His ability to embody a diverse variety of memorable characters has made Ryan Gosling one of Hollywood’s most celebrated and sought after actors, and earned him the role of Ken in Barbie – one of the biggest new 2023 movies. Well, his classic good looks also came in handy in that regard, of course.
But, seriously, there are not many actors who can switch from being a charming romantic like Noah in The Notebook to being an intimidating, stoic, violent badass such as the nameless hero from Drive like the actor has managed to do so easily at various moments in his career. Thus, you will find plenty of variety among our collection of Ryan Gosling’s best movies, along with a quick reference of where to find them.
Remember The Titans (2000)
The newly appointed coach of a high school football team (Academy Award winner Denzel Washington) attempts to break racial barriers among his players in 1970s Virginia.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best movies:
One of Gosling’s earliest breakout roles was young athlete Alan Bosley in one of the best sports movies of its time, Remember the Titans – a true story about how something as simple as playing football can make a difference.
Murder By Numbers (2002)
An unlikely pair of teenagers (Gosling and Michael Pitt) believe they have achieved the perfect crime, until they discover that an experienced detective (Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock) is hot on their trail.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best movies: Murder By Numbers is a clever, underrated crime thriller that sees the actor give one of the darker performances of his early career.
Half Nelson (2006)
A Brooklyn middle school history teacher and girls basketball coach (Gosling) forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students (Shareeka Epps) after she discovers his secret drug habit.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Also starring future Marvel actor Anthony Mackie and crafted by future Captain Marvel directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, Half Nelson is a dark, brutally honest character study that turned Ryan Gosling into an Oscar darling with his 2007 Best Actor nod.
La La Land (2016)
A struggling musician (Gosling) and a struggling actress (Emma Stone) fall in love, despite their respective career aspirations getting in the way in modern day Hollywood.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Gosling’s second Oscar-nominated performance and third collaboration with Emma Stone was in writer and director Damien Chazelle’s exhilarating 2016 musical masterpiece, La La Land, for which the actor actually learned to play piano – according to Variety – to great effect.
Crazy Stupid Love (2011)
A hapless middle-aged man (Steve Carell) is mentored in how to recover from his recent divorce by a young womanizer (Gosling) who ends up experiencing a life-changing meeting with a young woman in an unhappy relationship of her own (Emma Stone).
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Gosling’s first collaboration with Stone was in Crazy Stupid Love, which is widely considered to be one of the best romantic comedies in recent memory for its clever, honest, and surprisingly timeless analysis of what it really takes to make romance work.
First Man (2018)
Neil Armstrong (Gosling) struggles to ensure that his maiden voyage to the Moon will be a safe one, while also struggling to hold his family together in the wake of a heartbreaking tragedy.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Gosling’s second time working with writer and director Damien Chazelle after La La Land was First Man – a revealing, visually stunning, Oscar-winning inside look at the private life of astronaut Neil Armstrong, whom the actor prepared to play by meeting with NASA. .
The Big Short (2015)
An eccentric fund manager (Christian Bale) suspects that the housing market is in trouble, which banking executives and financial investors catch wind of and selfishly try to take advantage.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Gosling’s aforementioned classic looks were toned down a bit when he worked with Steve Carell a second time in The Big Short – co-writer and director Adam McKay’s revealing, uniquely meta, funny, and Oscar-winning inside look at the days leading to the housing market crisis in 2005.
The Nice Guys (2016)
A chance meeting between a pair of mismatched private investigators – one a hardened, no-nonsense professional (Russell Crowe) and the other a bumbling, alcoholic single father (Gosling) – leads to a team-up in the dual mysteries of a missing teenager and a murdered porn star in 1977 Los Angeles.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Gosling’s next big comedy after The Big Short was 2016’s The Nice Guys – writer and director Shane Black’s fun, subversive, screwball farce disguised as a deconstructive throwback to buddy cop movies that fans hope gets a sequel some day.
Lars And The Real Girl (2007)
A man (Paul Schneider) and his wife (Emily Mortimer) struggle to be supportive when his shy, introverted brother (Gosling) finds love with a mail order sex doll.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Another comedy that shows the goofier side of Gosling (but in a more bizarre and heartbreaking way) in Craig Gilllespie’s quirky, quasi-rom-com, Lars and the Real Girl, a somewhat dark look at the lengths one will go to feel loved when they cannot sense its presence in their life already.
The Notebook (2004)
An elderly man (James Garner) visits a woman stricken with Alzheimer’s (Gena Rowlands) in a nursing home, where he reads to her the heartbreaking and heartwarming story of Noah (Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) – a pair of star-crossed lovers torn apart by class differences in 1940s.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: A drama that shows the more charming and romantic side of Gosling is also one of the best Rachel McAdams movies, The Notebook – an instant classic romantic drama from director Nick Cassavetes that skyrocketed author Nicolas Sparks (who wrote the original novel) into the mainstream and is still widely believed to be the finest adaptation of his work thus far.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Outside circumstances – including family upbringings and financial hardships – cause a painful strain on the marriage between a painter (Gosling) and a nurse (Michelle Williams).
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: A drama that shows another romantic, but also far more intense, side of Gosling is also one of Michelle Williams’ best movies, Blue Valentine – a bleak, brutal, Oscar-nominated drama from 2010 that made writer and director Derek Cianfrance a talent to look out for before he went on to co-write the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Sound of Metal.
The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)
In order to provide for his lover (Eva Mendes) and their newborn child, a motorcycle rider (Gosling) turns to bank robbery, which then puts him on the trail of a hot shot rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) in Schenectady, New York.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Gosling’s second time working with director Derek Cianfrance was 2012’s The Place Beyond the Pines – another bleak romance and intense crime drama in which he plays a skilled stunt rider living a double life as a criminal and sparked his romance with Mendes, who is now his wife.
In order to keep the woman of his dreams (Carey Mulligan) safe, a Hollywood stunt driver (Gosling) who works as a getaway driver by night agrees to help pull off a seemingly simple job that quickly goes horribly wrong.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Another modern, great film noir movie that sees Gosling play a stoic stuntman with a double life as a criminal is Drive – a pulse-pounding, beautifully shot, brilliantly unique instant classic that led to Gosling’s friendship and creative partnership with director Nicolas Winding Refn.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
A cop (Gosling) who specializes in hunting and “retiring” artificial beings known as Replicants comes across a mystery that could change the world (and his own life) forever in a dystopian Los Angeles.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Another visually and emotionally stunning crime drama that takes great advantage of Gosling’s penchant for stoicism is Blade Runner 2049 – director Denis Villeneuve’s epic, Oscar-winning sequel to Ridley Scott’s celebrated 1982 sci-fi classic that some argue is the better of the two for its stunning production design and powerfully inventive technological commentary.
A young, hot shot lawyer (Gosling) struggles to prosecute a wealthy engineer (Anthony Hopkins) who confessed to murdering his wife and her lover due to his manipulative ways of working the system.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Another fascinating crime thriller that sees Gosling at odds with corruption is 2007’s Fracture, which puts the actor in a twisted cat and mouse game with the great, two-time Academy Award winner, Hopkins.
The Believer (2001)
A fiercely devout, strongly anti-Semitic member of the KKK (Gosling) struggles to keep his Jewish upbringing a secret in the 1960s.
Why it’s one of Ryan Gosling’s best: Another fascinating thriller that will never allow you to look at Gosling the same way again is The Believer – a 2001 drama from director Harry Bean that is based on a shocking true story.
If you have already binged all of these favorites and are looking for more of your favorite Canadian heartthrob named Ryan (and not named Ryan Reynolds), be sure to check out his “Ken-ergy” in Barbie and keep an eye out for his upcoming projects, such as director David Leitch’s The Fall Guy.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.