Every Leonardo DiCaprio film performance, ranked
Catch Leo's rankings if you can
If there was a picture next to "movie star" in the dictionary, it would be of Leonardo DiCaprio. For almost 30 years he's been a potent presence on the big screen, scoring an Oscar nomination at the age of 19 and earning six more throughout his dynamic career, before finally winning in 2016. But perhaps his most impressive achievement is managing in a superhero and IP-dominated world to turn any film he stars in into an event, whether he's trying to stave off death in the cold wilderness or stave off irrelevance in 1960s Hollywood. With apologies to Growing Pains and Don's Plum, which he's made sure will never be legally seen, here's our ranking of every one of his film performances, a.k.a. the Body of Leo.
28. Poison Ivy (1992)
And the 1993 Oscar for the very specific category of Best Five Seconds of Walking in the Background of a Scene goes to DiCaprio in a runaway (or walkaway). Considering that is literally his only appearance in this Drew Barrymore-led thriller, there has to be some scenes that landed on the cutting room floor.
Related: Poison Ivy thrills the audience
27. Critters 3 (1991)
DiCaprio sure has come a long way from being called a pervert in the first minute of his film debut in the straight-to-DVD third installment of the distinguished Critters franchise. Starring as Josh, young Leo is pretty good at being scared and not getting killed by these so-called critters, but his costar Aimee Brooks is probably the standout, that is if you were forced to make a pick from what DiCaprio himself calls "one of the worst films of all-time." (The zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes nods in agreement.)
26. Total Eclipse (1995)
In one of the oddest — and most unsuccessful — pairings of his career, DiCaprio stars as the brash and classless Arthur Rimbaud opposite David Thewlis (Wonder Woman) as Paul Verlaine. The very erotic historical drama tracks the romance between the real-life poets and features naked Leo, naked wrestling, a lot of sex, a lot of overacting, Leo with a mustache, and not nearly enough time demonstrating the supposed greatness of its subjects. Maybe they themselves could have written a more compelling account of their own lives.
Related: Total Eclipse — EW review
25. The Beach (2000)
Three years after hitting new heights of fame with Titanic, DiCaprio got back in the water — only to much different results. Coasting on its star's popularity, director Danny Boyle's film became a hit at the box office, and only the box office. Between the troubled production, Boyle regretting casting Leo as the adventure-seeking Richard over his Trainspotting star Ewan McGregor, and Leo earning a Razzie nomination, no one seemed to enjoy their time on the beach. Well, except for the tourists who have since ruined the once-beautiful Thai location.
24. The Quick and the Dead (1995)
In Russell Crowe's U.S. film debut, it was Sharon Stone's much younger costar who she was obsessed with, allegedly paying part of DiCaprio's salary. ”He’s so good, it’s scary,” Stone told EW in 1995. ”I was dying to have him be in this movie. I would have carried the boy on my back to the set every day if that’s what it would have taken." As the brash and cocky gunslinger "The Kid," Leo isn't shooting above his weight, but his performance also doesn't scream, "Sharon Stone should carry me on her back to the set every day." Maybe more like a golf cart ride level.
23. Body of Lies (2008)
No lie, this should have been a home run. It's actually still hard to believe that Ridley Scott reuniting with his Gladiator star Russell Crowe, and DiCaprio reuniting with his Departed screenwriter William Monahan resulted in such a generic spy thriller. Body of Lies isn't bad, it just sort of exists — kind of like the name Roger Ferris. Leo is many things, and a Roger Ferris is not one of them.
Related: Leonardo DiCaprio through the years
22. The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
Riding the wave of Titanic's record-breaking success, DiCaprio's next film managed to become a commercial hit — and a Razzie for Worst Screen Couple. And the real kick-a-guy-when-he's-down element is that he was the whole couple, considering Leo played royal twins Philippe and Louis, one good and one evil (isn't that always how it goes?), in this Three Musketeers adaptation. While Philippe is a pretty boring and vanilla character, DiCaprio gets to dial it up a bit as Louis in one of his few villainous turns, making this writer wonder if he could have played Game of Thrones' King Joffrey in an alternate world.
21. J. Edgar (2011)
Who do we blame for this miss? The lighting department? The makeup team? Clint Eastwood? (This absolutely feels like a Clint Eastwood movie, and that is not a compliment.) Probably all of them, including Leo, who doesn't get out fully unscathed in this snooze fest of a J. Edgar Hoover biopic. Although his gravitas and dedication are on full display, unfortunately, it doesn't stop the performance from feeling like a caricature at times. The fact that this actor didn't get an Oscar nom for this role tells you all you need to know.
Related: The curious case of old-age makeup
20. The Basketball Diaries (1995)
Playing a drug addict is a balancing act, and can often go bad in the wrong hands. Obviously few hands are more capable than DiCaprio, but even he is guilty of overacting in this autobiographical film about writer Jim Carroll. And while both his performance and The Basketball Diaries often feel like too much, he still finds a way to bring home the heartbreak, particularly in a scene where he goes from begging his mom for money to unloading on her to breaking down.
19. Marvin's Room (1996)
In his final pre-Titanic film, the burgeoning star plays troubled juvenile Hank Lacker and is surrounded by veteran stars like Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, and Robert De Niro. And it's working opposite his Oscar-winning scene partners, whether arguing with Streep or bonding with Keaton, that he shows he belongs.
Related: Marvin’s Room — EW review
18. Gangs of New York (2002)
And thus begins one of the most fruitful actor-director partnerships of the 21st century — if not ever. In the first of his five collaborations with Martin Scorsese, DiCaprio is given the impossible task of going toe-to-toe with one of the greatest actors of all-time, Daniel Day-Lewis. But, perhaps smartly, it never feels like a true two-hander, with DiCaprio and his revenge-seeking Amsterdam Vallon mostly clearing out for another unforgettable outing from Day-Lewis. But Leo showed enough that he'd never play second fiddle in a Scorsese movie again.
17. The Great Gatsby (2013)
Honestly, the legacy of Baz Luhrmann's flashy reunion with DiCaprio is the gifs it gave the world. As the illustrious and mysterious Jay Gatsby, Leo manages to simultaneously be cool and awkward, as well as the most interesting part of this dazzling misfire. Most importantly it allows me to imagine that the way Nick Carraway idolizes Gatsby is identical to how Tobey Maguire looks at DiCaprio.
16. Celebrity (1998)
Considering it once appeared to be an unspoken rule that every actor had to do at least one Woody Allen movie, DiCaprio puts in his bid here, joined by an impressive ensemble that includes Kenneth Branagh, Winona Ryder, Melanie Griffith, Sam Rockwell, Gretchen Mol, Charlize Theron, Famke Janssen, Donald Trump, and future Entourage star Adrian Grenier, fittingly, as a member of Leo's entourage. While much of the film finds Branagh doing his best Allen impression as, inexplicably, all the aforementioned gorgeous women throw themselves at this travel writer, DiCaprio shows up halfway through as Brandon Darrow, a young movie star who takes Branagh's Lee on a night of gambling, partying, and sex. It's a much-welcomed intermission that is best summed up by Lisa Schwarzbaum's EW review: “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.”
15. Inception (2010)
You're not imagining how low Inception slots in on this list. For the most part, every movie that DiCaprio is in is a DiCaprio movie, with a few exceptions, namely his team-ups with directors whose films are events in their own right, such as Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. And while Leo as the haunted Dom Cobb adds to the spectacle of Nolan's dreamy Inception, the concept and execution are what made this an Oscar-nominated blockbuster. If anything, it's Tom Hardy, in a breakout performance, that jumps off the screen.
14. This Boy's Life (1993)
In his first non-Critters starring role, Leo was handpicked by Robert De Niro for this coming-of-age drama. And as Toby Wolff, the son of a single mom (Ellen Barkin) in the 1950s, DiCaprio battles it out with De Niro, who plays the boy's physically and emotionally abusive new stepfather. It was a winning partnership for the present and future go-to star for Martin Scorsese.
Related: This Boy’s Life — EW review
13. Romeo + Juliet (1996)
DiCaprio fares much better in his first collaboration with Baz Luhrmann, starring as Romeo opposite Claire Danes' Juliet in EW's fourth-ranked take on William Shakespeare's famed tragedy. Thankfully, DiCaprio and company know exactly the movie they are in and go all-in on Luhrmann's use of Shakespeare's original dialogue in an MTV world. We all know where this story is headed but Leo sells the hell out of the final moments of this doomed romance.
12. Blood Diamond (2006)
After a few years of historical biopics, DiCaprio got gritty in 2006, between The Departed and Blood Diamond. And despite the prestige surrounding Martin Scorsese's gangster tale, it was instead South African gunrunner Danny Archer that brought Leo an Oscar nom this year. Much attention has been paid to DiCaprio's accent work in Blood Diamond (and The Departed), but behind that is a forgotten performance that, aided by fellow Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou as the true heart of the film, rises above everything else around them.
11. Revolutionary Road (2008)
More than a decade after going down as one of film's great love stories, Titanic stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio reunite as April and Frank Wheeler, a 1950s couple finding themselves living unhappily ever after. The drama from director (and Winslet's then husband) Sam Mendes is the definition of an actor's showcase for DiCaprio, Winslet, and Michael Shannon, with crying, screaming, and arguments galore. And yet, as good as those three are, only Shannon earned an Oscar nom, with DiCaprio facing a loaded Best Actor field and Winslet instead winning for her role in The Reader.
10. The Departed (2006)
Despite essentially being the lead of the film that finally won Martin Scorsese his first and only Best Director trophy, DiCaprio is somehow the forgotten man of The Departed. While Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg, the lone cast member to be Oscar-nominated here, get the showier roles, Leo gives a more internal performance as Billy Costigan Jr., a rookie cop who was broken long before going undercover. It's the type of role that proved the teen heartthrob had fully arrived as a grownup movie star.
9. What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
Well, this wasn't exactly teen heartthrob status, but it was quite the breakthrough for the 19-year-old actor. DiCaprio's performance as the sweet Arnie lands in the top 10 because of the challenges involved with such a delicate role and the fact that it was pulled off by someone so early in their career. While Johnny Depp was the titular Gilbert Grape and already a bonafide star, it was Leo who stole the well-received drama — and his first Oscar nomination.
8. Shutter Island (2010)
Before Inception became a summer smash, DiCaprio's big year of being haunted by dead wives began with Martin Scorsese's neo-noir psychological thriller. Without giving away a decade old twist, Leo stars as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who slowly unravels as he and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) investigate a missing persons case at a hospital for the criminally insane. The inexplicable decision to release this film in February, virtually removing it from awards consideration, is a big reason why this will go down as DiCaprio's most underrated showing.
Related: Welcome to Shutter Island
7. Titanic (1997)
One of Hollywood's great sliding doors is DiCaprio turning down Boogie Nights for Titanic. Mark Wahlberg became a movie star and Leo became "the king of the world." As the well-traveled Jack Dawson, Leo exudes an innocent charm, whether he's sparring with the wealthy or romancing Kate Winslet's Rose. Now, with James Cameron winning Best Picture and Best Director and Kate Winslet getting a Best Actress nom, the least they could have done is make room for him on that spacious door (even Brad Pitt would have!).
6. The Revenant (2015)
All DiCaprio had to do to finally win an Oscar was get attacked by a bear, sleep in a horse carcass, and almost freeze himself to death. That is just a bit of why frontiersman Hugh Glass is easily Leo's most ambitious, determined, and grueling performance. And while most actors don't end up winning for their best work, and that's certainly the case for DiCaprio, this was no career achievement award.
5. The Aviator (2004)
I'm not sure if you've noticed yet but this Martin Scorsese might know a thing or two about getting incredible performances from incredible actors. In most years DiCaprio's turn as the eccentric Howard Hughes would be an Oscar-winning lock, but he ran into the buzzsaw that was Jamie Foxx's show-stopping portrayal of Ray Charles. Leo manages to subtly play Hughes' growing paranoia and fear before his obsessive-compulsive nature fully takes over. Also, rewatching this in 2020 and being reminded that the film begins with Hughes' mother teaching him how to spell "quarantine" is almost Contagion-level eerie.
Related: How The Aviator got off the ground
4. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
The same year that DiCaprio became the apple of Martin Scorsese's eye he also partnered up with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, a.k.a. Spielberg's own Leo. As con man Frank Abagnale Jr., the actor is as likable as ever, using his charisma to believably talk his way into being a pilot or a doctor or a lawyer. But it's the moments that he's the real Frank Jr., the child of a broken home who wants nothing more than to be a family again, that makes this one to catch anytime it's on. "Everything they took from us, I'm going to get it back," he proudly tells Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken), before begging his father to "ask me to stop."
3. Django Unchained (2012)
For the only time in his career, DiCaprio fully broke bad, and when he decided to go for it, he went for it. Leo's cruel plantation owner Calvin Candie doesn't show up until over an hour into Quentin Tarantino's Western, but his arrival is when things really get cookin'. It's a despicably magnetic performance that slowly builds to an epic 20-minute climactic dinner scene. With material like this (DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson are a perfect evil match), it's no wonder that he would reunite with Tarantino for some more movie magic.
2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Rick Dalton, an aging star trying to stay relevant in the changing Hollywood around him, feels like the most personal and reflective role of DiCaprio's career so far. Thankfully, though, he doesn't have to worry anytime soon about making Spaghetti Westerns in Italy or being the heavy in a TV pilot. There are so many marvelous moments, big and small, from DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino's ninth film, ranging from losing it in Rick's trailer to crying when his young costar says that was the best acting she'd ever seen to his school boy marvel upon being invited up to Sharon Tate's (Margot Robbie) home. He might have lost the Oscar to Joaquin Phoenix (the Joker's worst joke yet), but, after four years off, Leo returned with a force and reminded us that "I'm Leonardo F---ing DiCaprio, don't you forget it."
1. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Excuse my language, but when talking about The Wolf of Wall Street, once the record-holder for expletives in a film, Leo can only be described a f---ing powerhouse in his portrayal of the sex and drug-fueled stockbroker Jordan Belfort. And while he's not usually known for making us laugh, Jordan and Donny's (Jonah Hill) lengthy quaalude trip is physical comedy at its finest. It's an iconic performance, further solidifying that he's "not f---ing leaving" his spot as our greatest movie star.