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Leonardo DiCaprio's Top 10 Roles

The 'Django Unchained' actor has had quite the storied career already, and he’s only 38.

Photography: © Columbia Tristar/Photofest

Leonardo DiCaprio sizzles on screen this month with his portrayal of sinister plantation owner Calvin Candie in Quentin Tarantino’s edgy western Django Unchained. In the brand new January 2013 issue of Cowboys & Indians, writers Wendy Wilkinson and Joe Leydon go deep into all aspects of the new film, from Jamie Foxx’s starring turn as a former slave on a love-fueled quest to DiCaprio’s smiling, unflinching evil. To prepare for the new movie (hitting theaters on Christmas day), let’s take a look at some of DiCaprio’s other iconic roles.

 

The Quick and the Dead (1995) — The comic-style western directed by Sam Raimi (before he took the reins of the first Spider-Man franchise) gave Leo the chance to work with Hollywood staples Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, and Sharon Stone. He played a young braggadocio known as “The Kid” who has some personal reasons for entering his town’s quick-draw competition. While the mid-‘90s were no box office boon for the western genre, this one earned favorable reviews and is worth revisiting.

 

The Basketball Diaries (1995) — This biopic gave Leo a crash-course in edgy imagery and dialogue, as he played the real life writer/artist Jim Carroll during his late-‘60s Catholic school years.

 

Romeo + Juliet (1996) — He sealed his stardom in one of the title roles for this imaginative, ultra-modern take on the Shakespeare classic. Kudos to the film’s casting department for its foresight: Can you name two more accomplished, respected thirty-something actors than DiCaprio and his Juliet, Claire Danes?

 

Titanic (1997) You’ve heard of this film, yes? Kidding, of course: It’s one of the most well-loved of all time, having won the Oscar for Best Picture and served as the consummate romantic go-to DVD for countless couples. A lot of that can be attributed to Leo’s passionate, confident performance as Jack, a poor artist with big dreams and a bigger heart.

 

Catch Me If You Can (2002) — It was Steven Spielberg’s turn to direct Leo in this fast-moving dramedy about a young con artist being tracked by a determined FBI agent (Tom Hanks). Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, James Brolin, and Amy Adams round out the all-star cast.

 

Gangs of New York (2002) — In the first of a handful of career-altering collaborations with director Martin Scorsese, Leo stars as a young man in mid-19th Century New York City seeking revenge against his father’s murderer (Daniel Day-Lewis). But the historical drama is about much more than two men. If you haven’t seen it, set aside an afternoon and revel in the rich storytelling.

 

The Aviator (2004) — Scorsese and DiCaprio bring the ambitions and obsessions of the film and aviation icon Howard Hughes back to life in this star-studded character study. If DiCaprio wasn’t already one of the most respected actors in Hollywood before playing this role, there was no question about his status after (even if he did lose that year’s Oscar race to his future Django co-star, Jamie Foxx).

 

The Departed (2006) — That year’s Best Picture winner once again paired director Scorsese with DiCaprio, who played an undercover cop on a mission to infiltrate the organization of a Boston mob boss (played by a bone-chillingly menacing Jack Nicholson).

 

Inception (2010) — Leo took a break from the Scorsese train to join forces with director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) and star in an enigmatic but masterfully executed fantasy film about a team of dream invaders.

 

J. Edgar (2011) — He followed his edgy turn in Inception with a historical epic helmed by Clint Eastwood. Depicting the mysterious, powerful, and controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover might’ve been Leo’s biggest acting challenge to date, and he delivered beyond expectation.

 

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