River Phoenix and his family are one of the most iconic families in American culture. That’s thanks to their undeniable talent on the stage, screen, and in music, as well as the dark past they come from and a highly publicized tragedy that followed.
For people growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, River is sometimes referred to as the brother of Academy Award-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix.
But Joaquin would be the first to tell you how his older brother is the main reason and inspiration for his success.
The entire Phoenix family has lived lives worth reading about. That’s why we wanted to take some time to learn more about this enigmatic ensemble while we rank the Phoenix siblings from oldest to youngest!
6. Jodean Bottom (February 19, 1964 – Present)
Age (as of June 23, 2022): 58
Born: Amadora, Portugal
Jodean Bottom is the oldest of the Phoenix siblings and the only half-sister to all five as a result of her father, John Lee Bottom’s extramarital affair with her mom, Trinity. She’s also the only one to have kept the original family surname. Unlike her celebrity-inclined brothers and sisters, she isn’t one for media attention and has no involvement in their industry.
The family didn’t know Jodean existed until a friend of River’s filled him in on his dad’s secret. River decided to take matters into his own hands, establishing a line of communication between him and Jodean, happily culminating in his half-sister joining their family.
Did You Know?
Jodean grew up around the time of the Vietnam War when the draft was still a policy in America. Because of this, her father fled to Canada for fear of being forced into the fight. As a result, she never had any contact with John Lee Bottom.
5. River Phoenix (August 23, 1970 – October 31, 1993)
Age (as of June 23, 2022): 23
Born: Madras, Oregon
Occupation: Actor, Musician, Activist
Known For: Stand by Me
photo source: Flickr via Alan Light
River Phoenix was world-renowned for his raw, vulnerable, excellent portrayals in classics like Stand by Me, Running on Empty, and My Own Private Idaho, where he plays a gay hustler in search of his mother.
His acting is praised for its refreshingly honest, almost unlearned style as if you weren’t watching a trained actor but rather someone who is going through real pain and struggle. A talent like his doesn’t come around often.
His career began at 10, acting in several television commercials until his first big role in Stand by Me (1986). He was the firstborn of John Lee Bottom and Arlyn Dunetz. Phoenix described his parents as “hippieish” in an interview with People. If you look at the life and career of River, it’s evident that some of it rubbed off on him.
River was a spokesperson in the fight for animal rights and ecological conservation.
River’s true passion was music, teaching himself guitar as early as 5-years-old. Through the friendships he made in acting with other stars like Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves, who had similar interests in music, they became fast friends and would regularly jam together. He also formed a folk/rock band in 1987 called Aleka’s Attic, which featured his sister Rain.
Did You Know?
As is the case with so many young actors whose star rises rapidly, drug addiction goes hand-in-hand. In River’s case, it was no different. He passed away in the early hours of Halloween while playing a show with John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and other big names at The Viper Room in Hollywood, following a days-long drug binge involving cocaine and heroin.
The Viper Room, which was partly owned by Johnny Depp, temporarily closed and became a shrine to honor the life and legacy of the actor.
4. Rain Phoenix (November 21, 1972 – Present)
Age (as of June 23, 2022): 49
Born: Crockett, Texas
Occupation: Actress, Musician
Known For: Aleka’s Attic
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Rain Joan of Arc Phoenix is a name that demands attention. As the younger sister of River and backup singer in Aleka’s Attic, that’s certainly what she got. She joined R.E.M in 1994 to record backup vocals on “Bang and Balme, and then joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers as their backup singer for the One Hot Minute Tour.
By 1997, she teamed up with her sisters Summer and Liberty to form their punk band, The Causey Way. They broke up four years later but not without a couple of albums to show for it. She’s shown a similar interest in acting, appearing in films like Water Colors, Violet, and Hitch.
Did You Know?
Rain and Summer host a podcast called LaunchLeft, where “famed creatives launch the next wave of music rebels.”
3. Joaquin Phoenix (October 28, 1974 – Present)
Age (as of June 23, 2022): 47
Born: Río Piedras, Puerto Rico
Occupation: Actor, Producer, Activist
Known For: Joker
photo source: Wikimedia Commons
Joaquin Phoenix has since become the best-known Phoenix sibling, thanks to his portrayal of figures like Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, Commodus in Gladiator, and most recently as our favorite clown prince of crime – the Joker.
His accolades extend beyond the fingers we have on both hands, but his most notable include a Grammy, two Golden Globe Awards, an Academy Award, and a lofty title as one of the greatest actors of the 21st century, according to The New York Times. He’s married to actress Rooney Mara. They have one son together.
Did You Know?
Phoenix is a passionate animal rights activist and has been vegan since three years old, no doubt inspired by River’s values. He’s produced several documentaries that bring awareness to the environmental dangers of factory farming.
2. Liberty Phoenix (July 5, 1976 – Present)
Age (as of June 23, 2022): 45
Born: Caracas, Venezuela
Known For: The Causey Way
Liberty Phoenix is a former actress known for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Kate’s Secret. Like all her siblings, she lives between two worlds – movies and music.
She is a founding member of her sisterly punk band with Rain and Summer, called The Causey Way. Even though they’ve disbanded, it’s not indicative of any fracture in their loving relationship. Liberty still supported Rain and her new musical venture as a backup vocalist for her band – the Papercranes.
Did You Know?
Liberty is married to Andy Lord. She’s also helped support the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding charity organization.
1. Summer Phoenix (December 10, 1978 – Present)
Age (as of June 23, 2022): 43
Born: Winter Park, Florida
Occupation: Actress, Model, Designer
Known For: This is Our Youth
photo source: depositphotos.com
Summer Phoenix is the youngest of the Phoenix siblings at 43-years-old!
Summer Joy Phoenix began as a child actor like River and Joaquin, landing roles in the crime drama TV series, Murder, She Wrote. She also appeared in the popular sitcom Growing Pains and the science fiction series known as Swamp Thing. As recent as 2019, she appeared in a short film titled Skin, portraying the character Lucy.
She began dating actor Casey Affleck shortly after sharing the stage for a three-month run of This is Our Youth in 2002. By 2003, they were engaged and welcoming their first son, Indiana August. They married in 2006 and had their second son, Atticus, but the two divorced in 2017.
Did You Know?
As a designer, Summer launched a vintage clothing boutique store called Some Odd Rubies, which was located on the lower east side of Manhattan.