Ryan Gosling has proven to be a unique leading man of his generation through a string of committed performances in a range of eclectic and acclaimed films throughout his career. Gosling’s career began as a member of The All-New Mickey Mouse Club House, where he starred opposite other future A-Listers such as Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. As an adult, Gosling went from playing Hercules in the short-lived series, Young Hercules, before securing a small but memorable part in the feel-good sports film Remember the Titans and the going on to leading the romance classic The Notebook. But it was when he began taking on more daring roles that his career truly began to take off, giving acclaimed performances in the indie films Half Nelson and Lars and the Real Girl, in which his character is in a relationship with a mannequin. With few actors able to match his intensity, it’s been a long four years since Gosling has graced our screens. But he is expected to make a comeback later this year in Netflix’s spy thriller The Gray Man, which is directed by Joe and Anthony Russo (Avengers: Endgame) and co-stars Captain America himself, Chris Evans.
With Gosling’s imminent return, it’s a good time to look back at his career up to this point. Let’s check out his top ten films.
Dan Dunne in Half Nelson (2006)
The debut from filmmaking duo Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Sugar, Captain Marvel), Half Nelson showed critics and audiences an unknown level of depth from Ryan Gosling as an actor and ultimately kicked off a new era for his career. Gosling stars as Dan Dunne, a passionate history teacher for an inner-city school, who has a drug problem. When Drey (Shareeka Epps), one of Dan’s students, discovers his affliction she keeps a secret and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. Gosling gives a sobering performance that drew widespread critical acclaim and saw him get nominated for his first Academy Award.
Dean in Blue Valentine (2010)
A tough movie to watch, but one that cemented its two leads as some of the most exciting talents of their generation. Gosling stars opposite Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) who’re a couple simultaneously falling in and out of love. The film intercuts its narrative between the fun early days of their relationship and its trudging, gradual end after years of that early spark fizzling out to nothing. Gosling and Williams both give extraordinary performances in this anti-love story from Derek Cianfrance.
Jared Vennett in The Big Short (2015)
In Adam McKay’s ensemble comedy-drama about the 2008 financial disaster, Gosling plays Jared Vennett, a fast-talking Deutsche Bank salesman who handles the film’s narration and brings the audience into this hi-rise world. The Oscar winning film follows various storylines and characters who learn of and prepare for the looming crisis. The film also stars Steve Carrell, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt and Jeremy Strong (Succession). Gosling deftly meets McKay’s fast-paced, kinetic filmmaking style, creating one of cinema’s most exemplary portrayals of someone in finance.
Jacob Palmer in Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
In this romantic comedy, Cal (Steve Carrell), a recently divorced middle-aged man, is taken under the wing of a young playboy named Jacob (Gosling) who helps him meet women and reinvent himself. While Cal starts to enjoy single life, Jacob begins to settle down and start up a relationship with an enticing woman named Hannah (Emma Stone). This fun ensemble rom com features a great supporting cast that includes; Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. Gosling is able to show a lighter side and that he can pull off comedy as well as his usual more dramatic fare.
Luke in The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
Gosling reteams with his Blue Valentine director, Derek Cianfrance, for this moving drama about crime, family and trauma being passed down generations. Gosling plays Luke, a motorcycle racer who learns that his former lover has given birth to his son. In order to provide for his newfound child, Luke decides to commit a series of bank robberies which puts him on course to cross paths with a rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) that is working for a corrupt department. Gosling gives a searing performance as a desperate father just trying to do right by his child, but ultimately causes a lifetime of grief.
Sebastian “Seb” Wilder in La La Land (2016)
From cinematic wunderkind Damien Chazelle, this modern movie musical harkens back to the glamorous shows of Hollywood’s golden age, as it tells the story of a young couple (Gosling and Emma Stone) who attempt to tend to both their love and their starry-eyed aspirations for the future. Chazelle and Stone both won Oscars for their work on the film, while Gosling (who was nominated) is endlessly endearing as the jazz obsessed Sebastian. La La Land may be best remembered now for losing Best Picture to the deserving Moonlight, but it is a delightful film that has dreamlike visuals and charming performances.
Driver in Drive (2011)
This neon-lit dark crime fantasy from indie director Nicolas Winding Refn (Valhalla Rising) is arguably the film that cemented Ryan Gosling as an A-List leading man. Gosling stars as a nameless Hollywood stunt driver that moonlights as a for-hire getaway driver. After becoming attached to the mother (Carey Mulligan) and son who live down the hall from him, the driver decides to help settle the debt of her estranged husband (Oscar Isaac), but inadvertently draws the wrath of a local mob boss (Albert Brooks). A cultural sensation in the independent film scene upon its release, causing a wave of sales of its techno infused soundtrack and purchases of scorpion emblazoned jackets.
Neil Armstrong in First Man (2018)
Gosling and Damien Chazelle re-teamed for this underrated biopic about the legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. The film focuses on the years in the space race leading up to the Apollo 11 moon landing, but it takes a deeply personal approach to this period of history, telling the story through the lens that Armstrong’s relentless pursuit of completing the mission is actually his way of coping with the encompassing grief of losing his daughter to cancer. Gosling gives one of the finest performances of his career, while Chazelle continue his esteemed filmography with another unique film.
Holland March in The Nice Guys (2016)
This is perhaps the most rewatchable film on this list, written and directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; Iron Man 3) this ’70s set, darkly comic murder mystery is about as fun as movies can get. Gosling stars as Holland March, a run-down private investigator who’s been hired to find a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), while Russell Crowe stars opposite as Jackson Healy, an enforcer hired by Amelia to keep her hidden. Soon after a confrontation that ends in Healy breaking March’s arm, the two guys are forced to work together in order to uncover a conspiracy involving porn stars, the Justice Department and Detroit automakers. Gosling gives the funniest performance of his career as the down on his luck detective, but also keeps March relatable and tethered to earth. The chemistry between Crowe and Gosling is a joy to watch, both actors show a previously unseen gift for comedy, but still bring their abundant dramatic talents to these characters, creating a cinematic hall of fame detective duo. It’s enough to make one hope for a sequel, or at the very least, a Crowe/ Gosling onscreen reunion.
Office K in Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
It may be only 5 years old, but Blade Runner 2049 will go down as one of the greatest movie sequels of all time. It at once respects and expands the Blade Runner universe, showing downtown Los Angeles 30 years on from the original film, but also giving us new fully realized locations such as the abandoned, and blindingly orange, Las Vegas. Gosling stars as K, a blade runner for the LAPD who is also a replicant, who unearths a secret that threatens to upend society and change what it means to be human. Denis Villeneuve (Arrival; Dune) directs with a high level of visionary confidence, while legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins won his overdue Academy Award, which was well-deserved for this film as it is among the finest work of his career. A rare long gestating sequel to a classic film that not only matches the original, but in some way improves upon it. While Gosling gives a riveting performance as an artificial person going through a crisis, his emotions simmer beneath the surface but are always legible to the viewer, a typical trait in his performances that translates to a level of intensity that is unmatched by many other actors.