Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s 10 Best Movie Roles

Movies Lists Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Actor/Director/Creative Startup Founder Joseph Gordon-Levitt released his new movie Don Jon this weekend. To honor the actor’s move toward directing, we’ve made a list of JGL’s best movie roles.

10. Lincoln
For Lincoln, Joseph Gordon-Levitt took on a more serious role as Abraham Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert Lincoln. Lincoln takes place near the end of the American Civil War. During the film, Robert Lincoln is at a point in his life where he and his father struggle to repair their strained relationship. Levitt and Daniel Day-Lewis portray an exceptional back and forth dynamic between Abraham Lincoln and his son.

9. 50/50
50/50 was a great independent film based on the true story of a guy in his mid-twenties who is suddenly diagnosed with cancer. Levitt gives an inspiring performance alongside Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick, who play Levitt’s best friend and therapist. Although the central storyline of 50/50 is a melancholy one, Levitt and co. give it an uplifting and heartwarming effect that makes for an exceptional indie film.

8. Inception
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role in Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending Inception proved that Levitt could take on more serious movie roles. Levitt plays Leonardo Dicaprio’s suave right hand man Arthur, who has some of the best and most intense moments in Inception. Other than proving he can handle using a machine gun, Levitt has an epic Matrix-style battle with a couple of Robert Fischer’s (Cillian Murphy) “projection” henchmen. With an all-star cast including Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy, Levitt stands out amongst the juggernaut crew as he conquers the human mind with paradoxes and architectural infiltration.

7. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan likes to work with the same group of actors for his films. So, it was no surprise to fans when he cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt to play Officer John Blake of the Gotham PD in The Dark Knight Rises. Levitt plays a pivotal role in the liberation of Gotham. He works as sort of a protégé under Gordon and Batman combined. We later find out that Blake’s actual first name is “Robin.” It was Nolan’s way of putting Robin in the films without actually casting the traditional Robin character in the movie. Either way, JGL nailed it.

6. 10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You was one of the first major film roles for Levitt. In this classic 90s teen “dramady,” Levitt plays the lovestruck character of Cameron. As he falls madly in love with the most popular girl in school Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), he decides to devise a plan that he hopes will help him get the girl of his dreams. With the help of Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, David Krumholtz, Levitt sets his plan for love in motion that sends the whole school into chaos.

5. Mysterious Skin
In Greg Akari’s 2004 film Mysterious Skin, Gordon-Levitt plays a young gay prostitute named Neil McCormick. It’s a brutal look at the damage caused by childhood sexual abuse—and the dangers and loneliness of his vocation. Gordon-Levitt brings a vulnerability to a hustler with a cool exterior as he helps a young man obsessed with alien abductions discover the truth about their shared past. Neil is a far cry from 3rd Rock’s Tommy Solomon and one of the first signs of the actor’s range and talent.—Josh Jackson

4. Don Jon
Don Jon is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut as a director. Not only did Levitt write and direct it, he also stars in it. Levitt plays Jon Martello, an OCD ladies man who blurs the lines with reality and fantasy. After beginning a relationship with Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), Jon is forced to face certain realities of life as he struggles to maintain his relationship with both Barbara and the other “loves” in his life. In Don Jon, Levitt is cool as can be and gives a hilarious, heartfelt performance that makes Don Jon one of the best and most original films to come out this year. Not to mention he has a wicked-awesome accent.

3. Brick
High-school sleuths are popular on TV—Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Hardy Boys, to name a few. Social cliques and hormonal tensions coupled with deceptively blasé suburban backdrops tend to refresh gumshoe maneuvers, even as murderous intrigue adds zap to all the Clearasil melodrama. But Brick, director Rian Johnson’s crackling debut, shakes up a genre that’s grown a bit routine, while indulging our familiarity with it. Gordon-Levitt plays Brendan, the smart, loner kid whose broken heart leads him to the local teenage underworld when his ex-girlfriend (Lost’s Emilie de Ravin) goes missing. The extremely mannered dialogue evokes the clipped lingo of Phillip Marlowe, cross-wired with David Mamet. Southern California kids who look like they should be in line for a Gwen Stefani show drop slang like “duck soup” (easy pickings) and “bulls” (cops) as if they were studying James Ellroy in English class. Like those punches that lunge across the screen and send Brendan reeling toward his next clue, it’s a left-field surprise.—Steve Dollar

2. Hesher
It’s safe to say you haven’t encountered a film character like Joseph Gordon Levitt’s title character in Spencer Susser’s fantastic Hesher. He loves pornography, heavy metal, trespassing, arson, and many other chaotic pursuits, but he pursues them with such an unselfconscious near-innocence that he’s an immediately compelling character. Playing alongside Rainn Wilson and Natalie Portman, Gordon-Levitt’s performance is award-worthy, a complete inhabiting of as unique a personality as you’ll encounter in film. Hesher is at once a sober and bighearted look at grief and loss, and an enjoyable ride with the most hilariously anarchistic character in ages.—Michael Dunaway

1. (500) Days of Summer
(500) Days of Summer marked the point in Levitt’s career that solidified his stance as lasting figure in the film industry. In (500) Days of Summer, Tom (Levitt), falls in love with the bewitching Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Tom is a hopeless romantic that, due to his infatuation with 80’s pop-music, believes he won’t truly be happy until he has found “the one.” Levitt perfectly portrays the typical, Smiths’-loving aging hipster who is hopelessly in love with a girl who doesn’t love him back. Tom’s relationship with Summer hits close to home for anyone who has ever fallen victim to a failed-love. Levitt plays an all too familiar role as he attempts to discover his shortcomings on his quest for love.

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