10 Best Leonardo DiCaprio Performances

In light of me being incredibly busy, coupled with the things keeping me busy not being too exciting, I decided to rank some movies again. I went with the career of a man who is certainly not a millennial, but rather, his birth of fame falls, generationally, into our midst. That’s right. This guy has been famous longer than many of you have been alive. Please enjoy, and Happy #MillenialFriday

Honorable Mention: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Shutter Island, The Great Gatsby, Romeo+Juliet

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10 . The Revenant

This is the one that got him the hardware. I’m sure DiCaprio holds this film in high regard. It is the vessel that helped him capture his white whale. He gives some incredible physical sacrifice for the purpose of the film, but make no mistake, this is Scorsese getting Best Picture for The Departed instead of Raging Bull or Goodfellas. An award to make up for a career’s worth of oversight by The Academy. (Right actor, wrong film as it’s often called) Leo is great in this and he won Best Actor, the crazy thing? He has nine better performances.

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9. Django Unchained

One of the most out-of-school performances we’ve seen DiCaprio play. Not only does he have to play an antebellum slave owner, he has to play the (obvious) antagonist. After a long career of playing the good guy, it’s great to see him go bad... rather, evil.

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8. Inception

This is Leo’s most “wait, what?” movie ever. The entire time he’s speaking he’s also hiding his intentions. He has a hidden agenda that we can’t quite parse through. He expresses himself mostly through silence and forces us to pay attention to everything he does.

7. Revolutionary Road

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The second installation of Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio raising each other’s performance on-screen brings just as much chemistry as their previous work, Titanic. What Revolutionary Road matches its casting predecessor in chemistry, it lacks in romance. On the surface Kate and Leo are just as much in love. In fact, the Revolutionary Road trailer circled the Internet for some time as a rumored (read:fake) Titanic 2, but a little ways into the movie that facade of love crumbles and what we are left with is something much more sinister. He moves between perfect suburban couple and screaming match effortlessly. A wide range of emotions coming from Leo here.

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6. Gangs of New York

It is important to remember that when this movie comes out Leonardo DiCaprio is not yet 30 years old. I only say that because in Gangs he goes toe-to-toe with, maybe the greatest actor to ever do it, Daniel Day-Lewis. While DDL was acting at the helm of this movie it solidified DiCaprio as capable and able to hold his own. Even when his co-star is the greatest living actor.

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5. Titanic

“I’m king of the world!” the iconic line DiCaprio shouts on the bow of the massive ship as he anchors this 3 hour epic. The only more moving moment is when that line manifested itself in the press following this movie. Before Titanic, Leo was a young, talented, but still needed to prove himself actor. After Titanic? King of the World.

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4. The Departed

One of the grittier performances to come out of DiCaprio, and he plays the streets well. In a movie loaded with stars, DiCaprio shines. He is a confident police recruit in the beginning of the film. Then he becomes this angst filled guy, angered that he’s being underutilized as an undercover. Eventually, his character is in near-constant paranoia about his cover being blown. He simultaneously plays tough-guy, who smashes barware over the heads of mobsters, and in the next scene he is taking a tongue lashing from his superior officer. We watch this unfold over the course of the movie, and it’s great to see happen right before your eyes.

As a kid from L.A. he is a surprisingly convincing gruff, Boston native. Also, I can’t stress enough, he didn’t do the accent, and that made this character. A bad accent would have sunk this entire movie. Less is more and Leo knows best.

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3. The Wolf of Wall Street

DiCaprio is tasked with playing a rich guy who exclusively hangs out with models on yachts. What a reach. Many people think this is DiCaprio’s best role, and while it is great, I am just not in that camp. That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize this performance for the talent he put into it. Again, carrying a movie for three hours is a very hard thing to do. Leo does this one with flying colors.

Scenes to highlight are his physical acting when he’s taken way too many quaaludes, which is a stand out scene. Also, not as noticed and flying under the radar, are his speaking scenes. On set, Leo would recite these three and four page monologues from memory, Scorsese would give him a note on how to do it slightly different, and he would do the same, entire, monologue except this time to include Scorsese's notes. The guy is an acting machine. And he does that for three hours. Insanity.

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2. The Aviator

Hollywood’s hottest actor portrays Hollywood’s most puzzling man. DiCaprio takes on aviation and film magnate Howard Hughes, and he nails it. From Hughes’s Texas drawl, to his eccentric behavior at the end of his life, DiCaprio captures a mysterious man for the silver screen. I don’t know how many times I’ll stress this, but chalk it up as another three hour epic that DiCaprio is at the center of. I don’t know if there’s a scene this guy isn’t in. It’s a hell of a lot of screen time, and DiCaprio is great in every second.

He plays humble, angry, obsessive, smitten, paranoid, ambitious, and so much more. AND he swaps his blonde locks for a brunette look. (He looks like a young Finn Wittrock, just saying) The guy can do anything. There are scenes that are completely stripped down, (literally, DiCaprio is naked), and he just sits there and stares at a projector screen. Even that is captivating. You see it several times throughout the movie and each time he sits there and stares, nothing. Yet, each time one of those scenes comes up you are ready for anything to happen.

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1. Catch Me If You Can

This is Leonardo DiCaprio at his finest. Everything I’ve mentioned in the previous nine movies are present here. He is charming, confident, smooth talking as infamous con-artist Frank Abagnale. He glides through scenes, lying about his identity, and making so many of-the-moment decisions you’d think the lie come from DiCaprio’s sharp decision-making itself. We also see DiCaprio up against another all-star actor in Tom Hanks, and once again, Leo does much more than just hold his own.

Later in Abagnale's life, and in the movie, we see him sulking in a French prison. The glitz and glamour of a charmed life are now gone, and now DiCaprio is playing a desperate man and playing one incredibly convincingly. Lastly, is there anything more fun than seeing peak Leo? He has to be charismatic, charming, he has to show grace under pressure even when the audience is getting worried for him. He, quite literally, wears many hats. This movie gives us pilot Leo, lawyer Leo, doctor Leo, and, of course, criminal Leo. If you haven’t seen this yet, treat yourself. If you have, you’re overdue for a rewatch.

Get your Leo fix in. If you have any other categories of movies you’d like ranked, tweet them with #MillenialFriday and I’ll get to it.

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