Ah, good ol’ Leo. From Hollywood heartthrob to Oscar winner, DiCaprio has been one of the biggest movie stars for decades. He has spent most of his career trying to upturn our expectations of him, and with a catalogue of fascinating roles, he is definitely one of the greatest actors of his generation. So, here’s my countdown of what I believe, are his top ten best films in his career so far.
10. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
The heart-warming What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, was the film that gave Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar nomination at the age of just 19. He portrayed mentally disabled, Arnie Grape, alongside Johnny Depp. DiCaprio was so convincing that many people at the time thought he was genuinely disabled. It’s not the first film DiCaprio starred in, but the first to display his immeasurable talent.
Quoted: “I’m having a birthday party, but you’re not invited, but you can come if you want.”
9. The Departed (2006)
The Departed is a remake of the Hong Kong film, Internal Affairs (2002), and DiCaprio stars as an undercover cop, tasked with the infiltration of crime boss, Francis Costello (Jack Nicholson). DiCaprio delivers an excellent performance, and it’s one of the many roles DiCaprio undertook in the early-mid 2000’s, that helped him shake off his “heartthrob” image.
Quoted: “Why don’t you give me a bottle of scotch and a handgun to blow my fucking head off!”
8. Titanic (1997)
Titanic was the film that confirmed DiCaprio’s star power. His role as Jack Dawson showed that he had the charisma and depth to lead a big-budget Hollywood film. He gave an emotionally-driven, highly dramatic and memorable performance.
Quoted: “I’m the king of the world!”
7. The Aviator (2004)
Very few actors could portray the complexities of obsessive-compulsive disorder so accurately. In biographical drama The Aviator, DiCaprio plays legendary filmmaker Howard Hughes, who suffered from the illness. The film spans several years of Hughes’ life, and DiCaprio brilliantly brings the man to life on screen.
Quoted: “Sometimes I truly fear that I am losing my mind. And if I did, it would be like flying blind.”
6. Shutter Island (2010)
Martin Scorsese once again calls upon DiCaprio, this time to play U.S. Marshall, Edward “Teddy” Daniels in Shutter Island. Alongside his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), he is sent to investigate the disappearance of a patient in an insane asylum. I believe this psychological thriller is one of DiCaprio’s most intriguing and chilling roles.
Quoted: “Which would be worse – to live as a monster? Or die as a good man?”
5. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
The combination of DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in Catch Me If You Can, made for such an entertaining film. DiCaprio’s role as Frank Abagnale, a con man who forged cheques worth millions of US dollars, is one of his most fun and engaging roles. Even though he looks absolutely nothing like the real-life Abagnale, DiCaprio plays the role of a fraud very convincingly.
Quoted: “Dear dad, you always told me that an honest man has nothing to fear, so I’m trying my best not to be afraid.”
4. Django Unchained (2012)
DiCaprio has mainly played likeable and heroic characters, so his role in Django Unchained, as the psychotic plantation owner, Calvin J. Candie, is arguably one of his most powerful performances. Who can forget that epic moment when he cut his hand on a glass and improvised the scene, never breaking character? It’s a great film and DiCaprio’s violent and villainous portrayal extends his versatility as an actor.
Quoted: “He is a rambunctious sort, ain’t he?”
3. The Revenant (2016)
Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant is a perilous and mesmerising story of vengeance. DiCaprio portrays legendary American frontiersman, Hugh Glass who was left for dead by his fellow fur traders. Even though he has little dialogue and spends most of his time crawling through heaps of snow and mud, DiCaprio produces a masterful performance, finally clinching an Oscar as a result.
Quoted: “I ain’t afraid to die anymore. I’d done it already”
2. Inception (2010)
In Christopher Nolan’s conceptually ingenious film, DiCaprio’s Dom Cobb leads a special espionage team to perform inception: planting ideas by invading people’s dreams. Although it doesn’t quite reach the top spot, I love Inception, as it’s one of the most original films I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.
Quoted: “She locked away a secret, deep inside herself, something she once knew to be true… but chose to forget.”
1. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
In Leo’s fifth Scorsese role and easily their best effort to date, he stars as stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, a rampant fraudster who leads a very hedonistic lifestyle, engaging in all kinds of debauchery. The film’s genius is within its comic representation of the Wall Street mentality. And the reason I have placed The Wolf of Street as number one is because it’s the most enjoyable DiCaprio film, and I believe he gave his most engaging acting performance.
Quoted: “Pick up the phone and start dialling! I want you to deal with your problems by becoming rich!”
So, what do you think? What’s your favourite DiCaprio film? Let me know in the comment section.
This is a re-written version of a post I wrote for my university’s student magazine, which you can find here.
5 thoughts on “Top 10 Best Leonardo DiCaprio Films”
Great list, but in my opinion his best films were pre-Titanic simply because for such a young actor his showed a tremendous potential – the acting was just mind-blowing. I don’t see “the Basketball Diaries” here, but Leo’s acting there still gives me goosebumps. Btw, he was also excellent in “Revolutionary Road.”
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Love a Leo film 🙂 One of a few actors who never lets you down and I always believe that he is the character he is playing! I have a few favourite Leo films not mentioned above including: The Beach (2000), Gangs of New York (2002), The Quick and the Dead (1995).
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You’re right, he does never let you down. I haven’t seen The Beach and The Quick and the Dead, but I’ll be sure to check them out
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if you are a Leo fan you must watch Basketball Diaries and This boy’s life…..both understated films with very strong performances by the man himself.
Great post! I’m not sure if I could easily compose a top 10 for him; he was the best acting/movie resume in Hollywood, in my opinion. I still can’t believe he didn’t receive a nomination for Django (I thought his performance was the best out of the ensemble). If I had to choose a personal favorite, I guess I’d go with Catch Me If You Can 🙂
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