Leonardo DiCaprio started his career playing memorable roles with some of Hollywood's finest actors. Then the movie "Titanic" changed his life.
After becoming an international heartthrob, DiCaprio had to fight his way back into the good graces of the critics. That he pulled it all off with aplomb is a testament to his huge talent. Here are the best Leonardo DiCaprio movie roles both before and after "Titanic."
"This Boy's Life" (1993)
DiCaprio more than holds his own against a formidable Robert De Niro in this slice of life drama set in the late 1950s. De Niro's disturbing turn as an abusive stepfather is matched in an acting tour de force by the young DiCaprio in his first major film.
Hand-picked for the role by De Niro, up to this point DiCaprio had only appeared in a few television series (most notably "Growing Pains") and a straight-to-video horror flick.
"What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993)
The special spark of superstar material in this young actor became even more apparent in his next role as the mentally challenged brother to Johnny Depp's beleaguered title character in this film. While Depp was no less than wonderful (as was Juliette Lewis as his girlfriend), all eyes were on DiCaprio, who pulled off an absolutely incredible performance.
Critics took notice of the young performers talent. So did the Academy, DiCaprio earning an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor at only 19 years of age.
After those films, it seemed that DiCaprio would go on to have an uninterrupted career making serious movies. Yet only four years later the epic blockbuster "Titanic" forced him to change course after he became an instant international heartthrob upon its release.
Everyone involved with this film became swept up in its unprecedented 15-week run as the number one movie in America. In addition to the stardom for DiCaprio and costar Kate Winslet, "Titanic" went on to become the highest-grossing movie in Hollywood history (until "Avatar" in 2010).
"Gangs of New York" (2002)
With all the hoopla surrounding DiCaprio's romantic turn in "Titanic," many forgot for a time there was an excellent actor behind the "Leo-mania." It wasn't until he hooked up with Martin Scorsese five years later that he was able to even begin to get his career back on track.
In this movie, Leo plays a vagabond growing up on the streets of New York in the 1860s who plots revenge against local gang leader Bill the Butcher (brilliantly played by Daniel Day-Lewis) for slaughtering his father when he was boy.
"The Aviator" (2004)
Despite turning in a solid performance in "Gangs of New York," DiCaprio missed out when the Academy bestowed 10 nominations on that film. (The only award he picked up that year was for "Best Liplock" with Cameron Diaz from the Teen Choice Awards and MTV.)
It took a second round with Scorsese to gain the attention form the critics, this time playing Howard Hughes. DiCaprio went on to receive a Best Actor nomination for his dynamic, realistic performance in this biopic.
Back in the good graces of movie critics, DiCaprio went on to play more critically acclaimed roles over the next few years, including a third collaboration with Scorsese in "The Departed." It was the multilayered role as Dom Cobb in "Inception" (and a superb ensemble case and plot) that brought the public back in a big way.
As one of the biggest movie stars in the world today, DiCaprio continues to thrill audiences with his gigantic talent, most recently in "J. Edgar" (2011) which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor.
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