The actor added that there is “always something to learn” from family, no matter how “fraught or joyous” the relationships are.
Gyllenhaal, 41, will star in the forthcoming Disney animated movie Strange World, which follows the story of a legendary family of explorers.
Starring alongside Dennis Quaid and Jaboukie Young-White, the film will explore relationships between three generations of men, as well as themes of family and legacy.
Gyllenhaal said his real-life family has “moved and divided and changed in so many different ways” over the years.
Speaking to the PA news agency at the Los Angeles premiere on Tuesday (16 November), he continued: “You go through a phase in your life where it’s absolutely everything, it’s your means of survival.
“Then you grow up and you just sort of denounce it at a certain point in your life, you go., ‘I don’t need any of that’.
“Then you come back and you realise how important all of those people are, no matter how complicated those relationships are, no matter how fraught they can be.”
The Donnie Darko star added: “And no matter how joyous or full of love, there’s always something to learn.”
Gyllenhaal’s parents are Stephen Gyllenhaal and Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, while his sister is Oscar-nominated actor Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Speaking about his famous family, Gyllenhaal said: “My family all grew up professionals... and yes, some of us are in the entertainment industry and do that job.
“But when we come back to each other, particularly my sister and I... the most precious times for us is when we get to spend time with just her and me and my nieces and my mother-in-law, my girlfriend - those times for us are the most nourishing.”
Gyllenhaal is currently dating model Jeanne Cadieu. They have reportedly been together since 2018.