Ryan Gosling Vs. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Is this not why you are here? Are you not entertained?

By James Brady Ryan

The Contestants

Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are both young actors poised to make it to the A-list if they play their cards right. Both have established indie cred, both are considered thinking person's sex symbols, and both had... less than fantastic beginnings, let's say. Is there room for two at the top of Hollywood? Sure. But let's pit them against one another anyway.

The Best

Mysterious Skin

“The kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun did what?” That was the general reaction when Joseph Gordon-Levitt broke out from his sitcom roots with an unexpectedly sober Gregg Araki drama about two victims of molestation. Gordon-Levitt brought a sinewy sexuality to Neal that probably made a lot of people both turned-on and uncomfortable, and rightly so. The obvious parallel between Neal's attraction to older men and the psychic trauma inflicted by the hands of his little-league coach could have seemed ham-handed if JGL hadn't sold Neal's bravado quite so well. And the final scene between Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbett is quietly heartbreaking.


In lesser hands, the unwieldy dialogue of Rian Johnson's teen-noir whodunnit would have landed with Juno levels of unreality. But even if we didn't get every word — they talk really fast in this movie — JGL sells it well. (Plus, this time you didn't feel at all conflicted about finding him sexy.) Brick could have played as ridiculous, or just emptily clever, but Gordon-Levitt's world-weary performance gives it real gravity.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt is obviously an attractive guy — but his looks haven't really changed since 10 Things I Hate About You. Yet somehow, people who’d thought he was “cute” for a decade saw him in Inception and called him “hot.” Arthur is a small role, but Gordon-Levitt makes the most of it, with a smoldering cool that seems straight out of the 1950s. If that was the first glimpse into what we’ll see from grown-up Gordon-Levitt, he’s going to have an amazing career.


“The kid from The Mickey Mouse Club did what?” If Gosling showed promise in The Believer — which he did as a Jewish neo-Nazi — then he delivered on it in Half-Nelson, as an inner-city teacher who's also a drug addict. Gosling's fantastic chemistry with Shareeka Epps, who plays the one student who knows of his habit, is complicated, natural, and downright arresting. Gosling was nominated for an Oscar for his work in this film, in a rare Academy nod to moral ambiguity, and he earned it.



Blue Valentine

I have friends who actually swear that Ryan Gosling's work in this film changed their life, or at least massively affected them, and it's not hard to see why. Gosling here delivers the opposite of The Notebook, a painful picture of a man falling in and inexorably out of love. Cry as you see his deeply depressing sex scene! Swoon as you watch him play the ukulele! Cringe as you get to witness a future in which his hairline recedes like the waters before a tsunami! Movies where characters jump from one stage of their life to another can be jarring, but Gosling keeps his performance utterly grounded and painfully believable.



Gosling may be doing his best Marlon Brando here — he's even admitted that he made himself talk more like the man — but god damn, he does it well. His character — never given a name in the film — is a compressed piece of rock, rarely showing emotion and speaking only when necessary. It's in the silence that Gosling shines, imbuing emotion where others might just clench their jaw and call it a day.

Commentarium (90 Comments)

Oct 03 11 - 12:22am

maybe i'm too drunk, but the sub-caption to this had me cracking up for way too long

Oct 03 11 - 12:35pm

Me too! Best part of the article.

Oct 15 11 - 4:53am


Oct 03 11 - 12:26am

JGL no contest. Been a fan of his for a long time, since 3rd rock. I think he's a very talented actor who is always taking on new and different projects while challenging both himself and we the audience, and has a knack for picking very thoughtful roles.

Gosling? I don't hate the guy or have anything against him, I just have yet to see him do something where I'm like "Yeah! He's awesome/so great in this yeah!." Drive has been getting good reviews and I've been meaning to see it. Ides Of March does look promising. And I gotta say, every article about Gosling and the way everyone talks about the guy, it's always smoke blown up his ass as if he was the second coming. He's just a dude people. I'm sure a good dude,but just a dude.

Oct 03 11 - 5:35pm
Joe Costa

Watch The Believer. His true beast performance. I know he has more ranger than JGL, but both are character actors. They're not movie stars. Gosling has yet to hit big in the box office, well, The Notebook, but that was fodder for teenage girls. If you ask me, Both will be greta for years to come.

Oct 03 11 - 1:04am

JGL. just watch his snl appearance.

Oct 03 11 - 1:01pm

He didn't have to do that musical number, but he did and now I love him.

Oct 03 11 - 1:25am

I have to throw in another vote for JGL for pulling off that zero gravity fight scene in Inception.

Oct 03 11 - 1:43am

It should also be said, I've seen more of JGL's stuff than Goslings, but what little of Goslings I have seen, just not seeing it/feeling it folks, he may be suffering from a little bit of overhype too soon.

Oct 03 11 - 1:49am

Gosling is infinitely more attractive but I may be more impressed with JGL's acting abilities. I swooned over Blue Valentine though. Tough!

Oct 03 11 - 10:30am

I think JGL is more attractive/cuter, love his dimples ~~

Oct 03 11 - 2:42am




Oct 03 11 - 3:16am

Ryan Gosling.

Oct 03 11 - 6:44am

Gosling for the win. His three best are far better than JGL's three best. For Blue Valentine alone he should walk this

Oct 03 11 - 7:35am

JGL. Because Gosling has had a nose job.

Oct 03 11 - 3:51pm

Ryan Gosling has a nose job?

Oct 04 11 - 12:30pm

Yah, check out awful plastic surgery sites. He's wonderful in Blue Valentine, though.

Oct 03 11 - 7:57am
Wait Five Minutes

There's a special place in hell reserved for 500 Days of Summer, one of the most horrible films I've ever seen.

Nov 11 11 - 10:19pm

I agree. I like JGL but 500 days of summer is pure crap. Watched it thrice (because of friends). First two times I fell asleep halfway through the film. Third time I was wearing a look on my face that says "this is of Justin Bieber quality".

Oct 03 11 - 8:19am

"(500) days of Summer" is listed as worst? What's the matter with you?!!?!

Oct 03 11 - 8:21am

And listing "Inception" above "The lookout".... :|

Oct 03 11 - 8:34am

JGL. Talking about JGL's career without "The lookout" and the recent "50/50" is such shortcomings. His three best should be "Mysterious skin", "50/50" and "Brick". I like Ryan Gosling too, but JGL is still my fav.

PS: "(500) Days of Summer" is really good, just not everyone's type, but people love it. While choosing "the worst", I think you shouldn't use your unpopular option.

Oct 03 11 - 2:23pm
Tender Umbrella

It's not an unpopular opinion, there are a lot of people that recognize that 500 Days of Summer tries to hide that it is a trite, cliched movie with weak characters by throwing a lot of gimmicks on the screen.

Oct 03 11 - 9:10am

JGL knocked Brick out of the park. He also burned up the screen, laid down a marker, and three other cliches for giving a great performance.

Jun 20 12 - 3:54pm
Svenson Björnson

More people really need to see Brick. One of his best performances and a very unique film.

Also almost no one saw "Hesher", pretty limited release I think, but JGL played a borderline deranged but totally believable metalhead in that to great effect. Check it out if you haven't seen it. All told the movie had a somewhat cheesy conclusion but his performance is very strong. Here's a scene from it:


Oct 03 11 - 9:40am

How can Drive be on the good list? It was 2 hours of people staring at each other, interspersed with ultra-violence. I've never known ultra-violence to be so boring.

Oct 03 11 - 10:02am

No Lars and the Real Girl? That's one of Gosling's best.

Oct 03 11 - 11:09am

For real.

Oct 03 11 - 12:39pm


Oct 03 11 - 7:20pm

It was

Oct 06 11 - 4:44pm


Oct 07 11 - 3:20pm


Oct 03 11 - 10:29am

Both the guy are really good. But I must choose Joe, my most favourite.

Oct 03 11 - 10:51am

JGL's best movie is Hesher by a mile. Also, Half-Nelson sucks (moral ambiguity? I'd call it narrative ambiguity), but I'll agree to disagree since at least you didn't drink the Kool Aid on 500 Days of Summer. The last 15 minutes almost ruined the entire thing (which I'd mostly enjoyed up until that point).

Oct 03 11 - 10:59am

Gosling wins hands down because he's got Dead Man's Bones.

Oct 03 11 - 12:43pm

Not a JGL fan. A little too smug, and too much overacting for my taste. Seems too theater for cinema. Gosling is guilty of overacting as well, but he can nail subtlety in his quieter scenes, even in a movie like Crazy Stupid Love. JGL's quieter scenes feel a bit too contrived.

Oh well, they're both hot and trying to maintain integrity, nothing wrong with that.

Oct 03 11 - 1:11pm

JGL, "50/50" won me, never cry so hard at a movie like this.

Oct 03 11 - 1:19pm

Have people seen Stay with Gosling?

It wasn't that great but I liked him in it.

Oct 03 11 - 2:06pm

I thought this Gosling guy was the ugly guy with 8 kids or something on that old reality tv show?

Oct 03 11 - 2:17pm

That was JOHN. And that guy is Asian or something.

Oct 03 11 - 2:27pm

JFC! That sounds so racist when I wasn't trying to be...my point was that this John dude has ethinicity to him and Ryan doesn't, so it's obvious that they aren't the same people. Oy!!

Oct 03 11 - 2:24pm
Why choose?

JGL and RG sandwich, please.

Oct 11 11 - 9:43pm

Hells yes.

Oct 03 11 - 2:25pm

I don't know why I don't love JGL more...he's got fantastic cheek bones as well as decent movies under belt. I personally love (500) Days of Summer. But alas, I've been sucked in by Ryan Gosling's fabulous abs from Crazy Stupid Love. Not to mention that ~the Gos~ also has a few decent movies under belt as well. He could be the lamest D-lister, and I'd still be voting for those abs. Sorry JGL.

Oct 11 11 - 9:44pm

It's always the abs.

Oct 03 11 - 3:28pm

They are both deeeelicious. I'm currently using this article's photo for my computer background...how am I ever going to get anything done?

Oct 03 11 - 3:43pm

Do I have to choose? I want both!

Oct 03 11 - 5:16pm

Looks like most people are finally realizing (500) Days of Summer sucked horribly. Only took two years.

Oct 03 11 - 5:32pm
Joe Costa

You forgot about The Believer. His best performance to date. No question.

Oct 03 11 - 5:33pm
Joe Costa

I like JGL but he should stick with indie films, his best work. He was also superb in The Lookout, but I gotta give the edge to Gosling only because he has done well enough to get a ton of buzz this past few months.

Oct 03 11 - 5:43pm
Mr Franklyn

Can't choose.
Also 550 Days of summer is good.

Oct 03 11 - 7:17pm

You forgot about Hesher. It's really brilliant.

Oct 03 11 - 7:21pm

JGL because of "Manic", one of my favorite movies of all time.

Oct 03 11 - 7:45pm

You missed a lot of JGL's films.
Films of his he is excellent in:
(500) Days of Summer
The Lookout
Mysterious Skin

Also, Joseph has not really become fully mainstream yet, he's 75% there. Gosling has come to "the mainstream" (whatever you define that as) already.
2012 will be the completion of JGL's shift to mainstream actor because of the two leading roles, one main supporting role and another supporting role, all in wide-release films as opposed to independent.

Oct 03 11 - 8:40pm

Ryan Gosling. I love JGL as well, but it's no competition. Joseph isn't anywhere near as great as Gosling

Oct 04 11 - 12:39am

Have you seen his best films? "50/50" even won over "Drive" for me.

Oct 03 11 - 9:19pm

I feel as if Nerve turned a 180 and started hating 500 Days of Summer mostly because of the Zooey Deschanel hate kool aid here. And I think because Nerve, hipster as it is, is trying to become more hipster by hating one of the most popular hipster movies.

Oct 03 11 - 9:22pm

Actually, its the film that made me, for the first time, think maybe she wasn't so enchanting. I had no objection to JGL's performance. But I hated the movie.

Oct 04 11 - 11:07am

@lh blah blah hipster blah blah nerve sucks blah blah. get something original to say or gtfo. i'm so sick of hearing that word tossed around by people that can't think of a better descriptor or insult.

Oct 04 11 - 4:46pm

But that's the only thing the Koch brothers pay me to say.

Oct 03 11 - 10:08pm

Ok, is this Gosling guy really attractive? I am straight male, but I know male beauty when I see it, and that is not male beauty. His eyes lack symmetry and the lines of his head seem disproportionate or off or something, like it's his head that loses and gains weight the most.

Oct 04 11 - 12:07am

You're definitely gay.

Oct 04 11 - 12:34am
happy commie

Too funny.

Nov 11 11 - 10:23pm

ggg is either gay or insanely jealous of gosling.

Nov 17 11 - 7:32pm

I was thinking I was the only one that saw Gosling's face is lacking symmetry.
ggg is definitely right about it. Every time I see a picture of him I feel kinda irritated because of this uneven look.

Jan 28 12 - 2:50pm

so you're gonna suffer haha...

Oct 04 11 - 12:37am

Heart for JGL. Gosling isn't bad though.

Oct 04 11 - 2:30am

Simple.. Ryan Gosling

Oct 04 11 - 2:52am

Ryan Gosling.
They might as well be comparing Tom Hanks to Peter Scolari.
JGL did a fine job in "Mysterious Skin" (one of the more unsettling movies ever), I found (500) Days of Summer watchable, and "The Lookout" was infinitely better than Brick. But come on: "Lars and the Real Girl", "The Believer" (WATCH THIS!), 'Half-Nelson", and it was a crime he wasn't even nominated for Best Actor for "Blue Valentine". He could even rise above horrible scripts in "Murder by Numbers" and "The United States of Leyland" (have yet to see "Drive", have heard mixed things). He's been one of the best young actor's for some time, people are just now noticing.
Also, looks-wise, Ryan Gosling. No doubt

Oct 04 11 - 3:16am

JGL may be cuter in the looks dept, but I think Gosling is a better actor by far. I can see Gosling pulling off JGL's roles. I can't see JGL pulling off Gosling's roles.

Oct 04 11 - 2:04pm

jgl looks like heath ledger. makes me sad.

Oct 11 11 - 9:52pm

Agreed. I can't watch 10 thing I hate about you without crying. If Hedger was alive, I would to see a him and Ry Gos go head to head.

Oct 04 11 - 7:50pm

The Believer should have been on the "The Best" list. Such an amazing movie and Ryan Gosling is insanely good in it.

Oct 04 11 - 10:04pm

WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME CHOOSE? do not make me choose.

Oct 05 11 - 12:03am

Not a single reference to Breaker High? This piece has zero credibility.

Jun 20 12 - 9:36am

Ryan's Hawaiian shirts would have been been a sure win for JGL

Oct 05 11 - 4:18am

JGL all the way. No question.

Oct 06 11 - 4:41pm

Shame on you for making a whimsical quirky ultimately pointless list without including Lars and the Real Girl. How can you sleep at night?

Oct 06 11 - 8:53pm

Should definitely bring The Believer, United States of Leland, The Notebook, Lars & the Real Girl, Manic, The Lookout, Shadowboxer, Uncertainty, Hesher and 50/50 into this discussion.

Oct 07 11 - 11:37am

Its a no brainer. Jgl was great in those mentioned but we are talking a man vs. A boy and that's not fair to jgl.
Just engages me everytime with his "under acting." Just sucks u in so u lean closer to the screen. Jgl has a little too much of the manic robert downey or bearded robin williams to make me comfortable. Which can make for some memorable acting but I'm constntly waiting for him to jump out of character and startle me!

Oct 08 11 - 1:19am

Moot discussion. Ryan Gosling is already A list. Hello - The Notebook catapulted career! Duh.

Oct 09 11 - 2:12am

As GluteusMAXIMUS said! That's why I'm here. And I am entertained. Just came back from Ides of March. I think Georgie Porgie has a man-crush on Ryan there must have been hours of footage just of Ryan's asymmetrical head. Gawd the camera loves him. Great work there too. Stunning. I love them both, don't make me choose!!

Oct 13 11 - 3:33am

Joseph's movies and Ryan's good looks, but only by a pinch.

Oct 21 11 - 5:02am

This article lost any and all credibility whey you put 500 days of Summer in a worst category

Nov 11 11 - 10:30pm

It belongs there. If 500 Days of Summer is one of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's best films then there is no future for him.

Dec 10 11 - 9:02pm


Dec 29 11 - 3:08pm

both are the best actors born in the 80's

Jul 29 12 - 6:46pm

But..... I love them both equally!

Aug 28 12 - 9:12pm
Ms Meercat

Well, I agree that Gosling just pulled off a few more amazing films, but after watching 50/50 tonight I think JGL is on a pretty awesome way (literally, the guy made me cry in a moment in which he was alone, didn't say anything and there wasn't even any sentimental music floating around...)
These two and Michael Fassbender are the three male actors I look most forward to. Feel like they could be a generation of leading character actors as Pacino/De Niro etc once did... (maybe I'm just reeeeally optimistic. But wouldn't it be great??)

Sep 01 12 - 7:35pm

JGL. This is tough, but I have made my decision and it's JGL. I love Ryan, with all my heart, but "50/50" and "The Dark Knight Rises" are the two points that brings JGL to the top for me. I love Ryan but I prefer JGL by a long shot. And it's still waiting for "Looper". I want to see how he does a younger (creepy looking) Bruce Willis.