Pretty much everyone has seen a Leonardo DiCaprio movie. Also, pretty much everyone has seen a Leonardo DiCaprio movie that they like. As one of Hollywood’s most revered leading men, he can pretty much pick and choose his roles at this point, and he rarely chooses a bad one. With that in mind, what is the best Leonardo DiCaprio movie out there?
Before revealing my personal pick for the best Leonardo DiCaprio movie, it’s worth mentioning the films that could easily fit into this slot. Because there’s not really a wrong answer here. You could pick his role as Jack in Titanic, the one that made him a superstar, and you wouldn’t be wrong. You could choose his slimy turn as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, and I’d agree with you. Or you could go with his disgustingly villainous turn as Calvin Candie in Django Unchained. Gangs of New York, The Departed, and Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood? Perfectly valid choices. You could even say his one and only Oscar-winning role in The Revenant and I’d say yes, the Academy did finally give him something for putting his body through hell, even though Tom Hardy was the better role in the movie.
Still, with all of these valid options on the table, for my money, the best Leonardo DiCaprio movie is the one where he completely owns the screen from beginning to end with a performance that definitely should have won him his Oscar far before The Revenant. That performance is DiCaprio as the real-life Howard Hughes in The Aviator.
The Aviator is the best Leonardo DiCaprio for a number of reasons. First and foremost is his focused yet eclectic performance in the lead role. DiCaprio depicts the real-life director, engineer, entrepreneur, and aviator Howard Hughes. Specifically, he depicted him through the 1920s and 1940s, the peak of Hughes’s career and his inevitable downfall. DiCaprio lives in the role, playing him as a highly motivated, charming, and erratic individual all at once. Most strikingly, he also portrays Hughes’s mental illness with intensity and realism. In short, he brings humanity and nuance to this larger-than-life character from history. The entire movie is pinned on DiCaprio’s ability to bring this influential figure to life, and he does everything right.
And although it’s Leonardo Dicaprio’s best movie, The Aviator is a fantastic effort all around. Of course, Martin Scorcese’s signature directorial style makes the film a pleasure to watch and makes the nearly three-hour runtime–excuse the aviation pun–fly by. The script by John Logan is snappy and full of depth and character. And though I’ve been talking about Leo at length, the movie just wouldn’t be the same without Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn. In fact, The Aviator could also be in the conversation for the best Cate Blanchett movie. Truly, everyone brought their A-game, including Alan Alda, Kate Beckinsale, Danny Huston, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, and more.
The Academy is even in agreement with this being one of the greatest Leonardo DiCaprio movies. The film was up for a whopping 11 awards and won five of them, making it the most awarded film of that year. Cate Blanchett brought home her Best Supporting Actress Oscar and the rest were doled out for cinematography, film editing, art direction, and costume design. Leo, of course, was up for Best Actor but lost out to Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. Which is definitely deserved. But, if Foxx wouldn’t have been in the lineup that year, Leo would have easily walked away with the trophy. The movie was also up for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Alan Alda, Best Director, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Screenplay.
What do audiences think about my choice for the best Leonardo DiCaprio movie though? According to Rotten Tomatoes, we might not be on the exact same page. Though it has a 86% critic score, the 79% audience score definitely isn’t Leo’s best. With that being said, it’s a movie that is more than worth your time, and you should give it a shot yourself to make your own call. If you want to see Leo go through an incredibly eclectic performance depicting the highs of the life of a billionaire to his ending as a recluse, The Aviator will give you what you’re wanting.