The 7 Best Daniel Day-Lewis Movies
Daniel Day-Lewis is a massively accomplished actor. He is one of the highest respected actors currently working. That is to say, he was, prior to his apparent retirement following the completion of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 period feature Phantom Thread. Though he has only been nominated six times, he has the most Academy Awards for Best Actor at 3. So to speak, his batting average is nothing short of incredible. Throughout his illustrious career, Day-Lewis has worked with Steven Spielberg and Michael Mann, as well as Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson both twice. If his retirement is true, it is a tragedy for film fans worldwide. But he will leave behind him an impressive body of work. Below are his seven best performances.
Phantom Thread (2017)
Day-Lewis’ final role may very well be his greatest. He plays Reynolds Woodcock, a massively talented but lonely mid-century fashion designer. Woodcock is without a muse until he meets Alma Elson, a waitress, who inspires him. The film details the ins and outs of their relationship, their clashing personalities. He is catty and often closed off, while she is open and unafraid of judgment. It is a funny, bizarre and gorgeous film only Paul Thomas Anderson could conceive of.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
In the widely-acclaimed There Will Be Blood, Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, a turn-of-the-19th-century miner who strikes it rich. He accumulates tremendous wealth as the years progress, and all the while he becomes increasingly paranoid and spiteful. The film features Paul Dano in a dual role as twin brothers. In all, it is beautiful and tragic, and Day-Lewis’ engrossing performance earned him his second Academy Award for Best Actor.
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Martin Scorsese’s adaptation Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a colorful, dramatic period piece. Day-Lewis plays Newland Archer, a late-19th century New York lawyer who is betrothed to a substantially younger woman, May Welland (Winona Ryder). The two are quite happy until May’s cousin arrives. Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) is in a dead-end marriage. Her world-weariness is a breath of fresh air for Archer in comparison to his fiancee’s unfaltering optimism. Day-Lewis gives a strong performance, as do his co-stars Ryder and Pfeiffer.
Gangs of New York (2002)
Martin Scorsese takes the Five Corners back to before it was Chinatown and Little Italy. In the mid-1800s, it was the territory of Irish Catholic immigrant and Nativist Protestant gangs. An Irish Catholic gang, the Dead Rabbits, was led by Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson) until he was killed by “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Day-Lewis). Years later, Vallon’s son Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns, seeking revenge on Bill. It is certainly not Scorsese nor Day-Lewis’ most lauded project, but it is a truly underrated piece.
Far and wide people know the name Abraham Lincoln. But sadly, we only know him from images. He lived in a world without even rudimentary forms of voice or video recordings. Steven Spielberg and Day-Lewis work together to bring him, in some small way, to the silver screen. Spielberg, now a season veteran in historical biographical pictures, crafts a muted, contemplative film. Day-Lewis was, of course, lauded for his role as the eponymous president as the film recounts the end of the American Civil War and his untimely assassination.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Michael Mann, the brilliant director behind Heat, Collateral and Miami Vice, made an adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s 19th century novel series before any of them. Day-Lewis plays Nathaniel Poe or “Hawkeye,” the adopted son of Chingachgook and brother of Uncas. They are some of the last remaining members of the Mohican tribe. The trio find themselves thrust into the French and Indian War when they elect to save two sisters who have unwittingly walked into trouble.
My Left Foot (1989)
Three decades ago, Day-Lewis won his first Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in My Left Food. The film tells the sweet, uplifting story of Christy Brown. Brown was born with cerebral palsy, having only the use of his titular left foot. He is incapable of walking or talking and he overcomes great obstacles. With his foot, he learns to write, paint and much more all while he and his large family struggle in poverty in Ireland. It is a truly heartwarming ride.