best film:   La La Land is an easy masterpiece that sits atop the list of Ryan Gosling’s best films. Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 is not far off and the back to back pair of Nicolas Winding collaborations, Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013), are near the top as well. Derek Cianfrance may not make as big a splash as Damien Chazelle or Refn – but his Blue Valentine (2010) featuring Gosling should not be forgotten either.


best performance: La La Land. Being in a film this good does not happen often for actors. Gosling is charming, natural and funny. He also shows off an earned angst and plenty of frustration. He is believable as a talented musician (that method piano practice work pays off) and of course that scene with the stare — at the end of the film prior to the flashback — is Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind-esque. This is one of the most memorable images in recent cinema history.


La La Land is cinematically ambitious and the high visual style is used to tell an intimate love story. It borrows from Jacques Demy, I Am Cuba, Alfred Hitchcock, and Manhattan while being completely its own work. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are much more than just lucky bystanders witnessing Chazelle’s genius, and this is no ensemble acting film – it is a two person showpiece in front of the camera from an acting standpoint (Gosling and Emma Stone). Gosling shows off some piano playing skills  — a dedication – and it helps suspend disbelief – he even has the Chet Baker voice. Gosling is absolutely perfect for the silent finale where his heart is just about removed – he is stoic, an actor that underplays almost everything – and there is no better actor to just do it the Steve McQueen way and say it with his face. Stone may give the slightly better performance, but Gosling wins the critical last moment.


stylistic innovations/traits:   Ryan Gosling is now the youngest actor on the list (three years younger than Michael Fassbender) as the first actor to land here born in 1980 or later. He is also the first actor to be nominated for Best Actor by the Oscars and has proven himself worthy so far by taking on challenging roles while working with bold auteurs. He has just ten (10) archiveable films to date, but his top five (5) performances below already includes four years  (2010, 2011, 2016, 2017) where he gives one of the best performance of the year (and his best film category is no weakness either). Gosling is no chameleon, but rather had adopted the Steve McQueen (just one example – Chishū Ryū could be another) non verbal underacting lineage. Unlike McQueen, Gosling has been in many of the best films of the decade (so far confined to the 2010s). In fact, when adding up the best male actors of the decade, Gosling faired quite well ( ) which puts him in good company historically.


Gosling was on fire in the 2010s – peaking with La La Land and Blade Runner 2049 in back to back years in 2016 and 2017.  Tracing back to the start of the decade, this run includes Blue Valentine in 2010 and Drive in 2011. This stretch by Gosling may be just one or two films away from being a span that rivals the work of say Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson in the early 1970s – two of the all-time great decades for an actor. Speaking of Pacino, in Blade Runner 2049, Gosling gets the train whistle amplified sound to accentuate the character’s head space Pacino moment (in The Godfather)  when Gosling’s K finds the horse at the orphanage. It is a spectacular moment for Gosling aided heavily by Villeneuve.


directors worked with:  Derek Cianfrance (2), Nicolas Winding Refn (2), Damien Chazelle (2), Denis Villeneuve (1)


Gosling in Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine – his best film and performance at this point in career in 2010. This film showed off Gosling’s undeniable acting chops (as he Michelle Williams provide a sort of 21st century update on Scenes from a Marriage) and indie film credentials.


top five performances:

  1. La La Land
  2. Drive
  3. Blue Valentine
  4. Blade Runner 2049
  5. The Place Beyond the Pines


archiveable films

2006- Half Nelson
2007- Lars and the Real Girl
2010- Blue Valentine
2011- Drive
2012- The Place Beyond the Pines
2013- Only God Forgives
2015- The Big Short
2016- La La Land
2017- Blade Runner 2049
2018- First Man