Drive: 5 Ways The Driver Is Ryan Gosling's Best Character (& 5 Alternatives)

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Ryan Gosling is one of the greatest actors working today. He’s also one of the few performers who would bring the same pathos to an SNL sketch about the Papyrus font as he brings to a harrowing drama like Blue Valentine or The Place Beyond the Pines. Gosling is the rare actor who has successfully crossed over between small-scale arthouse fare and big-budget Hollywood vehicles.

Arguably Gosling’s most iconic role is the unnamed protagonist, identified only as “the Driver,” in Nicolas Winding Refn’s slick neo-noir masterpiece Drive. But he’s played a ton of other memorable roles that give the Driver a run for his money.

10 The Driver Is The Best: Most Of His Communication Is Non-Verbal

Ryan Gosling in Drive

The Driver had a lot more lines in the original script for Drive, as well as more dialogue with Irene, but Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan removed a lot of those lines because they felt their characters’ relationship should be conveyed more non-verbally.

Non-verbal communication is one of the trickiest things for an actor to pull off, and Gosling nails it in all of his scenes in Drive.

9 Alternative: Sebastian Wilder (La La Land)

La La Land

Gosling received his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor for playing jazz pianist Sebastian Wilder in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, a glitzy musical that brilliantly harks back to the Golden Age classics of the genre while deconstructing them for the modern day.

While the movie was criticized for telling the story of jazz through the eyes of a white artist, Gosling gives an incredible performance and shares unparalleled on-screen chemistry with co-star Emma Stone.

8 The Driver Is The Best: He’s In Over His Head

The motel ambush in Drive

Any character who’s in over their head is easy to root for. The Driver isn’t necessarily a good guy, but when he crosses the wrong crime syndicate, he’s relentlessly pursued by even worse guys. He was just supposed to be the getaway driver following Standard’s lead, but he’s on his own after Standard is killed.

When Blanche is blown apart by a shotgun blast or Shannon’s forearm is slashed with a straight razor, viewers get a haunting look at the fate that could await the Driver if he can’t stay one step ahead of Nino’s criminal enterprise.

7 Alternative: Holland March (The Nice Guys)

The Nice Guys

Shane Black’s underrated gem The Nice Guys set the stage for a great new buddy cop franchise (if it hadn’t bombed at the box office, that is) starring the perfectly matched Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as a pair of bumbling private investigators who reluctantly have to work together.

Gosling’s Holland March is an incompetent buffoon who coasts through life in a drunken blur. His teenage daughter is more responsible than him.

6 The Driver Is The Best: The Audience Has Plenty Of Time To Get To Know Him

Ryan Gosling in Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive

In essence, Drive is a character study. It has a plot in the form of Nino and Bernie’s merciless pursuit of the Driver, but that’s not until the second half of the movie. The first half gives the audience plenty of time to get to know the Driver.

We get glimpses of his personal life, gabbing with Shannon and doing stunt driving for Hollywood action movies, and the emotions beneath his brooding intensity begin to show when he meets Irene and her son.

5 Alternative: Dan Dunne (Half Nelson)

Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson

Ryan Gosling’s acclaimed role in Half Nelson saw him playing a teacher with a heartwarming repartee with his students, but a disastrous personal life. He’s a functioning cocaine addict who manages to keep it together at school.

There’s a tangible humanity to Dan Dunne. He’s a rare movie protagonist who feels like a real person, sharing real relationships with the people around him. The role earned Gosling his first Oscar nomination and made Hollywood regard him as a serious indie actor.

4 The Driver Is The Best: He’s A Postmodern Deconstruction Of A Well-Worn Trope

Ryan Gosling as the Driver in Drive

Getaway drivers have been a stock character in crime fiction since cars were invented. From The Driver to The Transporter, there are dozens of crime movies that revolve around getaway drivers.

In Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn uses the well-worn trope of the getaway driver for a postmodern deconstruction of Hollywood’s glamorization of crime and violence.

3 Alternative: Neil Armstrong (First Man)

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong in First Man

The La La Land dream team of Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling reunited to bring the story of Neil Armstrong to the big screen in First Man. With a decidedly unromantic portrait of old-timey American life, First Man brings a documentary-like realism to the events of Armstrong’s life.

Gosling’s performance is impeccable and the Moon landing sequence is breathtaking. Unfortunately, despite critical acclaim, the movie underperformed at the box office.

2 The Driver Is The Best: He’s Not Necessarily Likable

The elevator scene in Drive

A lot of moviegoers misunderstood the point of Drive and instead just soaked in the Driver’s coolness, so he’s wrongly worshipped alongside such antiheroes (or just outright bad guys) as Walter White, Arthur Fleck, and Jordan Belfort.

But most viewers can see that a guy who kicks someone’s skull in with little provocation isn’t supposed to be admired. Where most Hollywood movies insist on having likable, relatable protagonists, Drive explores a much darker mentality.

1 Alternative: Officer K (Blade Runner 2049)

Ryan Gosling as Officer K in Blade Runner 2049

When Denis Villeneuve took on the daunting task of helming a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, it was almost certain that any attempt to follow up one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made would fail miserably.

But against all odds, Villeneuve nailed it. Blade Runner 2049 beautifully recaptures both the neo-noir visuals and thought-provoking themes of the original and expands on the worldbuilding significantly. Ryan Gosling’s Officer K offered a fascinating counterpoint to Rick Deckard; where Rick was a human who began to suspect he was a replicant, K is a replicant who begins to suspect he’s a human.

NEXT: John Wick: 5 Ways He's Keanu Reeves' Most Iconic Character (& 5 Alternatives)

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About The Author

Ben Sherlock (2250 Articles Published)

Ben Sherlock is a writer, comedian, and independent filmmaker, and he's good at at least two of those things. In addition to writing for Screen Rant and Comic Book Resources, covering everything from Scorsese to Spider-Man, Ben directs independent films and does standup comedy. He's currently in pre-production on his first feature film, Hunting Trip, and has been for a while because filmmaking is expensive. Previously, he wrote for Taste of Cinema and BabbleTop.

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