It’s hard to think of a stronger dramatic actor than Leonardo DiCaprio. He made a name for himself at a very young age for taking on deep and emotional roles.
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DiCaprio chooses the films he stars in very carefully. He’s cultivated his brand as an intense actor over the years, periodically branching out into action, sci-fi, and even historical fiction.
10) Romeo and Juliet (1996)
Leonardo DiCaprio was still a relatively new name when he starred in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, opposite Claire Danes. It was a hyper-stylized film that took the classic story and put it into modern day California.
There were guns, plenty of action, and elaborate set designs. Yet, DiCaprio’s acting was top-notch, and his great chemistry with Claire Danes made it a very popular adaptation of the famous play.
9) Blood Diamond (2006)
Blood Diamond had DiCaprio play a diamond hunter in post-colonial Africa. After a gigantic diamond is rumored to be found, DiCaprio’s character seeks to help the man who stole it from the mine.
DiCaprio plays a ruthless man seeking to make money at all costs, but he has a strong character arc that eventually redeems him. Also, it helps that the film shines some light on a very controversial and pertinent political issue.
8) The Departed (2006)
It’s hard to isolate just DiCaprio’s role in The Departed, as the film has such a all-star cast, and yet, his part as an undercover cop in Boston’s Irish mob is very well done.
Martin Scorsese directed this cast and story to perfection. It has twists and turns, as well as some memorable lines of dialogue. It might have a tragic end for DiCaprio’s character, but that’s kind of the point of the film, and what makes it so appealing.
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7) Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Catch Me If You Can definitely shows off DiCaprio’s wide range of characters. He very rarely if ever takes on comedic roles, but this fun Steven Spielberg-directed film is about as close as he can get.
DiCaprio plays a con artist being chased by an FBI agent played by Tom Hanks. The film is fun and light-hearted, yet DiCaprio’s character has a lot of dramatic heart, and it still shines through in his performance.
6) The Aviator (2004)
The Aviator is a very long and dramatic biopic about the billionaire pilots and inventor Howard Hughes. The film might be slow at parts, but DiCaprio’s performance is iconic.
Out of all of his roles, DiCaprio truly loses himself in this one, and it shows. He depicts Howard Hughes’ mania to a scary degree, and it was so compelling it earned him an Oscar nomination.
5) The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street was a project that Leonardo DiCaprio had been working on for a long time, and it shows just how passionate he was about it with his performance. It was funny, sad, and very relevant to the time.
Based on a true story, the film has Leonardo DiCaprio play a ruthless and a moral stock broker. From a story standpoint, there are so many scenes in the film that do nothing for the plot. However, it’s so great seeing DiCaprio and Jonah Hill play off of each other, that it would be hard to cut them.
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4) Django Unchained (2012)
On the one hand, Django Unchained is very difficult to watch. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a brutal slave owner that refuses to release Jamie Foxx’s wife. However, it’s also an eye opening film.
The cast all deliver great performances, yet it’s hard to think than any rise above DiCaprio’s. He is so ruthless and demeaning that the person DiCaprio is gets completely lost in the role. All that’s left is a rich racist determined to humiliate anyone that crosses him.
3) Titanic (1997)
Titanic was a juggernaut of a film. It dominated the box office, and even the home video market for years. This is in large part due to Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s performances as star-crossed lovers.
James Cameron’s attention to detail not just in depicting historical accuracy, but also telling an engaging fictional story is impressive. It was a film that got DiCaprio enormous praise, and set him on the path to stardom.
2) Gangs of New York (2002)
It’s a shame that more films don’t depict this chaotic time in New York City’s history. However, Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis absolutely shine as two rival gang members in the Big Apple during the Civil War.
The film is very poignant from a historical standpoint, but it also takes certain liberties to allow for the most drama and violence. It shines the spotlight on corruption and racism during a time when America’s future was highly uncertain.
1) Inception (2010)
Leonardo DiCaprio rarely shies away from grounded films, but Inception may just be his best. The movie has his character plan and lead a heist inside someone else’s dreams.
This cerebral sci-fi action film has so many different elements of genre to it that it is perfect for something by Christopher Nolan. It forces the audience to think, and challenges them to look outside the box. The entire cast gives great performances, but it’s DiCaprio’s emotional story arc that grounds the plot.
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