I read Erin Nolan’s “Leonardo DiCaprio: Top Five/Bottom Five” at Film.com (yes, that’s me over there as the first commenter) and I started thinking about how a top ten Leonardo DiCaprio films may be a good list to make, and one I could hammer out relatively quick. Then I took at look at DiCaprio’s filmography and realized I couldn’t make a list of ten films. I had eight, but not ten.
You may be thinking, “Just throw two you think are just okay at the bottom and call it good.” Negative, I don’t do that. There’s no chance I am throwing The Man in the Iron Mask, Romeo + Juliet, The Basketball Diaries or The Quick and the Dead on any list of mine just to fill space. Sorry, those films aren’t good enough (or at all) and to put them on a top ten list would be to recognize them as such, at least on some level.
So, instead of all that noise I quickly noticed that since 2002 DiCaprio has made nothing but solid films. Seriously, since 2002 I haven’t disliked a single DiCaprio feature (not counting 11th Hour because I didn’t see it). What’s even more remarkable is that almost every time out DiCaprio plays a character I think there is no way he can pull it off.
A tough guy in Gangs of New York? Yeah, right. Dude’s 75 pounds wet. Yet, he pulled it off.
Howard Hughes in The Aviator? Negative, ain’t gon’ work. Pulled it off.
Even in The Departed he had to pull off a character much tougher than Leo appears to be. He pulls off every scene. In Blood Diamond he is a South African mercenary for crying out loud. I know some critics didn’t particularly like that film, but I LOVED it. He continues his trend in Body of Lies which opened this weekend to a disappointing box-office take, but I still liked it nonetheless (my review). Once again, he doesn’t do anything too impressive, but he always manages to bring something unique to the feature. DiCaprio is never amazing in my opinion, but his movies have been damn entertaining for the past six years and I figured that was worth at least some kind of attention.
For so long DiCaprio was known as one of the up-and-coming pretty boys. He was all over the covers of Teen Beat and Bop magazine and the 14-year-old girls loved him and because of that I don’t think he was ever taken all that seriously. He then earned some attention for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) alongside Johnny Depp in which he was nominated for a Supporting Actor Oscar and Golden Globe. Prior to Gilbert Grape it was “Growing Pains” and Poison Ivy. Being a Teen Beat cover boy and an Oscar nominee seemed contradictory, which way was he going to go?
Considering it doesn’t look like DiCaprio has ever technically grown up; now being just shy of 34-years-old he still looks like a man in his early 20s, it is amazing he is able to manage some of these performances. Of course, Titanic (1997) wasn’t any kind of massive stretch, “Rose! Go Rose! No Rose! Rose!” He didn’t have much of a choice in that film and I think when Kate Winslet yanked him over the seat in that automobile, prior to their window steaming love session, it was a good sign Jack was going to do what Rose wanted, period. Nevertheless, I love that film, which isn’t a popular thing to say now days, but I will tell you now I saw it more than once in the theaters.
After Titanic there was the mediocre The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and the awful The Beach (2000), but in 2002 both Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg got hold of him and he has never looked back. He went from Scorsese, to Spielberg, to Scorsese, to Ed Zwick, to Ridley Scott and has the Sam Mendes directed Revolutionary Road in December and then it is back to Scorsese in 2009 with Shutter Island based on the Dennis Lehane novel of the same name. Not a lot of actors can claim such a scorecard. Perhaps when I recently asked “Who’s the Next Big Male Movie Star?” I should have said we already have him and his name is Leonardo DiCaprio.
That said, let’s take a peek at a few of his flicks and then I leave it up to you to vote for your favorite DiCaprio film in the poll at the end of the article and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Don’t be shy, I thrive on those that disagree with me. It’s what makes this so much fun.