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

Letterboxd: 6.4

Screen time: 8

Average: 6.8


16. The Sisters Brothers (2018)


This is a tough one, because while it has some of the lowest Gyllenhaal screen time of any of the movies on this list, I really, really liked it. Gyllenhaal co-stars alongside Joaquin Phoenix, Riz Ahmed, and John C. Reilly, who gives an OUTSTANDING performance. The Sisters Brothers is super depressing, but I thought it was a great little character study and the chemistry between the four A-listers was something else. Watch it when you get the chance.


My ranking: 8.5

Letterboxd: 7

Screen time: 5

Average: 6.83


15. Bubble Boy (2001)


Not sure where to start with this one. My roommates made me watch it last semester, and while I’m glad to have seen it, I don’t necessarily know that I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s funny in a 2000s-low-budget-comedy sort of way, and it scores highly because Gyllenhaal is in pretty much every scene, but that’s about all it offers. If it interests you, the plot is actually based on a true story. My mom told me that.


My ranking: 5.5

Letterboxd: 5.2

Screen time: 10

Average: 6.9


14. Love and Other Drugs (2010)


I do not like Anne Hathaway. Okay? I said it. The only time I’ve ever liked Anne Hathaway was in Get Smart, and she was set up for success here from the start because Jake Gyllenhaal is so much better looking than Steve Carrell. I also don’t particularly enjoy rom-coms, because I don’t like watching people in love and I don’t like crying. I also feel like this movie was sort of big pharma propaganda, and I don’t like that either. Most significantly, this movie is unavailable on a single streaming platform OR pirating website, which I think is bullshit (pardon my language). This was by far the most boring character that Gyllenhaal has played, spanning across ALL 20+ of the films on this list, and yet somehow, it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I would love my $3.99 back from Amazon Prime, though.


My ranking: 5.5

Letterboxd: 6.2

Screen time: 9

Average: 6.9


14. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

(Marvel Studios/Sony)

Okay. Here’s where we really start to get into the good stuff. Spider-Man FFH is a bit of a controversial piece as far as the feedback it received from the Marvel fandom, but it has pretty much everything I look for in a movie and therefore scores highly, despite the fact that Gyllenhaal is only a co-star. It doesn’t hurt that Mysterio is the best he’s ever looked on screen, in my opinion (and I’m hardly ever wrong about these things). I’m hearing that he’s set to return in the third Tom Holland Spider-Man, and I’m counting down the days.


My ranking: 8.5

Letterboxd: 7.2

Screen time: 5

Average: 6.9


13. Zodiac (2007)


It’s been a while since I first watched Zodiac, and I mean a WHILE, but I don’t remember being overly enamored with it—despite the good reviews it has on almost every platform. Gyllenhaal plays a journalist playing cop, which is always a negative for me, but I love to learn about serial killers as much as the next guy and it was nice of the filmmakers to combine that hobby with the faces of Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., AND Mark Ruffalo. I’m hoping to get to this again sometime soon (like, tonight probably), but for now, Zodiac lands comfortably in the middle of my list.


My ranking: 7

Letterboxd: 8

Screen time: 7

Average: 7.33


12. Southpaw (2015)


I feel like I learned more about MMA fighting from this movie than I ever have from any of my friends who are obsessed with Connor McGregor, and somehow I still don’t think I ever need to watch men beating the shit out of each other for other people’s entertainment again.


That’s not the only thing that Southpaw is about, and I liked it because the character Gyllenhaal played was much different than any I’d seen before, but at the end of the day, it was a predictable plot and juuuust depressing enough that I don’t feel any inclination to dwell on it. Forest Whitaker is great, though, and there are some spicy Rachel McAdams scenes if that’s what you’re into.


My ranking: 5.5

Letterboxd: 6.8

Screen time: 10

Average: 7.4


11. Source Code (2011)


Another one watched with both of my parents, and while it landed much better than Life did, none of us will return to it any time soon. Taking short notes to remember all of these movies, my only comment about Source Code was, “Plain look (Gyllenhaal’s appearance), plain movie.” I feel like that sums it up well, but he is truly the star of the short 93-minute runtime and the concept of the film was admittedly enticing. Bonus points because it supposedly took place in Chicago, so I kept pointing to things and yelling, “HEY! I know where that is!” which is always fun.


My ranking: 6

Letterboxd: 6.8

Screen time: 10

Average: 7.6


9. Demolition (2015)

(Searchlight Pictures)

This really seems to be a Love It or Hate It sort of movie, and I think I lean more towards the Love It group. It was totally different than what I was expecting, even having read a plot summary beforehand, and Gyllenhaal plays a total asshole learning how to experience grief in a way that still made me empathize with him. I’m not even sure how I would describe the movie to someone who wanted to know more about it, but I’d definitely recommend it, so I feel like that should be enough.


My ranking: 7

Letterboxd: 6.8

Screen time: 9

Average: 7.6


8. Stronger (2017)


Something I didn’t know I was missing until I watched this was Jake Gyllenhaal with long curly hair and a shitty Boston accent that faded in and out randomly throughout the movie. Stronger is based on the true story of one of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, and while I feel like the market for movies about horrible and traumatizing American tragedies may be a little oversaturated, I thought Stronger did a really good job of portraying loss and grief, and the end result was something respectable and really emotional. The Gyllenhaal stans on Letterboxd LOVE this one for some reason, which really gave it a boost.


My ranking: 6.5

Letterboxd: 6.8

Screen time: 10

Average: 7.8


7. Enemy (2013)


You know how sometimes you watch a movie and think, “Hey, that sorta sucked,” but then you go onto some pop-culture website and read about how it was actually really deep and then you think about it for a while before bed and come to the conclusion that, “Hey, maybe it was kinda awesome?" That’s Enemy. It was a treat for simps like me because Gyllenhaal plays a pair of identical men who incidentally cross paths with each other, so it’s like a two-for-the-price-of-one movie, but if I hadn’t found the right articles afterward to explain what I had missed, I’m not sure I would have liked it much. That being said, I did find the right articles and I do like it. Don’t watch it if you were triggered by that spider scene from the second Harry Potter movie, though.


My ranking: 6.5

Letterboxd: 7.4

Screen time: 10

Average: 8


6. Nocturnal Animals (2016)


Raise your hand if you would bend over backwards for Amy Adams! Nocturnal Animals was another trippy film, and it’ll only tickle your fancy if you’re in the mood for something dark and a bit disturbing. Gyllenhaal, once again, plays two versions of himself (how did we get so lucky?), and this is one of those movies that you could easily re-watch after a year or so. Nocturnal Animals also gives us the little treat that is Isla Fisher as B-list Amy Adams (sorry if you ever see this, Isla. I loved you in Arrested Development). But did I mention that we get Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams on the same screen?


My ranking: 8

Letterboxd: 7.6

Screen time: 9

Average: 8.2


5. End of Watch (2012)

(Open Road Films)

COPAGANDA! That’s the word I invented to summarize this movie, and it means that End of Watch really wants you to like cops. Luckily for whoever made this movie, Michael Pena is a superstar and I’m obsessed with him, and he and Gyllenhaal get along like two peas in a pod. So I could argue that End of Watch is a successful copaganda. The action scenes are awesome, and the dialogue’s really good. The comedic breaks are welcome and it’s another refreshing Gyllenhaal character that I would certainly return to.


My ranking: 7.7

Letterboxd: 7.2

Screen time: 10

Average: 8.3


4. Brokeback Mountain (2005)


This is something you shouldn’t watch without 700 calories worth of comfort food and a brand-new box of tissues. I don’t cry during movies, but when I do, I BAWL, and Brokeback Mountain sent me to a place that it took almost an hour to come back from. It’s sad because it’s just plain old sad, but then it also makes you think about how beautiful and wonderful and amazing Heath Ledger was, so then it’s even more sad. I wasn’t expecting this movie to be anything more than a chore on my way through this never-ending list, but my GOD, was this a piece of art. If I keep talking about it I’ll cry again, so let’s move on.


My ranking: 9

Letterboxd: 8

Screen time: 8

Average: 8.33


3. Prisoners (2013)


If you haven’t seen this yet, boy oh boy are you in for a TREAT! Like I mentioned earlier, I am permanently scarred by Paul Dano’s performance in this movie, but it was one of the better movies I’ve watched in the past three years or so and I cannot wait until an opportunity comes up to watch it again. I love crime thrillers, I love Hugh Jackman, I love Jake Gyllenhaal, and above all, I LOVE a good plot twist/cliffhanger. The story is good, the acting is great, and the unsettling feeling that accompanies you throughout the entire runtime is awesome. Jackman shines especially bright as an unhinged and grieving father. With all that under consideration, Prisoners truly has it all. Run, don’t walk, to a TV in a dark room for this one.


My ranking: 9

Letterboxd: 8.2

Screen time: 8

Average: 8.4


2. Donnie Darko (2001)


Cult classic alert! Bonus points for this one because we get to see Maggie Gyllenhaal, too; how clever of the casting director to have the real-life siblings play on-screen siblings! You can almost taste the competitiveness of it all. This is another one I had to read about online after, but it scores better than Enemy because I would have still liked it even if I hadn’t spent two hours reading synopses afterwards. Donnie Darko is cool because Gyllenhaal is young, but still manages to deliver a flawlessly creepy performance that has clearly held up over time. If you’re gonna binge Gyllenhaal movies ever in your life, you simply cannot leave this one out. It’d be like going through Christopher Nolan’s filmography without watching The Dark Knight (hello again, queen Maggie Gyllenhaal).


My ranking: 8

Letterboxd: 7.8

Screen time: 10

Average: 8.6


1. Nightcrawler (2014)

(Open Road Films)

Realizing now that this article is significantly longer than I planned for it to be and it’s likely most of you just went through the list without reading anything I had written, I will keep this brief. In my opinion, Nightcrawler is one of the best movies of all time, and it’s not only disgusting, but downright embarrassing that the academy overlooked Gyllenhaal for an Oscar. I had no idea what I was in for going into this, and I wish I could watch it again for the first time every time I watch it. This is the movie that would make even the most seasoned critic of Jake Gyllenhaal reconsider his unfounded dismay. If nothing else, the man can ACT. My God, can he act! Nightcrawler is crazy eyes Gyllenhaal at his absolute peak, and that’s when you know the good acting is about to pop off the screen. I could rave about this for days! Here I am, re-watching as I write, constantly forgetting how wonderful and precious Riz Ahmed is in this—his breakout role—because Gyllenhaal’s performance is so relentlessly captivating. Exhale.


My ranking: 9.5

Letterboxd: 8

Screen time: 10

Average: 9.2