8 Milestones in the Evolution of Jake Gyllenhaal

In Source Code, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a man who has traveled back in time (kind of; it's complicated) and has eight minutes to stop a bomb from exploding on a commuter train bound for Chicago. Which probably leaves you thinking: Wait, when did Jake Gyllenhaal become an action star? How did the former child actor and indie darling transform himself into the hero who saves the day?

You can always trace a direct line through a handful of important roles -- not necessarily his best, mind you -- to illustrate what led to an actor's current success. So, let's look at eight performances -- including his first-ever movie appearance -- that trace the evolution of one Jacob Benjamin Gyllenhaal.

City Slickers (1991)

Jake Gyllenhaal's first film or television appearance. In this delightful Billy Crystal romp, Jake plays Danny, son to a bitter, bitter man named Mitch, who temporarily leaves his family to go on a cowboy adventure with Jack Palance. (As you'll recall, Palance would win an Oscar for playing Curly Washburn.) Even at a young age, Gyllenhaal was wise enough not to appear in City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold.

Homicide: Life on the Streets (1994)

Hey, remember that Jake Gyllenhaal/Robin Williams project from 1994? Yes, this actually happened in the form of a fairly heartbreaking episode of Homicide. A mustachioed Williams plays Gyllenhaal's father who is at the police station after Williams' wife was murdered in a botched holdup.

Donnie Darko (2001)

Cult classic alert! Seriously, what an eclectic cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Seth Rogen, and Noah Wyle. After a near death experience, Jake Gyllenhaal's Donnie sees visions of a human size rabbit named Frank, which... you know what, you either know this movie or you don't. Regardless, this is the male Gyllenhaal's breakout role. For what it's worth, his sister Maggie's breakout would come a year later with Secretary.

Bubble Boy (2001)

After the critical success of Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal branched out -- quite unfortunately -- into comedy with the biggest misfire of his career, Bubble Boy. Also, Danny Trejo is somehow in this movie, too. Basically this one just features Gyllenhaal out and about in America wearing a portable bubble outfit. Not surprisingly -- to date -- we've never seen Gyllenhaal do an outright comedy again.

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