From bedraggled teen in This Boy’s Life and The Basketball Diaries to pretty-boy heartthrob in Romeo & Juliet and Titanic to toughened action star in Blood Diamond…Leo has done it all…
Leonardo DiCaprio has made the complete arc of a Hollywood actor – from teen heartthrob to accomplished Oscar-nominated thespian and headline act – seem almost too easy. From the halcyon days of his post-Titanic success, to more recent serious fare, Leo has been blessed with both good looks and extraordinary talent. Nominated for Oscar for his breakout performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Leo came to major mainstream attention a few years later in Bazz
Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, opposite Claire Danes, before Titanic elevated him to A-list status the following year. Today, we want to celebrate the career (to date) of Leonardo DiCaprio, so here are out suggestions for the ten best films with him in them.
10. Catch Me If You Can (Spielberg, 2002)
Leo’s first team up with Spielberg resulted in this whimsical, spritely true-story about a man who pretends to be other people. Leo shines opposite Tom Hanks, and easily dazzles his co-stars with that winning smile of his.
9. Romeo + Juliet (Luhrmann, 1996)
The innocence of youth portrayed perfectly by Leo here, as the love-struck Romeo, against Claire Danes’ Juliet, in one of the more raucus version of the famed Shakespeare story. Although he does get lost in amongst the large ensemble cast, DiCaprio more than holds his own each time he’s on the screen.
8. Gangs Of New York (Scorsese, 2002)
The first of three teamings with director Martin Scorsese, Leo plays an Irish migrant in 1850’s New York City, seeking revenge for the death of his father at the hands of the evil Bill The Butcher, played by Daneil Day-Lewis. DDL out-acts Leo in their scenes together, and the film is hampered by an awful performance by Cameron Diaz (miscast badly), but in amongst the confusion Leo’s class and talent shine through.
7. Django Unchained (Tarantino, 2012)
His first real villain role in Tarantino’s slavery epic, Leo plays enigmatic and cruel plantation owner Calvin Candie, a hammer-wielding monster who charms those around him into submission.
6. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (Hallström, 1993)
DiCaprio’s supporting but memorable role of Johnny Depp’s mentally challenged sibling, in this moving and entertaining dramatic film from Leo’s early career. The role snagged him an Oscar nomination (his first), and gave him the momentum to appear in bigger films, and paving the way for Titanic.
5. Inception (Nolan, 2010)
Leo’s lead role in the ensemble sci-fi actioner from Christopher Nolan, as the fractured and tormented Dom Cobb, remains one of his most iconic thanks to the cult following the film has garnered since release.
4. Titanic (Cameron, 1997)
Regardless of the screechy theme song, the ubiquitous number 1 box office taking ever (for its time) and the thunderous public scorn heaped upon James Cameron’s Best Director speech, Titanic remains a terrific piece of Hollywood entertainment. The fact that Leo is excellent in it is merely icing on the cake.
3. The Aviator (Scorsese, 2004)
Leo’s ability to morph into a character was perhaps never more defined as it was in this, Scorsese’s Howard Hughes bio-pic, and a role for which snagged another Oscar nomination. Leo plumbed the darkness of Hughes’ mania with scorching success, and although the film left the mainstream public largely dumbfounded, for critics and fans alike, it was yet another scintillating performance.
2. Blood Diamond (Zwick, 2006)
Arguably one of the most powerful films in the last 20 years (and I don’t say that lightly), DiCaprio shines alongside Djimon Honsou in this riveting, stunning, shocking film about the illegal diamond trade through Africa. Opposite Jennifer Connelly, Leo is his usual disarming self, but when the going gets tough, Leo stands his ground. Even if you’re not a Leo fan, you owe it to yourself to check this film out.
1. The Departed (Scorsese, 2006)
Scorsese’s modern crime masterpiece gave Leo nominations for every award they have a name for (except, strangely, for Oscar) and the ensemble cast made the most of the kudos and acclaim for which this film was justly rewarded.
Alongside the likes of Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg and a host of other Hollywood talent, it could have been too much of too much for DiCaprio to really stand out; yet, stand out he did (and still does), in this, the film I think is the best he’s ever been in.
The Quick & The Dead
Leo, Russell Crowe, Gene Hackman and Sharon Stone: the cast are excellent in this near-parody of a Western. Pity the film isn’t that great.
The Basketball Diaries
Too depressing for words, the film is excellent and Leo’s very good in it, but I couldn’t sneak it into the top 10.
Leo reunites with Titanic co-star Kate WInslet for Same Mendes’ tragic tale, only to be snubbed come Oscars time again. A great (if depressing) film that highlights DiCaprio’s ability to really get into the skin of a character.
Written and compiled by Rodney Twelftree.
See more great actor lists on Top 10 Films: Caine | De Niro | DiCaprio | Downey Jr. | Hanks | Hoffman | Streep | Roberts | Schwarzenegger | Oldman | Gandolfini | Freeman | Ford | Eastwood | Dreyfuss | Keitel | Woods