The Revenant, in cinemas this weekend, is tipped to be the film that finally gets Leonardo DiCaprio his long-overdue Oscar. He’s a legendary actor who has had so many brilliant performances over the years, and these are the best: the top 10 best Leonardo DiCaprio movies.
10. Shutter Island (2010)
Admittedly, Shutter Island doesn’t feature one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s more exhilarating performances, but in the midst of what is a hugely thrilling film, he still does an absolutely fantastic job.
The film is a psychological thriller directed by Martin Scorsese, and tells of DiCaprio’s character, US marshal Teddy Daniels who goes to an isolated island mental hospital to investigate the disappearance of one patient. However, over the course of his stay on the eerie island, it becomes more and more apparent to him that everything isn’t quite what it seems.
As I said, this isn’t a mind-blowing performance by DiCaprio, but what he does do exceptionally well is show the emotional trauma that his character goes through over the course of the movie. In a lot of these eerie psychological thrillers, many actors would just go for a generic freak-out, but DiCaprio never overdoes it here. As the tension and the mystery builds, he appears more and more exhausted and distraught by what he’s experiencing, and that is, in the end, a hugely effective and powerful performance.
9. The Aviator (2004)
Here’s another Scorsese collaboration: 2004’s biopic about the life of Howard Hughes: The Aviator.
It’s the story of a wealthy man in the early 20th Century who attempts to do the biggest things the world has ever seen, such as directing the most expensive film of all time, and building the biggest plane of all time, the infamous ‘Spruce Goose’. However, his obsessions with ambition soon cause him to take a turn for the worse.
In The Aviator, DiCaprio plays the lead role, and with some style. He brilliantly pulls off the almost playboy image that Hughes is presented as, and then goes even further by giving a hugely impressive performance of Hughes’ descent into madness as his paranoia and OCD worsens over time. Putting in a huge amount of effort and research into Hughes’ condition, DiCaprio comes out in the film with a massively unnerving, but still excellent, performance.
8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
Leonardo DiCaprio was only 19 years old when the drama What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was released in 1993, and it marked the beginning of an illustrious career.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is the story of a young boy, Arnie, from a small midwestern town, who suffers from a developmental disability, who is cared for by his older brother, Gilbert, played by Johnny Depp. Whilst the main focus of the film is actually on Depp’s character, who faces a dilemma when he falls in love, the young DiCaprio absolutely shines in the role.
Maybe his misfortune at the Oscars has been a case of too much, too soon, seeing as he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this breakout performance, but regardless, this is a hugely impressive performance for such a young man. DiCaprio not only makes his character difficult to watch, but the way he portrays Arnie in such a realistic and caring way is hugely impressive and mature for a young 19 year old actor, and that’s why it can’t be ignored as one of his best.
7. Titanic (1997)
If What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was DiCaprio’s launch into the movie world, then 1997’s epic romance Titanic was his catapult to the world of stardom.
When it was released, Titanic was the biggest film of all time, garnering over $1.8 billion at the global box office, winning Best Picture, and taking home a record 14 Oscar nominations and 11 wins. You know the story anyway, but just to be sure, it’s an epic romance disaster movie about a poor man who falls in love with a rich woman, and they have the romance of a lifetime on the doomed ship, which (spoilers!) sinks in the end.
It’s a performance that DiCaprio has said he’s embarrassed about when looking back, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great. Sure, Titanic may be a bit of a cheesy love story, but in its more intense moments, which are pretty spectacular come the third act, DiCaprio, and co-star Kate Winslet, are fantastic. Their chemistry is wonderful, and so the emotion is always powerful right the way through, and it makes for a truly amazing watch over the course of all of this film’s three hours.
6. The Great Gatsby (2013)
Baz Luhrmann’s stylish adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel: The Great Gatsby, is pretty underrated in my book, and it features an even more underrated performance by Leonardo DiCaprio.
It’s the classic story of a humongously wealthy man, Jay Gatsby, who throws famously lavish parties every week at the height of the roaring twenties, and who befriends a nervous newcomer to the neighbourhood, a man who reconnects Gatsby with the former love of his life.
Honestly, I genuinely can’t think of anyone else in the role of Gatsby than Leonardo DiCaprio. Robert Redford played him in the 1974 adaptation, but no one plays the class, the majesty and the charm of the character better than DiCaprio. He just seems so at home playing the billionaire with more money than sense (a role he fulfils even better in another film), and so he absolutely owns every scene he’s in.
5. The Departed (2006)
Martin Scorsese, much like Leonardo DiCaprio, spent years of his brilliant career without an Oscar win. That was until 2006’s The Departed, where he finally won Best Picture and Best Director.
And in all honesty, The Departed is a fantastic film. A thrilling, twisting tale about two moles from opposing sides attempting to uncover one another in the midst of the Boston Police Department’s desperate efforts to bring down crime lord Frank Costello, and although it’s by no means Scorsese’s or DiCaprio’s best, it still deserves all the plaudits it gets.
DiCaprio’s performance is, of course, brilliant, and also provides something a little different to what we normally see from him. He plays the police’s mole in the criminal organisation, and it’s a much grittier, darker role than usual, but he pulls it off brilliantly, putting in a hugely exciting and engrossing performance from start to finish, and makes his character, although not exactly the main focus, the one you’re really rooting for throughout.
4. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
I’m sure that Catch Me If You Can is Steven Spielberg’s most underrated film, and it might just be Leonardo DiCaprio’s most underrated too.
It’s the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., an 18 year old conman who posed as a Pan-Am pilot, a doctor and a lawyer, and in the process managed to steal millions of dollars from all across America, and the FBI agent (played by Tom Hanks) who consistently tries to bring him down in an enthralling cat and mouse chase.
DiCaprio was only 28 at the time, but I think this was his first really great performance. He shows once again that he’s a great dramatic actor in some of the more emotionally powerful scenes, of which there are many, but he also manages to be fantastically funny, something we’d never seen from DiCaprio before. As the title of the film suggests, Abagnale Jr. is a cocky teenager who taunts the FBI as he goes around the world scamming everyone in his sights, and DiCaprio plays that character so well, as he gets the suave and flashy attitude of Abagnale Jr. absolutely spot on.
3. The Revenant (2015)
Now we come to the one that everyone is talking about at the moment: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s survival thriller: ‘The Revenant‘. Will it be the one that brings Leo his long-overdue Oscar? Only time will tell, but it is undoubtedly one of his finest films.
The Revenant follows the story of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who sets out on revenge on his colleagues after he was left for dead in the middle of the freezing wilderness after a vicious bear attack. It’s brutal stuff, and relentlessly gritty, but it is a truly intoxicating and absolutely stunning film to watch.
This is by far DiCaprio’s most impressive performance of all. He has barely any dialogue, and when he does speak it’s rarely in English, it’s all about him crawling and screaming his way through the wilderness as he desperately seeks revenge. This performance shows the barest bones of acting, and every piece of emotion and drama that we get from DiCaprio is entirely through his facial expressions, but it makes for riveting watching at every moment.
2. Inception (2010)
Inception is widely considered one of the greatest films of the 21st Century, and whilst it’s definitely true that the majority of that praise goes to Christopher Nolan’s stunning directing and screenplay, let’s not forget the brilliant central performance that goes with it all.
Following a team of people who go into other people’s dreams on a mission to brainwash a corporate CEO, Inception is exceptionally complicated, but also one of the most original and intelligent films ever made, with stunning visuals that all come together to make a truly exhilarating watch.
And amidst all that sci-fi extravaganza, it’s easy for the actors’ performances to be overshadowed. Not here, though. Leonardo DiCaprio, in the lead role as Dom Cobb, is exceptional. He plays a man with a dark secret from his past, and is just always amazing throughout. It’s a much more understated performance than most of DiCaprio’s roles, but he really shows this man’s confusion and emotional trauma brilliantly, starting off as a seemingly stable man, but as the film goes on, DiCaprio shows how Cobb begins to untangle, and it really is spectacular to watch.
1. The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)
And so, number one. Leonardo DiCaprio’s best film of all is quite possibly the one that he’ll be remembered most for: The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Martin Scorsese’s infamous comedy-crime drama follows the true story of Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who, through a whole host of illegal schemes, climbed his way to becoming one of the richest men in America, and spent it all on a lavish, debaucherous lifestyle involving sex, drugs and everything in between.
The Wolf Of Wall Street isn’t the nicest film in the world, nor is it the most cinematically impressive, but it’s definitely Leo’s best film for one good reason. He completely owns every minute of it.
It’s a three hour long film, and it’s not easy to be completely invested in a hugely unlikeable and immoral character right the way through, but DiCaprio pulls it off. No matter what your head tells you about the fact that everything that this guy is doing is so wrong, and that you shouldn’t be rooting for him, DiCaprio’s performance makes him one of the greatest anti-heroes of all time.
Seriously, he’s so suave, cool and funny at every minute throughout, it’s almost impossible to dislike him despite his ridiculous debauchery, and the fact that it’s DiCaprio who actually changes your own moral compass for a three hour period: that’s pretty incredible, and it’s his best film by far.