It's fair to say Ryan Gosling has had a pretty stellar year – what with his scene-stealing turn as Ken in Barbie – and the actor celebrates his 43rd birthday this week.

So, to celebrate with him, we're looking back at the Canadian actor's admirably varied career, which has seen him star in everything from popular romcoms and modern musicals to sci-fi blockbusters and cult indie thrillers.

Gosling first entered the spotlight as a teenager when he starred on Disney Channel's The Mickey Mouse Club in the mid-'90s, before he enjoyed a seamless transition into film acting to become one of the 21st century's most beloved movie stars.

His first really major role came when he starred opposite Rachel McAdams in weepy romantic drama The Notebook - and he's hardly looked back since, earning two Oscar nominations (for Half Nelson and La La Land) along the way

So, without further ado, here are Ryan Gosling's best films in release order, as chosen by RadioTimes.com.

Ryan Gosling's 12 Best Movies

Showing items 1 to 12 of 12

  • The Notebook

    • Romance
    • Drama
    • 2003
    • Nick Cassavetes
    • 118 mins
    • 12

    Summary:

    Romantic drama starring Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner and Gena Rowlands. The story of an ill-fated teenage romance helps an old man to bring the love of his life back from the shadowlands of dementia.

    Why watch The Notebook?:

    Although Gosling had already appeared in a handful of films, it was his turn as Noah in The Notebook that really established him as a bona fide movie star. Of course, you'll need to have the tissues at the ready for this one – the famously weepy romantic drama sees him star as the younger version of an old man as he recounts his love story to his wife who is suffering from dementia.

    How to watch
  • Half Nelson

    • Drama
    • 2006
    • Ryan Fleck
    • 102 mins
    • 15

    Summary:

    Drama starring Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps. Dan Dunne is a man in crisis. By day he's a charismatic teacher, but by night he's a disillusioned junkie. His two lives remain separate until school pupil Drey catches him out, and a fragile friendship is gradually forged.

    Why watch Half Nelson?:

    This film saw Gosling earn his first Academy Award nomination, and for good reason – he's tremendous as a young Brooklyn school teacher who forms a bond with a pupil who discovers his secret drug habit. It's an understated and slow-burning drama, but it packs a real punch as Gosling's character slowly takes the precocious youngster's advice on board and tries to fix his self-destructive ways.

    How to watch
  • Lars and the Real Girl

    • Comedy
    • Romance
    • 2007
    • Craig Gillespie
    • 102 mins
    • 12A

    Summary:

    A reclusive man living in a small town becomes so desperate for companionship he orders a sex doll online, but becomes entirely convinced it's actually a real woman. Fearing for his fragile state of mind, his family decide to play along with the delusion and convince the other residents of their small town to do the same, while trying to push him in the direction of a real relationship. Comedy drama, starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Mortimer

    Why watch Lars and the Real Girl?:

    This offbeat comedy from Cruella director Craig Gillespie sees Gosling star as a lonely man who – devoid of genuine companionship – orders a lifestyle mannequin who he pretends is his girlfriend, a delusion which is indulged by his sympathetic family and neighbours. It's a whimsical, rather strange film with another great performance from Gosling at its centre.

    How to watch
  • Blue Valentine

    • Drama
    • Romance
    • 2010
    • Derek Cianfrance
    • 107 mins
    • 15

    Summary:

    Relationship drama starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Dean and Cindy are married with a young daughter, but their relationship is falling apart. When the couple first met they were carefree and passionate, but the realities of life have taken their toll.

    Why watch Blue Valentine?:

    Gosling and Michelle Williams are in superb form as a married couple whose relationship is dramatically falling apart in this gripping drama – which can sometimes make for uncomfortable viewing. It follows the pair as they push to repair their deteriorating connection while trying to raise their daughter, with some gut-wrenching results.

    How to watch
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love

    • Comedy
    • Drama
    • 2011
    • Glenn Ficarra
    • 124 mins
    • 12A

    Summary:

    Romantic comedy drama starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone. Cal, a middle-aged man whose wife has just asked him for a divorce, starts getting lessons in playing the field from bar-room acquaintance Jacob. Meanwhile, Cal's son is hopelessly enamoured with the babysitter, who has a secret crush on his dad.

    Why watch Crazy, Stupid, Love?:

    The first of three big-screen collaborations between Gosling and Emma Stone, this joyous romcom deserves to be seen as a modern classic of the genre. Gosling plays Jacob Palmer, a young man who encourages his recently divorced new friend Cal (Steve Carell) to pick up women at their local bar, only for things to turn complicated when Jacob embarks on a romantic relationship of his own...

    How to watch
  • Drive

    • Drama
    • Crime/detective
    • 2011
    • Nicolas Winding Refn
    • 96 mins
    • 18

    Summary:

    Crime thriller starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. In Los Angeles, a mysterious garage mechanic and film stunt driver also moonlights as an ice-cool wheelman during robberies. But when he befriends his next-door neighbour and her child, he soon finds himself in a deadly situation.

    Why watch Drive?:

    Nicolas Winding Refn's neon-drenched neo-noir thriller has emerged as one of the cult classics of the 21st century – thanks to its sublime aesthetics and pitch-perfect performances. Gosling plays the practically wordless stunt performer turned getaway driver who finds himself trying to protect his new neighbour from an abusive partner – with some violent results.

    How to watch
  • The Place beyond the Pines

    • Drama
    • Crime/detective
    • 2012
    • Derek Cianfrance
    • 134 mins
    • 15

    Summary:

    Crime drama starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen. Motorcycle stunt rider Luke discovers he has a son, and turns to robbing banks to support his new family. But ambitious cop Avery Cross is determined to bring him to book, and their actions will rebound on both their families in the years to come.

    Why watch The Place Beyond the Pines?:

    Gosling reteamed with Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance for this unconventional film that jumps around genres and characters in three distinct chapters. As with Drive, Gosling plays a stunt driver – a motorcyclist this time around – who turns to crime in order to care for his new son, before the focus shifts to the cop on his tail, played by Bradley Cooper.

    How to watch
  • The Nice Guys

    • Comedy
    • Thriller
    • 2016
    • Shane Black
    • 111 mins
    • 15

    Summary:

    Crime comedy starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. A burned-out PI is hired to investigate the death of a porn star but, while navigating the sleazy underbelly of 1970s Los Angeles, he collides with a violent enforcer. After they learn that a missing young woman could be in danger, the two men team up as the mystery develops into a full-blown conspiracy.

    Why watch The Nice Guys?:

    Gosling is undoubtedly a fine dramatic actor, but he's arguably never more entertaining than when he's utilising his comedic chops – as he does to great effect in Shane Black's terrifically entertaining crime comedy. Gosling stars as a hapless private eye who pairs up with Russell Crowe's violent enforcer to hunt down a missing porn star in '70s LA, with comedic shenanigans ensuing as a result.

    How to watch
  • La La Land

    • Musical
    • Music
    • 2016
    • Damien Chazelle
    • 122 mins
    • 12

    Summary:

    Romantic musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. In Los Angeles, the showbiz capital of the world, pianist Sebastian and actress Mia endure an endless cycle of bar-room gigs and auditions in the hope they can turn their ambitions into a professional career. The pair meet and fall in love, but the path to making all their dreams come true is no simple affair.

    Why watch La La Land?:

    Forever remembered as the film that almost won Best Picture, Damien Chazelle's modern ode to classic Hollywood musicals remains a delightful if bittersweet experience from start to finish. Gosling and Oscar-winner Emma Stone are perfect as couple Sebastian and Mia – Gosling even learned piano for the part – and there are numerous showstopping moments, from song and dance numbers to dinner table confrontations.

    How to watch
  • Blade Runner 2049

    • Thriller
    • Drama
    • 2017
    • Denis Villeneuve
    • 157 mins
    • 15

    Summary:

    Futuristic sci-fi thriller starring Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling. Los Angeles blade runner Officer K uncovers a shocking secret that puts him on the trail of Rick Deckard, who has been missing for 30 years. Meanwhile, corporate magnate Niander Wallace seeks the truth about so-called replicant reproduction in order to further his plans for interstellar colonisation.

    Why watch Blade Runner 2049?:

    Few people thought it would be possible to pull of a sequel to sci-fi classic Blade Runner more than 30 years after its release – but Denis Villeneuve proved himself more than up to the task with this intelligent, beuatiful epic. Gosling takes the lead as a stoic replicant named 'K' as he attempts to track down Harrison Ford's legendary LAPD cop Rick Deckard.

    How to watch
  • First Man

    • Drama
    • History
    • 2018
    • Damien Chazelle
    • 135 mins
    • 12

    Summary:

    Drama based on a true story, starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy. In the early 1960s, pilot Neil Armstrong joins Nasa's space program and begins training for a mission to reach the moon. As the space race heats up, Armstrong struggles to cope with the combined pressures of training and a difficult home life.

    Why watch First Man?:

    Following on from the success of La La Land, Gosling once again joined forces with Damien Chazelle for this accomplished, technically impressive account of Neil Armstrong's famous trip to the moon. A family drama as much as a film about interstellar travel, Gosling is brilliant as the introspective and taciturn astronaut, while there are some dazzling special effects and an excellent theremin-led score.

    How to watch
  • Barbie

    • Action
    • Comedy
    • 2023
    • Greta Gerwig
    • 113 mins
    • 12

    Summary:

    Life in Barbie Land is perfect for one stereotypical Barbie and her dreamily chiselled Ken until the plucky blonde suffers an existential crisis that includes a chance to ditch her high heels for - gasp - sensible flat-soled footwear. Expelled from her pink-saturated utopia for being less than perfect, Barbie sets off for the human world to see if true happiness lies there instead. Ken gatecrashes her odyssey on four wheels with his trusty pair of yellow rollerblades. Comedy starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling

    Why watch Barbie?:

    Has there been a better piece of casting in recent years than Gosling as Ken? In what has instantly become one of his most iconic roles, the actor stole almost every scene he appeared in, with some hysterical line deliveries and facial expressions (not to mention knitwear choices). Greta Gerwig's film enjoyed tremendous success at the box office and was also a big critical hit – more than Ken-ough to land it a spot on this list.

    How to watch
See more Ryan Gosling's 12 best films: From Drive to Barbie
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