Leonardo DiCaprio is back on the big screen this summer in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” one of the most hotly anticipated movie releases of 2019. DiCaprio has already been tipped for an Oscar for his turn as fading 1960s Hollywood star Rick Dalton, which naturally brings to mind his previous roles.
With a career spanning some 27 years, there’s certainly no shortage of memorable performances. We combined each film’s Metacritic score with its position in a Ranker list to compile this list of DiCaprio’s 25 best performances.
25. ‘Celebrity’ (1998)
Detractors of “Celebrity,” Woody Allen’s tribute to Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” agree that Leonardo DiCaprio as an arrogant young movie star is the best thing about the film — and perhaps the only good thing.
“In every minute of DiCaprio’s participation — some 10 to 20 in all — he juices ‘Celebrity’ with a power surge that subsides as soon as he exits,” reads a review in Entertainment Weekly.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to save the movie from commercial failure.
24. ‘Total Eclipse’ (1995)
Agnieszka Holland’s literary epic about the passionate, forbidden affair between 19th-century poets Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) and Arthur Rimbaud (DiCaprio) almost didn’t get released. This was partly due to its then-scandalous subject matter, but also because it simply wasn’t a great movie.
“DiCaprio seems purposefully miscast as an all-too-modern young punk version of the legendary live-fast-die-young poet who comes into Verlaine’s life, seduces him, and disrupts his mentor/lover’s marriage,” observed Rolling Stone.
23. ‘Body Of Lies’ (2008)
In Ridley Scott’s Middle East-set terrorism-and-espionage thriller “Body of Lies,” based on David Ignatius’s novel of the same name, DiCaprio plays a CIA operative (Roger Ferris) who gets into a sticky situation. It may be one of DiCaprio’s most forgettable movies, but many critics gave him credit for his performance.
“The acting is convincing,” wrote film critic Roger Ebert. “DiCaprio makes Ferris almost believable in the midst of absurdities.”
22. ‘The Quick And The Dead’ (1995)
Sam Raimi’s Revisionist Western stars DiCaprio as a cocky young cowboy Fee “The Kid” Herod, alongside pro gunfighter “The Lady” (Sharon Stone) and mysterious outlaw Cort (Russell Crowe). It wasn’t a huge hit with moviegoers or critics, though not all reviews were bad.
“With humour, solid acting, and Raimi’s undoubted cinematic flair, ‘The Quick and the Dead’ does more to rescue the Western from both pomposity and prejudice than any other film since ‘Blazing Saddles,'” reads a review from the BBC.
21. ‘The Man In The Iron Mask’ (1998)
For his dual role as the title character and villain (King Louis XIV/Philippe Bourbon) in “The Man in the Iron Mask,” DiCaprio won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple. Still, not all of the reviews were bad. Empire called the film “consistently entertaining” and observed that DiCaprio “acquits himself well alongside his more seasoned co-stars.” So for diehard Leo fans, it’s still worth a watch.
20. ‘The Beach’ (2000)
Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Alex Garland’s thriller stars DiCaprio as Richard, a young tourist looking for adventure in Bangkok. As the first project DiCaprio signed on to after his huge success in “Titanic,” “The Beach” was a highly anticipated film, but it failed to live up to expectations. However, Rolling Stone described it as a “lost Leonardo DiCaprio classic” and said it was the film that “proved he was a movie star.”
19. ‘J. Edgar’ (2011)
DiCaprio played the lead in “J. Edgar,” Clint Eastwood’s biopic about J. Edgar Hoover, the former head of the FBI.
“DiCaprio’s Hoover is an interesting and considered performance,” reads a review in The Guardian, while The New York Times described him as “forceful” and “vulnerable.” The film received mixed reviews but was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2011, and DiCaprio earned several award nominations.
18. ‘The Basketball Diaries’ (1995)
Crime drama “The Basketball Diaries,” which was loosely based on the autobiographical novel by the same name by Jim Carroll, received mixed reviews. However, one thing was clear: The young DiCaprio (as Carroll, a promising high school basketball player and writer who becomes addicted to heroin) was willing to take risks. Rolling Stone described him as “electrifying in a bust-out star performance.”
17. ‘Marvin’s Room’ (1996)
By 1996, DiCaprio had carved out quite a niche for himself playing troubled teenagers, and family melodrama “Marvin’s Room” was no different. Even heavyweight castmembers Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro don’t overshadow the young DiCaprio as Streep’s pyromaniac son Hank.
“DiCaprio, on his good days, is one of the best young actors we have,” wrote Roger Ebert. “Here he supplies the nudge the story needs to keep from reducing itself to a two-sided conversation; he is the distraction, the outside force, the reminder that life goes on and no problem, not even a long death, is forever.”
16. ‘This Boy’s Life’ (1993)
One of DiCaprio’s earliest leading roles was in the movie adaptation of Tobias Wolff’s coming-of-age memoir “This Boy’s Life.” As Toby, the moody son of troubled single mom Caroline (Ellen Barkin), DiCaprio more than holds his own against Robert De Niro, who plays Caroline’s sadistic, bullying boyfriend Dwight.
“DiCaprio steals the show,” reads a review on Empire.
15. ‘The Great Gatsby’ (2013)
After gritty roles in the likes of “Shutter Island,” “Inception” and “Django Unchained,” fans of DiCaprio’s softer side welcomed him as Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby.”
“This is the first film in many years that allowed him to showcase a real smile; for a brief moment, it was nice to have Leo the Romantic back in our midst,” reads a review in Rolling Stone.
While the film divided opinion, it remains Luhrmann’s highest-grossing feature, taking in over $353 million worldwide.
14. ‘Romeo + Juliet’ (1996)
Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet” paired DiCaprio with Claire Danes and remains the only project the two Hollywood heavyweights have worked on together.
“He’s brilliant and amazing at what he does and one of the most interesting and smart people I’ve ever met,” Danes said of her co-star at the time.
In 2005, “Romeo + Juliet” was included on the BFI list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14.
13. ‘Revolutionary Road’ (2008)
Reunited with his “Titanic” partner Kate Winslet, DiCaprio plays Frank Wheeler in Sam Mendes’ heart-wrenching romantic drama “Revolutionary Road,” which was based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Richard Yates. The film got mainly positive reviews, largely due to the chemistry between DiCaprio and Winslet.
“They are so good, they stop being actors and become the people I grew up around,” wrote Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times.
And a reviewer for Rolling Stone wrote that, “DiCaprio is excellent as a man caught in a downward spiral of disillusionment, slowly coming to terms with the fact that he will never make anything of himself.”
12. ‘Blood Diamond’ (2006)
In the Oscar-nominated political war thriller “Blood Diamond,” set during the Sierra Leone Civil War, DiCaprio plays Rhodesian gunrunner Danny Archer. The movie received mixed reviews, but DiCaprio’s performance (and that of his co-star Djimon Hounsou as fisherman Solomon Vandy) was considered a high point. The New York Times described DiCaprio as “most excellent” in the role.
11. ‘Shutter Island’ (2010)
The psychological thriller “Shutter Island” was another Scorsese/DiCaprio collaboration, in which DiCaprio plays U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels, who is investigating a creepy psychiatric facility on Shutter Island after one of the inmates goes missing. But all is not what it seems, and as Daniels gets deeper into the investigation, he must question his own psyche.
“To keep us watching while fostering such uncertainty is the mark of a truly great actor,” wrote a reviewer for Rolling Stone.
10. ‘Gangs Of New York’ (2002)
DiCaprio’s first collaboration with Martin Scorsese was “Gangs of New York,” in which he plays a young Irish-American man named Amsterdam Vallon who is out to avenge the death of his father, Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson). The cast, as a whole, impressed critics though Daniel Day-Lewis (as the murderous sociopath Bill the Butcher) stole the show in what The Hollywood Reporter called “the film’s great performance.”
9. ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ (1993)
In Lasse Hallström’s coming-of-age tale “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” DiCaprio plays Arnie, the mentally disabled younger brother of Johnny Depp’s titular character. The role gave DiCaprio his first (and only) Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, at the age of 18. Rolling Stone described him as the movie’s “greatest asset,” praising him for “bringing great sensitivity and complexity to a part that might have come off as cloying or cynical.”
8. ‘The Revenant’ (2016)
After three previous Best Actor Oscar nominations but no wins, DiCaprio finally won the coveted award for his role in the revenge thriller “The Revenant,” which was based on the ordeals of a real 19th-century fur trapper, Hugh Glass. DiCaprio also won a slew of other awards, including a BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role and the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Movie Actor.
“DiCaprio conveys very effectively the character’s dogged desire to survive, if only for vengeance’s sake,” reads a review in the Independent.
7. ‘The Aviator’ (2004)
“DiCaprio’s performance proves he’s versatile as hell,” wrote a reviewer for Rolling Stone of the actor’s role as the ambitious, obsessive millionaire businessman/inventor Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s biographical drama “The Aviator.” DiCaprio missed out on an Oscar and a BAFTA for his portrayal of Hughes, but he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama, Actor of the Year at the Hollywood Film Awards and Best Male Performance at the MTV Movie Awards. “The Aviator” was another big moneymaker, taking in over $213 million worldwide.
6. ‘Titanic’ (1997)
“I’m the king of the world!” yelled Jack Dawson in James Cameron’s blockbuster “Titanic,” and the same could be said for 21-year-old DiCaprio. The role transformed his career, as he told Deadline in 2016.
“‘Titanic’ was very much an experiment for Kate Winslet and I,” he said. “We’d done all of these independent movies. I loved her as an actress and she said, ‘Let’s do this together, we can do this.’ We did it, and it became something that we could’ve never foreseen.”
The epic movie, considered by many to be the high point of DiCaprio’s career, was the first film to reach the billion-dollar mark and became the highest-grossing film to date until Cameron’s “Avatar” surpassed it in 2010 (“Avengers: Endgame” ousted “Avatar” for the top spot in 2019).
5. ‘ The Wolf Of Wall Street’ (2013)
Martin Scorsese’s black comedy crime film, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” is based on the memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort, a corrupt NYC stockbroker. DiCaprio plays Belfort in the movie, on which he also served as executive producer. He was praised for his comedic performance — Rolling Stone called him “the Mick Jagger of Wall Street jag-offs” — and he won Best Actor — Musical or Comedy at the 71st Golden Globe Awards, as well as the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Comedy Movie Actor the same year.
4. ‘Inception’ (2010)
Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi action film “Inception” stars DiCaprio as professional thief Dom Cobb — a role previously turned down by Brad Pitt and Will Smith. With global box office takings of $828 million, it’s DiCaprio’s second highest-grossing movie to date after “Titanic.” “Inception” features in countless “best” lists: It’s Rolling Stone’s fifth-best sci-fi film since the turn of the century and Total Film‘s most rewatchable movie of all time.
“[DiCaprio’s] performance as Dom Cobb is genuinely affecting: his reaction to wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) throwing herself from a window is a devastating high point,” wrote a reviewer for The Guardian.
3. ‘Django Unchained’ (2012)
Quentin Tarantino’s highest-grossing film to date ($425 million) is “Django Unchained,” starring DiCaprio as plantation owner “Monsieur” Calvin J. Candie alongside Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. For many, supporting actor DiCaprio stole the show.
“[He’s] so charismatic that — spoiler alert — once he’s dispatched from the narrative, the air goes out of the film,” reads a review in Rolling Stone. “It’s a career highlight; he deserved an Oscar for this one, frankly.”
2. ‘Catch Me If You Can’ (2002)
Based on the true story of teenage con man turned fraud expert Frank Abagnale, Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can” was a huge financial and critical success. Di Caprio plays Abagnale opposite Tom Hanks as FBI agent Carl Hanratty, the first time these two huge stars had acted together, and a casting move The Hollywood Reporter described as “dream teaming.” It was also DiCaprio’s first collaboration with Spielberg, and it paid off — “Catch Me If You Can” took in over $352 million from box offices around the world.
1. ‘The Departed’ (2006)
DiCaprio was nominated for a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, a Critic’s Choice Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance as undercover state trooper Billy Costigan in Boston crime thriller “The Departed.” He didn’t win any of those awards, but he did take home Best Supporting Actor at the Satellite Awards. The movie also secured a first Academy Award for Best Picture for director Martin Scorsese (as well as three other Oscars).
“DiCaprio is fantastic here, in a totally unglamorous, grubby role as a desperate man who almost loses his identity,” reads a review in Rolling Stone.