With ''Source Code'' out on DVD this week, we take a look at the best — and worst — of the actor's movies

By Clark Collis
Updated July 22, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Donnie Darko (2001)
Writer-director Richard Kelly’s superlative blend of John Hughes high school movie and sci-fi headscratcher gave Gyllenhaal his breakthrough role as the only person who can save the universe following a hiccup in the space-time continuum. At least we think that’s what it’s about. A+

Bubble Boy (2001)
How hilarious is the subject of immune deficiency? Not at all, judging by this high-concept, low-on-laughs effort. Having temporarily learned his lesson, Gyllenhaal didn’t make another medically oriented comedy containing an erection gag until 2010’s Love & Other Drugs. C+

The Good Girl (2002)
Gyllenhaal is a suicide-minded J.D. Salinger wannabe and Jennifer Aniston his married lover in Miguel Arteta’s tragi-comedy. The result is heartbreaking and bleakly amusing, but undoubtedly the movie’s greatest achievement is selling the idea that the gorgeous troika of Aniston, Gyllenhaal, and Zooey Deschanel might all be found working at a cruddy discount store. B+

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
It’s difficult to know which is the biggest disaster in Roland Emmerich’s global-warming-themed extravaganza: the massive Manhattan-destroying tidal wave that forces Gyllenhaal’s nerdy student to seek sanctuary in the New York Public Library, the tornadoes that tear up Los Angeles, or the existence of lines like ”We’ve hit a critical desalinization point!” B-

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
For reasons both rightful and tragic, Brokeback Mountain is remembered as the late Heath Ledger’s movie. But it takes two to tango — not to mention have sex on a mountain — and Gyllenhaal’s rambunctious Jack Twist proves the perfect foil to Ledger’s taciturn Ennis Del Mar. A+

Zodiac (2007)
Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo have the flashy roles of a boozy crime reporter and an animal-cracker-munching cop in David Fincher’s epic re-creation of the hunt for San Francisco’s real-life Zodiac Killer. But Gyllenhaal, as a cartoonist father of two, is the film’s real emotional anchor. A

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
You can’t help admiring Gyllenhaal’s ripped physique in what producer Jerry Bruckheimer clearly hoped would be the start of a franchise. We can’t say the same for the actor’s British accent (or, for that matter, the fact that his Persian prince even has a British accent) and pretty much everything else about this wearisome box office underperformer. C

Source Code (2011)
Gyllenhaal winningly plays an Afghan-war vet who goes back in time to identify a train bomber in this excellent sci-fi thriller from Duncan Jones (Moon). A decade after Donnie Darko, the actor doubles his collection of fine performances in terrific movies about temporal loops. A-

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 115 minutes
  • Mike Newell