During a recent popular SNL show, Leo ambushed a boastful Jonah Hill warning him of the dangers of being ‘A Big Shot’. This list of DiCaprio’s most successful films to date will demonstrate that DiCaprio isn’t all talk and no trousers; he’s had enough success to make it just about acceptable to publicly mock two-time Oscar Nominee Jonah Hill.
DiCaprio’s wildly successful career began in the late 1990s with a couple of shaky performances in Bubble Yum chewing gum ads, and a role in the 1991 Critters III (which was released with the immortal tag line ‘You are what they eat), but within a few years he began to land increasingly interesting roles. The game changer, which really showcased this young star’s acting chops, was his role alongside Johnny Depp in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. After this, he went on to become Hollywood’s heartthrob as Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
And in 1997, with Titanic, DiCaprio was – in his own words – ‘for the first time, in control of (his) career’. By 2000, at the age of 26 he had established himself as a serious actor, seemingly incapable of choosing a flop project.
Since then he has been involved in some of the largest films of the decade, from the critically acclaimed Django Unchained and The Aviator, to the those which made a huge commercial splash like Inception and the recent Wolf of Wall Street. All in all, his films have grossed an astounding $2.3 billion: Now, we’re tracing DiCaprio’s career with a breakdown of the 10 films starring the actor which grossed the highest according to Box Office Mojo.
10. Gangs of New York: $77.8 million
Scorsese’s film gave DiCaprio a chance to act alongside the powerhouse character actor Daniel Day-Lewis in this violent, three hour long gangland film which received 10 Oscars nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. Gangs of New York marked the end of a two year break from acting for DiCaprio, but despite this it was almost released on the same day as Catch Me If You Can. Amazingly, during a fight scene DiCaprio accidentally broke Day-Lewis’ nose, though this didn’t stop them finishing the scene.
9. The Wolf of Wall Street: $98.5 million
DiCaprio’s latest epic currently places at No.9, but it looks set to rise with tickets in high demand and the film taking in a shocking $10.2m on what’s normally one of the slowest days of the year, Christmas day. Controversy surrounding the glorification of the fraudulent Jordan Belfort (who has a brief cameo) has failed to prevent this film from generating five separate Oscar nominations including one for DiCaprio himself. DiCaprio had been trying to make the film since 2007, when he read Belfort’s account of his rise and fall.
8. The Aviator: $102.6 million
This 2004 biopic was DiCaprio’s second collaboration with Scorsese. It made a cool $100m, the kind of money that the subject of the film, the millionaire Howard Hughes, would have dreamed of making (Hughes’ Hell’s Angels, which he made at the age of 22, only took in $8m.) DiCaprio stars alongside Kate Beckinsale, Cate Blanchett, and a straight faced John C Reilly. Following his roles opposite the likes of Tom Hanks and Daniel Day-Lewis, DiCaprio’s acting attained new heights in this complicated role as the obsessive business magnate, film director and aeronautical engineer. The Aviator is also notable as the first feature length film with which DiCaprio’s production company was involved.
7. Shutter Island: $128 million
2010 was by all accounts a big year for DiCaprio, with Shutter Island in the spring and Inception in the summer. This was the fourth collaborative effort between Scorsese and DiCaprio, and perhaps surprisingly – given its somewhat understated tone – one of their highest grossing films. Scorsese reportedly considered Robert Downey Jr. and Josh Brolin for the lead before eventually opting for his long time partner. The film took half of its estimated total $80m budget in the opening weekend alone.
6. The Departed: $132.4 million
With a cast that includes Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon it’s perhaps unsurprising that this is the most commercially successful film of Scorsese’s career, and one of DiCaprio’s crowning glories. Nicholson originally turned down the role of the Boston gangster, but changed his mind after a meeting with DiCaprio and Scorsese. In addition to the four Oscars which the film won, it also claims the unusual accolade of the most frequent employment of the word ‘F*ck’ (237) of any Best Picture Oscar winner.
5. The Great Gatsby: $144.8 million
Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel received mixed reviews, but this didn’t stop fans flocking to the cinema to don 3D glasses and watch DiCaprio play yet another millionaire opposite the beautiful Carey Mulligan. The film is every bit as colourful and extravagant as was Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet 17 years previously, and all that opulence didn’t come cheap: It cost an estimated $100m to make.
4. Django Unchained: $162.8 million
Cast in the role of the outright villain for the first time since 1998, DiCaprio plays the despicable slave owner Calvin Candie opposite Jamie Foxx. The film was shot over a lengthy period of 130 days, meaning that the budget is estimated to have exceed $100m. Tarantino’s characteristically violent film tells the tale of a slave’s revenge on a planation owner, and although DiCaprio struggled with the extremity of the racist language used by his character, in the final cut he is utterly odious, with cinema audiences purportedly applauding his eventual death.
3. Catch Me If You Can: $164,615,351
This 2002 biopic based on the autobiography of a fraudulent conman turned FBI consultant sees a youthful DiCaprio star opposite veteran actor Tom Hanks. Although Spielberg originally wanted Johnny Depp to play the part of Frank Abagnale it’s hard to imagine anyone but DiCaprio in the role, so well did he define the character. Although there are none of the CGI effects of Inception, none of the elaborate period costumes of Django, it took the film two decades to make it from pitch to screen, and involved almost 4000 extras; as a result, the budget is estimated to be around $50m.
2. Inception: $292.6 million
Due to its epic scale and star-studded cast which includes Joseph Gordon Levitt, Michael Caine and french actress Marion Cotillard, it’s unsurprising that Inception takes the No.2 spot. The film took director Christopher Nolan 8 years to write, but pulled in over $5m in its opening weekend in the UK alone. DiCaprio was paid on a ‘first dollar gross’ basis, which meant that he received a percentage of the price of every ticket. Because of this, by August 2010 DiCaprio had been paid over $50m making him the highest paid actor in Hollywood at the time.
1. Titanic: $658.7 million
And so, to the highest grossing film of Leonardo DiCaprio’s career that was also, for a long while, the most profitable film of all time. Director James Cameron insisted on the relatively unknown 23 year-old DiCaprio against the studio’s wishes, and effectively launched DiCaprio’s career into the stratosphere. The enormous budget of $200m (the largest of any 20th century film, and more than the cost of the original Titanic) was spent in part on submarine trips to examine the ship and on a massive set which was completely obliterated in the filming of the scene in which The Grand Stairway is flooded. The film was so successful that cinemas were forced to replace their copies due to overuse.