It seemed like Leonardo DiCaprio was never going to win an Oscar. After his amazing performance in the Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, he unfortunately had to go up against Matthew McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejiofor and went home empty handed that night. He won for Alejandro G. Innaritu’s The Revenant two years later, which was one of the most physically demanding roles ever. Most people agree that wasn’t his best performance, but many argue which one is.
With great movies like The Departed, The Aviator, Blood Diamond, Shutter Island, Titanic, etc. it’s hard to choose which one he was the best in. A movie that doesn’t get talked about enough is Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can.
The movie stars Leo himself alongside Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken. The movie is based on Frank Abagnale Jr’s life as a kid, who ran away from home after his parents’ divorce, with Frank travelling around the world making fake checks and identities.
This performance relied on Leo’s charisma and confidence, and his ability to live a lie. While Titanic made him a superstar, this film is the reason why we love this actor so much.
In this movie Leo was a regular teenager who posed as a flight attendant, a doctor, and a lawyer.
He did all this by learning how to falsify checks, and ended up stealing millions of dollars from the banks. We see him go around the country meeting new people and and getting into one situation to another, while also constantly running from the FBI.
This movie showed that Leo had a range unlike most actors, that he hasn't utilized as much in his future films. He was an all-around con man who could fool you at any moment.
One of the early scenes of the movie has Leo pretending to be a substitute teacher. The scene right before that had him getting picked on the bully. He walks in with a suit and silences the whole class convincing everybody he is a hard-assed substitute teacher, and makes the bully read aloud in front of the whole class.
The scene where he was about to be caught by Tom Hanks’ FBI character, and completely convinces Hanks that he is Secret Service should’ve gotten him a nomination alone. The confidence and charisma are oozing out of Leo, and at the same time you could see he his scared out of his mind.
I’ve never seen an actor take on so many identities like Leo in this movie, and I will always argue this is his best role. You really buy into every single identity he is taking on, while also sympathizing that he ran away from a broken home.
In the film’s most dramatic scenes, you could see that deep down his character was a broken kid who just wanted to see his mom and dad get back together. The look on his face when see his mom with another family is truly heartbreaking.
He also deserves credit for completely outshining Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken in a Spielberg movie, where it's expected for Hanks to have the best scenes. The back and forth mind games he plays with Hanks' character is pure entertainment, which leads to them having mutual respect for each other.
It’s a shame that Christopher Walken was the only one nominated, as I feel that was a misstep. If Leo was nominated he most likely would’ve lost going up against heavyweights like Daniel Day-Lewis and Adrien Brody.
It’s a shame people forget about this movie, when it comes to arguing best Leo performances. It’s a truly unique performance, where the main character is funny, charismatic, confident, while also still being a kid.
My favorite performances from Leo are What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Django Unchained, Wolf of Wall Street, Shutter Island, The Aviator and of course Catch Me If You Can. To me this movie will always stand out because of the wide range of identities he took on to make this movie an underrated classic.