ByJack Mitchell, writer at
I'm a student at the University of Sussex, studying Drama and Film. I'm a huge cinephile, watching and discussing a wide variety of cinema
Jack Mitchell

Daniel Day-Lewis, arguably the greatest ever actor to grace the screen, has announced his retirement from acting after his next film, to the distress of film fans everywhere. Day-Lewis is an actor famed for his intensive method acting, transporting himself into his roles, and has won the record amount of Best Actor Oscars, winning 3. It's safe to say that Day-Lewis, despite being very selective with the roles he takes (probably to give someone else the chance to win an Oscar) will go down as a cinematic legend. So, lets delve into Day-Lewis's selective filmography, and explore some of his greatest moments.

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985): Johnny Breaks Into A Flat

My Beautiful Laundrette [Credit: Working Title Films]
My Beautiful Laundrette [Credit: Working Title Films]

Although this is not his first performance, this is an early example of Day-Lewis' incredible talent. It's rather entertaining to see the world famous star in such a low-budget film, and to see his raw talent before he was established. However, you can see why he rose to such prominence after his impressive early performances.

In this scene, Day-Lewis, as a punk named Johnny, is made to break into the flat of a nasty tenant in exchange for some investment in his laundrette. Day-Lewis displays Johnny's reluctance, wanting to leave violence behind him, showing a distinct lack of enthusiasm in the task. His subtlety is fantastic to watch, and really makes the scene a classic Day-Lewis moment.

While the film may not have been produced on the same scale as There Will Be Blood or Lincoln, it's interesting to see Day-Lewis thrive in a completely different cinematic setting. This film challenges traditional ideas of masculinity, and Johnny is clearly at war with his own identity.

My Left Foot (1989): Christy's Heart Is Broken

Day-Lewis truly is a chameleon, playing a paralyzed character who slowly learns to speak and move. It's agonizing to watch Day-Lewis' movements as he shows such effort to perform even the smallest tasks, and struggles to articulate himself. The movements and stilted dialogue bring the character of Christy to life, making this one of Day-Lewis' most impressive performances.

In this scene, Christy is humiliated when he learns that his love is only returned platonically by Eileen, the woman who has helped with his speech. It's heartbreaking to see Christy's realization of this fact. Day-Lewis's movements and speech become erratic with a look anguish painted across his face for all to see. He starts drowning spirits, writhing around in distress, and is eventually removed from the restaurant. This is a painful scene, and Day-Lewis' wonderful performance catches the moment brilliantly.

Day-Lewis really turned heads with this performance. While he had shown flashes of brilliance beforehand, this performance established Day-Lewis as one of Hollywood's leading lights.

In the Name of the Father (1993): Gerry Is Coerced Into Confessing

Imagine having to confess to a terrorist act you didn't commit. This is the case in Day-Lewis' In the Name of the Father. Small time criminal Gerry, played by Day-Lewis, takes the rap for the IRA during The Troubles.

In this scene, Day-Lewis shows Gerry's internal conflict, simultaneously conveying anger, fear, and sadness as he tries to stay calm. He shows his distress through his consistent changes in tone, using his skill to jump between emotions. This performance was a fantastic demonstration of Day-Lewis' ability.

This performance is raw and real, a fitting performance considering the historical backdrop of The Troubles, a brutal and unforgiving conflict. Although this may not be one of Day-Lewis' iconic roles, this is definitely an under-appreciated effort.

There Will Be Blood (2007): I Drink Your Milkshake

The climactic scene in There Will Be Blood is haunting. Daniel Plainview is corrupted by wealth, losing any sense of morality and humility in the process. He is challenged by Eli Sunday, a local priest, who humiliates Daniel by forcing him to repent for his sins.

However, when Eli begs Daniel for financial help, he takes his revenge. Daniel toys with him, questioning his moral compass, and then proceeds to batter his head with a bowling pin. With power comes responsibility, and Day-Lewis perfectly captured Plainview's descent into madness and evil, giving an eerie, iconic performance throughout.

This is considered by many to be one of the greatest performances of all time. This fully displayed Day-Lewis' range, showing his versatility in conveying such an inconsistent and unpredictable character.

Lincoln (2012): Demanding Votes To Pass The Constitution

In Lincoln, Day-Lewis displays the authoritative air of the iconic President and his strength of will. When he is questioned over the possibility of passing the amendment to end slavery, Day-Lewis merely sits there. And yet, despite not saying a word, you know his power.

Any actor can scream and throw things around in an attempt to show power, but it takes a skilled actor to do this in a subtle, downplayed manner. He sits sternly, waiting for his moment to speak, and then explodes into an impassioned speech about the importance of the constitution.

Day-Lewis mimics Lincoln incredibly well in terms of appearance, but it's his mimicry of Lincoln's demeanor, with his wonderful accent, body language and gait, which won him the Oscar for this performance. This courageous performance is one of the most memorable in cinematic history.

These are just a few moments from one of the greatest actors of all time, and I'd encourage anybody with an appreciation for great acting to watch the entirety of his filmography. As Daniel Day-Lewis waves goodbye to the acting world, we should wish him well and thank him for his achievements on the big screen.

What was your favorite Daniel Day-Lewis performance? Let us know in the comments.


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