Top 10 Films Of Michael Keaton

There’s been talk of Matthew McConaughey’s McConaissance – in other words ditching the commercially safe rom-com in favour of more edgy material – but what about Michael Keaton? Since 2014’s RoboCop, Keaton has reestablished himself as a viable Hollywood commodity; an actor of talent, range and that unlearned skill: cinematic magnetism.

10. One Good Cop (Gould, 1991)

Top 10 Films Of Michael KeatonA cop tries to manage domesticity with a life battling crime. Keaton makes this work far better than it would otherwise.

9. The Dream Team (Zieff, 1989)

Top 10 Films Of Michael KeatonA bit of a One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest knock-off without the subtext or well-rounded characters, The Dream Team is nevertheless a fun fish-out-of-water tale thanks to the sprightly performances of its cast with Keaton leading the way as the roguish, pathological liar Billy Caufield.

8. Night Shift (Howard, 1982)

Top 10 Films Of Michael KeatonKeaton’s first starring role remains one of his best in this Ron Howard-directed comedy about a pair of co-workers (Keaton alongside Henry Winkler) who hatch upon a plan to run a “call girl” service headquartered at their place of work – a New York City morgue – during their night shift. Keaton is off the leash the sort of loveable rogue that became a trademark of his early film work.

7. Clean and Sober (Caron, 1988)

Top 10 Films Of Michael KeatonClean and Sober is recognised as Keaton’s first departure from comedy, showcasing his skills as a dramatic actor in the role of Daryl Poynter whose life takes a downward spiral due to his cocaine addiction.

6. Jackie Brown (Tarantino, 1997)

Top 10 Films Of Michael KeatonOnly a small role for Keaton but he’s great as the smooth-as-silk ATF agent who’s trying to instigate a sting but becomes a puppet in Jackie Brown’s audacious scheme.

5. Batman (Burton, 1989)

Top 10 Films Of Michael KeatonAn iconic role for Keaton in Tim Burton’s wonderfully dark adaptation of the DC superhero. The actor is probably upstaged by Jack Nicholson’s brilliant Joker but Keaton has the street-smart to make his version of caped crusader work.

4. The Paper (Howard, 1994)

Top 10 Films Of Michael KeatonKeaton re-teams with director Ron Howard as newspaper editor Henry Hackett in this sparkling and amusing depiction of a newsroom and the personal and professional challenges of the job.

3. Pacific Heights (Schlesinger, 1990)

Top 10 Films Of Michael KeatonA bit like Robin Williams when he turned to the dark side in the early 2000s with films such as Insomnia and One Hour Photo, Keaton discards the comedy for a deeply unsettling role as a con man in John Schlesinger’s thrilling Pacific Heights. He proceeds to turn the lives of an unassuming couple (played by Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith) upside down when he rents the downstairs apartment of their home. You’ll never look at a nail gun in the same way again, or exposed pipework for that matter!

2. Birdman (Iñárritu, 2014)

Top 10 Films Of Michael KeatonSomewhat of a comeback film for Keaton in a starring role, Birdman showcases the broad range of Keaton’s skill, combining dramatic nuance with the charms of his comic tendencies. This tale of a former star trying to return to the limelight not only has a Sunset Boulevard feel about its set-up but is that good it can confidently claim to match Billy Wilder’s film in the quality stakes. Keaton leads a marvellous cast in what is arguably the actor’s finest film to date.

1. Beetlejuice (Burton, 1988)

Top 10 Films Of Michael KeatonThere are few characters as memorable as the roguish, smart-mouthed ghost Betelgeuse whose shoes Keaton fills like he was born to play the character. One of Tim Burton’s finest films, Beetlejuice is a terrific dark comedy with an absurdist sense of humour and the director’s trademark penchant for imaginative visuals.

Written and Compiled by Dan Stephens

Over to you: what are your top 10 films of Michael Keaton?

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Rory Fish Reply

    Great actor. Great focus but this is easy…

    10. “…others…”

    1. BEETLEJUICE

    • Dan Reply

      Well, at least we agree. 🙂

      • Rory Fish Reply

        Yes. Definitely. BUT…

        …if I’m going to have to be more specific… Night Shift… it would be higher for me – he’s great in that. He has that manic energy that made Beetlejuice so good.

        • Dan Reply

          True; it’s an “energy” he turns nasty for Pacific Heights.

  2. Neal Damiano Reply

    Night shift is an 80s classic , Keaton is hilarious.
    Glad to see it here! Good on you for including it, Dan.

    • Dan Reply

      Thanks Neal. Night Shift is A LOT of fun! Some wonderful performances from the ensemble cast.

  3. Clarissa Reply

    He was great in Clean and Sober but my favourite is Beetlejuice.

    • Dan Reply

      Great to see more fans of Keaton’s lesser-known/seen work. But glad we agree on Beetlejuice.

  4. Callum Reply

    Not seen all of these but of the ones I have seen Beetlejuice would be my favourite of his performances.

    5. The Paper
    4. Night Shift
    3. Multiplicity
    2. Batman
    1. Beetlejuice

    • Dan Reply

      Haven’t seen Multiplicity in years but I remember the idea being one I loved as a kid. Not sure it works as well for repeat viewings but Keaton is always worthy watching.

  5. Dan Grant Reply

    Great list Dan.

    I too think Beetlejuice is his best but I’d also put Birdman right up there. That performance blew me away and I think he should have won best actor last year.

    I also loved him in Mr. Mom and Gung Ho. Glad you mentioned One Good Cop also, he was terrific in that.

    • Dan Reply

      Yeah, I saw Birdman and it reminded just how good an actor Keaton is. It had to make this list and take a high spot too. Beetlejuice is just something else – incredible performance. Gung Ho and Mr Mom were good too; there were a handful of others that could have made this top 10.

  6. ArchE Reply

    Mr. Mom is worth a shout from the back of the room. Thought he was excellent in the recent RoboCop too but of his support turns you’re right to stick Jackie Brown on the stage and shine the spotlight on it.

    • Dan Reply

      I agree. He was good in RoboCop. It was the start of his own renaissance as an actor. Shame that film was so shoddy otherwise.

  7. Hanky Reply

    Michael Keaton is a great actor

  8. Beth Cawberry Reply

    Loved his small performance in Jackie Brown. My favourite is Pacific Heights, he’s so frightening in that one. Gave me nightmares. Dare I say I’m not a big Tim Burton fan so I’m not fond of Bettlejuice but can see the appeal of his performance. Love Clean and Sober, Dream Team and Mr Mom also.

  9. Michael Scoates Reply

    Birdman is my #1 for many different reasons, wish he’d won the Oscar for it, hard work deserves rewards.

  10. Elliott Reply

    10. White Noise
    9. Desperate Measures
    8. Gung Ho
    7. Pacific Heights
    6. Batman Returns (prefer this to Batman)
    5. Mr Mom
    4. Clean and Sober
    3. Dream Team
    2. Night Shift
    1. Beetlejuice

    • Dan Reply

      White Noise?!!

      I remember having high hopes for that one – Michael Keaton versus the supernatural… but was bitterly disappointed.

  11. Jim DiCaprio Reply

    no Johnny Dangerously?? ??

    • Dan Reply

      not my cup of tea. Forgettable at best.

  12. Callum Reply

    Just watched Beetlejuice again. Great film, incredible performance from Keaton. It’s got to be one of the best comic performances ever.

  13. Evan Crean Reply

    Fantastic list Dan. Some of my favorite Michael Keaton films are on here: Birdman, Jackie Brown, Batman, and Beetlejuice. You definitely piqued my interest in some other Keaton films that I haven’t seen though like Pacific Heights, The Paper, Clean and Sober, and Night Shift. Two Keaton movies that would be on my list include Mr. Mom and Johnny Dangerously. Both are silly, good-natured comedies that make for easy viewing.

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