Leonardo DiCaprio is probably one of the finest actors of our generation. Dare I say it, the finest thespian of our generation. Starting off with minor roles in television like in Growing Pains but quickly ascending teen fare with The Basketball Diaries and Romeo and Juliet. He garnered Oscar buzz with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? And flew into stardom with Titanic. Now, in his 30s, he’s accumulated some of the best films an actor could dream of with comparison to martin Scorsese muse, or the “new Deniro.” He’s mentioned it before, but it’s true: he’s an edgy indie actor, not the poster boy for Tiger Beat magazine. At his finest, he plays the deeply flawed characters. Here’s 6 of my personal favorites with, again, the greatest thespian of our generation.
1. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Considered one of Leo’s earlier works, he plays the Lothario in the doomed romantic tale. It’s a modern interpretation so it’s set in the present time in Los Angeles, but maintains the sonnets and the wordings of the play. DiCaprio delivers well and he plays an exceptionally good Romeo. With a passionate presence and the boyish charms, he rivals another actor who played Romeo, Leonard Whiting.
2. Titanic (1997)
Who could forget Titanic? Well, not the world since he was the most recognizable face of the latter half of the 20th century. Leomania can only be compared to Beatlemania. But for all its mega hype, the story of Titanic is essentially a story for the ages. Set during the early years of the 20th century, DiCaprio plays the common man who is swept in a love affair with a rich girl (played by Kate Winslet) during the sinking of the Titanic. It’s as much fun to watch the pair’s chemistry as watching the fantastic effects of the boat’s sinking.
3. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
When did I realize DiCaprio transitioned out of “Leomania” and into a serious actor? Well, as much as I liked him in the Beach, it wasn’t the beach. DiCaprio nailed it in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. He played Frank Abagnale, the true story of a con artist in the 1960s. As much we loathe these people, DiCaprio captures the tragedy and emotions of Frank as also relish in his schemes and conquests. Tom Hanks attempts to chase him, but all the audience can care about is the charismatic Leonardo DiCaprio.
4. The Aviator (2004)
I’m a sucker for period pieces (sort of) stationed during the 1920s to the 1960s. They, again, have that allure. And in Martin Scorsese The Aviator, we get a glimpse of the mind of Howard Hughes, the eccentric aviation pioneer/billionaire. What’s most fascinating about Leonardo DiCaprio playing the famed billionaire is that we get to see his personal life: his daring (and often deathly) passion for aviation, his business tactics, his loves (notably Ava Gardner and Katharine Hepburn) and ultimately his descent into madness (categorized as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The Aviator might not be the best in Leo’s resume, but it’s surely one of my favorites.
5. The Departed (2006)
DiCaprio pairing with Martin Scorsese is pure magic. They have made some grand movies from the Aviator to Gangs Of New York. But the movie that trumps them all is, of course, The Departed. Scorsese returns to full form in the gangster genre as he sets the betrayals and the scandals between the Boston Police Department and the Mafia. Leonardo Dicaprio is in the middle of the conflict as he plays one of the snitches. We see his paranoia and the all the tension we see as his identity might be revealed. Starring with Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg, the Departed is an epic movie that cannot be rivaled.
6. Revolutionary Road (2009)
It’s too early to tell, but I’ll add it anyways: Leonardo DiCaprio kicks a#$ as the emasculated husband who pairs with Kate Winslet (their last collaboration was 13 years ago in Titanic). The movie isn’t a love story, but a tragic ending to a marriage. We see their frustrations with conformity with suburban life in the 1950s. DiCaprio has an intense performance that proves to be one of his finest as he plays the rage and anger that any man would feel.