The Evolution of Joseph Gordon-Levitt: From Child Actor to ‘Snowden’ Star (Photos)
JGL has had a spectacular rise to the top of his craft, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon
Greg Gilman | March 27, 2018 @ 9:30 AM
Last Updated: March 27, 2018 @ 10:31 AM
1991: Joseph Gordon-Levitt booked a number of roles as a child actor, including guest spots on "Family Ties" and "Murder She Wrote," but his first starring role was on ABC's revival of '60s gothic soap opera, "Dark Shadows." The show, on which JGL played David Collins, only lasted one season.
1994: In "Angels in the Outfield," JGL played an adorable foster child who prayed to God that the California Angels win the pennant so he can have a family again. God answered by sending a pack of angels, led by Christopher Lloyd, to help out the struggling ball club.
1996: JGL began an unforgettable turn as the oldest of four alien visitors scouting out planet Earth disguised as humans (although oldest, JGL's character was disguised as a teenager) in the hit NBC sitcom, "3rd Rock From the Sun." The show lasted six seasons, and ended its run in 2001.
1999: JGL starred opposite Heath Ledger in the Shakespeare-inspired teen comedy "10 Things I Hate About You."
2001: JGL began shedding his squeaky clean sitcom star image by playing a violent and emotionally unstable juvenile delinquent in "Manic," an independent drama co-starring Don Cheadle and his future onscreen love interest, Zooey Deschanel.
2004: JGL continued to receive indie acclaim by playing a reckless male prostitute who was molested by his Little League baseball coach in "Mysterious Skin."
2005: JGL left a lasting impression on viewers as a young, hard-boiled detective in writer-director Rian Johnson's high school noir "Brick."
2007: JGL continued maturing in front of our eyes in another modern noir, "The Lookout," in which he played a forgetful bank janitor with a brain injury who gets lured into aiding and abetting a group of bank robbers.
2008: JGL brought emotional intensity to Kimberly Peirce's "Stop-Loss" as a suicidal Iraq war veteran dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
2009: JGL starred in yet another indie, which allowed the rising actor to demonstrate his romantic lead chops. In director Marc Webb's breakout comedy "(500) Days of Summer," JGL played a Los Angeles 20-something who fell in love with a woman (Zooey Deschanel) who doesn't believe in love. He earned a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical.
2009: JGL went mainstream by playing Cobra Commander opposite Channing Tatum as Duke in Paramount's "G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra." The $175 million action movie made enough money to warrant a sequel, but JGL did not return to reprise the role.
2010: JGL went punk rock for the indie drama "Hesher," which co-star Natalie Portman helped produce.
2010: JGL officially became a movie star after taking on the dapper role of Leonardo DiCaprio's best-dressed partner in Christopher Nolan's sci-fi action blockbuster "Inception."
2011: JGL stepped back into comedy by playing a cancer patient alongside Seth Rogen in the dramedy "50/50." The performance earned the actor his second Golden Globe nomination and cemented his ability to play a broad range of roles.
2012: JGL took his career to the next level by helping Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne take on Bane in "Dark Knight Rises," director Christopher Nolan's conclusion to his blockbuster Batman trilogy.
2012: JGL reunited with "Brick" director Rian Johnson to play a younger version of Bruce Willis in the time-travel action thriller "Looper."
2013: JGL added writer and director to his résumé with the release of "Don Jon," a drama about a Jersey boy who must choose between his love of pornography and the love of his life (Scarlett Johansson). The rom-com premiered to rave reviews at the Sundance.
2014: In "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," JGL played a cocky young gambler who runs afoul of a powerful senator (Powers Booth) who turns out to be his dad.
2014: JGL won an Emmy for "HitRECord on TV," a Pivot anthology series adapted from his online venture for short vilms and video projects.
2015: In Robert Zemeckis' "The Walk," JGL played real-life daredevil Philippe Petit, who crossed between the Twin Towers of NYC's World Trade Center n 1974 on a tightrope.
2016: JGL took on another fact-based role in Oliver Stone's "Snowden," about the notorious whistleblower who leaked classified National Security Agency documents and then fled the U.S.