Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was a mistake. A terrible, awful, movie mistake. A bad life choice for those of us who decided to see it. And it was a fumble for Jake Gyllenhaal’s career. No one seems to have realized that more than him. Ever since the one-two punch(line) of Prince of Persia and dating Taylor Swift, the actor has enjoyed a quiet renaissance. Good roles and good films have allowed him to emerge as one of our greatest actors of right now. Usually by playing weirdos, like the one he plays in his latest Oscar-buzz worthy movie, Nightcrawler. The greatness of Gyllenhaal right now is so overpowering it’s actually kind of easy to forget that the actor has had a long-running career. A career with a lot of pretty great movies that seem to have become victims of forgetfulness. Well, we want to help correct that. Here are five great films that you may have forgotten Jake Gyllenhaal was in.
I know what you’re thinking. How can this be a great movie? It’s about a boy in a bubble. A boy whose hair looks like it was run over by a lawnmower, and whose fashion style seems lifted from an ’80s cartoon character. And certainly it doesn’t help that the only way Bubble Boy can market itself is to “boast” that it’s “From a producer of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.” A producer. They couldn’t find anything more than a single producer. But you know what? Bubble Boy is great. Stupid and ridiculous? Yes. But also goofy, sweet and charming. It’s a weird, infectious little romantic comedy/road trip movie that somehow—in good part because of Gyllenhaal’s endearing performance — wins its way into your heart.
October Sky, starring Gyllenhaal as a Sputnik-era boy who dreams of building rockets, isn’t the kind of movie you recommend to someone. It’s the kind of movie you gift to someone. You tell them to watch it, sit back and then wait for their gratitude. Why will they be grateful? Because it’s almost impossible to not love this heartstring-puller. It’s good old-fashioned, inspirational moviemaking at its best. If we Canadians didn’t already have Chris Hadfield to rekindle our love of space travel, a viewing of October Sky would be able to do it.
The Good Girl
Way back when Jennifer Aniston was just starting to run away from Rachel Green, there was The Good Girl. A much buzzed about (and well-reviewed) indie flick at the time, even the most hardcore Aniston fans seem to have forgotten about this one. Which is a shame, because it’s one of her best roles. Here she plays a dissatisfied discount store clerk who falls for a younger man. Played by Jake Gyllenhaal, his character, Holden, is a kind of prototype for all the creepazoids he’s playing right now. So aside from being a good movie, The Good Girl is well worth watching to see the actor practice getting under our skin and then requiring us to shower afterwards.
Lovely & Amazing
No Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Enough Said) movie should be forgotten. So we’re going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and say Lovely & Amazing hasn’t been forgotten, so much as people have forgotten Gyllenhaal was in it. He plays a pretty central role here as a teenage boy that Catherine Keener, in a mid-life crisis, gets a crush a. He’s great, but really the reason we’re putting this movie on here is this: come for Jake Gyllenhaal, stay for the great female cast and story.
Jarhead was a high-profile Oscar movie when it came out. Then it fizzled before it could actually get a chance to win any Oscars. And then it seemed to fizzle entirely from our memories. Well, unless you were one of the five people who inexplicably demanded a direct-to-DVD sequel. Nonetheless, Jarhead is well worth seeking out. It’s a searing, well-acted, beautiful-looking anti-war film with a riveting central performance from Gyllenhaal that foreshadows the intense brand of dedication he would bring to his later roles. Also, you know, he’s super buff and shirtless in it.