1. The Aviator (2004): My favorite DiCaprio film, and probably his best performance. He portrays Howard Hughes, the OCD inflicted film mogul and aviation fanatic throughout the high and low points of his career. Hughes was very particular about everything in every aspect of his life, ranging from which steering wheel he wanted to use in a plane to how many chocolate chips should be existent on his cookie. OCD heavily affected Hughes, and he spent four months in a viewing room not leaving to bathe, relieve himself, or anything. DiCaprio accurately depicted Hughes in his ruined state. In preparation for his role, DiCaprio spoke with Jane Russell, Hughes’s starring actress in his film The Outlaw to further understand the stubborn man. He also spent time with an OCD patient named Edward in order to understand the mannerisms and habits that go along with the mental disorder. DiCaprio won the Golden Globe for this performance and received a nomination from the Academy, as his thorough homework and research paid off.
2. Wolf of Wall Street (2013): His latest film and Golden-Globe winning performance as Jordan Belfort is dynamic. We love him as much as we hate him, and want to be him as much as we wish him hell. DiCaprio’s performance is a memorable one, especially the Lemmons scene. As he inch-worms around a country club reenacting how Belfort responded to the expired drugs is horrifying. Real-life Jordan Belfort was on-set with DiCaprio, coaching him on how he should behave to make it as accurate as possible. Ever since he read the novel which the film is based on in 2007, DiCaprio obsessed on making it into a film with him as Belfort. He wanted to portray Belfort throughout his career’s highs and lows as honestly as they could be onscreen. DiCaprio has won a Golden Globe and received a nomination from the Academy for his work in this film.
3. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993): DiCaprio’s first Oscar nomination came from this film as Best Supporting Actor, and brought his existence to the attention of moviegoers worldwide. In this film, his role as Arnie Grape, Gilbert’s (Johnny Depp) mentally retarded brother is moving. Upon learning that he was just a normal teenaged kid acting in a role, many were shocked. In preparation for this role, DiCaprio spent a few days in a home for mentally retarded teens, describing the experience as “refreshing.” His performance is moving, and we grow to love Arnie irrevocably by the film’s conclusion. It’s pretty safe to say that the Oscar is twenty years overdue.
4. Django Unchained (2012): Tarantino knew what he was doing when he cast the DiCaprio as unscrupulous plantation owner, Calvin Candie. Though this performance snubbed him from an Oscar nomination as the Academy favored his co-star Christoph Waltz as Dr. Schulz, it is still a great one. His teeth are grimy, and his beard is intimidating, but we love this villain as much as we hate him. Candie intrigues us with his incest-dripping relationship and love for brutality. In Django Unchained, there is a scene where he takes () Kerry Washington and threatens to kill her. Before, he bangs his fist on the table and cuts it, credited by a piece of glass. Even though he was in excruciating pain, DiCaprio worked his way through the scene. Tarantino liked the take so much that made it into the final product.
5. Revolutionary Road (2008): Probably the uncomfortable performance to sit through, as far as brutality of a character goes. He plays Frank Wheeler, a man caught up in the expectations of the American Dream and suburban lifestyles of the 1950’s. Engrossed in being the perfect patriarch to a perfect family, he and Alice (Kate Winslet) struggle every second to fulfill their dreams. Mr. Wheeler is a brutish character, and unlike Candie in Django, we are not intrigued by him and wish the worst for him. DiCaprio’s screaming matches and heartless nature truly brings Frank Wheeler to life. The realization of their personal problems only forms itself in instances of complete loss. Their performances together are far more moving, as their characters are able to develop further than they did in Titanic. It’s pretty clear why so many fanatics are lobbying for another Winslet-DiCaprio film.
6. Catch Me If You Can (2002): Despite the real-life Frank Abagnale Jr.’s doubt, DiCaprio was an excellent choice to portray him in the adaptation of the memoir of the same name. Here, DiCaprio plays the suave Frank Abagnale Jr., a young man who charades as a pilot, laywer and a doctor and steals millions-all before he turns 21. The smooth-talking teenager made millions illegally, met many people and went under several different names to accomplish his goals. DiCaprio has the capability of selling ice to an eskimo in this film, and nobody is as simultaneously slick and charming. His con-man nature and emotional struggles that emerge from his relationship with his father give DiCaprio the motive to do all this crazy scheming. The best part of the film? Everything is accurate to what actually happened to Abagnale Jr.
7. Shutter Island (2010): Further proving that whoever Leo portrays becomes damaged and undone, he stars in this Scorsese film as US Marshal Teddy Daniels. Daniels suffers from PTSD after serving in the Second World War, and is sent to Shutter Island on a wild goose chase to find an escaped prisoner. Watching reality become lies and vice versa for Daniels is ever-confusing. In fact, audiences are just as confused as DiCaprio’s character is. However, DiCaprio shows legitimate despair throughout the gloomy film. Scorsese and DiCaprio’s fourth collaboration at that point seems to be working, as both are brilliantly talented.
8. Romeo + Juliet (1996): As horrible as this film was, it is important to give credit where credit is due. Aside from being every teenage girl’s crush in the 1990’s, Leo is romantic as hell in this film as the titular character, the ideal Romeo. The soft look in his eyes and articulation of all things Shakespeare are hard to ignore. Not many people who aren’t Shakespearean trained actors can do Shakespeare well. DiCaprio’s version of Romeo’s speech outside of Juliet’s window was so beautiful that Claire Danes (Juliet) cried, even though she wasn’t meant to at the moment. It will make any girl croon from their window, “Romeo, Romeo.”
9. The Great Gatsby (2013): Another nightmarish film, but there are few actors who could pull off Gatsby well. Leo is one of them. His good looks and reassuring smile are enough for him to carry us through Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic. Caught up once more in the American Dream gone haywire, DiCaprio plays a man who can be “interpreted in so many ways: a hopeless romantic, a completely obsessed wacko or a dangerous gangster, clinging to wealth." Although DiCaprio is no Robert Redford, his charm brings Gatsby to life in a tasteful way. The imaginative look in DiCaprio’s eyes are enchanting, but also bring the mystery behind Gatsby’s wealth to the forefront.
10. The Departed (2006): this Oscar-worthy performance was once more overlooked by the Academy, but the competition was stiff alone, as his co-stars included Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson, and the film did get Best Picture in its year. DiCaprio plays Billy Costigan here, a undercover cop working to unfoil a mob scheme. Once more, DiCaprio plays a character who is misunderstood and pretending to be something he is not. It takes great skill to play both ends of the spectrum as a character, as well as acting both roles. DiCaprio takes on this ultimate challenge in other films as well as The Departed and his work paid in the film paid off, as one of the main characters in an Oscar-winning film.