River Phoenix was a child star who became an adult actor of note. He is best known for his iconic roles in several classic 1980 movies, but his career lasted just 12 years before he died tragically at the age of 23.
Despite his untimely death, River Phoenix was still able to give us some great performances in some very memorable movies.
The Best 80s River Phoenix Movies
It’s been 25 years since he died, but his legacy as one of Hollywood’s most talented actors lives on today.
So what were the best 80s River Phoenix movies?
Here are our top picks for the best River Phoenix movies of the 1980s:
1. Stand by Me (1986)
One of his most iconic roles, River Phoenix plays the role of Chris Chambers in Stand By Me. The film follows four friends as they set off on a journey to find a dead body. A coming-of-age movie that was ahead of its time, this is one flick people who haven’t seen yet need to see ASAP.
2. My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Though just outside the 1980’s, we had to include this epic film in his short career. One of Phoenix’s most famous roles; this 1991 film sees him play Mike, a street hustler.
The movie focuses on two friends who are trying to come to terms with their sexuality. This was one of the first movies to address issues of bisexuality and homosexuality in such an open way and set the groundwork for other movies that would do the same years later.
3. Little Nikita (1988)
This 1988 thriller drama tells the story of a young girl who befriends her FBI neighbor only to find herself drawn into a life as an undercover spy for his company. A quirky flick with some heart wrenching moments, it is definitely one of Phoenix’s best movies.
4. Running on Empty (1988)
In this crime drama about a family who is forced to go on the run after their son accidentally kills a man, River Phoenix plays Danny Pope, the teenage son of Oscar-winning actress Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch.
The movie received great critical acclaim but flopped commercially due to being released amidst the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. Despite that, it remains one of Phoenix’s best films from his early career.
5. A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988)
This film is about a rich teenager (played by River Phoenix) who goes on a summer adventure with his friends before heading off to college.
It was one of the last films he made prior to his death, but it also stands as one of his best movies because of not only the quality of acting and depth given to such a rebellious character, but also for its raw depiction of teenage angst at just how transient life can be.
It’s no surprise that River Phoenix had such an illustrious career in Hollywood considering how many great movies he appeared in—He received awards in his twenties, much younger than many of the most acclaimed actors of today.
If there is anything we can learn from his legacy, it’s that he may have died too early and left us with many unanswered questions regarding his personal life. He continues to inspire fans for decades to come and we are thankful for him sharing his talents with the world!