 'Inherent Vice,' his latest effort, yet it began when he was a young child actor.
Having chosen a different personal name as a youngster, Leaf Phoenix followed his older brother, the late River Phoenix, into acting. A series of TV roles led to an adventure in space for Leaf, playing a kid who is accidentally blasted into orbit along with his friends and teacher.
Ron Howard's ensemble comedy/drama was a box office success, with Phoenix pulling his weight as a shy teenager obsessed with girls.
To Die For (1995)
After the devastating loss of his brother River in 1993, Joaquin reclaimed his birth name and returned to acting. In this dark comedy-thriller, he plays a hapless victim -- seduced by Nicole Kidman -- into killing her husband. Phoenix’s sympathetic performance brought him wide and justified acclaim.
Inventing the Abbotts (1997)
Phoenix took the lead in this romantic melodrama set in the late 1950s. He plays the vulnerable younger brother of ladies' man Billy Crudup, living in his shadow as each pursue love with different, tantalizing daughters of privilege (Jennifer Connelly, Liv Tyler, Joanna Going) in small-town Illinois.
Return to Paradise (1998)
Facing the death penalty for drug charges in Malaysia, Phoenix’s character must wait to see if his friends (Vince Vaughn, David Conrad) will show up to share the responsibility. Wracked with remorse and fear, Phoenix is unforgettable, even though his screen time is limited.
Clay Pigeons (1998)
Phoenix and Vince Vaughn also teamed up for this black comedy, with the former starring as a timid, small-town citizen who gets tangled up with serial killer Vaughn. It's a quirky tale but grounded in reality, and aided by strong chemistry between the two leads.
The Yards (2000)
Working for the first time with writer/director James Gray, Phoenix essayed a charismatic New York character that leads his longtime buddy, Mark Wahlberg, into a life of crime before losing everything.
Unexpectedly turning to outright villainy in Ridley Scott's epic, Phoenix imbued his character with an unpleasant, menacing, off-putting edge. The actor’s unsettling performance earned him his first-ever Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In one of his biggest box office hits, Phoenix costars opposite Mel Gibson in M. Night Shyamalan’s chilling sci-fi drama about a family under attack by hostile alien invaders. While Gibson is quite good as a widowed priest who has lost his faith, Phoenix steals the show playing Gibson’s younger brother and former baseball star.
The Village (2004)
Surrounded by woods they are forbidden to enter, the residents of a small village live in fear of monsters. Phoenix – re-teaming with his ‘Signs’ director – plays a member of the village torn between following the rules and discovering what may exist outside the forest.
Ladder 49 (2004)
Waiting to be rescued, firefighter Phoenix reflects on his career and takes strength in the bonds he has created with his family and courageous workmates. It's a quietly powerful performance, surrounded by more action than usual for the actor.
Walk the Line (2005)
Both Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon took lessons for months so they could sing and play their own instruments in this finely-tuned bio-pic about Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Each actor earned Academy Award nominations, but only Witherspoon took home the trophy.
We Own the Night (2007)
In his third teaming with director James Gray, Phoenix again played opposite Mark Wahlberg, this time as a hedonistic night club manager. Things quickly go sour for Phoenix’s character, as his estranged relationship with his brother, a member of the NYPD, leads to violent consequences.
Reservation Road (2007)
A decade after first acting together, Phoenix starred again with Jennifer Connelly; they play parents who are torn apart after their son is killed in an automobile accident. Phoenix's grief leads him to pursue revenge against the responsible party in yet another fine, slow-burn performance.
Two Lovers (2008)
Still coping with the breakup of a relationship he thought would last forever, low-key Brooklyn resident Phoenix manages to attract the romantic attention of both Vinessa Shaw and Gwyneth Paltrow. This underrated drama is definitely worth viewing.
I’m Still Here (2010)
Phoenix announced his retirement from acting in 2008, declaring that he wanted to become a hip hop artist. His unusual behavior thereafter inspired plenty of puzzled reactions, only partly resolved when people learned that Casey Affleck's "documentary" about this career change turned out to be a "mock-umentary."
The Master (2012)
Any lingering questions about Phoenix's abilities as a dramatic actor were answered by his stunning, Academy Award-nominated performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's compelling film, about a lost soul who becomes entranced by a charismatic spiritual leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
So lonely in the near future that he could cry (and cry and cry), Joaquin Phoenix resorts to the company of a warm, friendly, and intelligent technical device, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Phoenix etches a memorable portrait of a man in search of love, wherever he can find it.