Few actors have the wild-eyed charisma and off-beat charms possessed by screen vet Michael Keaton. His career took off in the early 1980’s, dried up in the late 1990’s, and got its second wind in 2014. I’ve always loved seeing Keaton on screen so what better actor to highlight in a new Phenomenal 5. Narrowing down his film roles to the five best was as tough as I expected, but those are the rules. So while I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, there’s no denying that these five Michael Keaton movies are nothing short of phenomenal.
#5 – “The Dream Team”
Ok, so you could call this a more sentimental choice but I absolutely love “The Dream Team” flaws and all. It’s a 1989 comedy about four mental patients loose in New York City after their field trip to Yankee Stadium goes bad. Keaton is great as the snarky and mischievous self-appointed leader of the patients as they set out to save their doctor/chaperone from some crooked cops. “The Dream Team” wasn’t a huge hit, but it was a great showcase for Keaton’s explosive personality.
#4 – “Beetlejuice”
If you could have seen the look on my children’s faces when I first told them about a movie called “Beetlejuice”. Tim Burton’s 1988 horror-comedy is just as wacky as its name suggests. And despite its fun and completely game cast, the film works so well because of Michael Keaton. This is one of those roles where you can’t imagine anyone else being able to pull it off. He’s utterly ridiculous, weirdly charming, and an absolute riot from the first moment he hits the screen.
#3 – “Spotlight”
Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” was my #1 movie of 2015 and it still stands as a powerful reminder of the importance of free, unbiased journalism. Michael Keaton plays the leader of a small team of investigative journalists working for the Boston Globe. The film follows the Spotlight team as they slowly uncover and ultimately blow the lid off of a massive wide-spread sex abuse scandal within the Catholic church. Keaton gives a perfectly calibrated dramatic turn as an editor fighting for his team’s right to publish their story regardless of the costs. A much different performance from the earlier two films on this list, but a pivotal one nonetheless.
#2 – “The Founder”
Easily the most underrated role on the list and arguably the most underrated role in his entire filmography. Michael Keaton’s starring work in “The Founder” went largely unseen by audiences and apparently by awards voters, but it’s easily one of his best. The film tells the story of Ray Kroc and how he created the multi-billion dollar fast food juggernaut McDonald’s. It’s a meaty role for Keaton, blending his skills with straight drama and dry humor. Chances are you missed this one when it came out in 2016. It’s definitely worth catching up to it.
#1 – “Batman”
If for some reason you needed more evidence of Michael Keaton’s enormous range as an actor, I present to you 1989’s “Batman”. Yet another collaboration with Tim Burton that sees Keaton playing the Dark Knight before superhero movies were all the rage. I remember being a bit unsure about his casting, but that didn’t stop me from standing in line for over an hour anxiously awaiting an opening weekend viewing. And Keaton didn’t disappoint. “Batman” is very much a Tim Burton take on the Caped Crusader, but Keaton brings his own wit and charm. You never doubt him either as Bruce Wayne or the crime-fighting vigilante in a cape and a cowl. Jack Nicholson received most of the attention for his sparkling work as Joker, but Keaton proved to be crucial to the film’s massive success.
So those are my Michael Keaton movie picks. What say you? See something you agree or disagree with? Please let me know in the comments section below.