Leonardo DiCaprio birthday: celebrating his 5 most underrated movies

Leonardo DiCaprio is 46 years old today, so we're celebrating his remarkable career with a Cineworld blog list of his most underrated movies.

To be clear, this is not a recap of The Revenant, The Wolf of Wall Street, Inception or DiCaprio's most famous, blockbusting movies. Rather, it's a look at those under the radar choices that deserve fresh appraisal. Scroll down to discover our list.


1. This Boy's Life (1993)

It takes a brave and talented actor to go toe-to-toe with Robert De Niro, particularly when they're young and relatively inexperienced. The youthful DiCaprio's intuitive dramatic chops were on display in this hard-hitting drama from Michael Caton Jones, adapted by Tobias Wolff from his own memoir.

DiCaprio stars as Wolff himself, a troubled teen caught between his loving mother (Ellen Barkin) and her abusive new husband (De Niro). The physical confrontation scenes are genuinely startling in their violence, neither actor holding back and further investing us in this dramatic story of a difficult upbringing. This was the same year that DiCaprio clinched his first Oscar nomination, for What's Eating Gilbert Grape, announcing himself as a dynamic new player on the Hollywood scene.

2. The Basketball Diaries (1995)

Way before The Departed, DiCaprio paired with Mark Wahlberg in this tough urban drama about drug addiction. Given he was unfairly tarnished with the 'pretty boy' brush after Titanic, it's perhaps important to go back and remind ourselves of DiCaprio's gutsiness in these early-nineties dramas.

The movie is based on the experiences of original author Jim Carroll, played by DiCaprio in the movie. A talented young slam-dunker, Carroll is gradually waylaid by heroin addiction, and DiCaprio sells us on every gruelling minute of it. Post-Titanic, it took DiCaprio some time to claw his way back towards these grittier, more substantial roles, but when he did, it acted as a startling reminder of where his career began.

3. Celebrity (1998)

DiCaprio's first and, to date, only collaboration with Woody Allen came in this darkly comic satire. Despite an all-star cast including Kenneth Branagh, Winona Ryder, Melanie Griffith and Charlize Theron, this characteristic Allen story of marital dysfunction proved to be a rare misfire on release.

In recent years, critics have started to re-appraise Celebrity, and one of its gems is DiCaprio as handsome prima donna young movie star Brandon Darrow, courted by Branagh's flailing entertainment journalist. It's clearly a none-too-subtle riff on the fan hysteria that greeted the actor in the wake of Titanic, but DiCaprio pulls it off.

4. Blood Diamond (2006)

Slightly dodgy South African accent aside, DiCaprio is typically commanding and watchful in Edward Zwick's topical action-thriller. Blood Diamond tries to have it both ways, attempting both a critique of conflict diamond exploitation and also a rousing adventure of redemption. 

The mixture is occasionally fitful but always visually engrossing. And DiCaprio is to be applauded for taking on a role that is initially unsympathetic, a daredevil jewel smuggler in it for personal gain whose eyes are open to the horrors of the world around him. DiCaprio makes an excellent pairing with Djimon Hounsou, playing the man desparately trying to be re-connected with his family. Although DiCaprio was Oscar nominated for this movie, we can't help but think it was overshadowed by his superlative work in The Departed that same year.

5. Shutter Island (2010)

DiCaprio is now firmly entrenched as Martin Scorsese's muse, off the back of acclaimed performances in Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street. These roles have ranged from virtuous to reptillian, but few have been as memorably paranoid as DiCaprio's turn in Shutter Island.

Dennis Lehane's pulpy asylum thriller is the basis of this twist-fuelled descent into madness. DiCaprio plays one of two FBI agents (Mark Ruffalo is the other) who venture to the titular Shutter Island to locate a missing hospital patient. The rollercoaster ride of shocks that ensues pushes DiCaprio's acting to its very limit, with quiet understatement giving way to roaring rage. And that final twist still kills us.


What do you consider to be Leonardo DiCaprio's most underrated movie? Tweet us @Cineworld.