Ranking The 15 Best Ryan Gosling Movies

Ryan Gosling‘s career evolution is one of interesting twists, unique turns, and a certain magnetism that has always granted him passageway, whether he was playing a strung-out teacher, a social outcast with a sex doll girlfriend, an astronaut, spiraling soon-to-be divorcee, stunt driver with a violent streak, or music man. It’s a climb from child acting roles and the Mickey Mouse Club that’s made most impressive by the simple fact that Gosling still seems ultra choosy when it comes to the projects, filmmakers, and actors he works with, never giving us the chance to tire of seeing him on the screen or worry that he’ll disappoint with a flat performance in an uninspired role. That’s why we wanted to be ultra choosy here, making hard cuts and having full disagreements about the ultimate ranking of Gosling’s best work, including the recent action rom-com, The Fall Guy. So, if you think we missed something or think something else should be higher, believe me, we understand because chances are we had that fight while pulling this together. Nevertheless, here’s where we wound up, forced to pick from some of the best work of this century for a leading, song and dance, action guy with a well of intensity and a willingness to not take himself too seriously.

Only God Forgives Ryan Gosling

15. Only God Forgives (2013)

Gosling reunited with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn for this arthouse grind that’s basically no plot, all vibes. And violence. So much violence. But the actor sells every bit of it, playing a hard-to-root-for anti-hero who grunts and punches his way through Bangkok’s seedy criminal underground. An almost speechless turn, Gosling does the most with what little the script gives him. – Toomer

Murder By Numbers Ryan Gosling
Warner Brothers

14. Murder By Numbers (2002)

In the early aughts a baby-faced Gosling decided to chew some scenery in this crime thriller starring Sandra Bullock as a dogged-detective with an axe to grind. As Richard, a high school psycho whose extracurricular activities include strangling innocent women, Gosling plays the kind of bad boy Taylor Swift writes songs about, a rich teen with greasy hair and a hellish idea of fun. He’s obviously having a fantastic time, but Gosling never lets the villainy of Richard stray into camp territory, making him all the more terrifying. – Toomer

The Big Short Ryan Gosling

13. The Big Short (2015)

Neither Margot Robbie in a bubble bath nor Gosling’s grand hand gestures in a boardroom can dumb down the events that led to the housing crisis enough for them to be even mildly entertaining. And yet, Gosling’s performance as Jared Vennett, a Deutsche Bank executive with sleaze oozing from every pore, is just blunt enough to let us know he’s one of the bad guys in this venture. Plus, he’s got one of the most bizarre scenes in the whole film, a business pitch filled with racist jokes, Jenga props, and Gosling whispering “I smell money,” to a floor-to-ceiling window in a New York high rise. – Toomer

Warner Bros.

12. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

This Denis Villeneuve-directed sci-fi sequel didn’t earn enough love from critics when it landed in theaters a few years ago but, as is the case with everything, none of that was Ryan Gosling’s fault. As K, a non-human officer tasked with hunting down rogue replicants, Gosling is stoic, uttering a handful of words over the film’s lengthy runtime. Lonely and isolated, he seeks comfort in an artificial intelligence program and finds meaning in an unearthed conspiracy that sees him partnering with Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard to solve. They say the mark of a good actor is one who can convey a spectrum of emotions with just one look. Blade Runner 2049 feels like Gosling and Villeneuve got together solely to test that hypothesis. – Toomer


11. First Man (2018)

Another project with La La Land director Damien Chazelle, First Man sends Gosling into space as pioneering astronaut Neil Armstrong. But any zero-gravity shenanigans take a backseat to the introspective character study Gosling interests us in with his take on one of history’s most famous heroes. Demure yet determined, Armstrong was a man intent on etching his name in the annals of time and Gosling never shies away from the consequences of that driven-by-ego dream, showing him as goal-oriented to the point of obsession, and obsessive to the detriment of those who loves him most. – Toomer

Half Nelson Ryan Gosling

10. Half Nelson (2006)

The inner city educator/savior film, long a critical fave, got a needed reinvention in filmmaking duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s feature debut with Gosling earning an Oscar nomination for his work as a teacher trying and failing to manage and mask his drug addiction. At 26, Gosling had already transitioned from child actor to terrifyingly intense turns in Believer and the aforementioned Murder By Numbers. The success of The Notebook offered another path of soft mainstream dramas, but Gosling’s ability to play vulnerable and damaged while still exuding a naturalistic charm in Half Nelson created a career off-ramp. This doubtlessly led to more varied and interesting scenic route with roles in Lars And The Real Girl, Blue Valentine, and Drive. – Tabrys

New Line

9. The Notebook (2004)

On paper, the choice between Ryan Gosling and James Marsden in The Notebook is a no-brainer. One’s a broke war vet fixing up a rotting house in the hopes that his teenage sweetheart might one day come back to him. The other’s a rich, handsome suitor with some serious dance moves and an endless amount of patience. Sorry to Noah Calhoun, but if Gosling hadn’t infused the character with unlimited amounts of visceral yearning and desperate desire, Rachel McAdams wouldn’t have imploded her life for that man. And we would’ve supported her in that choice. – Toomer

Lars and the Real Girl Ryan Gosling

8. Lars And The Real Girl (2007)

Lars And The Real Girl goes from being a movie about a socially awkward man weirding out his family and community by introducing a life-sized doll as his girlfriend to a surprisingly tender story about what it takes, sometimes, to draw someone out of their shell. Gosling is deft in his portrayal of a character who is lost in a fiction he builds for himself until he finds something that might just be really real. – Tabrys

Crazy Stupid Love Ryan Gosling

7. Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

Gosling takes his “Hey Girl” meme-ergy to the extreme in this silly rom-com that’s experiencing a bit of a resurgence thanks to TikTok. Here he plays Jacob, an uber-wealthy playboy dripping in charisma and designer suits who somehow agrees to give Steve Carell’s divorced dad, Cal, a makeover. That mostly involves tossing his New Balance sneakers in the trash and teaching him to chat up women using Dirty Dancing references, but things get complicated when Jacob unknowingly falls for Cal’s daughter (played by repeat collaborator Emma Stone). With his photoshopped abs and sensual scarfing down of a slice of pizza, Gosling leans into the womanizing vibes, but finds a surprising amount of vulnerability in the character that elevates the whole thing. – Toomer

The Fall Guy Ryan Gosling Emily Blunt

6. The Fall Guy (2024)

Though it’s technically a remake of a popular ‘80s TV show and a salute to the underappreciated stunt community, The Fall Guy mostly feels like a rom-com with an action twist, an oft-attempted (Ghosted, The Lost City) and rarely well-executed genremash. But where others have failed, this one absolutely delivers thanks to the off-the-charts chemistry of Gosling and Emily Blunt. One part Ken and one part Holland March from The Nice Guys, Gosling’s Colt Seavers is a perfectly goofy, well-meaning himbo head over heels in love and eager to save the day for Blunt’s director character while also getting thrust into a little sleuthing in between his stunts. We don’t know how likely a sequel is to The Fall Guy, but this amalgamation feels like Gosling’s most perfect form, especially if he’s happiest playing fun roles and avoiding some of the more tortured characters he played in the past. – Tabrys


5. La La Land (2016)

Nearly a decade ago, Ryan Gosling saved jazz. He did it by tapping into those Mickey Mouse Club roots to play Sebastian “Seb” Wilder, a struggling pianist whose entire personality can be summed up as “white guy, loves jazz.” And yet, despite his lack of a well-paying job, his dismal career prospects, and the aimless nature of his life, Gosling’s chemistry with star Emma Stone more than convinces us that dating an LA creative might actually be a good idea. In La La Land, the actor harnesses every tool in his artistic arsenal to give us a swoon-worthy love story with a bitter-sweet ending. It’s almost enough to excuse that Oscar’s gaffe. – Toomer

Blue Valentine Ryan Gosling

4. Blue Valentine (2010)

The heartrending destruction of a marriage is shown in great detail with Gosling and Michelle Williams playing a couple living through the tragedy of growing apart while also showing us the origins of their heady love story. From writer/director Derek Cianfrance, Blue Valentine is a deeply affecting film and a labor of love for Cianfrance, Gosling, and Williams that they nurtured for years. While the term disaster film is typically reserved for ones where cities are decimated by space aliens or earthquakes, this also fits, showing a kind of devastation that’ll hit in a more personal way for anyone who has ever felt love slip away from their grasp. – Tabrys


3. Drive (2011)

That scorpion jacket, that thumping neon-dream soundtrack, the balletic car chases, and the contrast between near wordlessness and thunderous violence from Gosling’s wheelman turned protector – you could make a case that Drive is Gosling’s best work, but you’d die on a hill defending it as his coolest. A hyper-stylized neo-noir LA crime story with big nods to Michael Mann films and westerns, Drive commits the sin of wanting to be iconic, but it also accomplishes that feat with Gosling at the center of it all in what was and will forever be a star-making turn. Eminently re-watchable, Drive lingers in the corner reminding us of Gosling’s sharp edge even as we fall deeper and deeper in love with the idea of him as, to quote Brian Grubb, “a charming lil goofball.” – Tabrys


2. The Nice Guys (2016)

Written and directed by Shane Black and cut from the same cloth as his Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, Nice Guys takes us to the ‘70s, introducing us to a pair of PIs who go too hard and play too loose while bumbling through their day to day. Pushed together by circumstance, they annoy each other to the point of violence and deception before, somehow, breaking the case. It’s an odd pairing, Gosling and Russell Crowe, each at very different stages in their career and neither really known for their comedic chops. But the subversion of a “type” is such a beautiful thing and something Gosling keeps doing over and over again in winning performances that make us long for more. – Tabrys

ken barbie
warner bros.

1. Barbie (2023)

Mojo Dojo Casa Houses. Mini fridge meltdowns. Singin’ in the Rain-style dance-offs. His sincere utterance of the phrase “Just Beach.” It’s almost misogynistic how good Ryan Gosling is in this movie. As Ken, Barbie’s himbo sidekick perpetually longing for the warmth of her blue-eyed gaze, Gosling is both in on the joke, and the joke itself. His entire performance is an exaggerated wink to camera, the consequence of a Hollywood heartthrob happy to objectify himself for the collective good. His comedic timing is a thing of beauty, his ability to “play dumb, look pretty” entirely unmatched. And yet, for all the laughs, Gosling genuinely sympathizes with Ken and the unrealistic standards he has – for himself and his relationship with a plastic doll craving sentience and independence. And he makes us feel for Ken too, despite all the horse-girl propaganda and Matchbox Twenty ballads. Gosling didn’t have to Ken that hard, but cinema is all the better for it. – Toomer