If you haven’t heard yet, there’s a new Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie as the titular character and Ryan Gosling as her love interest, Ken. Oh, you did hear? Funny, the media was so quiet about it! Anyway, in honor of the Blockbuster film of the summer, we took a trip down memory lane and ranked the best Ryan Gosling films, from worst to best.
America’s favorite heartthrob and one of the multiple Ryans we’re all collectively obsessed with, Gosling has starred in some of the biggest films of our generation, like La La Land and The Notebook. And he’s also been acclaimed for his roles in Indie films, such as The Place Beyond the Pines and Drive. Talk about range.
From heartthrob leading roles in romantic comedies to haunted portrayals of real people, Ryan Gosling movies have one thing in common: they’re usually pretty good. With a few exceptions, we’ve hardly ever been disappointed. So this ranking was hard, and we should be acknowledged for having done such a hard thing. We accept Starbucks gift cards.
15 Ryan Gosling Movies Ranked Worst to Best
15. Jared Vennett (The Big Short, 2015)
One of our favorite things about Gosling is that he has all the makings of a total A-hole: quintessentially good looks, tons of money, and a pretty boy smolder that reeks of ego. And yet, his charisma is unmatched, and he is undeniably likable despite all that.
But in The Big Short, he really plays up the stereotype, and it’s…not our favorite.
As Wall Street banker Jared Vennett, Gosling plays every guy we try to avoid when we’re out at bars. And he does it well, but we like him so much more when he’s not reminiscent of our frat star ex.
14. Willy Beachum (Fracture, 2007)
Look, we loved this movie, particularly for the on-screen dynamics between Gosling’s district attorney Willy Beachum and Anthony Hopkins’ murder suspect Ted Crawford.
Gosling plays the tormented lawyer with ease, but unfortunately Hopkins overshadows his younger co-star. Hannibal Lecter is not an easy man to face off against, and while Gosling’s performance was strong, Hopkins ate him up. Along with fava beans and a nice Chianti.
13. Luke (The Place Beyond the Pines, 2013)
The best thing about The Place Beyond the Pines is that we get to see Ryan Gosling act alongside his longtime real-life partner, Eva Mendes, in this domestic drama. Oh, and we get to see what he would look like if he got a bunch of tats. Excuse us while we wipe away our drool.
Gosling plays a young father who resorts to robbing banks to provide for his family, while Bradley Cooper plays Avery, a cop intent on bringing him down.
It’s a tense character study that touches on important themes such as fatherhood, family, and consequences. He does good work, but we can’t help comparing it to Blue Valentine, director Derek Cianfrance’s other film with the star that we just like more.
12. Stephen Myers (The Ides of March, 2011)
This film doesn’t do anything that’s majorly new or groundbreaking, but it’s well-acted. It has an all-star cast led by Ryan Gosling as an idealistic campaign staffer and George Clooney as the presidential candidate.
Gosling has this intense demeanor about him (some might call it a smolder) that works well in this role, but his performance is somewhat tampered down by all the star power elsewhere in the film. Aside from Clooney, other cast members include Marisa Tomei and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
It’s good work from Gosling, but it’s not our favorite. Solidly middle-of-the-road.
11. Neil Armstrong (First Man, 2018)
In First Man, Gosling plays Neil Armstrong. Ever heard of him? As the first man on the moon, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Armstrong had to make very many personal sacrifices in pursuit of this goal.
Gosling is excellent as the steely, stoic figure in American history. There is a world of grief, turmoil, and responsibility swirling beneath the surface of his unflinching gaze, and there is no question that Gosling was the right actor to play this role.
Our only real issue with it is that Gosling is at his best (and is our favorite) when he’s able to shed some of his seriousness and let his weird, goofy side shine through. And this film doesn’t offer that reprieve. Hey, we’re all for brooding. Just maybe not nearly two and a half hours of it?
10. Holland March (The Nice Guys, 2016)
The Nice Guys is a buddy detective comedy that might not break boundaries, but it’s highly entertaining. And not in small part thanks to Gosling’s private investigator Holland March. Alongside fellow PI Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), the pair set out to investigate mysterious disappearances.
Sure, the film itself might be a little cliché, but Gosling is extremely well-cast in a role that allows him to flex his comedic chops. If no one else will say it, we will. We need more comedy from our favorite star, because he truly shines with dry sarcasm. Oh, other people have said it? Huh.
9. Lars Lindstrom (Lars and the Real Girl, 2007)
Ryan Gosling, as a sexually inexperienced and painfully shy loner? If that description sounds unconvincing, give Lars and the Real Girl a watch. He actually manages quite a convincing portrayal, one which earned him Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations.
It’s a charming, feel-good movie that raises questions of family bonds and how we treat people with mental illnesses. Perhaps it’s a bit too optimistic, with its baseline assumption that people are generally good at heart. But the message shines through like a fable.
Gosling even had us shedding a tear or two, which is impressive considering that we are well aware he has no trouble with the ladies IRL.
8. Noah Calhoun (The Notebook, 2004)
It may be a controversial choice to put Gosling’s breakout role of Noah Calhoun in The Notebook at number eight on this list. Too high for true movie buffs and too low for romance fans. But we think its placement is fair. Gosling has done more complex character work that should be acknowledged, but you know what else deserves to be acknowledged? That rain scene. Enough said.
One of our favorite pieces of movie trivia is that Ryan Gosling got the role as Noah partly because he wasn’t handsome. Yup, you read that right. Not hot, thought the director. :startled gasp: replied the rest of the world.
Anyway, Gosling as Noah has to be one of the main reasons this movie blew up so much, because he does unrequited love so well. And also made kissing in the rain look a lot more fun than it actually is.
7. Dean (Blue Valentine, 2010)
Want another reason to love Ryan Gosling? When Blue Valentine came out, he and co-star Michelle Williams fought against the MPAA’s NC-17 rating, advocating for it to be changed to R. He felt the ruling was unfair and sexist, stating, “You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen.”
If we weren’t already swooning, we’d be fully swooned by now.
Gosling’s romantic high school dropout Dean falls for Cindy, an aspiring doctor. The rest of the film follows them falling in love and then falling apart in a drama akin to Revolutionary Road or a modern Romeo & Juliet. Gosling earned one of six Golden Globe nominations for his leading man.
6. Ken (Barbie, 2023)
Is it too early to put Gosling’s portrayal of Ken in the new Barbie movie this high up on our list? Well, too bad. We’re the ones with the log in access over here.
One of the things we love about Ryan Gosling is that he is just so easy to love. Even when he’s a patriarchy-affirming himbo, we can’t take our eyes off him. In anyone else’s hands, the character of Ken might have ruined the movie for us. But Gosling practically steals the scene from co-star Margot Robbie, despite his despicable actions.
In short, we understand why the other Barbies were brainwashed. And while of course we don’t support that, we do support the “I’m Just Ken” musical number that has officially been stuck in our heads for 72 hours now. Send help.
5. Officer K (Blade Runner 2049, 2017)
Matching up to the original star of Blade Runner, Harrison Ford, was always going to be a tall order, but Gosling managed to make even the purist fans happy with his different, but brilliant, portrayal of Officer K in the 2017 sequel, Blade Runner 2049.
What’s so great about his performance is that he isn’t trying to copy and paste Ford’s work. Gosling’s acting achievement is entirely his own. His work pays respect to the original, while still being able to branch out and do his own thing.
It’s sort of like our mantra for how to be a great little sister. Although we will be borrowing that top, thank you very much.
4. Jacob Palmer (Crazy, Stupid, Love, 2011)
Yeah, okay, we can talk about critical acclaim all day long. But if we’re talking about straight up fun, Gosling’s Jacob Palmer in the 2011 romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love is second to none. We truly can’t think of anyone who would be better in the role of charming womanizer with a soft spot than Ryan Gosling. Zac Efron, you get a close second.
We could probably watch Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone clean out their refrigerators and not get bored, but watching them recreate the scene from Dirty Dancing is pure joy. This film was the first time the iconic duo appeared together, and all we can say is, we need more.
And this isn’t all pure opinion – although, this is unapologetically one of our “we’ll always watch it when it’s on” movies. Gosling earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. If you ever need a pick-me-up, just watch him slap Steve Carell across the face and tell him he’s better than the Gap. We all need that reminder sometimes, ya know?
3. Dan Dunne (Half Nelson, 2006)
Gosling was already a well-known actor when he appeared in the 2006 film Half Nelson, but this was his first chance to show off his real acting chops. He plays a middle school history teacher who takes a special interest (not in a creepy way) in one of his students, Drey (Shareeka Epps), trying to steer her onto the right path and away from drugs.
It’s not as white savior-esque as it sounds, because Gosling’s character is a cocaine addict himself. Drey ends up helping him out of tough spots as much as he helps her.
The role earned him his first Academy Award nomination, and his powerful, charismatic performance paved the way for Gosling later taking on more serious roles. You know, like Ken.
2. Sebastian (La La Land, 2016)
Listen, La La Land has a lot of issues, not least of which is the fact that Ryan Gosling plays a white dude who is on a crusade to save Jazz music. It’s a little cringe (and problematic), but it’s also the role that made Gosling a Golden Globe winner and notched his second Academy Award nomination, and we think there’s a good reason for that.
There’s something so Old Hollywood about the duo that is Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. They’ve starred together three times now, and their chemistry on screen is palpable.
If we’re being honest, La La Land isn’t even our favorite of the three, but Gosling is so good that it deserves its rightful place. Even if we’re still scarred from that ending.
1. Driver (Drive, 2011)
In anyone else’s hands, Drive would have been just another action-adventure thriller. What sets it apart from the pack is Ryan Gosling’s unforgettable performance as the unnamed lead, a stunt driver and sometimes-criminal-for-hire in Los Angeles. The movie was both a critical and commercial success after debuting at Cannes Film Festival to a standing ovation.
For Gosling’s part, he departs from his usual romantic hottie role for something darker and more intense in this film. But, he still gets to have the sexy love interest moments alongside co-star Carey Mulligan. Whew.
If you’re here because of The Notebook, this film is that, plus The Godfather. Not for the faint of heart due to the graphic violence, but still a swoon-worthy performance with sizzling chemistry between Gosling and Mulligan. And people wonder why our romantic standards are so high.
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