best film:   There Will Be Blood is the answer here, but The Age of Innocence is closer than many think. There Will Be Blood is meditation on greed and monomania. Everyone is going to agree on There Will Be Blood and they should – best not to get too cute here – but The Age of Innocence is simply spectacular. So, to recap, Daniel Day-Lewis is in a heavyweight masterpiece from Paul Thomas Anderson and one from Martin Scorsese as well – not bad. That next tier down includes The Last of the Mohicans (seems always to get overlooked), Lincoln, and Phantom Thread.


best performance:  Numbers two (2) through eight (8) below on Daniel Day-Lewis’ top ten (10) are somewhat debatable, but number one is uncontestably There Will Be Blood. Daniel Plainview is one of cinema’s greatest characters and will feature near the top on the best male acting performances of all-time. DDL’s apex or zenith is truly haunting. Day-Lewis gets the focus of the film’s long silent opening, the church confrontation with Paul Dano, the set piece oil rig explosion and the  devastating finale (just smashing the viewer). On top of all this, there are a ton of black comedy moments absolutely nailed by Day-Lewis.


Daniel Plainview is Day-Lewis’ Jake LaMotta



stylistic innovations/traits:   Daniel Day-Lewis’ fifteen (15) archiveable films (two of which are bit parts early in his career) make the depth a bit of a problem for him this far up on the list. The per-film average discussion is one where DDL is going to win every time. Those fifteen (15) archiveable films come in just twenty-one (21) attempts and unlike say James Dean (a perfect three for three) Day-Lewis has masterpieces and certainly more than enough to fill out a top five or top ten. Day-Lewis has won three (3) Academy Awards so far and has been nominated a total of six (6) times. He is famous for his dedication to his role – his studying – his method. He often stays in character the entire time when on set shooting a film – and months of work leading up to the film (building his canoe in Mohicans, refusing a warmer coat while shooting Gangs of New York even though he was sick because his character would have wanted a warmer coat – many stories like this). Whatever his process is, the results on screen are impossible to argue with – he seems to have taken out the acting with his homework and great lengths for authenticity. He can slip away into a character (My Left Foot, Lincoln) as well as anyone. He can underplay a role brilliantly (Age of Innocence is one of the great examples of restraint in cinema history) and chew up the scenery with the best of them (Gangs of New York) as well. Day-Lewis is also renowned for taking long periods of time off between roles, working infrequency (rumors of his “retirement” go back as far the late 1990s) becoming the sort of Stanley Kubrick of actors (luckily both have made just about every film count). Since 1989, He has been in twelve (12) total films and has given one of the best performances of the year in six (6) of those. That is just absurd.


decades later, Daniel Day-Lewis’ work as Hawkeye/Nathaniel gets most of the study from 1992’s immaculate The Last of the Mohicans. He brought method to a new level by getting into character for months. Day-Lewis is marvelous here – he is more than convincing as both an action hero (the work he put in must have paid off because every motion seems natural) and romantic lead, It also helps fill out Day Lewis’ resume (without it , one would be left wondering if he could ever pull off an action Russell Crowe in Gladiator-type role).


directors worked with: Jim Sheridan (3), Martin Scorsese (2), Paul Thomas Anderson (2), John Schlesinger (1), James Ivory (1), Michael Mann (1), Steven Spielberg (1)


Phantom Thread – another tale from Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis of a monomaniacal character. Daniel Day-Lewis announced his retirement and said this would be his final film. If this is indeed his final role – he ends on a wonderous high note.


Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. Holy hell – he is on fire— levitating here, chewing scenes and blowing the other actors off the screen (hard to tell if Leonardo DiCaprio is bad here (probably not), miscast (maybe), or just cannot swim as fast as DDL (absolutely). Bill has the greasy hair, the eye. Day-Lewis has a half dozen dazzling monologues and scenes. The one in the chair wrapped in the American flag may be the best. There are a lot of valid complaints about the overall screenplay but here it is has good dialogue. Giving an actor like this lines like “I never had a son”. “This was a great man” and “Civilization is crumbling” is gold.


top ten performances:

  1. There Will Be Blood
  2. Gangs of New York
  3. Phantom Thread
  4. Lincoln
  5. In the Name of the Father
  6. The Age of Innocence
  7. The Last of the Mohicans
  8. My Left Foot
  9. The Boxer
  10. My Beautiful Laundrette


Daniel Day-Lewis in The Age of Innocence – which is the Goodfellas (cinematic style bliss from Scorsese – it is that well directed) of costume period piece films. This is just half of DDL’s impeccable 1993 – which also features him standing on his head in Jim Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father.



archiveable films

1971- Sunday, Bloody, Sunday
1982- Gandhi
1985- The Beautiful Laundrette
1985- A Room with a View
1988- The Unbearable Lightness of Being
1989- My Left Foot
1992- The Last of the Mohicans
1993- In the Name of the Father
1993- The Age of Innocence
1996- The Crucible
1997- The Boxer
2002- The Gangs of New York
2007- There Will Be Blood
2012- Lincoln
2017- Phantom Thread