Over the last 15 years, actor Jake Gyllenhaal has collected a growing number of diverse roles, edging ever closer to becoming a household name. From cop to criminal, schizophrenic teen to Persian prince, Gyllenhaal has consistently radiated an inexplicable charm and magnetism, distinguishing himself as one of the most elite actors in Hollywood today. As with any great actor, the 35 year-old Gyllenhaal has delivered a number of astonishing roles that brag of his natural talent, though not without avoiding a few disappointments. Here is every Jake Gyllenhaal performance ranked, from the flops to the amazing:
25. Accidental Love (2015), Howard Birdwell
Accidental Love may be the worst 100-odd minutes of moving images and audio that has ever dared call itself a film, and even at his best, Gyllenhaal could do nothing to save it. However, Gyllenhaal as the scatter-brained, though well-intentioned politician Howard Birdwell is intolerably painful. Representing the case of a woman with a nail stuck in her head, Gyllenhaal's character's erratic behavior is unjustified and his every action brings more questions than answers. Undoubtedly a mistake, this role in Gyllenhaal's credits would be best if just quietly erased.
24. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010), Dastan
In Disney's controversial, action-packed, time-traveling mess of a movie, Gyllenhaal's delivery of Persian Prince Dastan is wholly unbelievable from start to finish. Whether the blame is Gyllenhaal's awkward accent, the atrocious writing, or the culturally unaware casting, Gyllenhaal's performance is a failed, uncomfortable attempt to bring viewers into the movie's fantasy world. As Dastan, a super-hero like mortal, Gyllenhaal's acting is forced and unnatural, and as he galavants around the screen seems more a grown man playing pretend than a serious actor.
23. Highway (2002), Pilot
Subject to the consequences of his friend's unfortunate mistake, Gyllenhaal as drug driven teen, Pilot, lacks sense, reason, and motivation. In part the fault of bad writing, Gyllenhaal is unable to garner audience support for his stoned, love struck character. Pilot's ill-placed loyalty to his delinquent companion and inexplicable obsession with a half-lizard, half-boy are just a few of the unending problems with this film. Though Gyllenhaal's chemistry with co-star Jared Leto is endearing, the On The Road-esque film is confusing and cringe-worthy at best.
22. Demolition (2015), Davis Mitchell
As recently widowed investment banker, Davis Mitchell, Gyllenhaal is trapped by a dense and ill-considered script. Unable to properly grieve his wife's death, Gyllenhaal's character is told to take his life apart to find himself...advice he takes literally. Dismantling his leaky fridge, and then eventually destroying his entire house, Gyllenhaal's character seems calloused and cold more than the calm numb it can be assumed was the intent. Essentially a display of Gyllenhaal's ability to thrust a sledgehammer at varying items, this role is an especially dismal spot in his otherwise upward trajectory.
21. Rendition (2007), Douglas Freeman
Amongst the likes of Meryl Streep and J.K. Simmons, Gyllenhaal's portrayal of CIA analyst Douglas Freeman fades into the background of this muddled political drama. Unlike other roles in which even as a supporting character Gyllenhaal seems the star, his straight-faced, one dimensional performance is just as mediocre as the film itself.
20. Lovely & Amazing (2001), Jordan
As high school, one-hour-photo clerk Jordan, Gyllenhaal's part is little more than a plot piece, but he does it well. Given little opportunity to show his acting abilities, and just a few minutes total screen time, Gyllenhaal's smile and despondent, insoluble charm are irrefutable as he becomes the source of affection for a much-older married woman.
19. Proof (2005), Harold 'Hal' Dobbs
In this messy drama, Gyllenhaal's depiction of driven, albeit nerdy, Hal Dobbs is fairly forgettable in light of the film's leads, Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow. Cheery and optimistic, this rational and reasonable character is one of few Gyllenhaal has ever played, and at minimum serves as a demonstration that he can in fact execute such roles.
18. The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Sam Hall
In this catastrophic disaster flick, a young Gyllenhaal plays Sam Hall, the scholastically inclined teen trapped in New York in the midst of what seems to be the end of the world. Demonstrating uncharacteristic bravery and strength, Gyllenhaal's character is endearing and admirable, though fairly plain.
17. Love and Other Drugs (2010), Jamie Randall
Undoubtedly, the writing in this sappy romantic comedy falls flat, and Gyllenhaal gives a commendable effort to save it. Gyllenhaal does his job, portraying the selfish, reluctant-to-love Jamie Randall, but offers little more than a standard portrayal of an unoriginal character. However, his inherent charisma does create another enchanting and hypnotic character both his on-screen interest and audiences can't help but love.
16. Moonlight Mile (2002), Joe Nast
Struggling to cope with the death of his fiancé and realize his place thereafter in her grieving family, Gyllenhaal offers a performance that, though emotional, has a few issues. Attempting to reconcile a plethora of opposing emotions, Gyllenhaal's character's quiet uncertainty seems to extend to the actor himself. Alongside star Dustin Hoffman, Gyllenhaal holds his own, though by no means delivers the stellar performance one could have hoped for.
15. Everest (2015), Scott Fischer
As cocky Mt. Everest climbing guide Scott Fischer, Gyllenhaal delivers a fine performance in a small role. Rarely without a whisky in hand, Gyllenhaal's character's fate seems inescapable, though the determination and ambition he exercises brings a level of admirability to the experienced climber.
14. Bubble Boy (2001), Jimmy Livingston
In one of the most irreverent, insensitive comedies ever to be inspired by real events, a young Gyllenhaal offers a horribly hilarious depiction of a boy born without an immune system who, in his protective plastic bubble, sets out on a cross-country journey. With a type of humor appealing primarily to tasteless prepubescents, this controversial adventure allows Gyllenhaal to display his comedic inclinations and serves as the actor's singular goofy credit.
13. October Sky (1999), Homer Hickman
In Gyllenhaal's first starring role, his talent and potential stuns in this biographical film that explores the early life of NASA engineer Homer Hickman. Reconciling the multi-faceted desires and ambitions of the young teen, Gyllenhaal creates a dimensional hero whose dreams and devotions permeate the screen and leave viewers' emotions entirely in his control.
12. Source Code (2011), Colter Stevens
As U.S Army pilot Colter Stevens, Gyllenhaal's character is charged with repeatedly reliving the last eight minutes of a school teacher's life in order to find the bomber who killed him. Once again crafting a dimensional, dedicated hero in a film with an unforeseen ending, Gyllenhaal delivers a clear and strong performance in this complicated but intriguing drama.
11. Brokeback Mountain (2005), Jack Twist
Earning Gyllenhaal his only ever Oscar nomination, his depiction of love-struck cowboy Jack Twist leads viewers along a complicated ride that ceaselessly pulls at vulnerable heart-strings. With a boyish southern charm, Gyllenhaal's wide-ranging capabilities are on full display, and in true Gyllenhaal fashion, he demands tears and love throughout.
10. Brothers (2009), Tommy Cahill
As the miscreant family-dissapointment burdened with filling his believed-to-be-dead brother's role, Gyllenhaal grounds this film appropriately. Gyllenhaal offers up a solid character audiences can't help but latch on to, as his ex-marine brother deals with the aftermath of war and PTSD. With subtle charisma, amenability and strength, Gyllenhaal's sensitive choices create a transparently emotional character in an intensely emotional film.
9. The Good Girl (2002), Holden Worther
As troubled teen Holden Worther, who duties himself to live as the reincarnation of The Catcher in The Rye's protagonist Holden Caulfield, Gyllenhaal brings audiences along a dynamic ride. Capturing the affections of a married woman with his self-destructive charm, Gyllenhaal also manages to steal the hearts of viewers as his obsessive and misguided character steals the spotlight. At just 21, Gyllenhaal oozes star power and delivers another perfect depiction of a character with undeniable, and largely unexplainable, appeal.
8. Jarhead (2005), Anthony Swofford
In Gyllenhaal's break-out action role, his depiction of U.S. Marine sniper Anthony Swofford leaves nothing to be desired. Offering keen comedic timing, hints of vulnerability, and the expected vigorous aggression of a soldier, Gyllenhaal's performance engulfs viewers in the intricate aspects of war and post-war life, without ever leaving room for disbelief.
7. Southpaw (2015), Billy Hope
As renowned boxing champion Billy Hope, Gyllenhaal brings a stunning amount of clarity to the grief-stricken character as he tackles fatherhood, tragedy, and redemption. Though the ambitious film is plagued with varying problems, Gyllenhaal manages to transcend the film and exceed expectations. Most notably, his incredible physique and boxing combinations, the result of a rigorous training routine and a gain of 28 pounds of muscle, add a level of immersive reality. Southpaw, more than anything, is an ode to Gyllenhaal's incredible talents, as he once again demands audience devotion as viewers are left tearfully rooting for him in this uplifting, feel-good tale.
6. Zodiac (2007), Robert Graysmith
Enigmatic and obsessive, Gyllenhaal shocks as Robert Graysmith, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist who entangles himself in a desperate hunt for the Zodiac killer in this true-crime thriller. Managing to expertly steal audience support for a timid yet controversial character, Gyllenhaal shadows his co-stars, who include Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, and delivers a fascinating, passionate performance viewers can't turn away from.
5. Enemy (2013), Adam Bell / Anthony Claire
In this astonishing psychological thriller, Gyllenhaal is charged with delivering two distinct roles, of which he masterfully does. As reserved history professor Adam Bell, Gyllenhaal plays a man trapped in his own life who becomes obsessed with his physical doppleganger. As Anthony Claire, the risqué actor who identically mirrors the struggling Adam, Gyllenhaal delivers an equally magnificent performance which is markedly different and distinguishable from Adam. Through the conscious usage of body movements and attitude, Gyllenhaal is able to star as the film's two leads, creating obviously discernible foils whom steer the thriller through its constant twists.
4. End of Watch (2012), Brian Taylor
In one of the most refreshing police dramas of late, Gyllenhaal shines as Los Angeles cop Brian Taylor. Spending 5 months alongside real South Central L.A. police officers in preparation for the role, Gyllenhaal brings magnetizing depth and sincerity to his performance, eliciting laughter and tears from audiences who leave feeling like Gyllenhaal's character has always been a close friend. Revitalizing the possibilities of the buddy-cop role, Gyllenhaal, alongside co-star Michael Pena, leaves a lasting, heart-wrenching impression.
3. Prisoners (2013), Detective Loki
As a detective entrusted with finding two missing girls, Gyllenhaal awes to the point of incomprehensibility in this crime thriller. Overstepping his role as a minor character, Gyllenhaal's invested performance, one he developed an extensive backstory for, overwhelms his co-stars and audiences alike. Brooding, contemplative, and driven, Gyllenhaal's character anchors the film, with minute details like a facial tic adding increased dimension and believability to a character who's wide range of emotions, from obsessive to enraged, are incomprehensibly enthralling.
2. Donnie Darko (2001), Donnie Darko
In one of Gyllenhaal's earliest roles, his natural talent is overwhelming as he plays Donnie Darko, a twisted and troubled teen who has been burdened with saving the world. Obsessive, dark, and unsettlingly alluring, as many of his future roles would also be, Gyllenhaal exhibits his unique charm and flare as an actor. With a sort of clandestine charisma, Gyllenhaal brings captivating dimension and life to the disenchanted hero of this mind-bending psychological thriller.
1. Nightcrawler (2014), Louis Bloom
In his greatest performance to date, Gyllenhaal beguiles as the petty thief turned freelance journalist, Louis Bloom. Losing 30 pounds for the role, Gyllenhaal transformed himself into a gaunt, feral criminal who devilishly captivates viewers in Bloom's maniacal, morally-blind hunt for power. Chilling from start to finish, Gyllenhaal's dedication and unparalleled talent culminate in this obsessive, haunting thriller that allows him to show just how gifted and versatile he can be.