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How true-crimey is Leonardo DiCaprio’s c.v.?

How true-crimey is Leonardo DiCaprio’s c.v.?
Leonardo DiCaprio in Killers of the Flower Moon, one of many true-crime films he's starred in (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection)

With Killers of the Flower Moon finally hitting Apple TV+ tomorrow, it’s (past?) time to assess Leonardo DiCaprio’s IMDB page for its relative true-crime-itude. 

That’s right: Scorsese’s boy (…lol; he turns 50 this year) is getting the Best Evidence True-Crime Résumé Percentage (BET-CRP) treatment.

“Wait, how’s that work again?” Here’s how Best Evidence analyzes the true-crime levels of an actor or director’s c.v.:

  • 1 point for each true-crime property, regardless of size/nature of role
  • 2 points for playing a “name figure” in case
  • 1 point if the role received awards attention (i.e., Emmy, Globes, or Oscar nods)
  • 1 point if the property is considered a hall-of-famer
  • all points divided by number of IMDb credits —> the Bet-Crap

Heading into the IMDb-page breakdown, my feeling is that DiCaprio charts as high as we’ve seen; he doesn’t have as long a roles roster as others, but he often plays a name figure, the Scorsese factor means he’ll pick up awards-consideration points and HOF points…my prediction is 22 percent.

Time to do the literal math!

  1. Street Safe, Street Smart (1990) // It’s tempting to assign a point here — it seems like this is a stranger-danger safety video for kids from Disney? — but it doesn’t quite meet the brief, IMO: 0
  2. This Boy’s Life (1993) // Some of the awards attention DiCaprio got as a newcomer was split between this and Gilbert Grape, but I still think it counts, and the film overall definitely counts, plus Leo is playing “Toby” Wolff, author of the crimoir it’s based on. Not quite a genre hall-of-famer, but still: 4
  3. The Basketball Diaries (1995) // I don’t love including real-life stories about addiction or sex work, but decriminalization is beyond the scope of the Bet-Crap. It does count as true crime, DiCaprio did play a name figure…I thought this got more mainstream noms than it did, but it still notches: 3
A man in period costume holds up a full-face mask
The wig might be actionable, but… (Photo by MGM)
  1. The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) // I had a nagging feeling d’Artagnan was a real guy. A little clicking around revealed that he sort of is based on a man who existed, but Dumas’s account of his adventures is almost totally fictionalized. I could classify Louis XIV as a crook, no doubt, but I don’t think this one counts: 0
  2. Celebrity (1998) // Is there an argument to be made for this as a true-crime property given who directed it? Possibly; I don’t remember the film well enough to say whether DiCaprio’s character is a thinly disguised version of himself/the notorious “Pussy Posse,” the moniker of which alone should be a misdemeanor. Know that I considered dinging it with points, but: 0
  3. Gangs of New York (2002) // It’s for sure a true story, or close to it, but DiCaprio didn’t get much awards notice for his role, which is a composite at best, so the question is whether it’s a hall-of-famer. While I enjoyed it, I would say it’s a HOF Day-Lewis performance and not necessarily in the top tier otherwise? So I’m leaving it at: 1
A person wearing a suit holds up two pieces of paper with typing on them
“Might want to rethink your prediction, Buntsy.” (Photo of Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can by Dreamworks)
  1. Catch Me If You Can (2002) // More points on offer here: Abagnale existed, and DiCaprio plays him — and got a Globe nom for his trouble. I was utterly charmed by the entire film when I saw it in the theater, and we probably should talk about it more today than we do…but we don’t. Still: 4
  2. The Aviator (2004) // I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know how/if it handles Howard Hughes’s drunk-driving manslaughter allegations; probably it doesn’t touch on his Watergate connections; I doubt the script takes a “let’s take it as read that any super-richie is a crook some way” stance. If I do classify it as true crime, it racks up a bunch of points, but I just don’t think that’s the intent. Feel free to disagree in the comments but I can’t quite get there: 0
  3. The Departed (2006) // This one’s easier, given that Jack Nicholson’s Costello is partly based on Whitey Bulger; Costigan is probably another composite, but it did get DiCaprio some awards notice — and I hate that ending as much as anyone, but I do think this is a hall-of-fame property: 3
  4. J. Edgar (2011) // I despised this movie, but you can’t argue with its bona fides for the purposes of a BET-CRP. I would like to argue with various awards bodies nominating DiCaprio’s performance in this stinker, but they did: 4
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) // Not quite a hall-of-famer, as I noted here, but Leo played the lead and won a Golden Globe: 4
Two people wearing 1970s clothes walk and talk near a car
“I’M THE KING OF THE WORL- er, GENRE!” (Photo by Sony Pictures Entertainment)
  1. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019) // Is this a HOF true-crime property? No real debate over the two points DiCaprio for sure gets, true story and awards attention. I’m betting my esteemed co-EIC thinks it gets one more point; I can’t believe the thing is already five years old buuuut IMO it’s too soon to say if it’s an all-timer: 2
  2. Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) // Another one Eve might assert is a hall-of-famer; again, too soon to say, for me, but we all know he’s good for the other points: 4
  3. The Wager (tk) // Still years away, most likely, but the subtitle of the most recent David Grann property has “murder” in it, so provisionally: 3
  4. Jim Jones (tk) // I mean, I…assume it’s the infamous one. Again provisionally: 3

DiCaprio has 47 eligible titles — and, if we count projects listed as “upcoming,” 35 points, which puts his BET-CRP at a mind-bending 74.4 percent. 

Even if you knock out the upcoming stuff, that still leaves you with 29 points and 44 titlesand 65.9 percent. 

This is a shockingly high percentage period, never mind for an actor I don’t think people necessarily associate with the true-crime genre!

How did this happen? Martin Scorsese.

He’s a prestige director, which will keep the tap of awards points open for his acting favorites — and in the 21st century, that’s DiCaprio.

DiCaprio’s historically proven more than capable of keeping himself in awards conversations, obviously, which is likely why he’s a Marty favorite, but Marty’s other favorite thing is epic tapestries of extra-legal systems, so I suspect we get a similarly high score if we run Robert De Niro’s numbers…and if I ever run Scorsese himself, we could get our first-ever percentage over 100.

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