In 2011, it seemed directors, studio heads and audiences finally realized what we’ve known for years: that people love Ryan Gosling. There are myriad blogs dedicated to his tendency to leave ladies in a swooning heap, interviews with other celebrities inevitably turn to him, and public protests broke out after Bradley Cooper was named 2011′s sexiest man over him. With the help of super GIF creator Joey DeAngelis, we’ve come up with a moving history of Gosling greatness to trace his aesthetic perfection back as far as we could.
The All New Mickey Mouse Club (1993-1995)
At just 13 years old, little Gos was already charming the pre-pubescent ladies with his cowlick, Mickey-brand letterman jacket and heartfelt musical performances. If things had gone differently for the baby Canadian, he might’ve wound up a member of N*SYNC.
Remember the Titans (2000)
After a string of small roles in TV movies and bit parts in series, Gosling’s first major movie role was as Alan Bosley in Boax Yakin’s super serious depiction of racial tension in 1960s Virginia. He might’ve only sung backup in the football team’s public performances of Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, but his comic relief stuck in our memories for the next decade.
The Notebook (2004)
This was the clincher. In Nicholas Sparks’ tearjerker to end all tearjerkers, Gosling’s idealist handyman Noah started out as a teenager in love, wooed and lost his lady, went to war, buried his father, grew a beard, renovated the house he was deflowered in, played the piano, built furniture, wrote 365 letters, rowed a boat through a river of white swans, won his lady back, grew old and reminded his Alzheimer’s afflicted sweetheart of their story each day his memory failed. Are you crying yet?
If the “It still isn’t over kiss” from the film didn’t make you weak at the knees, then his and co-star Rachel McAdams’ re-enactment of it at the MTV Movie Awards certainly would.
Half Nelson (2006)
Ryan Fleck’s grim portrait of addiction and unexpected friendships sees Gosling playing Dan Dunne, a Brooklyn high school teacher who wins over his students with an alternative teaching style and spends his downtime freebasing cocaine. It’s a little lighter than it sounds, but not by much.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Proving he can even win hearts in Cosby sweaters and a goofy moustache, Gosling played depressive social outcast Lars Lindstrom in the 2007 film. His touching portrayal of Lars, a man who buys a Real Doll named Bianca online and believes she is real, is surpassed only by the reactions of his friends and family, who play along for his sake.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Director Derek Cianfrance’s grim portrait of a marriage on the rocks gives us a glimpse of future Gosling in the character Dean, who’d be in the running to win a Terry Richardson lookalike contest. Six years after he played Noah, Gosling channels the charmer here in the flashbacks to his early 20s, when he wooed lost Michelle Williams with a ukelele and a CD.
His character in Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 sleeper hit may not have had a name (beyond “Driver”), but that didn’t keep him from winning hearts both on-screen and off. As a noir anti-hero, Gosling was committed to protecting his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son from a crime boss who wanted to mess him up. As long as he doesn’t touch Driver’s face, we’ll be able to handle it.
Crazy, Stupid Love (2011)
In his portrayal of serial womanizer Jacob Palmer in this summer’s best ensemble film, Gosling gave surprisingly effeminate affectations to a character whose lot in life was as a ladies’ man. That is, until, this scene—in which Emma Stone’s reluctant seducee order him to disrobe—when we see he is all man. We’ll understand if you linger on this page an extra moment or two…
The Ides of March (2011)
The third Gosling movie released this year saw him play the idealistic political campaigner Stephen Meyers to George Clooney’s presidential candidate. With the Mickey Mouse Club far behind him, it was time to get serious. And nothing’s more serious than a dreamboat in a suit talking about his hopes for a country.