Since hitting the Hollywood scene as a child performer on Disney's The Mickey Mouse Club, Ryan Gosling has proven, time and time again, his versatility as an actor. He was launched into superstardom as a charming romantic lead in The Notebook, and deftly showed off his comedic chops in Crazy, Stupid, Love. He revived an action franchise with Blade Runner 2049, and tugged on heartstrings alongside Michelle Williams in the marriage drama Blue Valentine.
Now, the Oscar nominee is taking on two very different roles: In Netflix's The Gray Man, which is in theaters on July 15 and available to stream on July 22, he stars as Sierra Six, an assassin on the run from a villainous Chris Evans. Meanwhile, Greta Gerwig cast Gosling to play a plastic doll named Ken in Barbie (set for release in 2023). Ahead of those movies, A.frame is revisiting some of the actor's best films to date.
Written and directed by Henry Bean, The Believer put a young Gosling — still fresh off The Mickey Mouse Club — on the map as a serious actor. Based on a real-life story, Gosling stars as a young Jewish man who becomes a neo-Nazi, developing fierce anti-Semitism. Playing the definition of a character with contradictions and inner conflict, the film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, thanks in part, to Gosling's bold performance.
The Notebook established Gosling as a Hollywood heartthrob and endures as one of his most popular films. Based on the Nicholas Sparks book of the same name and directed by Nick Cassavetes, Gosling plays Noah, a bearded veteran designed to pull tears out of even the most stone-cold moviegoers, alongside a charming Rachel McAdams. What the fan-favorite romance The Notebook lacks in originality, it makes up for with passionate performances and obvious chemistry between the two actors.
Gosling received his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his work on Half Nelson, directed by Ryan Fleck. Gosling plays the drug-addicted Dan Dunne, a history teacher who can't shake his habit even as he works to save one of his students (Shareeka Epps) from a local dealer (Anthony Mackie). Gosling's performance, frazzled and intense, solidified his place in the acting world.
Starring as the titular Lars, Gosling couldn't be portraying anyone more different than the dreamy Noah from The Notebook. In this dramedy directed by Craig Gillespie, Gosling's character begins a romantic relationship with a sex doll, and, on the advice of a doctor, his family dutifully rolls with the punches. Despite the film's out-there premise, Gosling gives emotional depth to a character that could have simply been a punchline, and proves he has chemistry with just about anyone — or anything.
To prepare for Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance's portrayal of a marriage coming together and falling apart, Gosling and co-star Michelle Williams lived together, purchasing groceries based on their characters' incomes and even creating family portraits together. That commitment is evident on-screen — the couple's chemistry is electric, even as things start to crumble. For her work, Williams was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
An arthouse adaptation of the James Sallis novel, Drive, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Editing, cements Gosling as a leading action man. Playing the nameless driver, Gosling's character is a stuntman moonlighting as a getaway driver for criminals when he falls in love with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan). Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, Gosling's stoic performance stands out among stunning visuals, graphic imagery and fast-paced action.
Playing the suave pick-up artist Jacob Palmer, we should hate Gosling. We should! But as he guides Cal (Steve Carell) through the modern world of dating and falls in love with Hannah (Emma Stone, in their first of three pairings so far), Gosling uses his comedic chops and natural charm to woo the audience once again. In this now-classic rom-com directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Gosling has a natural chemistry with all of the A-list leads, making even the sleaziest parts of his character endearing.
Paired with George Clooney, who directed and acted in The Ides of March, Gosling plays a junior campaign manager of a Democratic governor's presidential campaign. But as the campaign trail stretches longer and longer, Gosling's idealistic Stephen Meyers gets a real-life lesson in dirty politics. Alongside a cast of all-stars including Marisa Tomei and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gosling gets the chance to chart his character's slow decline into cynicism, eventually aligning with the pessimists all around him.
Like Drive, Gosling plays another crime-inclined stunt driver in The Place Beyond the Pines, but this time, his character is mumbling and mad in Gosling's second collaboration with Cianfrance. Though not his most-touted performance, Gosling, outfitted with tattoos, bleach-blond hair and a cigarette, is hard to look away from. For big Gosling fans, The Place Beyond the Pines is also where Gosling met his longtime partner, Eva Mendes.
Among a cast of fellow A-listers, Gosling is a standout in The Big Short, the Adam McKay film about the 2008 financial crisis that was nominated for five Oscars at the 88th Academy Awards and won Best Adapted Screenplay. He plays Jared Vennett, a Deutsche Bank salesman who works as the witty narrator, pulling in even the most business-averse viewers into understanding. With a sharp delivery and an almost-friendliness toward the camera, Gosling seems made for McKay's frenetic and fast-paced style of filmmaking.
With a record-tying 14 Academy Award nominations, Gosling got well-deserved love for La La Land, where he plays Seb, a jazz musician. Gosling and Stone are a perfect pair in yet another collaboration, weaving their romance through dreamy dance sequences and stunning Los Angeles vistas in Damien Chazelle's ode to Old Hollywood. With Gosling's charming performance and surprising musical skills earning him a nomination for Best Actor, La La Land is arguably the most essential Gosling film on this list.
Despite initial hesitancy from fans of Ridley Scott's original Blade Runner, director Denis Villeneuve's follow-up was extraordinarily well-received, earning Gosling praise for his moody performance as Officer K, a new blade runner for the LAPD. K's on a mission to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who has been missing for the past three decades.
Blade Runner 2049, which won Oscars for its cinematography and visual effects, successfully pays homage to the original film while also expanding the universe, with Gosling assuming leading man duties and putting all naysayers to rest.