Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Birthday: His Best 15 Movies Ranked


Although he's only just turning 38, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has three decades of acting work under his belt. Before he had even entered his teens, the Los Angeles native had starred alongside Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It, as well as in a number of TV shows and adverts.

He soon became a teen heartthrob thanks to his work in the hit TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun and 1999 Shakespeare adaption 10 Things I Hate About You.

After taking a break from acting to attend Columbia University, he started his grown-up career in indie movies, including the neo-noir Brick and heist movie The Lookout. Perhaps his most memorable film, 500 Days of Summer, was released in 2009—his part as the lovelorn Tom Hansen won him a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination.

Another hit followed with Christopher Nolan's universe-bending Inception in 2010, although it all could have been very different—James Franco was originally slated for the part, but left due to scheduling issues.

Big-budget, big-name projects followed—he acted in The Dark Knight Rises, the thriller Looper and Steven Spielberg's biopic Lincoln. He made his directorial debut in 2013 with romcom Don Jon. It was a hit, making many times over its modest $5.5 million budget.

But despite starring in a number of critically and commercially successful movies, he's yet to be nominated for an Academy Award.

He's got two more movies lined up for release this year: the action-thriller 7500, and an untitled sci-fi movie directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost. Until then, Newsweek has collected critical review data from websites IMDb, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes to rank his 15 best movies.

01 Snowden
Open Road Films

15. Snowden (2016). Total score: 66.75%. IMDb users: 7.3. Metacritic: 58. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.2. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.7.

Directed by: Oliver Stone. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Nicolas Cage, Tom Wilkinson, Zachary Quinto, Rhys Ifans, Timothy Elephant, Lakeith Stanfield, Ben Chaplin, Alan Rusbridger, Edward Snowden.

Plot summary: The NSA's illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency's employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.

What the critics said: "As Snowden, Gordon-Levitt is so muted, so cloistered, that it can be easy to miss that it's a very good performance. He speaks in a low, brainy voice that's very similar to Snowden's own. His horror at the vastly intrusive surveillance complex to which he's given the keys is conveyed in small gestures, in the way he carries himself around his superiors and shudders at the work he's doing." Tom Shone, Newsweek.

02 Don Jon
Relativity Media

14. Don Jon (2013). Total score: 67%. IMDb users: 6.6. Metacritic: 66. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.4.

Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headley, Brie Larson.

Plot summary: A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love.

What the critics said: "Writer-director-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt is so savvy about the workings of our small minds that he knows just how to reel us in (sex) before schooling us on the important things in life (love)." Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News.

03 10 Things I Hate About You
Buena Vista Pictures

13. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Total score: 67.75%. IMDb users: 7.3. Metacritic: 70. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.2. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.3.

Directed by: Gil Junger. Starring: Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, Gabrielle Union, Allison Janney.

Plot summary: A pretty, popular teenager can't go out on a date until her ill-tempered older sister does.

What the critics said: "Quirky, inventive, and brimming over with clever visual gags and colorful supporting characters, 10 Things uses Shakespeare as a jumping-off point to playfully send up a society that doesn't know what to do with a strong woman." Scott Tobias, AV Club.

04 Manic
IFC Films

12. Manic (2001). Total score: 68%. IMDb users: 7.4. Metacritic: 60. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.2. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.8.

Directed by: Jordan Melamed. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Bacall, Zooey Deschanel, Don Cheadle.

Plot summary: Lyle Jensen is subject to sudden and violent outbursts and he is committed to the juvenile wing of the Northwood Mental Institution, where he interacts with other patients and staff.

What the critics said: "While it neither succeeds nor satisfies as drama, it's a great calling card for the actors involved, principally Joseph Gordon-Levitt." Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer.

05 A River Runs Through It
Columbia Pictures

11. A River Runs Through It (1992). Total score: 69.75%. IMDb users: 7.3. Metacritic: 68. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.5.

Directed by: Robert Redford. Starring: Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Lloyd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Plot summary: The story of a stern minister's two sons—one reserved, one rebellious—growing up in rural Montana while devoted to fly fishing.

What the critics said: "Here are two things I never thought I'd say: I like a movie about fly fishing, and Robert Redford has directed one of the most ambitious, accomplished films of the year." Caryn James, New York Times.

06 The Lookout

10. The Lookout (2007). Total score: 71.5%. IMDb users: 7. Metacritic: 73. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.3. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.5.

Directed by: Scott Frank. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher, Carla Gugino.

Plot summary: Chris is a once promising high school athlete whose life is turned upside down following a tragic accident. As he tries to maintain a normal life, he takes a job as a janitor at a bank, where he ultimately finds himself caught up in a planned heist.

What the critics said: "Gordon-Levitt finds something heartbreaking behind Chris's blankness; you can almost watch, on his face, memory quietly draining away. Quietly flavored with sad resignation, it's a performance that's remarkable for what isn't there." Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times.

07 The Walk
TriStar Pictures

9. The Walk (2015). Total score: 72.5%. IMDb users: 7.3. Metacritic: 70. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.1. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.8.

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale.

Plot summary: In 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

What the critics said: "The last 30 minutes or so are all about the walk. Dariusz Wolski's cinematography is beautiful... and Gordon-Levitt does some of his best acting when he's out on the wire and mostly silent, his face glowing from the sheer crazy joy he's feeling." Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times.

08 Brick
Focus Features

8. Brick (2005). Total score: 73.5%. IMDb users: 7.4. Metacritic: 72. Rotten Tomatoes: 7. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.9.

Directed by: Rian Johnson. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas, Emilie de Ravin, Richard Roundtree.

Plot summary: A teenage loner pushes his way into the underworld of a high school crime ring to investigate the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend.

What the critics said: "It's Gordon-Levitt's pitch-perfect work that makes Brick a hardboiled treat." Lou Lumenick, New York Post.

09 Mysterious Skin

7. Mysterious Skin (2004). Total score: 75.75%. IMDb users: 7.7. Metacritic: 73. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.3. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.

Directed by: Gregg Araki. Starring: Brady Corbet, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elisabeth Shue, Michelle Trachtenberg.

Plot summary: A teenage hustler and a young man obsessed with alien abductions cross paths, together discovering a horrible, liberating truth.

What the critics said: "While watching this movie, I scribbled the word 'whoa' five times into my notebook. " Desson Thomson, Washington Post.

10 500 Days of Summer
Fox Searchlight Pictures

6. 500 Days of Summer (2009). Total score: 76.25%. IMDb users: 7.7. Metacritic: 76. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.6. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.8.

Directed by: Marc Webb. Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Geoffrey Arend, Chloë Grace Moretz, Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler.

Plot summary: An offbeat romantic comedy about a woman who doesn't believe true love exists, and the young man who falls for her.

What the critics said: "If it just misses being this generation's Annie Hall, it's still deliciously refreshing, sweet and fizzy. A sherbet dip of a movie." Trevor Johnston, Time Out.

11 50:50
Summit Entertainment

5. 50/50 (2011). Total score: 77%. IMDb users: 7.7. Metacritic: 72. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.7. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.1.

Directed by: Jonathan Levine. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston.

Plot summary: Inspired by a true story, a comedy centered on a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease.

What the critics said: "As the comedy in 50/50 turns darker, Gordon-Levitt, who's maybe the most natural, least affected actor of his generation, makes prickly plenty engaging." Bob Mondello, NPR.

12 Looper
TriStar Pictures

4. Looper (2012). Total score: 79.75%. IMDb users: 7.4. Metacritic: 84. Rotten Tomatoes: 8.1. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.

Directed by: Rian Johnson. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels.

Plot summary: In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun like Joe awaits. One day Joe learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by sending back his future self for assassination.

What the critics said: "However long it takes to get your bearings, Looper is worth it. Bruce Willis expertly blends tough and tender and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is at the top of his game in this rip-roaring mind-bender." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.

13 Lincoln
Touchstone Pictures

3. Lincoln (2012). Total score: 80%. IMDb users: 7.4. Metacritic: 86. Rotten Tomatoes: 8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.

Directed by: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, David Oyelowo, Lukas Haas, Dane De Haan, Adam Driver.

Plot summary: As the American Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

What the critics said: "Lincoln does something that, at this very particular moment in time, seems almost impossible to comprehend. It makes politics exciting again." Ty Burr, Boston Globe.

14 Inception
Warner Bros.

2. Inception (2010). Total score: 81.75%. IMDb users: 8.8. Metacritic: 74. Rotten Tomatoes: 8.1. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.2.

Directed by: Christopher Nolan. Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas.

Plot summary: A thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO.

What the critics said: "Inception is that rare film that can be enjoyed on superficial and progressively deeper levels, a feat that uncannily mimics the mind-bending journey its protagonist takes." Ann Hornaday, Washington Post.

15 The Dark Knight Rises
Warner Bros.

1. The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Total score: 82%. IMDb users: 8.4. Metacritic: 78. Rotten Tomatoes: 8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.3.

Directed by: Christopher Nolan. Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Matthew Modine.

Plot summary: Eight years after the Joker's reign of anarchy, Batman, with the help of the enigmatic Catwoman, is forced from his exile to save Gotham City, now on the edge of total annihilation, from the brutal guerrilla terrorist Bane.

What the critics said: "Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a welcome addition, proving that it is possible to inject new blood into an established mythology as long as the new blood isn't represented by Shia LaBeouf." James Berardinelli, ReelViews.

"The biggest surprise may just be how satisfying Nolan has made his farewell to a Dark Knight trilogy that many fans will wish he'd extend to a 10-part series, at least." Bob Mondello, NPR.