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MoviesMoviesRyan Gosling’s 15 best performances, rankedMovies

MoviesRyan Gosling’s 15 best performances, rankedMovies

The Mickey Mouse Club has produced plenty of major-name pop stars, but only one multiple Academy Award nominee. Indeed, it’s been a long, strange career for Ryan Gosling, who’s gone from singing and dancing alongside Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears to portraying neo-Nazis, crack-addicted schoolteachers and sensitive dreamboats to singing and dancing about being an anatomically incorrect toy doll at the Oscars. 

Somewhere along the way, the 43-year-old Canadian confirmed himself as not just a serious actor but one of the best of his generation, equally capable of quietly brooding, Marlon Brando-esque naturalism, leading-man romanticism and old-school comic buffoonery. In the upcoming The Fall Guy, he further cements both his comedy credentials and action star bona fides as a Hollywood stuntman who must put his skills to use solving a real-world crime. At this point, we’ll watch him in anything – but here are the roles that have impressed us the most so far.

Ryan Gosling’s best performances

Blue Valentine (2010)

5

1. Blue Valentine (2010)

  • Film
  • Drama

Marriage Story is for whimps. If you like your relationship catastrophes served straight no chaser try Gosling and Michelle Williams in an indie heartbreaker split that’s across two timelines: the happy days and the pain that comes when the love runs out. Williams is her usual formidable self, while Gosling again proves what a stellar performer he is in a role that takes him from fun-dad antics and ukulele strumming to boozy, bickering mess. One of his most naturalist performances and, in its honesty and contradictions, one of his best.

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Half Nelson (2006)

Photograph: THINKFilm

2. Half Nelson (2006)

  • Film
  • Drama

A movie about a drug-addicted teacher who forges a bond with the student who discovers his secret reads like middlebrow awards bait, and that’s exactly what this indie drama could have been, were it not for the smart script and Gosling’s stellar performance. He brings an almost ’70s-style naturalism to a role that could have easily slipped into melodramatic cliché. It earned Gosling his first Oscar nomination, and confirmed him as one of the best actors of his generation.

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Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

3. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

  • Film
  • Science fiction

Everyone’s gonna look good bathed in electric neons by the great Roger Deakins but Gosling’s leather coat-clad replicant still glides magnificently through this ambitious, grandly operatic sci-fi. It always seemed like a risky venture and flopped at the box office, but the actor’s faith in visionary filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve (this is one of the few sequels on his CV to date) is a recurrent theme. He’s terrific as the hard-boiled A.I. in a state of spiritual crisis.

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Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

4. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

  • Film

If Gosling has a speciality, it’s bringing deeply felt humanity to characters that might otherwise seem phony and-or pathetic, and there’s perhaps no better example in his filmography than this oddly moving curio about an socially awkward man in love with a sex doll. It’s a gentle and empathetic film, and Gosling matches it with a sweet, shy performance that never once mocks his character. Beyond that, it’s Ryan Gosling convincingly playing a sexless shut-in. How did he not win an Oscar?

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The Fall Guy (2024)

The Fall Guy. Fotoğraf: UIP

5. The Fall Guy (2024)

In an action-comedy that sometimes breaks sweat trying to entertain, Gosling delivers one of his most effortlessly charming performances as a heart and body-broken stunt man who just wants his gal back. As usual, he finds easy chemistry with his co-star – in this case, Emily Blunt playing the English movie director his stunt man, Colt Seavers, still holds a candle to. He’s so much fun it’s sometimes hard to tell if the film is any good or if he’s selling the silliness that well. How many other movie stars could handle 15 minutes of screen time opposite a unicorn? 

First Man (2018)

Image: Universal Studios

6. First Man (2018)

  • Film
  • Drama

Whether through choice or happenstance, the Canadian hasn’t played many real-life figures on screen. Even in tackling legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong, it may have been the burden of grief – Armstrong lost his two-year-old daughter a few years before the Apollo 11 mission – than the chance to play an iconic figure and jump about on the Moon that drew him to the role. Armstrong, a man of few words, has Gosling showing his subtlety, manifesting deep emotions behind the inscrutability. Not his showiest performance but one of his most affecting. 

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Drive (2011)

Photograph: Wild Side Films

7. Drive (2011)

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

What toothpick wouldn’t want to be chewed by Gosling’s satin-jacketed stuntman with a dodgy side hustle in Nicolas Winding Refn’s brutal neo-noir? The LA crime flick has Gosling following in another Ryan’s footsteps – O’Neal in Walter Hill’s 1978 thriller The Driver – in playing the unnamed getaway driver, and demonstrates again how much of a ’70s throwback he can be when he’s playing taciturn, tortured men (see also: Half Nelson). It’s hard to imagine Gosling back in the days when he was a blank canvas rather than a superstar A-lister, but his brooding anonymity is palpable. 

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The Nice Guys (2016)

8. The Nice Guys (2016)

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Aside from a few above-par Saturday Night Live hosting gigs, Gosling never really had the chance to showcase his comedic chops before Shane Black cast him as a bumbling private eye in this 1970s pulp send-up. It’s as great a revelation as any of the films that proved his worth as a serious actor. Paired with gruff tough guy Russell Crowe, Gosling proves equally adept with both quippy banter and broad slapstick – see the scene where he tumbles down a hill, encounters a corpse and starts gasping and miming like an Abbott and Costello routine. 

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The Believer (2001)

Photograph: Seven Arts Pictures/Alamy

9. The Believer (2001)

  • Film

If you want to shake off the stigma of being a Disney child star, playing a self-loathing Jewish neo-Nazi is certainly one way to do it. Whether or not he consciously meant it that way, Henry Bean’s powerful, philosophical drama nonetheless announced Gosling’s arrival as a true acting talent – his performance is at once terrifying, sad and smoldering. You can’t take your eyes off him, and soon, no one would.

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Barbie (2023)

Photograph: Warner Bros.

10. Barbie (2023)

  • Film

Will we come to split Ryan Gosling’s career into pre- and post-Ken eras? He managed to turn a plastic doll into the perfect avatar for modern male self-doubt and inadequacy, earning his third Academy Award nod and delivering one of the great Oscar night moments in the process. His reward may just be to be reminded of it for the next decade or so as people rate his roles by their Kenergy (The Fall Guy? Big Kenergy). He was gracious enough to claim embarrassment at the Oscar nomination that was denied his co-star Margot Robbie. And you know he meant it too, the big mensch. 

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The Notebook (2004)

Photograph: New Line Cinema

11. The Notebook (2004)

  • Film
  • Drama

At this point, you either start bawling at the memory of it or dry heaving at the idea of ever sitting through it. But there’s a reason this is the only adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel to really stick in the public imagination. It’s a classic setup: he’s the simple country boy, she’s the young heiress forbidden to date below her station. And yet, Gosling and co-star Rachel Adams bring such chemistry and commitment to their roles they elevate a straightforward Romeo and Juliet riff into a generational love story. 

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The Big Short (2015)

Photograph: Paramount Pictures

12. The Big Short (2015)

  • Film
  • Drama

Adam McKay’s satirical spin on Wall Street’s role in the 2007 financial crisis lacks nothing for irreverence and snark – what with Margot Robbie explaining complex financial instruments in the bath and the winky cutaways to camera. Gosling is perfect both as narrator and the slippery Deutsche Bank salesman who brings Steve Carell’s hedge fund owner up to speed on subprime mortgages using a Jenga set. He described it as ‘a hair­-fuelled performance’ and vowed never to wear a wig again. We kinda hope that extends to the scary brown contact lenses too.

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La La Land (2016)

Photograph: Dale Robinette

13. La La Land (2016)

  • Film
  • Comedy

Forget the grumbles about cultural appropriation (Gosling’s jazz pianist wouldn’t have wanted to be on Twitter in 2016) and bask in the innocent pleasures of this throwback musical in which he and Emma Stone’s wannabe Hollywood actress meet and fall in love, only to lose each other again. There’s a wonderful lived-in quality to the pair’s chemistry, no doubt helped by their previous on Crazy, Stupid, Love. And while the dancing isn’t exactly Fred Astaire, he more than gets by in the song-and-dance numbers too. 

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Fracture (2007)

Photograph: New Line Cinema/Alamy

14. Fracture (2007)

  • Film
  • Thrillers

You haven’t truly arrived as an actor until you throw on a Southern accent to play a hot-shit lawyer out for justice. As a movie, Fracture is a fairly pat legal thriller, but it’s elevated in the Gosling pantheon by his tête-à-tête with Anthony Hopkins, hamming it up as an engineer accused of murdering his wife. It was Gosling’s first real ‘acting showdown’ with a movie legend, and he more than holds his own, pushing the film past its flaws with a confidence that radiates from the screen. 

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Crazy, Stupid, Love (2012)

Ben Glass / Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

15. Crazy, Stupid, Love (2012)

  • Film
  • Comedy

Gosling brought pedigree as a sophisticated romantic lead to his first romcom, lending it a slightly elevated air, even if, at heart, it’s still a lighthearted, somewhat predictable comfort film. As a suave playboy educating newly divorced Steve Carrell in the art of seduction, Gosling somehow never comes across as smarmy – and once he begins falling for Emma Stone and questioning his dedication to permanent bachelorhood, he ends up charmingly vulnerable in a way that never feels forced or cloying. 

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