For those who’ve seen Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island know that although Scorsese tried his best hand at a Hitchcock by way of Lynchian psychological thrill, it was the performance from Leonardo DiCaprio that moved audiences to tears. It could have been an affinity for the dramatic, but he was just so good we couldn’t help but indulge in our emphatic emotions. It’s always that way with Leo—no matter the film—from his boyhood roles in features like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and The Basketball Diaries to his most recent maniacal turns in Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street—in his twenty some odd years gracing our screens, he has never delivered a less than brilliant performance.
Whether he’s playing a mentally-handicapped teenager coping with the strains of his family, an infamous conman making his way around the world, a family man wrestling with the trials of love, or a psychopathic slave-owner, Leo always sinks his teeth fully into every role—giving a performance that’s brimming with conviction, intensity, charm, and agility, always with that signature essence of Leo that lingers no matter within which character he disappears. And it’s that rare amalgamation of charm and talent that’s made him not only one of Hollywood’s most beloved leading men but also a cultural icon with unwavering force. The transition from childhood actor to teen heartthrob to respected adult actor isn’t always an easy feat—many have let their flame burn out too soon and never fulfilled on the promise of their talent, but Leo has done nothing but prove time and time again that he’s more than deserving of that Oscar we’ve yet to see him take home.
And as today marks the actor’s 41st birthday, let’s take a look back on some of our favorite Leo roles. Enjoy.
ROMEO + JULIET, Baz Luhrmann
THE BASKETBALL DIARIES, Scott Kalvert
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, Sam Mendes
THE DEPARTED, Martin Scorsese
MARVIN’S ROOM, Jerry Zaks
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, Steven Spielberg
GANGS OF NEW YORK
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, Martin Scorsese