Ryan Gosling has come a long way since starring alongside Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake on The Mickey Mouse Club as a child. This weekend in theaters the 30-year-old actor kicks it up a notch in the action movie Drive, one of the best-reviewed films of 2011 so far. Gosling plays the unnamed Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver for heists until one of them goes terribly wrong. After that, the race is on, but at least that is what Gosling's character does best.
Drive could open the door to big leading-man roles for Gosling after years of carving a niche for himself playing oddballs in independent movies, many of which are available on DVD and Blu-ray for you to take for a spin this weekend. In 2001's The Believer, Gosling plays a Neo-Nazi student at a Jewish school with some obvious self-loathing issues. Gosling plays another twisted character—a rich high school student who teams up with his buddy to orchestrate perfect killings—in Murder by Numbers, which stars Sandra Bullock as the detective on his tail. Gosling got nominated for his first Oscar by playing a coke-addicted urban middle school teacher in Half Nelson and was critically lauded for playing the socially inept titular character in Lars and the Real Girl who develops a romantic attachment to an anatomically correct RealDoll.
The movie that made Gosling a star and seems to be hovering near the top of everyone's favorite romances list is 2004's The Notebook, an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks's novel of the same name. The tearjerker cuts between the story of a young couple (Gosling and Rachel McAdams) who are falling in love in the 1940s and the present day, where an old man (James Garner) is telling their story to a fellow nursing home resident (Gena Rowlands) suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The movie won five Teen Choice awards for the chemistry between its two leads and an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss, making Gosling a certified heartbreaker.
If you thought The Notebook was a beautiful romance, 2010's Blue Valentine is the opposite side of the coin but leaves an equally lasting impression. The movie depicts the slow, painful disintegration of the marriage between Dean (Gosling) and Cynthia (Michelle Williams) as the time line jumps back and forth between the couple's earliest romantic encounters to their desperate last-ditch attempt to save their marriage at a depressing theme motel. In addition to ripping moviegoer's hearts out and pouring salt on the wound, Gosling also wrote and performed some of the film's songs himself.
From his early days playing misfits to epic tearjerkers to his current role in Drive, Gosling is behind the wheel of one of the most respected careers of any actor of his generation. We can't wait to see how far—and how fast—he takes it.