1. The Believer (2001)
Gosling’s vigorous performance as Daniel Balient is what drives the film. The character is based on Daniel Burros; a politically active neo-nazi in New York during the 1960’s who committed suicide hours after a New York Times article by McCandlish Phillips exposed his Orthodox Jewish heritage.
Burros had a remarkably high IQ and Balient is the same. He articulates his hatred extraordinarily well and instigates bold theological arguments with his rabbi as a child. Balient’s fate does differ from his real life counterpart in an almost redeeming way.
Bottom Line: It’s worth all the uncomfortableness. Daniel Balient’s crisis of faith is nothing compared to the conflicting emotions you will feel admiring Ryan Gosling’s physique when it’s covered in swastikas.
2. Murder by Numbers (2002)
Wealthy high school students Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt) secretly befriend each other and decide to carry out the perfect murder. They meticulously predict the law’s next steps in an effort to lead evidence away from them. Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) is the determined homicide detective on their trail and dealing with demons of her own.
It becomes a manipulative race as the mystery unravels. This is typical police procedural fare circa 2002, but a good one.
Bottom Line: If you’ve ever wanted to see Sandra Bullock get into a fist fight with Ryan Gosling and get attacked by a monkey in the same film, here’s your chance.
3. Half Nelson (2006)
This remains one of Ryan Gosling’s best films. Half Nelson is based on the short film Gowanus, Brooklyn made by the same writing/producing team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Dan Dunne is a liberal middle school history teacher/girl’s basketball coach in Brooklyn. One of his students, Drey (Shareeka Epps), is a bright girl facing the absence of her father, her mother’s heavy work schedule, the incarceration of her older brother, and pressure from the local drug dealer to begin working for him.
They develop a friendship after Drey discovers Dunne’s drug habit. While they try to look out for one another, each continues to struggle with their own problems. The dynamic between Epps and Gosling is phenomenal and a treat to watch.
Bottom Line: Superb. You would have gone to history class every day. On time. And stayed awake for it. If Ryan Gosling was your teacher.
4. Fracture (2007)
In a change of pace for most of the thrillers Gosling is a part of, he is the good guy: one William Beachum, a successful prosecutor for the district attorney’s office about to join a reputable law firm. Anthony Hopkins is our resident killer McCreepypants, Theodore Crawford, an aeronautical engineer who shoots his wife into a coma for adultery, and with seemingly nothing else to do, proceeds to try to ruin Beachum’s career once he takes the case.
When it comes out that the arresting officer is the man having an affair with Crawford’s wife, Jennifer, the case erupts and what follows is a battle of wits. Beachum is distraught at how complicated his adversary is making his life. Crawford, more than meets the eye, enjoys playing the judicial system for all it’s worth amid clever twists and turns.
Bottom Line: Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts. Remember that.
5. All Good Things (2010)
The movie is based on the life of Robert Durst, a real estate heir who has been suspected in the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack, and the murder of his friend Susan Berman, and neighbor, Morris Black.
David Marks (Ryan Gosling) is disturbed at an early age due to witnessing his mother’s suicide. His life follows a relatively normal path until convinced by his father to return to the city with his new wife, Katie (Kirsten Dunst), he becomes involved once again in shady business deals. Their marriage crumbles underneath the weight of David’s violent and erratic behavior.
Years after the disappearance new DNA evidence brings David to trial, after which he attempts to go off the grid and is suspected in the homicide of his best friend, and acquitted of the murder of his neighbor. Bonus: This one’s on Netflix for all you lucky ducks who have it.
Bottom Line: The authentic relationship between Katie and David makes up for the largely ambiguous character David remains at the end of the film.. Also, be careful who you buy your Florida real estate from. Seriously, this guy’s still out there.
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Want to write for Thought Catalog? Email Nico Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org.