It is safe to say that Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the best, most entertaining actors of our time; he takes his work seriously, he is willing to get hurt for his craft, and he always delivers a performance that leaves the viewers awestruck and wanting more. DiCaprio is the type of actor who owns his craft; he wants to be able to improvise, he submerges himself in the character and forces out a performance that has everyone agreeing that no one else could have possibly played that role. Being in the business from the age of five can do that to you; not everyone can say that they have had a long spanning career like Leo, and he owes it all to his loyalty to his craftsmanship. DiCaprio has never been a celebrity that enjoyed the limelight, and he is in it purely for the love of what he does; this has allowed him to be in some films that have garnered great success due in part to how great the performances were. DiCaprio has stamped out such an honorable name for himself that he can now pick and choose what films he wants to star in. He has the ability to bring a character to life that no one would care about otherwise, and he has forged a partnership with Martin Scorsese that makes even established actors weak in the knees.
What is your favorite Leo DiCaprio performance and why? Let this list help guide you.
14 Growing Pains
So yes, we are starting off with not a film but a notable performance indeed. Why is this performance so notable you ask? Simple, this was Leo’s first introduction as a “hottie” into our households. If you grew up with this generation, there is no way that you can say that you did not have a crush on DiCaprio and even if you did not have a crush on him, you certainly knew who he was because all your friends loved him. DiCaprio played the lovable Luke Brower, a street kid who was taken in by the Seavers and stole all of our hearts. Playing such a complex character at 16 years old, you can only go up from there.
DiCaprio played Jack Dawson, a struggling artist who falls in love with an aristocratic young woman aboard a ship destined to fail. Titanic launched DiCaprio to new heights; his performance was flawless and made you want to fall in love in a freezing body of water. Who was not crying when Jack made Kate sit on a broken piece of the ship so she would survive, damn well knowing that he was about to freeze to death? This is probably one of the reasons why this film is the second most successful films of all time; how do you beat a record like that?
12 The Departed
Another flawless performance from DiCaprio as he played undercover cop Billy in a Marty Scorsese production; the Boston accent, the tough exterior and the mobster style characteristics, Billy was a modern day menace. DiCaprio’s anxiety riddled character was one that needed to be broken down only so we could see how he is staying together through all the lies, backstabbing, death threats and of course the pills. The film had a stellar cast and the story is no short of drama; his character is also not the only complex one; in fact, the film is chalked full of intricate characters and enough twists to give you a heart attack and yet, he still did not win the Oscar.
11 The Great Gatsby
Another Baz Luhrmann production; based off of the book of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby was a glittery film that had your eyes glued to the screen. Luhrmann did not hesitate to throw together music, drama, death and complete darkness (he never hesitates). DiCaprio stunned as Jay Gatsby and although the film is not as entertaining as some of his other films, his Gatsby knocked it out of the park. The book had been adapted before with the likes of Robert Redford, Toby Stephens and Alan Ladd, all playing respectable renditions of our doomed protagonist, but we all have to admit Leo put on the most convincing and exciting Gatsby to watch.
10 The Basketball Diaries
At age 20, DiCaprio was shooting for the stars with his appearance as Jim Carroll, a drug addicted basketball player who quickly became homeless and left on the streets to fend for himself. The performance is gritty and even today, is just as hard to watch as when it was initially released. The story of Carroll’s life is so heartbreaking; how anyone could get up the courage to re-enact his tragic life on screen is beyond understandable; but of course, in comes Leo. His skinny frame and the dead look in his eyes, anyone who did not know who DiCaprio was could easily mistake him for a real strung out drug addict; hands down one of the best performances ever.
9 Gangs Of New York
Period pieces are hard to pull off, and most of the time people find them boring, drawn out, unnecessary and normally do not waste their hard earned dollar going to a theater to see it. When Gangs of New York came out that changed; the film was bloody, gory, filthy, gritty and basically played out like a horror film that openly used a lot of raw meat to get their point across. DiCaprio was at the center of this film just as dirty as the rest, and playing a young orphan who grew up to be a vengeful surrogate son of the man who murdered his father all those years ago. DiCaprio does not receive nearly as much recognition as he should for this role however, going back and watching it now you appreciate it much more.
8 The Revenant
Okay, so I am cheating a bit because the film is not out yet but if you have read the dark, gritty book by the same name, then you can see why this film is on this list. DiCaprio has not given a bad performance so far, sometimes mediocre, but never bad (so you can expect nothing less from his upcoming film). It centers on a man who is left for dead by his “friends” after a bear attack; they bury him alive in hopes that he will die sooner rather than later, but surprise he survives and seeks one hell of a revenge. How can you not assume that this performance is going to be top notch? You can expect the cunning nature of Jordan Belfort, the dirty atmosphere of Gangs of New York, a dark tale like Basketball Diaries and another amazing performance by the man himself.
7 Romeo + Juliet
An archaic love story was brought back to life in the form of a modern day film. DiCaprio played who else but Romeo alongside a very popular Clair Danes. Who else could have made a normally dreaded overdone play that was the bane of every middle schoolers existence, into something that was exciting, energizing and easier to understand? Baz Luhrmann directed the hell out of this film and had DiCaprio so captivated and excited about the production that he paid his own expenses to attended workshops to better his performance, and ultimately ended up running the show on set. He and Danes make a stimulating combo, don’t you think?
Leo admits that Inception did not make sense to him when he was filming it; this is good to know because it did not make sense to a lot of us either. Either way, he still gave a stellar performance as a man who enters people’s dreams (this is clearly a very basic description). DiCaprio says that he was drawn to the complexity of the film and like most of his films, that confusion and complex nature translated very well on screen. Even though we were confused, the multifaceted nature of his character Cobb, was intoxicating to say the least. By the way, who else is still confused about the ending?
5 Catch Me If You Can
The heartthrob sure loves a true story; playing Frank Abagnale Jr. in Catch Me If You Can is no different. The film was full of excitement, tricks and one quick-witted, smarty pants; Abagnale was a con artist and a great one at that. DiCaprio took on this performance with both feet in the door, hence why the New York Times gave it such a glowing review. They described DiCaprio as melting into the body and the mind of a precocious teenage Abagnale. DiCaprio plays insecure, determined and intense so well throughout the film; the character translates so easily that it can only be played by Leo.
4 Django Unchained
Playing a quick-witted slave owner was something brand new to Leo. However, as always he was fully committed and even injured himself in the process. The character of Calvin Candy was a risky one, the film in general was risky but DiCaprio’s performance was able to add a tiny bit of light-heartedness, seeing as it was a bit exaggerated. He is delish in this role; he did not hold back and the overacting worked out in his favor (probably just how he planned). The diabolical nature of Calvin Candy can easily be overshadowed by DiCaprio’s good looks and past amazing performances, but yet again he holds his own.
3 What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
It is hard to play a character that is handicapped and not come off as offensive and piss off a lot of people. However, this performance proved that a young DiCaprio was a force to be reckoned with by playing Arnie Grape, alongside megastar Johnny Depp. He stole the movie and the hearts of many; rumor has it that DiCaprio wanted to REALLY act, so all those scenes where you see him crying, well those are real tears. This was his first Oscar nominated performance and even though he did not win (and still has not won), we all know he deserved it just like every other time he was shunned.
2 Blood Diamond
Did anyone else truly believe that Leo was a real South African after this incredible, yet heartbreaking performance? This gut-wrenching film about a man looking for a huge diamond and another man looking for his stolen son, who cross paths and are forced to help one another, is all too real in this world. Blood Diamond was good enough to be nominated for an Oscar and this has to be because of the incredible performances from both Leo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou. The moment when DiCaprio’s character Danny Archer sacrifices himself to help this man whom he barely knows restores faith in movie humanity. Although the story is pretty straight forward, there is something to be said about a film that has left many people in tears (by many I mean me).
1 The Wolf of Wall Street
The exciting life of con man Jordan Belfort, was brought to the screen by Martin Scorsese, but it was brought to life by DiCaprio’s incredible performance. There is so much to say about this film and the terrific acting not just by DiCaprio, but by Matthew McConaughey as well (who was only in about 5 minutes of the film). DiCaprio stated that he improvised a lot on this film which is most likely why it came out so well. The movie is 3 hours of drugs, money, obscene expenses and of course, DiCaprio at his best. It is as though he is a wise guy, a smarty pants, and a complete A-hole, all rolled into one conniving, offensive human being.