It's a dream, a dream for Leonardo DiCaprio and those who've grown to appreciate him as a superior actor. When I sit and consider to myself or with my pals who the greatest actors of all-time are, a very difficult task to do, Leonardo DiCaprio is easily in my top 5.
I try to conjure names who he'd rival for a top spot and names like Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis, Laurence Oliver, Anthony Hopkins, Christian Bale, Tom Cruise, and so many more come to mind. What I am going to try to do here in this article is try and show the batting average of Leo DiCaprio and express what I feel are his best roles.
I think if I can follow this article up with a couple more with some of my other considerations for who I think are the best actors, I can hope to show how it is I am drawing the conclusion.
I think when we consider who the greatest actor of all-time is, or to argue for an actor to be among the greatest, we should look at their body of work as a whole and not just their top 5 or top 10 films, or count the mass of work they've built. Let's see, an entire actor's body of work and see just how much of an impact this particular actor has had on the films and the audiences they've served. Let's see how many great movies Leo's actually made.
Leo started off in "Critters 3" in 1991, and we can all agree his career has never dipped to a valley so low since. While I'm sure there are avid movie fans who are displeased with my use of Rotten Tomatoes, I use it as a sort of gauge for films, but I don't agree with much of the ratings, which is generated by a community of people like me who all have varied opinions about all kinds of films. "Critters 3" is Leo's worst rated film on the popular movie site, sitting at a 0% and a 2.8 out of 10 average rating. There's not going to be much to find here in an argument as to why Leo is a great actor.
Leo started off strong with his Hollywood affiliations, after his first film, he went and shot "This Boy's Life" with Robert De Niro. If there's one thing that may have benefited Leo as opposed to other actors competing for the greatest actor spot, it's Leo's affiliation and frequent workings with great actors. The next of these great affiliations came while filming "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" with Johnny Depp. Some folks still consider this film as Leo's greatest performance, but I think while it's a great performance, the emotion of the film may be attributing to much of it being considered his greatest.
There were a string of bad films, like: "The Quick and the Dead", "The Basketball Diaries", "Total Eclipse", "Celebrity", "The Man in the Iron Mask", "The Beach", "Body of Lies", "J. Edgar", and "The Great Gatsby". If you've seen many of these movies, you'll know Leo's performance wasn't to blame for the films' failures. I think this is why Leonardo, especially as of late has become quite a bit pickier with his film projects, and most recently been exposing himself through the work of Martin Scorsese.
"Romeo + Juliet" began Leo's heartthrob status as the film was a smash hit for younger audiences. I myself, while I did enjoy the flick as a youth, have come to see the film as a bit more flawed after using my more adult eyes for viewing.
After reacquainting with Robert De Niro and new peer experiences with Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep in a successful film "Marvin's Room", Leonardo became a household name after taking the role of Jack in James Cameron's "Titanic". "Titanic" is his most iconic role and if it was possible to have a break out performance after already having a break out career, he did it in "Titanic". After "Titanic", everything Leonardo DiCaprio did was big news. The film did a fabulous job giving the audience a look at lives aboard the grand ship in all the intricacies but it was the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio that deserves most of the glory. Rotten Tomatoes has the film listed at an 88% and an 8 out of 10. The film is also currently the second highest grossing film of all-time, that'll help get you some exposure.
After "Titanic" he will come to work with Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Hanks, Cate Blanchett, Jack Nicholson, another film with "Titanic" co-star Kate Winslet, Christopher Nolan, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Jonah Hill, Tom Hardy, and many repeated works with Martin Scorsese who's given him most of his best roles.
The 5 films that stick out to me the most are: "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?", "Titanic", "The Aviator", "Shutter Island", and "Django Unchained". He played each of these roles perfectly. Take what you want from the films themselves, but his performances were off the charts. His role as Howard Hughes in "The Aviator" was fantastic, it felt like a genuine look into the life of Hughes, even the creepy isolated version we see who can't find nail clippers or a shower and who is seen stockpiling mason jars. "Shutter Island" contains potentially the greatest of Leonardo's scenes, and likely the best and most emotional scene I've every seen in any film by any actor. [SPOILER] The scene we see him discover his children in the lake was heart piercingly perfect. There was absolutely no way to have been better. If that wasn't enough range for you, we got to see one of the most racist and cruel characters of all-time in "Django Unchained". The role of Calvin Candie is a slave and land owner at 'Candyland', a breeding ground of Mandingos, a brutal and racist means of forcing African American men to fight each other during slavery. There is an extremely intense scene in the film after Leo's character Calvin discovers he's being manipulated by his guests in which he intimidates with a skull of a previously owned slave. In this scene, Leo got so intense he injured himself, cutting his hand open, but filmed through the injury and made the final cut. So the blood you see him wipe on the face of actress Kerry Washington in the scene, is his real blood and her real reaction to it.
All in all I don't think there are many actors who've had the range and quality of performances Leonardo DiCaprio has given us. If there was a knock against him, it really would just be his attachment to projects with great actors and actresses, or even directors for that matter. On the flip side, isn't it wise to pick and choose what you're working on and who you're working with in order to get the most out of your time and effort? I'm not ready to put the crown on DiCaprio's head just yet, but of all the great performances it's sickening to think he hasn't been given an Academy Award for any of them. If I were to generate a batting average for Leo and his work, he would be batting a .583 with 11 home runs.
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