Today we’ve ranked the top Leonardo DiCaprio performances and three that were 100% Oscar-worthy.
He’s one of the most talented, versatile, and unsung (Oscar-wise) actors of our generation.
And although he’s appeared in some amazing films, some of the ones which didn’t do as well at the box office are often the ones where his performance was off the scale.
Here we’ve listed Leo’s top 11.5 performances – not films – to date.
P.S. The top 3 were so difficult to number because they’re all as phenomenal as each other in different ways.
WARNING: The next section contains spoilers
11. Catch Me If You Can
In Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Spielberg’s only movie together to date, Leo plays the part of Frank Abagnale: a true story about a young man who stole millions of dollars successfully pretending to be a doctor, a lawyer, and a co-pilot – all before he turned 21.
And it’s DiCaprio’s charm and charisma that really make this a stand-out role for him. Although he’s a huge crook, you can’t help but admire him and fall (a lot) under his spell.
10. Romeo + Juliet
No list of Leo’s top performances would be complete without a nod to Romeo + Juliet.
Although this wasn’t his first starring role, it was a film that really cemented his place in the spotlight (and on thousands of bedroom walls). Not only did he act his socks off, but he also looked good doing it. Young Leo could hit me with a truck and I’d still apologise.
Next on our list of Leonardo DiCaprio performances ranked is Titanic. Although Titanic has gained a reputation for being nothing more than a soppy chick flick with a well-known soundtrack, it’s so unwarranted because the film is fantastic.
There aren’t many other actors who, in under four hours, could go from meeting a girl for the first time to convincing us that he loves her enough to die for her… not just once, but twice.
Whether or not you like the story, whether or not you like the film, the fact remains: Leo’s performance was outstanding.
Although this is one of my favourite Leo movies as a whole, I don’t think this role allowed him to showcase his talent as much as some of his other ventures – hence why it comes in at number eight.
Playing the role of Cobb – a thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology – we watch as his story unfolds in a surprising and tragic way. Leo’s performance makes us grieve for the enormous loss that he bears a lot of guilt for.
7. Shutter Island
Here’s another film where Leonardo DiCaprio has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
Playing the role of a U.S. Marshal, we’re constantly kept in suspense as to what the shocking truth is that he uncovers. But the way that truth is played out is what makes this one of Leo’s top performances. Everything about it is first-class. And the ending is in another Inception-Esque mind-bender…
6. The Wolf Of Wall Street
Next on our list of Leonardo DiCaprio performances ranked is The Wolf of Wall Street. Despite having a director and two actors that I love, I’m in the minority of people who didn’t enjoy this film. But, of course, DiCaprio was undeniably brilliant.
Leo’s portrayal of obscene Wall Street broker, Jordan Belfort, was played up to the hilt. But while Belfort is a deplorable figure, DiCaprio manages to inject sympathy into the man throughout the film, transforming this scheming con artist into someone you both loathe and pity at the same time.
5. The Great Gatsby
Every time I watch this film, Leo’s performance always tugs at my heartstrings in a way that few others ever have.
DiCaprio plays a man who’s completely besotted with a woman he fell for before he went away to war. She married someone else, and he spends the rest of his life trying to become wealthy enough to win her back.
Although he plays a character who’s ever-optimistic, you see his total vulnerability around Daisy. You see the pain when he wants her to tell her husband that she never loved him. It’s one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s most compelling and moving performances, and one that I feel is entirely underrated.
4.5. The Aviator
You’re probably wondering why this gets a .5 score. Well, I found the first half of this film to be painfully slow. To the point of almost turning it off – but then Leo came into his own and I was completely engrossed until the end credits.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Howard Hughes – record-setting pilot and perfectionist film director – who suffers from germophobia and psychological illness. It’s when this becomes more prominent – to the point of insanity – that DiCaprio really shines.
If you manage to survive the first half, you’ll be blessed with a performance that’ll keep you glued to the screen.
4. Django Unchained
This is the only film (aside from arguably The Man In The Iron Mask) where Leo has really played the bad guy – and boy, does he deliver.
A brutal Mississippi plantation owner who forces slaves to fight for his own entertainment, DiCaprio is the inhuman monster you just love to hate.
And although he was initially uncomfortable with the number of racial slurs he had to use, Samuel L Jackson and Jamie Foxx encouraged Leo to take his character to the extreme.
Considering he famously slammed his hand through glass in an incredibly tense scene – but kept acting until the cameras stopped rolling – I’d say he nailed it.
3. The Departed
Most people didn’t think Martin Scorsese could top his previous gangster masterpieces, but The Departed’s eye-wateringly good cast, masterful directing, and suspense-filled story make it a mob movie to remember.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as the undercover cop infiltrating Boston’s most notorious gang is all kinds of perfection. “I got to play somebody who was constantly in angst, having 24-hour panic attacks, which is something I never got to do before,” said DiCaprio.
You feel his fear, anger, vulnerability, loneliness and fatigue throughout the film. You worry for him, root for him, hope for him, and despair for him.
For these reasons – for the complexity of emotions Leo had to display and provoke from the audience – I rate this above Django and Wolf Of Wall Street which others may score higher.
It took Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese just one day to decide to do it, and it’s still the only film that bagged Scorsese an Oscar for Best Director. But if we had to pick just one film to be remembered for, this is a damn fine one to choose.
2. The Basketball Diaries
Based on Jim Caroll’s autobiographical work, The Basketball Diaries is a dark but compelling film that captures the hidden side of addiction.
Leo plays the part of Jim: a young boy who goes from being a talented high school basketball star to a strung-out heroin addict turning tricks for drugs.
Despite playing the lead role at just 19 years old, Leo’s stellar but heart-wrenching performance accurately depicts the horrific descent of an addict.
The desperation to score, excruciating pain going through withdrawal, and shame at prostituting himself for 35 bucks is all depicted so believably, you could easily be watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary.
But it’s gritty films like these that Leo is born to play. Even Carroll himself said, “I came out of the theatre after seeing The Basketball Diaries thinking, ‘Leonardo DiCaprio can do anything.’”
Make no mistake, this is not a happy film. It’ll leave you feeling desolate and depressed. But if you never watch it, you’ll have missed out on one of DiCaprio’s all-time greatest performances.
1. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
And here we are. At the top of Leonardo DiCaprio top-ranked performance. Surprised at the film? Unfortunately, the best performances are sometimes in films that don’t deserve them. This is one of those films.
Although Johnny Depp plays the lead role and does so admirably, it’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s depiction of an autistic teenager that steals every scene.
In his first oscar-nominated role, 19-year-old Leo brings sensitivity and authenticity to a part that might have come across as distasteful. In fact, his performance was so convincing, several Hollywood film critics were surprised to find out that Leo didn’t actually have a disability in real life. If that’s not a sign of incredible talent, I don’t know what is.
The fact is, Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Arnie Grape is simply sublime. From the improvised ‘nose flick’, the subtle hand gestures and mannerisms, to the way he blinks just that little bit slower and ever so slightly out of sync. This is the kind of talent that you just can’t teach. You either have it or you don’t.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is not a great film. Not by a long chalk. But if you want to see one of the finest bits of acting you’ll ever have the privilege to witness, I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.
And that’s our list of the top 11.5 Leonardo DiCaprio performances ranked and 3 that were 100% Oscar-worthy. Are there any we missed out that you would like to have seen on the list? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out more from our movie pages HERE.
9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies
There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.
1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)
Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.
2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.
3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.
4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.
5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)
Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)
I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.
7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)
This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.
8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)
We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.
9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.
That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.
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