The Ryan Gosling movies to watch right now (no, not The Notebook)

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
6 Min Read
Drive featuring Ryan Gosling.
Drive featuring Ryan Gosling. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

When did you first take notice of Ryan Gosling?

Maybe it was as a child performer on the Mickey Mouse Club, where he was a contemporary of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.

Or perhaps it wasn’t until The Notebook in 2004, when he and fellow Canadian Rachel McAdams sizzled up the screen in a grand love story that made romantics swoon, or when he was nominated for his first Oscar at the age of 26, playing a drug-addicted school teacher in Half Nelson.

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In a career spanning three decades with everything from cheesy TV such as Young Hercules and Breaker High to the ultra-violence of Only God Forgives Gosling has demonstrated a range that encompasses taciturn, emotionally repressed men as well goofballs like Ken.

After that show-stealing performance at the 2024 Oscars ceremony, where Gosling tore up the stage in his neon-pink suit, coy smile and all-in, Gentlemen Prefers Blonde choreography, there is no doubt that he’s one of the premier actors of his generation.

Gosling looks like he’s finally comfortable with the different aspects of his talent, that he can do brooding and slapstick. Watch how, during the I’m Just Ken performance, he is lifted up by the dancers so that he’s crowd surfing among a sea of Barbie heads, a confident, natural smile on his face.

At 43 years old, Gosling has come into the full power of his charisma. But that’s not to suggest he has peaked. He has behind him an incredible body of work and more to come including what looks to be a bombastic action comedy in The Fall Guy opposite Emily Blunt. The trailer features a scene of his character sitting in a car and crying to Taylor Swift – all that vulnerability, we love it.

So, in this week (and year) of Gosling, let’s revisit some of his best roles that may have been overlooked, so obviously not The Notebook.

THE NICE GUYS (2016)

Madcap and kooky, Gosling and Russell Crowe are perfect antagonists in this riff on the buddy cop comedy. Their bristly chemistry – Crowe as the veteran enforcer and Gosling as the chaotic PI – move along the 1970s-set mystery of a dead porn star whose demise unravels a wider conspiracy involving politics, business and sex. It’s Gosling at his most slapstick as throws himself into the physical comedy of the role.

Watch it: Netflix, Stan

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Ryan Gosling, left, and Russell Crowe in a scene from "The Nice Guys." (Daniel McFadden/Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP)
The Nice Guys is uproariously funny. Credit: Daniel McFadden/AP

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (2007)

Definitely, a film from Gosling’s indie phase, the quirky Lars and the Real Girl was directed by Australian filmmaker Craig Gillespie. It’s a sweet and gentle movie about a socially awkward man who starts a relationship with a life-like doll. His concerned family don’t know what to make of it but eventually, everyone is sympathetic, especially when “Bianca” helps Lars to connect with others in a way he couldn’t before. It’s a generous, compassionate performance from Gosling, who never plays his character as if he were a big weirdo idiot.

Watch it: DVDs on eBay

Lars and the Real Girl
Ryan Gosling
Lars and the Real Girl had a lot of humanity. Credit: unknown/Supplied

BLUE VALENTINE (2010)

Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is not a date movie unless you want to sit uncomfortably with your partner as you’re both confronted with the story of how a relationship breaks down. Gosling is paired with the equally talented Michelle Williams in this drama about a young couple whose early intoxication turns acrid as the pressures of life drive them further and further apart. It’s a harrowing film but to watch Gosling and Williams do their thing, to connect and repel, is a marvel.

Watch it: Digital rental

FIRST MAN (2018)

When it comes to taciturn men who push all their feelings down, down, down into an emotional abyss, Gosling and director Damien Chazelle’s take on astronaut Neil Armstrong is the opposite of Ken. Here is someone who says nothing, but you can feel that everything is roiling beneath. It’s a masterful exercise in restraint, which makes the catharsis all the more powerful.

Watch it: Prime Video, Binge

Ryan Gosling in First Man
Ryan Gosling in First Man. Credit: supplied/supplied

HALF NELSON (2006)

Perhaps Gosling was fighting against the risk of being pigeonholed as a romantic lead after The Notebook because in the years following it, he steered clear of the genre and nabbed his first Oscar nomination. He plays a school teacher who forms a friendship with a student when she discovers he has a drug habit. The movie by Ryan Boden and Anna Fleck avoids a lot of eye-rolling tropes, offering an affecting and clear-minded about saviours.

Watch it: DVDs on eBay

FILM HALF NELSON - Half sinner, half saint: Ryan Gosling.
Gosling’s first Oscar nomination. Credit: Unknown/Supplied by Subject

THE BELIEVER (2001)

Gosling first’s leading role was in Henry Bean’s film, The Believer, where he plays a young Jewish man and neo-Nazi. The film’s exploration of a character (based on real-life figure Danny Burros) whose experiences growing up in Judaism were the foundation of what pushed him to embrace a violent ideology is a smart drama that isn’t scared to wade into choppy waters. Gosling was 20 years old at its release and it’s already evident that he was a thoughtful actor who could embody challenging characters.

Watch it: DVDs on eBay

Ryan Gosling, left, and Joshua Harto appear in a scene from the film "The Believer," in this undated promotional photo. "The Believer" premieres Saturday, March 16, 2002, on Showtime, more than a year after the disturbing portrait of a Jewish neo-Nazi skinhead won the top dramatic prize at the Sundance Film Festival.  (AP Photo/SHOWTIME, Liz Hedges)
Ryan Gosling’s first lead role in a film. Credit: LIZ EDGES/AP

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012)

A small-time crim with a penchant for daredevil stunts, Gosling’s tattoo-ed character in The Place Beyond the Pines could’ve been the archetype of the “bad boy” but the actor’s soulful performance gives depth to a man whose life has been marked by a spiral of wrong decisions. Derek Cianfrance’s thriller tells the story of fathers and sons and cops and robbers in blue-collar America, and how our choices take us down different paths.

Watch it: Stan

Ryan Gosling
The movie on which he met wife Eva Mendez. Credit: Atsushi Nishijima/Focus Features/supplied

LA LA LAND (2016)

There are some who argued that Sebastian is nothing more than another imperious “jazz bro” but in Gosling’s hands, that character is fleshed out with desire, flaws, ambition and pain. A pastiche to Old Hollywood and traditional musicals, La La Land takes it further and the second half, where the heady romance meets the reality of two different life paths, is a more complex and graceful story than the poster would have you believe.

Watch it: Paramount+, Stan

This image released by Lionsgate shows Ryan Gosling, left, and Emma Stone in a scene from, "La La Land." (Dale Robinette/Lionsgate via AP)
Lovers, dreamers and them. (Dale Robinette/Lionsgate via AP) Credit: Dale Robinette/AP

DRIVE (2011)

Pulpy with stylish neon aesthetics that recall 1980s neo-noir thrillers, Drive features Gosling as a brooding unnamed stuntman whose extracurricular, after-dark work is that of a getaway driver for various heists. Tightly edited with taut action sequences, Drive’s velocity gets the adrenaline pumping. Nicholas Winding Refn’s film is for everyone who wishes the Fast & Furious movies weren’t so dumb.

Watch it: SBS On Demand

Ryan Gosling in Drive
High-octane action in Drive. Credit: RICHARD FOREMAN JR SMPSP

BARBIE (2023)

Obviously Barbie. Gosling’s Ken, a himbo whose job is just “beach”, who transforms from Barbie’s accessory, obsessed with being noticed by her, to being a porous personality who inhales patriarchy because he’s never known a different life (and is also super into horses), to someone who must to discover that he can be his own person. To go on that journey and still have perfect comedic timing and commit to that dance number, it’s spectacular.

Watch it: Digital rental

This mage released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Ryan Gosling in a scene from "Barbie." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
More than Kenough. (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP) Credit: AP

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

While the debate still rages on over whether Rick Deckard is a replicant (Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott don’t agree on this point), fellow Canadian Denis Villeneuve’s visually sumptuous sequel is upfront that K is one. But being a replicant does not mean K has no humanity and Gosling’s performance is driven by a character who dares to believe that he may be more than just a functionary.

Watch it: Netflix, Binge, Stan

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Ryan Gosling in a scene from "Blade Runner 2049." (Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
A replicant with emotional depth. (Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP) Credit: Stephen Vaughan/AP

CRAZY STUPID LOVE (2011)

The first time Gosling and Emma Stone worked together was in the Steve Carell rom-com Crazy, Stupid Love where he portrayed a cocky playboy coaching Carell’s daggy suburban dad how to succeed in the dating game. Well, he was the one who was schooled when his heart was captured by Stone’s Hannah. Gosling is suave and easy charm, but there’s the naivete of someone who thinks they know the affair of the heart and is more of an innocent than they realise.

Watch it: Stan, Foxtel

Steve Carell and  Ryan Gosling star in Crazy Stupid Love
The playboy gets played. Credit: Supplied

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