Monday, July 27, 2020

The Best Live Film Adaptations of Comic Books

Photo Credit: Pixabay

With the conclusion of this past weekend’s first all-virtual Comic Con it got me thinking, comic books and graphic novels get shrugged off as lightweight in some corners, but there have been some pretty entertaining films based on them over the years. I’m not talking about the superhero and super villain films Marvel and DC churn out, but movies that you might forget were born from comics instead of a more traditional novel or original screenplay. Which ones stand out from the crowd? Here are some of the very best.

The Crow (1994)
This is the film that started the tradition of great comic to film adaptations for me. Alex Proyas directed this action-packed movie based on the comic book by James O’Barr. It tells the story of a rock musician who is brought back from the dead to avenge the murder of himself and his fiancée. Its flashy visuals, exciting martial arts, and standout soundtrack all left their mark on audiences but sadly it was the last film performance for star Brandon Lee who died of a gunshot accident while on set.

From Hell (2001)
Loosely adapted from a comic by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, this film tells the story of Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders. Johnny Depp plays inspector Frederick Abberline who leads the investigation while battling his own demons in the form of an opium addiction. Moore is famous for his dislike of adaptations of his work and this movie is no exception to that vitriol, but it’s a darkly entertaining film that still holds up well.

Road to Perdition (2002)
Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig did a comic book movie? Yes, they did. Sam Mendes directed this Chicago gangster flick based on a graphic novel written by Max Allan Collins. Hanks plays against type as a mob enforcer who decides to turn against his mentor and employers after they fail to avenge the murder of his wife by one of their own. The movie is a dark, violent, study on family and what it means to raise a son in a world where loyalty often means death.

A History of Violence (2005)
David Cronenberg delivered this adaptation of a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke and it boasts its share of star power too. Viggo Mortensen plays a small town hero whose dark past comes back to haunt him in the form of baddies played by Ed Harris and William Hurt. Like so much of Cronenberg’s work, this one features some extreme violence and enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Sin City (2005)
This hyper-violent tale directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez is based on Miller’s graphic novel and uses a similar visual style. It stars a huge cast of well-known actors and showcases a series of hard-boiled vignettes about the cops, prostitutes, gangsters, and murderers who populate the fictional Basin City and their often bloody struggles against one another.

Constantine (2005)
This is a DC Comics film so some might consider it a cheat for this list, but I don’t think of the title character as a superhero. Constantine, played by Keanu Reeves, is a chain-smoking, cynical paranormal detective who has come back from the dead and now has the ability to see and interact with the angel and demon half-breeds who constantly battle on earth for the souls of men. When he meets a police detective who asks for his help investigating her sister’s death, he finds they’re up against no less than the Devil himself.

V for Vendetta (2005)
Written by the Wachowskis of The Matrix fame and based on a comic by the same Alan Moore who wrote From Hell, this film focuses on a young woman’s liberation from the tyrannical forces that control the government and kill all who oppose them. Her liberator, a masked vigilante known only as V, teaches her the true nature of how the government came to power and how to fight back.

30 Days of Night (2007)
One of my favorite horror films ever, this movie is based on a comic series written by Steve Niles. A small town sheriff in Alaska finds his town overwhelmed by a host of vampires who arrive to feast on his townspeople during a month-long polar night. With no outside communications, no hope of daylight, and a blizzard that blocks all roads out of town, it’s up to the sheriff and a few fellow Alaskan denizens to defeat the vampires before there’s no one left alive.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Sure, the title of the Japanese graphic novel this Tom Cruise movie is based on, All You Need Is Kill, is much cooler, but the film is still a good one. Cruise plays a media relations expert in the near future who winds up being demoted to grunt in order to fight and die in an alien invasion. Through a strange twist, he finds that every time he dies, he is reborn to live out the day again. Leveraging this power he is able to become an increasingly effective soldier as he is trained by a battle-hardened Sergeant played by Emily Blunt who has used the same rebirth talent in her efforts to defeat the aliens once and for all.

Atomic Blonde (2017)
2017 was a great year for movies and one of the year’s best is this action film based on Antony Johnston’s graphic novel The Coldest City. Starring Charlize Theron as MI6 spy Lorraine Broughton, her character must travel to Berlin during the Cold War in order to retrieve a list of undercover agents that was stolen from a murdered fellow spy. Set to a fantastic soundtrack of 80s pop, Broughton fights, races, and seduces her way through a series of adversaries and allies as she works to complete her mission while determining exactly who is on which side.

Did I leave one of your favorites off the list? There are plenty more good ones to choose from. Here are some Honorable Mentions:

300, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Old Guard, Oldboy, Red, Wanted

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Old Guard and Top 10 Action Film Female Bad Asses

Photo Credit: Netflix

I watched the hot new Netflix offering The Old Guard last night. Based on a comic book of the same name, it tells the story of a group of immortal soldiers led by millennia-old Andromache of Scythia (now known as “Andy”) and their battle against an evil pharmaceutical executive who wants to harvest their DNA to cure disease and drive his company’s stock price through the roof of the fancy downtown tower where the film’s action-packed finale takes place. Charlize Theron plays the lead and like just about everything else she does, she nails it as the guilt-ridden bad ass heroine with a tragic backstory. It got me thinking, who are the best female bad asses in action movie history? Here are my picks in a countdown from 10 to 1.

10. Lucy in Lucy (2014)
Scarlett Johansson has starred in several action movies over the course of her career, but this one is my favorite. Writer/Director Luc Besson has a knack for the genre and this story of an unwitting woman who taps into the full power of the human brain via an overdose of a new synthetic drug and uses it against the cartel who created it is a fun ride.

9. Sofia in John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)
Like Johansson, Halle Berry has played tough before, but never has she been more of a bad ass than she was in the third installment of the John Wick franchise. Watching her character Sofia fight side-by-side with Keanu Reeves’ John Wick was a blast even if the movie’s script doesn’t hold up to the original.

8. Ilsa Faust in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Every one of the films in this long franchise is entertaining, but Rebecca Ferguson brought a welcome shot of female adrenaline to this fifth installment as British agent Ilsa Faust. She holds her own against Tom Cruise’s series lead Ethan Hunt and wound up making other series newcomer Jeremy Renner feel like an afterthought.

7. Miho in Sin City (2005)
There are several murderous women in this stylish hard-boiled thriller from Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, but my favorite is the mute, deadly sword-wielding assassin Miho. Played by Devon Aoki, she does a number on dirty cop Jackie Boy that’s one of the highlights of the movie.

6. Alice in Resident Evil (2002)
Sure, like just about every film based on a video game, the writing in this one is pretty sub-par, but there's no denying Milla Jovovich’s appeal as zombie-killing heroine Alice. From the iconic slinky red dress to the inventive scene in the laser hallway, Alice definitely makes an impression.

5. Jane Smith in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
Angelina Jolie could have filled half this list, but I limited myself to just one of her roles and picked Jane Smith. This film is a blast and the chemistry between her and costar Brad Pitt was so palpable no one was surprised when they wound up getting married in real life. That marriage didn’t have quite the same happy ending the film did, but that doesn’t take away from our fun as an audience.

4. Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
One of the earliest cinematic examples of the modern female bad ass, Linda Hamilton nailed the part of Sarah Connor in both the original film and this sequel. Going against Arnold Schwarzenegger in his muscle-bound prime, you’d better bring your action A-game and she did.

3. Lorraine Broughton in Atomic Blonde (2017)
Starring in another film based on a graphic novel, Charlize Theron is both brutal and sexy as MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton. Sent to solve a murder in Berlin in the midst of the Cold War, Broughton’s mission includes a series of fantastic fight scenes, a great car chase, and one of the best film soundtracks ever.

2. Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill (2003)
Yes, technically this movie was broken into two chapters, but I’m counting both because there is simply no choosing between Uma Thurmond’s performances as The Bride. Writer/director Quentin Tarantino has written some of film’s best characters ever, but vengeful mama assassin Beatrix Kiddo might take the cake.

1. Ellen Ripley in Aliens (1986)
For me, Sigourney Weaver’s four turns as alien-fighting Ellen Ripley represent the matriarch of the film female action hero. No one before her took what was traditionally a male role and made it something truly female and yet still completely bad ass. She was great in all four of the movies she did in this franchise, but this 1986 sequel was the cream of the crop.

Andromache didn’t quite make my list and I’ll bet plenty of you would argue for some other characters and films I left out, but if you’ve already seen these 10, I highly recommend you add The Old Guard to your Netflix queue.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Character Arc – The Art of the Curve

Photo Credit: Pixabay

There are plenty of ways to screw up a perfectly good story. One of the easiest and most common is to fail to develop or simply rush a character arc. For anyone unfamiliar with or new to writing, one of the most important ingredients to a good story is the character arc. A character starts off one way and over the course of the story, changes. This change provides much of the heart of a tale. Think about Andy Dufresne’s journey from helpless, hopeless, self-absorbed convict to dedicated friend, inspiring inmate leader, and hopeful escape artist in The Shawshank Redemption or naïve but well-meaning Evey in V for Vendetta who grows into a badass revolutionary to help bring down a dictator.

A well-written story takes the time to show the audience how the character evolves. Significant change tends to take time and the audience believes in this change because they see it happen in understandable stages. Michael Corleone doesn’t become The Godfather overnight. He spends decades learning about the violence and manipulation it takes to run the family business before he takes it over from his father.

One of my favorite (least favorite?) examples of a character arc gone wrong is Anakin Skywalker’s journey from innocent droid tinkerer to Sith Lord, Darth Vader. George Lucas is a master at world building but Good God his dialogue lands with a thud. He took three films to show us that arc and I didn’t believe a single minute of it despite going in knowing how it had to turn out thanks to it being a prequel. The events that lead to Anakin’s turn to the dark side are debatably adequate, but the filmmaker, script, and actors just never do them justice.

The latest bad example of character arc that reared its ugly head at me and inspired the writing of this post is most of Season 3 of the Netflix show, Ozark. I loved the first two seasons – intriguing set-up, three dimensional characters, merciless cutting of those character when the story demanded it... great storytelling. Then I watched Season 3 last week. Multiple main characters were suddenly dramatically different with little to no explanation. Those changes were clearly made in order to tell a new chapter of the story instead of the story driving those characters to change. It’s taken me out of the imaginary world the show created despite the same great premise and acting.

Season 3 improved in the last few episodes but I hope Season 4 (yes, Netflix, make a Season 4!) takes more care in how and why the characters continue to evolve. Ozark is one of the best shows on television right now, but even the greatest stories go awry if writers cut corners on character arc.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Best Budget-Friendly Tequilas

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I saw an article recently on a site I won’t name that published a list of the top tequilas on the market. As someone who considers himself something of a tequila aficionado I wasn’t impressed. Half the tequilas on that list aren’t fit for frat-party margaritas much less sipping straight in the comfort of your Corona-19 confined home. So what should you try if you want a nice tequila buzz but don’t have a Congressional stimulus budget to spend? Read on for my picks that can be purchased $60 and under for a 750ml bottle.  

Cazadores Añejo ($37)
For any of you who are perhaps a little newer to the joys of tequila, most brands are available in at least three varieties: Blanco/Silver, Reposado, and Añejo. These designations are based on how long the liquor has aged in the barrel before bottling. Generally, the longer it has aged, the smoother it tastes and añejos have been aged at least one year. Cazadores Añejo is my go-to tequila. It’s not as well-known as some of the others on this list, but it’s smooth and delicious.

Herradura Ultra ($57)
If you check out their website you’ll learn that Herradura has a rich history and a great line of tequilas. You can’t go wrong with any of their products, but this one is my favorite. This bottle is a little pricier than most on my list, but taste it and you’ll know why. A crystal clear añejo rather than the typical honey-gold color, it’s a premium variety without a premium price.

Casamigos Añejo ($50)
Famously cofounded by actor George Clooney then sold for an astounding one billion (with a B) dollars just four years later, this label’s tequila is aged for 14 months before being bottled and its sweet flavor goes down as smooth as any tequila on this list.

Milagro Añejo ($35)
Yes, the bottle is eye-catching, but the contents are something special too. You might suspect this tequila is of lower quality based on the economic price, but it holds its own against many of the more expensive brands.  

Corralejo Añejo ($37)
This is another tequila that comes in a beautiful bottle. I was introduced to it via a Christmas present last year and it kept me happy and warm by the tree on more than one occasion. Give yourself a treat, drink the bottle then save it to decorate your bar.

Dulce Vida Organic Reposado ($30)
Purists may dismiss this tequila as a gimmick based on its organic nature, but I encourage you to give it a try. I favor organic foods as much as possible in order to avoid food sprayed with pesticides or grown with fertilizers or hormones, and this tequila not only follows those practices, it has a light, sweet flavor too.

Don Julio Añejo ($58)
Don Julio tends to cost a bit more than most of the tequilas on this list, but they make a good product. This one sips clean and will warm your belly with its finish.

Patron Añejo ($60)
As the most expensive tequila on my list, Patron has a lot to live up to and it largely delivers. This añejo is as smooth as you’ll find.

Tres Agaves Añejo ($50)
Tres Agaves makes the best margarita mix on the market, but their tequila isn’t too shabby either. Aged for 18 months in bourbon barrels, its taste includes hints of fruit with a spicy finish.

Pueblo Viejo Añejo ($27)
And finally, priced under $30 per bottle at most stores this tequila probably gets dismissed by many, but it shouldn’t. A friend introduced it to me recently and it’s surprisingly good.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Every James Bond Theme Song Ranked

A few years ago I ranked all of the Bond films and earned some debate for my trouble. If you like James Bond, you’ve no doubt got some favorites and probably a few you consider dogs. One of the comments about that post that most interested me was the idea that I ought to rank the theme songs as well. I'd already written a post about how much I disliked Sam Smith's “Writing’s on the Wall” so it felt wrong to rank all 24 theme songs at the time. Now that it’s 2020 and a new entry has arrived in the form of “No Time To Die”, I'm ready to do this thing. Here we go, from worst to best, all of the official James Bond theme songs.

25. The Man with the Golden Gun – Lulu
To Lulu's credit, it's tough to sing a song with such a ridiculous title, but man, this one is really bad. I'm reasonably confident I wrote better lyrics in my high school notebook.

24. All Time High (from Octopussy) - Rita Coolidge
James Bond is supposed to be sexy and dangerous. So why go with a song better suited for a dentist's waiting room?

23. On Her Majesty's Secret Service - John Barry Orchestra
With one exception, instrumentals just don't hold up when compared to some of the great songs this franchise has offered. This is not that exception.

22. From Russia With Love - John Barry Orchestra
This is not that exception either.

21. Writing's On The Wall (from Spectre) - Sam Smith
My burning hatred for this song has simmered a bit over the past five years, but Oscar winner or no, it still sucks. Different Bond eras each require different types of music, but Bond should never be whiny.

20. Another Way to Die (from Quantum of Solace) - Jack White and Alicia Keys
On paper the combination of Jack White's kick ass guitar playing and Alicia Keys' slinky voice sounds like a winner, but at least on this track, it didn't work at all.

19. Die Another Day – Madonna
I'm a fan of Madonna’s older music, but this track is an overproduced soulless song for an overproduced, soulless film.

18. Moonraker - Shirley Bassey
This one suffers from the same problems as “The Man with the Golden Gun” but features a much better singer. Shirley Bassey's voice always satisfies, even when the material is less than stellar.  

17. For Your Eyes Only - Sheena Easton
This one has more sex appeal than “All Time High”, but it's just as wimpy. There's nothing wrong with a Bond theme centering on his bedroom antics rather than his killer instincts, but don't make it sappy.

16. Thunderball - Tom Jones
This tune is just as silly as Moonraker, but it's sung by Tom Jones. Nobody puts Tom Jones at the bottom of a list.

15. No Time To Die - Billie Eilish
Yep, this is the new one. Ms. Eilish's whispery warble of a voice isn’t my cup of tea, but the song itself isn't bad. Give it a few listens, it might grow on you.

14. Diamonds Are Forever - Shirley Bassey
Still not her best contribution to the Bond franchise, but Shirley Bassey nails this one. There's not another singer who has contributed more to the mythos of James Bond.

13. Tomorrow Never Dies - Sheryl Crow
I'm a fan of Sheryl Crow and I think this song matches up well with the film, but the truth is, it's not even the best song on the soundtrack. That honor belongs to “Surrender” by k.d. lang.

12. The Living Daylights - a-ha
If you compare my list to others from more famous sources you probably won’t find this song ranked nearly this high, but they're wrong. It’s a great reflection of James Bond in the late 80s.

11. Goldeneye - Tina Turner
No other Bond theme singer’s voice rivals Tina Turner’s for pure sexiness. Match her up with a song written by U2’s Bono and The Edge and you’ve got a winner.

10. You Only Live Twice - Nancy Sinatra
Sure, this is one of the cheesier theme songs, but the Asian-themed arrangement with its strings and horns does a great job of teeing up the unique setting of the film.  

9.  The World Is Not Enough – Garbage
I admit I have a personal bias for this one. I sat a row away from Shirley Manson and the rest of the band at this film's premier. It was completely by chance and it remains one of my more surreal experiences. That said, Garbage is one of the best bands of the 90s and this lush song is the perfect introduction to the movie’s villain, the beautiful heiress, Elektra King.

8.  License to Kill - Gladys Knight
Sure, this is a knock-off of "Goldfinger", but it's nearly as great. Gladys Knight has the pipes to let you know she and our British spy hero have something in common. They both mean business.

7.  Nobody Does It Better (from The Spy Who Loved Me) - Carly Simon
If you're going to sing a theme song from the point of view of one of Bond's many lovers, this is how you do it. Bond's been loving and leaving them since 1962 yet every one of them would take him back in a heartbeat.

6.  A View to a Kill - Duran Duran
You don't get much bigger than Duran Duran in the mid 80s. The film franchise may have been a bit stale during this timeframe, but the music was top notch.

5.  You Know My Name (from Casino Royale) - Chris Cornell
Casino Royale marked the beginning of the current hard-edged Bond as played by Daniel Craig and you won't find many singers with a voice harder-edged than Chris Cornell.

4.  Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney and Wings
If Duran Duran epitomized the 80s Bond, Paul McCartney and Wings did the same for the 70s. This might be the best song that band ever produced and it's one of the best James Bond has ever had.

3.  Skyfall – Adele
This 2012 tune is one of the most popular songs in franchise history for one of the most popular films in the franchise history. Adele's voice is gorgeous and it perfectly echoes the danger and tragedy of this movie's storyline.

2.  Goldfinger - Shirley Bassey
The first non-instrumental Bond theme song remains the best one. No one belts out a tune like Shirley Bassey. Long may she reign!

1.  James Bond Theme (from Dr. No) - John Barry Orchestra
This is the exception to the rule. No other instrumental does James Bond justice, but the theme song that introduced the world to James Bond with Dr. No remains as iconic as ever. I think some version of this song has played in every one of the 25 films to date and I don't see that changing in the future. It's as integral to the character as his martini, shaken not stirred, and his Walther PPK.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Best Free Short Speculative Fiction of 2019

As another year comes to a close I look back on it with the pleasure of knowing I’m 25,000 words into writing an occult detective novel that I really like, but also with the knowledge I could and should have written more. I knocked out a few short stories on the side, but I only managed to sell one, “The Money Changer”, to The Weird and Whatnot. Of course just because I didn’t publish much doesn’t mean others didn’t produce a ton of great stories. Keeping in mind that my taste runs toward horror and darker/grittier sci-fi and urban fantasy, here is my list of the best free speculative short stories published in 2019. Grab a beverage, find a comfortable seat, click the free links and enjoy.

Published just a few weeks ago on, author Garth Nix’s Stalin-era tale of a Russian assassin forced to go on a strange mission does a great job of building suspense.

Wren Wallis shares a tale that’s equal parts Moby Dick and Pirates of the Caribbean in the November issue of Mithila Review.

All three stories (and narrated recordings) available in PseudoPod 668 are fun, but my favorite is the second one on the page by Lora Gray. It’s my kind of creepy.

The Autumn 2019 issue of Kaleidotrope includes this dark fairy tale written by Rebecca Mix that tells of a young girl abandoned in the swamp only to find a strange new family to call her own.

Megan Arkenberg’s ghost story takes some interesting twists and turns. It was published in the August 2019 issue of Dark Magazine.

Filip Wiltgren’s short sci-fi tale of love and loss was published in July 2019 by Daily Science Fiction.

I’m cheating a bit since this wonderful piece by Seanan McGuire was first published on her Patreon site in 2016, but to my knowledge, the first time it was offered for free was in the July 2019 issue of Nightmare Magazine.

PseudoPod published some great short horror this year. This tale of a grisly plane crash investigation was included in Pod 655 and was written by Vivian Shaw.

Author Cadwell Turnbull tells the story of a father and daughter trying to survive a post-apocalypse world in the March 2019 issue of Nightmare Magazine.

This tale of a subterranean menace in London was written by Sara Saab and published in the February 2019 issue of Dark Magazine

If you enjoyed these tales, you might want to check out the host of websites I reviewed when I made this list. I bet you’ll find even more to enjoy.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Top 10 Performances

Photo Credit AP Images/Invision

From his humble Hollywood beginnings as a child television actor to his current status as one of the most famous film stars in the world, Leonardo DiCaprio has pretty much done it all. I finally got a chance to see him in Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, on video last night so I thought it would be fun to rank his all-time top 10 performances. Does his latest role make the list? Read on and find out!

Django Unchained (2012) – Yes, DiCaprio’s repugnant plantation owner Calvin Candie is over-the-top camp, but like so many of writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s wilder characters, he’s tons of fun. DiCaprio plays against type here as the racist bad guy against Jamie Foxx’s heroic ex-slave and new bounty hunter, Django Freeman.

Titanic (1997) – Of course this is the role that made DiCaprio a movie star so it had to be on my list somewhere. Young, handsome, and undeniably charismatic, DiCaprio won the heart of Kate Winslet’s Rose and movie-goers everywhere as the charming but ultimately doomed Jack.

Catch Me If You Can (2002) – This light-hearted Spielberg-directed film tells the story of real-life conman Frank Abagnale Jr. and his early life of crime as he’s pursued by FBI agent Carl Hanratty. This role probably wasn’t as challenging as some of the others on this list, but DiCaprio is a joy to watch as he fools people into thinking he’s a teacher, an airline pilot, and a doctor all while cashing forged checks everywhere he goes.

Shutter Island (2010) – Most critics don’t hold this movie in as high a regard as many other Martin Scorsese films, but I really liked it. It’s a puzzle of a story and DiCaprio does a great job of keeping us in the dark as to the true nature of his character as he navigates the mysterious mental hospital where he’s been called to solve a case.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) – If there’s one thing Tarantino does well, it’s creating memorable characters. Leo plays washed up cowboy actor Rick Dalton who is trying to hold onto a sinking career in 1969 unaware that Charlie Manson and his gang are planning to murder his neighbors. For a star who remains on top of the world, DiCaprio does a fantastic job of presenting an actor who reached for the golden ring and never quite attained it.

The Departed (2006) – Scorsese has made several great films with DiCaprio and this is one of the best. DiCaprio plays state trooper Billy Costigan who goes undercover to infiltrate the Boston mob and ferret out a suspected mole on the force. DiCaprio brings just the right mix of bravado and vulnerability to the role and he more than holds his own in a stellar cast.

Inception (2010) – Anyone who reads this blog regularly is probably familiar with my appreciation of director Christopher Nolan’s work and my particular fondness for his sci-fi masterpiece, Inception. DiCaprio is darn near perfect as the brilliant but emotionally damaged lead, Dom Cobb.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) – Still a teenager at the time, this is the movie that helped DiCaprio make the leap from television to film. His performance as mentally-impaired Arnie Grape showed the world he was much more than just a cute kid. He was in fact a star in the making.

The Revenant (2015) – DiCaprio’s only Best Actor Oscar so far was awarded to him for this gritty performance as a frontiersman in the early 1800s on a mission of revenge against the man who killed his son. The cinematography is amazing in this movie, but it’s DiCaprio’s steely-eyed determination that really brings the story to life.

The Aviator (2004) – One of four films to earn DiCaprio an Oscar nomination, he plays the legendary eccentric, millionaire, playboy, businessman, and aviator Howard Hughes. The best actor award wound up going to Jamie Foxx for his excellent turn as Ray Charles in Ray, but to me, this is DiCaprio’s greatest performance to date and his best collaboration with Scorsese. I completely forgot I was watching an actor when I saw this movie the first time. That’s the mark of a great performance.

No The Wolf of Wall Street? No Blood Diamond? Nope! DiCaprio has had such a fantastic career those two Oscar-nominated performances didn’t even make my list. With another four projects on his slate right now, including two more Scorsese films, who knows how many more great roles he’ll rack up before he’s done. If your favorite didn’t make my list, tell me about it in the comments section below.