5 Phenomenal Michael Keaton Movies

phenom-5

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”

DREAM

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”

BEETLE

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”

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”

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” 

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.

40 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Michael Keaton Movies

  1. Excellent list. I might add the one where he plays the seemingly psycho tenant but the name eludes me. Spotlight was a great movie as was The Founder, which surprises me that it never really went big. He played a great Ray Kroc, unapologetically slimy, cut throat, and heartless when it came to business. I always found it a warped irony that the largest children’s chain was built by someone doing exactly what we teach them not to do.

  2. No disagreement here. He’s hilarious in Beetlejuice, which I just watched the other day, again, he really give that movie a lot of energy. I felt he wuz robbed for “Birdman”, a movie I didn’t care much for, but he was excellent. I’ve also always liked “Speechless”, that one seems to get lost. “American Assassin” is a good one to show off his range, when you compare that character to The Founder, or Speechless.

    • I figured several people would mention Birdman, a movie that I’m not crazy about either. But his performance was indeed a highlight. As for Speechless, I haven’t seen it nor do I remember it. Sounds like I should look it up.

      • Speechless is a romantic comedy, Ron Underwood directed, pre-Pluto Nash. I checked the rating on IMDB, I’m distinctly in the minority on that one, so consider that a warning of sorts.

  3. Spotlight holds up so well. It’s one of my favorite Best Picture wins too. All around thrilling. Batman and Beetlejuice are definitely classics. I was a big fan of Birdman as well, so I’d probably have that on my own list.

  4. Great to see The Founder on your list, and so high up. That was a truly great performance. He was so ruthless.

    With that said . . . I notice that “Jack Frost” did not make the cut. I am very disappointed in you, Keith. 😉

    • Tremendous performance in The Founder. Why do you think it was so widely overlooked? It kinda blows my mind. As for Jack Frost, all I’ll say is…you’re right. It didn’t make the cut. 😂

      • My suspicion is that once word got out it was, fair or unfairly generalized as this may sound, a biopic of the founder of a fast-food restaurant like McDonald’s people were just not interested. A) it’s a case of not really wanting to know how the sausage (or in this case beef patty) is made, or B) cynicism toward the company itself/fast food in general. Or C) the marketing for the movie was straight up terrible. I was surprised I was able to see this movie here where I live. Glad I did though. You’re so right, it’s very underrated.

      • I remember seeing it in the theater in January, almost a full month after it had released elsewhere. I also think it fell through the December cracks and a lot of people simply didn’t see it. It certainly didn’t get much studio push.

  5. “meaty role”… I see what you did there! X–D

    Great actor, and great list! He did an amazing job with Batman, despite all the criticisms he got before the movie came out! Credit should be given to Tim Burton who directed him splendidly too!

    • LOL @ meaty.

      Yes! Burton does deserve plenty of credit. He directed Keaton in a way that stayed true to his vision for the character while keenly utilizing the actors strengths. Very well done.

  6. I haven’t seen The Dream Team so I’d probably replace it with Birdman. Totally agree with you on his work in The Founder. I didn’t quite love the movie as a whole, but he was terrific. Loved him in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Another overlooked role of his is Mr. Mom. He carried that one as far as it could go.

    • Ha! Mr. Mom. I’m actually with you on it. I remember thinking it was a lot of fun. Kinda like Multiplicity which I liked quite a bit more than many do.

  7. A truly incredible actor that just brings it. He’s been in a few duds like Jack Frost (fuck that movie and that horrendous music soundtrack from Hanson) but he’s done so many good films that you can forgive him for that. I liked the fact that you picked The Dream Team as that is an underrated film as it shows exactly why people love Michael Keaton. The films he did in the 80s like Night Shift, Mr. Mom, Johnny Dangerously, and Gung Ho are among those films where he wasn’t just funny but also engaging as it felt like you were watching a blue-collar kind of guy in these films that you could relate to. The every-man as he wasn’t the best-looking guy or the one who had it all together but that sincerity that is fun to watch.

    Beetlejuice is my favorite performance from him as I can’t think of anyone who could play that role. I saw it as a kid and I fucking loved it. Plus (along with the Police Academy movies and other great movies from the 80s), it taught me some profanity. NICE FUCKIN’ MODEL! Any kid in elementary school who said that got into some trouble for saying that line.

    NOW YOU WANNA GET NUTS!!!! COME ON! LET’S GET NUTS!!!!! I think when it comes to who is the definitive Batman. It’s a tie between him and Christian Bale. A special honorable mention to the late, great Adam West as they’re the only ones who could play Batman though I’m willing to see what Robert Pattinson would do the role.

    The only film in that list I haven’t seen so far is The Founder as that’s a film I’m eager to see just to see what Keaton does in his renaissance though I really think it began with The Other Guys. How can you not enjoy a police captain who also manages a Bed, Bath, and Beyond (let’s hope his branch is still in business) and unknowingly quotes TLC lyrics?

    • Do see The Founder. It missed so many people’s radar altogether. I’m really glad to hear from someone else who has seen The Dream Team. It’s so much fun. Did you ever see Multiplicity? That’s another one of his early comedies that shows his wacky range.

      • I liked that one. 4 Keatons for the price of one. Normal Keaton, guy Keaton, sensitive Keaton, and child-like Keaton.

        That was a film that when I first saw it on TV, I didn’t enjoy it because it was shown in pan-and-scan and I hated seeing movies like that. Years later with widescreen becoming the norm, I enjoyed the film a lot more.

  8. I love Michael Keaton. I have an uncle who looks like him. My brother and I call him Uncle Batman. I like your choices here. He was goofy in The Other Guys. Funny movie.

  9. And he keeps doing it. That’s the great thing about Michael Keaton. I like the selection of early films complemented by his latest efforts. Good catch on Dream Team; an underrated ensemble comedy. I thought he was great in Birdman recently but Spotlight was brilliant.

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