6. Ryan Gosling – Drive (2011)

Ryan Gosling as The Driver in Drive

For many years, Ryan Gosling was known as a Mouseketeer – a Micky Mouse Club alum alongside the likes of Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake. The squeaky-clean image of his youth, combined with his clean-cut good looks, made him appear to be a particularly wholesome star. His early roles in romantic dramas further established a public image for Gosling that was about as far from edgy as possible.

When the heartthrob was announced as the lead in gritty crime drama Drive, the casting decision was divisive. Though he had proven himself capable of a certain amount of dramatic intensity, he had yet to fully establish himself as a truly versatile performer. As a result, it was unclear exactly what Gosling would be able to bring to the role of the unnamed Driver.

Ryan Gosling’s performance in Drive redefined his entire career. He was so convincing in the role of the quietly smoldering and dangerously intense Driver that he went on to play a number of similar roles, with parts being written specifically to cater to his unique talent for playing enigmatic near-mute rogues. Though the part initially seemed to be out of Gosling’s wheelhouse, he was able to execute a full career 360 with his role in Drive.