The 12 Best Joaquin Phoenix Movies: ‘Joker,’ ‘Signs,’ ‘Napoleon’

In 2023, the Academy Award-winning actor is set to play Napoleon Bonaparte for Ridley Scott’s historical biopic, “Napoleon,” as well as the title character in Ari Aster’s third horror feature, “Beau Is Afraid.”

The Best Joaquin Phoenix Movies, from 'Gladiator' to 'Walk the Line'

(Clockwise from bottom left): “Signs,” “The Sisters Brothers,” “Her, “Joker,” and “Inherent Vice”

Courtesy Everett Collection

It’s another big year for Joaquin Phoenix. After winning Best Actor in 2020 for his sick spin on a supervillain in Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” the Academy Award winner appeared as a journalist taking care of his young nephew in Mike Mills’ A24 family drama “C’mon, C’mon.” Now, Phoenix is back at the indie studio with another project: Ari Aster’s third feature, “Beau Is Afraid.” The surreal horror comedy expands on an Aster short from 2011, and stars Phoenix as Beau: “a paranoid man on an epic odyssey to get home to his mother.” The film also stars Nathan Lane, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Patti LuPone, Amy Ryan, and Parker Posey. It’s expected to open in theaters on April 21.

Phoenix will take on another title character this year in Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon,” playing the infamous French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte opposite Vanessa Kirby as his beloved Joséphine. The dark two-hander will focus on the fraught passion of the ruthless emperor and his powerful queen, charting the pair’s ambitious rise and cataclysmic fall amid the French Revolution. Not to be confused with Steven Spielberg’s seven-part series for HBO — presently also titled “Napoleon” — Scott’s epic film is expected this summer or fall.

The historical biopic is something of a return to his roots for Phoenix, who earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor with Scott’s 2000 Best Picture winner “Gladiator” as Commodus, the vile son of Marcus Aurelius. The role marked a critical turning point for Phoenix, who appeared in movies and TV throughout his childhood and teen years but earned more serious acclaim in the aughts and 2010s. Phoenix got his first Best Actor nod in 2006 for his performance as Johnny Cash in James Mangold’s “Walk the Line.”

Famously committed to the craft, Phoenix bifurcated his career with the notorious meta-mockumentary “I’m Still Here,” portraying himself on the brink of psychological disaster both on-screen and in interviews. He’d follow that unforgettable confusion up with a second Best Actor nomination in 2012 for his starring role as a World War II veteran swept into a cult in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” With more than 40 credits to his name, Joaquin Phoenix has built his career on slippery performances perpetually pulled toward darkness. Here are the actor’s 12 best movies to date.

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