A few years ago, it seemed like Leonardo DiCaprio would never receive the Academy Award victory that he so richly deserved. Despite giving a lifetime of great performances, DiCaprio always seemed to fall short in the Oscars’ estimation; some of his best performances in films like The Basketball Diaries and Django Unchained didn’t even receive nominations. Although DiCaprio finally earned an Oscar in 2015, it felt like the ceremony needed to give him a “career trophy” representative of his entire body of work.



DiCaprio’s Oscar-nominated roles represent only a small sliver of his filmography, and it’s surprising that he’s received so few nominations when considering how many genuine classics that he’s starred in. That doesn’t take anything away from the performances that did get in, because any one of DiCaprio’s nominated roles would have felt like a justified winner. Here is every Oscar-nominated performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, ranked.

6 ‘Blood Diamond’ (2006)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond (1)

2006 was a big year for DiCaprio. He starred in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, which finally earned the legendary director the Academy Award wins for Best Picture and Best Director that he had long since merited. Despite being the lead in The Departed, DiCaprio’s performance was passed over in favor of his work in the action-thriller Blood Diamond. He starred as Danny Archer, a South African mercenary who reluctantly agrees to help the frightened father Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou in an Oscar-nominated performance) find his missing son during a major conflict in the area.

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DiCaprio’s performance in Blood Diamond is perfectly fine, but it does feel like the Oscars missed the chance to nominate his more dynamic work in The Departed for a fairly generic action role where DiCaprio did an accent.

5 ‘The Aviator’ (2004)

Leonardo DiCaprio kneeling next to a plane in The Aviator
Image Via Warner Bros

The Aviator was the first major collaboration between DiCaprio and Scorsese. While DiCaprio had a minor role in Scorsese’s previous film Gangs of New York, his work in the film was largely overshadowed by Daniel Day Lewis’ scene-stealing lead performance. However, The Aviator gave DiCaprio the chance to be a proper lead. The enigma behind the legendary inventor Howard Hughes had become larger than life, giving DiCaprio a lot of room to add his own insights and chew the scenery.

DiCaprio is certainly doing a lot of acting in The Aviator, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s his best. That being said, playing a notoriously idiosyncratic person like Hughes certainly comes with its challenges; it’s impressive that DiCaprio was able to make his work not seem like a caricature.

4 ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ (1993)

the Grape family in a car in What's Eating Gilbert Grape

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was the first film that gave DiCaprio the reputation of being a great actor, as his work in Critters 3 wasn’t exactly earning him any Oscar attention. He had a show-stealing supporting performance in the 1993 family drama as Arnie, a young boy with intellectual disabilities who grows up in a small Iowa town with his older brother Gilbert (Johnny Depp). The film itself has its clichés, but the empathetic work by DiCaprio and Depp certainly elevates what would have been a fairly standard family melodrama otherwise.

While not notoriously the best of his roles, DiCaprio’s work in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape showed how personable his relationships could be. Arnie becomes a character that is not defined by his disabilities because of the sensitivity that DiCaprio brings to his work.

3 ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ (2019)


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a massive love letter to Hollywood, and more specifically to the idea of “movie stars.” A character like DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton represents an entire generation of popular movie stars that struggled to make the transition to “New Hollywood” at the tail end of the 1960s. It’s evident that both DiCaprio and writer/director Quentin Tarantino were drawing from their own experiences with the film; the idiosyncrasies that the film identifies about the art of acting feel like they may have been drawn from similar things that DiCaprio himself may have done.

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DiCaprio is often not given enough credit for how funny he can be, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is certainly one of his most humorous roles. DiCaprio wasn’t afraid to be a sad sack; even though the film ultimately celebrates the impact that Dalton had, he’s the butt of the joke more often than not.

2 ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013)

'The Wolf of Wall Street's use of fourth wall breakage helps connect the character with the audience
Image via Paramount Pictures

The Wolf of Wall Street presented a massive challenge to frequent collaborators DiCaprio and Scorsese. How would they be able to convince an audience to invest in a wild 3-hour biopic about a completely unlikeable character? Jordan Belfort is a liar, a charlatan, and a cheater, but DiCaprio makes him completely entertaining. Watching Belfort commit his crimes creates tension ahead of the film’s conclusion; his fall from grace is only satisfying after seeing him enjoy his indulgences.

Like many Scorsese movies, The Wolf of Wall Street features many fourth-wall-breaking scenes where Jordan Belfort talks directly to the camera. This necessitated even more charisma on DiCaprio’s part.

1 ‘The Revenant’ (2015)

Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant'
Image via 20th Century Fox

The Revenant is the film that won DiCaprio the Oscar, but it wasn’t simply an accolade for his entire career. As much as the discourse surrounding the film revolved around DiCaprio’s physical labors, his performance isn’t just great because he tortured himself.

The Revenant is ultimately a spiritual journey about a grieving father who had put himself through hell in order to find what he considers to be justice. As DiCaprio shows in the film’s gripping final moments, revenge is not a solution to grief. Hugh Glass may kill people in vengeance, but no future violence on his part will bring back the son that was taken away from him.

NEXT: The Best Leonardo DiCaprio Movies, Ranked

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