Ryan Gosling
Credit: Getty Images

Hey girl, it’s 2020 and it’s a certainly a year like none other.

Between the global pandemic, the fight for racial justice, the wild US presidential election, our society’s hyper obsession with social media and the spread of “fake news”, one thing that remains steady is our love for Ryan Gosling. The Oscar-nominated actor turns 40 on November 12 and during these chaotic times, we can all feel comforted by the fact that we can turn on a Gosling film and escape.

But as we think back to some of the dashing Canadian’s most notable roles, it becomes clear just how many of his movies can be seen in a new light through the eyes of someone living through 2020. From a political drama to a sci-fi thriller, check out six of Gosling’s standout films, where to stream them and how they relate to the most unpredictable year in modern history.

The Ides Of March

The Ides Of March

The Ides of March is a 2011 American political drama film directed by George Clooney from a screenplay written by Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon. Gosling stars as Stephen Meyers, the junior campaign manager for Governor of Pennsylvania Mike Morris, who is competing against Senator Ted Pullman in the Democratic presidential primary. Both campaigns are vying for the endorsement of Senator Franklin Thompson, who controls 356 delegates; these would clinch the nomination for either candidate. Gosling’s idealistic character has a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail and the film explores how soul crushing presidential campaigns can be and what someone would give up in the name of a victory.

In a high-profile election year, no Gosling film seems to ring truer to the times. This year, the US had to watch its own drama-filled Democratic primaries, which started with a whopping 29 major candidates. The formal beginning of the primary season was marred by controversy, as technical issues with vote reporting resulted in a three-day delay in vote counting in the Iowa caucus, as well as subsequent recounts.

The certified results of the caucus eventually showed Mayor Pete Buttigieg winning the most delegates, while Senator Bernie Sanders won the popular vote. Sanders then went on to win the New Hampshire primary but Joe Biden, whose campaign fortunes had suffered as a result of poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, made a comeback by overwhelmingly winning the South Carolina primary, motivated by strong support from African-American voters. Following Biden’s victory in South Carolina, several candidates dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden in what was viewed as a consolidation of the party’s moderate wing. Biden then went on to win 12 out of 15 contests on Super Tuesday (taking place just 12 days before the real Ides Of March aka March 15) and ultimately the nomination.

As we know, Biden went on to ultimately become President-Elect but not without a long drawn out fight with President Donald Trump filled with mudslinging, scandals, alleged cover ups, and fake news.

If you have the stomach for more politics, stream The Ides Of March on Amazon Prime.

Lars And The Real Girl

Lars and the Real Girl 

Lars and the Real Girl is a 2007 American romantic comedy-drama film written by Nancy Oliver and directed by Craig Gillespie. The movie follows Gosling as Lars, a kind-hearted but lonely and mentally ill young man who develops a romantic relationship with an anatomically correct sex doll, a “RealDoll” named Bianca. He begins to introduce Bianca as his girlfriend to the townspeople and due to their concern for Lars, everyone treats Bianca as a real person. In return, Lars soon finds himself interacting more with people. 

The film certainly tackles the concepts of happiness, self-delusion and empathy. In light of the lockdowns and social distancing that come along with the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness is something many people are struggling with.

Maybe not all of us are falling in love with a doll, but it’s safe to say many are yearning for a sense of closeness that we can’t have and perhaps finding comfort in some sort of space holder in the mean time.  

If you want to feel less alone in lockdown, stream Lars And The Real Girl for free now on Pluto TV.

The Notebook

The Notebook

It wasn’t over, it still isn’t over! No, we aren’t talking about the pandemic or Trump’s refusal to concede (although also true). The Notebook, even 16 years after its release, is in constant re-watch mode. The tearjerker stars Gosling and Rachel McAdams as a young couple who fall in love in the 1940s while their story is read from a notebook in the present day by an elderly man.

From Noah’s epic quarantine beard to re-modeling a home (hello lockdown project) to the heartbreak of the elderly family members, we feel there are enough 2020-isms to go around in this film. But maybe when absorbed in a year like this one, the film ultimately serves as a reminder to live in the moment and be grateful for the things we do have. We might miss our pre-pandemic lives, but Allie and Noah prove the need to never stop creating memories, even if one day they appear lost in the abyss.

If you need a good cry (or just want to stare at a shirtless bearded Gosling), stream The Notebook now on Netflix.

Blade Runner

Blade Runner 2049 

Blade Runner 2049 is a 2017 American science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and the sequel to the 1982 film Blade Runner. Gosling plays K who uncovers a secret that threatens to destabilize society and the course of civilization. In 2049, bioengineered humans known as replicants are slaves. K is a Nexus-9 replicant, works for the LAPD as a “blade runner,” an officer who hunts and “retires” (kills) rogue replicants. At a protein farm he finds a box containing the remains of a female replicant who died during a caesarean section, demonstrating that replicants can reproduce biologically, previously thought impossible. K’s superior fears that this could lead to a war between humans and replicants and orders K to find and retire the replicant child to hide the truth.

In this dystopia, it’s clear that its secondary citizens (replicants, orphans, slaves and particularly women) are subject to persecution. In one review of the film, Helen Lewis of the New Statesman suggested that the film is “an uneasy feminist parable about controlling the means of reproduction” and that “its villain, Niander Wallace, is consumed by rage that women can do something he cannot.”

With the recent appointment of ultra conservative Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned, women in 2020 are fighting for their rights now more than ever. And with the rise of white supremacy, xenophobia and homophobia in the real world, Blade Runner 2049 can be watched with an entirely new lens.

If the world feels upside down, stream this futuristic film now on Youtube.

Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine is a 2010 American romantic tragedy film written and directed by Derek Cianfrance. Gosling plays a man whose relationship crumbles but not before audiences watch it heat up in flashback. Co-starring the uber talented Michelle Williams, this Oscar-nominated film is a raw real life reflection of dating, marriage, parenting and, ultimately, heartbreak. It’s hard to watch, yet extremely moving. The year 2020 has certainly been a challenging one for couples. Many have faced financial hardship, job loss, and lockdown-on-top-of-one-another fatigue due to the pandemic. It’s not all cute couple TikTok videos and baking banana bread and this film shows the real pain a couple tossed with unexpected challenges can experience.

If you are over the feel-good fairy tales, stream Blue Valentine for free now on Tubi.

La La Land

La La Land

Ahh, La La Land, you are the most charming modern musical we know and a true love letter to the city of Los Angeles. The 2016 blockbuster stars Gosling as a jazz pianist and Emma Stone as an aspiring actress, who meet and fall in love while pursuing their dreams in LA. Both characters struggle to fulfill their lifelong creative dreams but continue to find inspiration in each other and their city.

From the dazzling dancing scene at Griffith Observatory to the sweet dates at the jazz bar, the sparkle of the film makes us nostalgic for a simpler time.

Sure, 2020 feels like the year that will never end, just like Mia felt like she would never nail an audition or Sebastian would never play anything but Christmas tunes. But what the film helps us remember is that even if everything doesn’t turn out exactly the way we plan, it will end the way it should. Promise, soon enough we will all be dancing and singing in the streets again.