A Very Definitive and Scientific Rating of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Finest Works



Now I don’t have time to get into this, so I’m not going to be reading any responses to this piece. But, in my opinion, it goes without saying that Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the greatest actors of our generation and potentially of all eternity. Like many of the Greats, not every one of his movies is going to be a hit. But unlike many of the Greats, I would argue that even Mr. Gyllenhaal’s worst films are watchable. In what follows, I will be offering my definitive ranking of Jake Gyllenhaal’s filmography.


First, let’s discuss the criterion by which I have ranked his films. There are three categories:

1) My personal, 1-10 rating of the movie.

2) The average Letterboxd review of the film doubled so that it’s also on a 1-10 scale.

3) How much screen time Gyllenhaal has, also on a scale of 1-10.


After assigning scores in all three categories, I will then average the score and rank the movies according to that number.


It took me a lot of time to do this, but I did it—as martyrs often do—so that nobody else has to. I watched almost every film Jake Gyllenhaal has ever made (25 of them, to be exact), with a few left out:

  1. October Sky (1999): one of his first films, and one that I simply did not have time for

  2. Rendition (2007): cut for time reasons

  3. Accidental Love (2015): his lowest-rated film and he also looks kind of weird in it, so I didn’t think it would be worth the time

  4. The Good Girl (2002): cut for time reasons, as well

  5. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010): it has a 37% on Rotten Tomatoes and I honestly just don’t feel like it. I’m never going to watch it.


If I ever get around to finishing those, I will be sure to post an updated version of this list. Don’t hold your breath. Without further ado, I present to you A Very Definitive and Scientific Rating of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Finest Works.


24. Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

(Netflix)

We open with what is unquestionably a forgettable movie, especially when considered amongst the rest of the 2019 line-up, which was a powerhouse featuring titles such as Parasite and Knives Out. Velvet Buzzsaw offered us a tacky bisexual film critic Gyllenhaal, who was one of a number of big names that ultimately weren’t able to keep a poorly executed story afloat. If you’re only interested in staring at hot people for two hours, give this one a shot. Otherwise, your time will be better spent elsewhere.


My ranking: 5

Letterboxd: 4.8

Screen time: 6

Average: 5.3


23. Everest (2015)


Another gut punch! Everest is based on a true and devastating story about a climbing accident, but also doesn’t give Gyllenhaal enough screen time to jump any other titles. If you’re into rock climbing documentaries like I am, or if you’re a sucker for any movie that portrays real people that you can look up on Wikipedia during the screening, Everest is really well made and features some AMAZING visual effects. I was personally convinced that they filmed the entire thing on a mountain.


My ranking: 6

Letterboxd: 6.4

Screen time: 4

Average: 5.4


22. Life (2017)


I watched this with my parents. My mom fell asleep and my dad, who spends his weekends watching EVERY Netflix original no matter how horrible, promptly announced that this was one of the most boring movies he’d ever seen. It was weirdly predictable, and a poor take on the alien sci-fi genre that was a waste of the talent it featured. Ryan Reynolds deserved better, and Gyllenhaal didn’t look nearly as hot as he should have as an astronaut. Shame.


My ranking: 6

Letterboxd: 6

Screen time: 5

Average: 5.66


21. Wildlife (2018)


Wildlife was directed by Paul Dano, who I still have frequent nightmares about after watching both Prisoners and There Will Be Blood. However, I didn’t let that inherent bias affect my review: the main reason this movie is so far down on my list is because Gyllenhaal is literally absent for 70-80% of the movie. While Carey Mulligan and Ed Oxenbould are outstanding in his absence, Wildlife is too sad and too Gyllenhaal-less to earn a higher ranking. If you’re looking for a Marriage Story-esque depressant to occupy your evening, I would potentially recommend.


My ranking: 6

Letterboxd: 7.2

Screen time: 4

Average: 5.7


20. Okja (2017)


(Netflix)

PETA beware: this movie is literally about fictional hippopotamus-pigs and made me wish I could go vegan. Okja is an absolute treat because we get crazy eyes Gyllenhaal AND crazy eyes Tilda Swinton. It’s directed by Parasite’s Bong Joon-ho, but Gyllenhaal is simply a side character with a scary mustache, plus Paul Dano came back and scared me and the concept was really dark, so I wanted to save all the hippo-pigs and it made me think about things I’m normally happy to ignore which makes me depressed. You should watch Okja because it’s quirky, but not because it’s necessarily a “Jake Gyllenhaal film.”


My ranking: 6.8

Letterboxd: 7.4

Screen time: 4

Average: 6


19. John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch (2019)


Two kings in a 1.5-hour comedy special? Sign me up! No, this has almost nothing to do with Jake Gyllenhaal aside from the roughly 10 minutes of screen time that he has, but Mr. Music is an absolute gem and the special itself is so lighthearted and wonderful that I would argue it’s still worth your time. This goes especially for those of you who like crazy eyes Gyllenhaal, because he really goes all out here. Plus, you know, Lord John Mulaney.


My ranking: 8.5

Letterboxd: 7.6

Screen time: 3

Average: 6.36


18. Jarhead (2005)


Anthony Swofford is very bald and full of testosterone, eager to see action in the Gulf War. However, the film doesn’t focus on the action itself but rather on the psychological effects of war. As always, Gyllenhaal gives it his all, but Jarhead fails to be more than a surface-level look at the harsh effects of combat. I don’t like war movies and I especially don’t like war movies where Jake Gyllenhaal is bald. Letterboxd seemed to enjoy Jarhead, though, so don’t just take my word for it.


My ranking: 5

Letterboxd: 6.8

Screen time: 8

Average: 6.6


17. Brothers (2009)

(Lionsgate)

Ever since I found out the true story behind Molly’s Game, I have been hesitant to support Tobey Maguire, but he really puts on a performance in this movie and Gyllenhaal, as usual, is a gem. Brothers is a tough look at the realities of PTSD and domestic trauma. It could arguably have been made a bit better, but I don’t regret spending time watching it. Would I watch it again? Probably not.


My ranking: 6