10 Greatest Daniel-Day Lewis Films, According To Letterboxd

10 Greatest Daniel-Day Lewis Films, According To Letterboxd: Born on this day in 1957, the sixty-six-year-old Daniel Day-Lewis is not just one of the most prolific and remarkable actors of his generation and our times. By announcing his retirement in 2017 after working in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, he became a towering cultural icon, measuring the fabric of an illustrious career on film and cutting it out perfectly to be put on display in the museum that is the history of English-language cinema.

A lack of ‘star status’ in him is its own kind of adornment, making the tenderness and intensity of his work even more potent and specific. A winner of three Academy Awards and four homeland BAFTAs, and three SAGAs (including many more), his enduring physical and emotional commitment to every leading character that he plays remains its own kind of illustrious award. Even his lesser works carry the nuance and resonance that is missing in most actors’ masterpieces, for every eye which beholds a film on celluloid, watching his work once before its eventual demise is important.

Naturally, his body of work enjoys quite the popularity on Letterboxd, the one social media site which cinephiles hold dear for its intimate yet broad-based invitation of reviews and ratings for films, mini-series, and shorts. His best-rated works frequently make it to the extensive lists made by the users, and mere one-liners gushing on his performances become some of the most liked reviews on the site. Here is a list of the ten feature films of his that have been highest rated by the users.

For the sake of uniformity, mere cameo performances such as that one scene in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) and short films like For the Hungry Boy (2018, Phantom Thread extra footage) have been filtered out.

10. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Letterboxd Rating: 3.5

10 Greatest Daniel-Day Lewis Films, According To Letterboxd - My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Based on a screenplay written by Hanif Kureishi, Stephen Frears’ My Beautiful Laundrette was an acclaimed romantic-comedy set in the bustling South London of the mid-1980s, in which a romance blooms between two men who happen to be old friends. It is appreciated for how wisely and assuredly it uses the tropes of a cross-cultural romantic dramedy to tell a charming gay love story with dense social subtext.

Daniel Day-Lewis was praised by the critics for a terrific performance in his ‘breakout role,’ which was initially offered to and rejected by Gary Oldman. Lewis then went on to win the award for Best Supporting Actor in the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, where it was also nominated for Best Film.

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9. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

Letterboxd Rating: 3.6

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche would be one hell of an extraordinary duo, and their chemistry translated mythically in this romantic classic by Philip Kaufman. Adapted from the 1984 Czech novel by Milan Kundera and with a screenplay that Kaufman co-wrote with French Novelist Jean-Claude Carrière, the film had just the right amount of eroticism and well-constructed cinematic depth to have its viewers swooning over its charm and nuance.

Lewis plays a successful brain surgeon with a carefree element going about him with such intimacy of focus that it’s hard to look away from him. He is backed by the equally compelling effortlessness of Juliette Binoche. More importantly, the film successfully throws light on sexual turbulence against the backdrop of a real and political one without becoming confounding or losing its own gravity. It was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography categories of the Academy Awards and was preserved in the Academy Film Archive in 2019.

8. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Letterboxd Rating: 3.6

10 Greatest Daniel-Day Lewis Films, According To Letterboxd - The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Michael Mann’s entertaining endeavor with the period costume drama, The Last of the Mohicans, was adapted from the 1826 novel of the same name by James Fenimore Cooper and presumably also its 1936 film adaptation, directed by George B. Seitz. It is a spectacular 1757-set western, and DDL plays well the role of Hawkeye Poe, an adopted white son of the Mohican chief Chingachook. He doesn’t play it off like a standard Mowgli archetype. Instead, he brings an understated complexity to the character.

In fact, he went on to win the British Actor of the Year Award at the London Film Critics Circle Awards, along with the Best Actor award at Evening Standard British Film Awards. The film itself was nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Sound.

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7. Gangs of New York (2002)

Letterboxd Rating: 3.6

10 Greatest Daniel-Day Lewis Films, According To Letterboxd - gangs of new york (2002)

While not considered one of the best works of the cinematic divinity and legend Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York is still highly regarded for his vision of the city that had him fascinated and keenly observing itself for its vivid details. The gritty drama had enough integrity and skilled display of talent to get people hooked to it, and Daniel Day-Lewis gave Bill the Butcher such a solid state of form that he single-handedly elevated the viewing experience, despite the fact that he was not even the lead here.

Based on the 1927 book of the same name written by Herbert Asbury, the historical drama was questioned on matters of historical accuracy and also heavily criticized for not being extremely powerful (being a Scorsese venture). Yet it still made various top ten lists of the best films of the year all over the world. For his memorable performance, DDL went on to win the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He also won this award at Chicago Film Critics Association and the Florida Film Critics Circle, among many others.

6. A Room with a View (1985)

Letterboxd Rating: 3.7

10 Greatest Daniel-Day Lewis Films, According To Letterboxd - a room with a view (1985)

One of the pioneers of the blessed “every frame a painting” visual quality, James Ivory translated the lucidity of EM Forster’s early twentieth-century novel A Room with a View with the aid of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s screenplay into an often engaging and mostly charming British romance. In it, Daniel Day-Lewis’s Cecil is a supporting presence, often snobbish and cold, mostly pretentious and the comical wealthy archetype. However, he plays him with such singular restraint that he brings a smile to your face. In fact, he won the award for Best Supporting Actor in New York Film Critics Circle for his performance in the film.
One of the most acclaimed films of its time, it sustains its pleasurable charm and heightened drama even after some dilution now. According to Roger Ebert, A Room with a View is “an intellectual film, but intellectual about emotions: It encourages us to think about how we feel, instead of simply acting on our feelings.” It won the Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design.

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5. The Age of Innocence (1993)

Letterboxd Rating: 3.7

10 Greatest Daniel-Day Lewis Films, According To Letterboxd - the age of innocence (1993)

Not only has Daniel Day-Lewis elevated one of Scorsese’s minor works, but he has also dazzled the brightest in one of his most fascinating and profound films to date. The Age of Innocence is an unusual work from the master, a period romance with a strong nostalgic element going for it, and equipped with an unmistakable James Ivory look and feel that would also go on to inspire Greta Gerwig in her terrific adaptation of Little Women (2019).

Based on the 1920 novel of the same name written by Edith Wharton, the film was dotted with intelligent use of the author’s insider knowledge of the American aristocracy. This sense of an inquisitive peek was audaciously conveyed by Daniel Day-Lewis’s perfect gentlemanly performance as the protagonist Newland Archer. It also features cameo performances by Scorsese’s parents, and the film is prominently dedicated to them.

4. My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)

Letterboxd Rating: 3.8

A biopic of cerebral palsy-affected Irish writer and painter Christy Brown based on the memoir of the same name that he wrote in 1954, My Left Foot, directed by Jim Sheridan, is another DDL-starter that is considered one of the finest films of its times. In fact, the moving and occasionally funny character drama features a performance so unusually committed by Daniel that it is also sometimes considered the best performance of his career. Of course, not everyone agrees with the assessment, but the fact that it was the beginning of his stint with method acting, remains unmistakable. Add to that an intimate and honest portrayal of an individual with cerebral palsy.

There is certainly a towering consistency that he brings to the character when he picks him up in his teenage years up until the end of the film from Hugh O’Conor (who played the little Brown), for which he grabbed the Academy Award for Best Actor, and also the BAFTA among many other accolades. The film was praised by critics all over for pushing its emotional and inspirational buttons quite perfectly. It was nominated for many ‘Best Film’ categories in several awards, including the Oscars.

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3. In the Name of the Father (1993)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.0

Another Jim Sheridan classic with Daniel Day-Lewis as its poster boy, In the Name of the Father, is a rather powerful and raging real story of four people who were falsely convicted of the 1974 Guildford pub bombings, with a screenplay adapted from the 1990 autobiography of Gerry Conlon, one of the four innocents. Also, this is that film for which he lost fifty pounds of weight, spent turbulent and willingly disturbed time in a jail cell, and put on a Belfast accent. The scorching performance did tower on the rest of the film, thereby lifting it.

The fifteen difficult years in prison are translated with such impassioned observance in Daniel Day-Lewis’s physicality that you will want to bow towards the screen. Writing for Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan said that the film featured The Right Actor for the Wrong Man, further stating that his performance makes us feel we are sharing his harrowing experience.

2. Phantom Thread (2017)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.1

A lot (read: maximum) of Daniel Day-Lewis’s towering performances have been excellent adaptations, which has only been a testament to what an inspired and spotless actor he has been all throughout his life. It is only fitting, then, that his last performance as the British dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock feels straight out of the classics, a furnished adaptation of some original and complex literary masterpiece, as does the film, a sophisticated character study dedicated to his obnoxious male-child persona.

The delicacy and brutality that he brings to Woodcock are simply impeccable, making the film itself unmistakably one of the best from the last decade. Almost equally ravishing is Vicky Krieps as Alma, a breakthrough that would lead to many other fine performances of recent times. For his remarkable last stint, he met universal acclaim. The immaculate score by Jonny Greenwood was also praised worldwide and remains one of his most masterful works to date.

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1. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.4

A worthy modern contender for the best feature films of all time and obviously one for featuring the best performance by an actor in a feature film (ever!), There Will Be Blood is a gritty dramatic masterpiece both for its deeply intelligent auteur Paul Thomas Anderson and for its shining, charismatic veteran Daniel Day-Lewis. To date, Daniel Plainview remains his most memorable character, one who induces fear and pleasure in equal measure. Letterboxd is flooded with five-star ratings for the film, in fact, it is difficult to find a review having a rating less than that. The most popular review has a 2-star rating, and that is perhaps more of a call-out to bad taste than anything else.

In fact, it is the thirty-second highest-rated film of all time on the site, above classics such as In The Mood for Love, Persona, Stalker, and Apocalypse Now. The film was flooded with critical acclaim upon its release. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, out of which it won two, including the mandatory Best Actor for Daniel Plainview- oops, sorry- Day-Lewis! One of the AFI’s ten greatest films of that year, the jury said, “Daniel Day-Lewis creates a character so rich and so towering that “Daniel Plainview” will haunt the history of film for generations to come.”

Shashwat Sisodiya

Living a Hrishikesh Mukherjee life, dreaming a Wes Anderson world.