10. Shutter Island (2010), dir. Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s fourth collaboration resulted in a haunting and menacing psychological thriller. Set in 1954, the story is about U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) and their arrival at the infamous asylum of the criminally insane, Shutter Island. The pair’s goal is to investigate the disappearance of a child murderess (Emily Mortimer), who somehow mysteriously escaped from the hospital.
Scorsese’s second foray into the genre reaps a sweet fruit; a stimulating film, which provides thrills by delving deep inside the viewer’s psyche, slowly, yet methodically. Scorsese, with the help of ever reliable DiCaprio, brightens the film; and beginning with the first scene, DiCaprio perpetually captivates the viewer. The actor stylistically uses the old tricks and clichés of the genre, trademarking certain features, and—like in any other good movie of the genre—he sets up the viewer for a glorious and profound conclusion.
DiCaprio’s immaculate performance in this radiantly constructed mystery reaffirms that he is certainly the best at what he does. The star studded supporting cast of Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max Von Sydow, and Mark Ruffalo provide a strong presence; the result is a powerful film and an exhilarating filmic experience.
9. Blood Diamond (2006), dir. Edward Zwick
Set during the Sierra-Leone civil war that lasted from 1996 to 2001, director-producer Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond portrays the atrocities of the war through a story which involves a fisherman (Djimon Hounsou), a smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio), and a syndicate of businessmen—all attempting to pursue a valuable possession: a priceless diamond.
Blood Diamond is probably the weakest film listed thus far; yet, for a reason, it is ranked above five films which, in all probability, are better than this one. Simply put, this is a film which proves DiCaprio’s acting capabilities. He literally carries the entire movie on his shoulders, turning this boring, pontificating film into something compelling.
Though he didn’t win an Oscar, DiCaprio deservedly received a nomination for Best Actor; if it was not for him, this political thriller would have been nothing but a pretentious, frustrating attempt to exploit the gruesome realities of war, just for the producers to make a sentimental selling blockbuster. Thus, this entry is dedicated to the true hero, Leonardo DiCaprio.
8. Catch Me If You Can (2002), dir. Steven Spielberg
Catch Me If You Can is a film based on the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. Before his 19th birthday, Frank conned millions of dollars from many people by simultaneously posing as different individuals—Catch Me If You Can is a brilliant account of Frank’s life.
Although it is a biographical crime drama, Catch Me If You Can, directed by the magnificent Steven Spielberg, is a surprisingly heartwarming and monumental achievement primarily because of the chemistry and performances of the two leads, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
In this fast paced film with colorful cinematography, which creates a friendly atmosphere, the two play a game of cat and mouse, chasing and duping each other; unwillingly, the adversaries form a close bond and develop an honest, moving, caring, and respectful friendship.
DiCaprio’s bravura portrayal of the troubled and lonely teenager is refreshing. Like the movie, which maintains a light-hearted nuance, DiCaprio’s character is amusing, extraordinarily smart, nimble, and charming. The movie doesn’t delve deep into the dramatic problems of the character, but DiCaprio’s performance has all the depth, authenticity and sensitivity necessary.
7. Inception (2010), dir. Christopher Nolan
Is this reality, or is this a dream, or a dream within the dream, or a dream within a dream within a dream?
A sci-fi/heist/action/thriller, nominated for eight Oscars and with a stellar cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon- Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, and (of course)—the director’s go-to actor—Michael Caine, this metaphysical film reveals the saga of a tired man who is desperate to go home. Such things, however, are not that simple, especially when the blurry line between reality and dreams exists.
Mr. Cobb (DiCaprio), a dream extractor—an individual who steals secrets by sharing dreams with people—gathers a skillful team to assist him when a big shot corporate businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe), promises Cobb that he will solve all of Cobb’s problems. In return, Saito wants Cobb to do an inverse task, an inception, by implanting an idea in the mind of a soon to become rival CEO.
Inception takes place in the world where people share dreams and steal ideas whilst doing so. They also keep a “totem” or keepsake with them when they do, because they are far deep into another psyche, and they might lose track of where they are. Even in this world, inception is an idea people think is impossible; for the most skilled extractor in the world, however, nothing is impossible because he is the best and the most experienced.
One of the most profound summer blockbusters—a groundbreaking masterpiece from the mind of one of the most talented filmmakers of his generation, writer/director Christopher Nolan—Inception is probably the most important entry in the science fiction genre (since the Wachowski brothers filmed The Matrix (1999)].
Tackling challenging concepts such as reality of the dreams, dreams of reality, dreams within dreams, reality within dreams and dreams in reality, this film is the perfect follow-up to another landmark Nolan feature, The Dark Knight (2008).
Like any other masterpiece, Inception is perfectly crafted—it contains an extraordinary script by Nolan, a prodigious ensemble cast, a beautiful score by Hans Zimmer, impeccable direction, photography, editing, sound and production design, and every other technical aspect of the this film. In short, one can say, this movie is a dreamy reality.
Christopher Nolan once said, “If I go to a movie, I want to see the makers making the best film they can. I want to see that they did the best they could; they gave it all they had in them. Anything less than that and I feel cheated.” Inception certainly grasps Nolan’s notion of great filmmaking: the audience does not feel cheated because Nolan, a chief psychological auteur, who also directed Memento (2000) and The Prestige (2006), indubitably does not disappoint.
6. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), dir. Lasse Hallström
In the town of Endora, Iowa lives the Grape family. Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp), the eldest brother of three young siblings, is the man of the house and sole breadwinner, for their mother (Darlene Kates) is too obese to leave her bed, let alone make a living. In fact, since the suicide of her husband seven years prior, she hasn’t left the house.
Gilbert supervises his younger brother, Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is a mentally challenged boy. His two sisters Amy (Laura Harrington) and Ellen (Mary Kate Schellhardt) maintain the house while Gilbert works at the store. In short, they live difficult, but manageable, lives. Their current existence, however, is interrupted when love walks into Gilbert’s life.
The sweetest film on this list—and probably of Leonardo’s entire filmography—What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, directed by Lasse Hallström, is an exceptionally moving, small town drama. It is one of those films which wanders in familiar premises on screen but takes a viewer’s heart to different, new, and beautiful places. It is predictable, but it maintains its tender and authentic atmosphere.
The film compels the audience to care for the characters, their circumstances, and their problems. The audience smiles at the characterized laughs, but is panged by the heartaches. The audience is engulfed by the characters, as they watch the world through the eyes of the unfortunate, yet happy, Grape family.
Though Johnny Depp has the lead role and he is very subtle in his performance, this beautifully shot film belongs to Leonardo DiCaprio. In what is considered to be his breakout role in the industry, DiCaprio is the showstopper of this delightful film. In his first ever Academy Award nominated performance, he is vibrant and intense and his portrayal of Arnie is impressively genial and spontaneous. Arnie Grape undoubtedly was his best role during the 1990s.