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Every Daniel Day-Lewis Movie Role, Ranked

Full ScreenPhotos:Daniel Day-Lewis Performances Ranked, Least to Greatest

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

At age 14, Day-Lewis scored his first feature part—an uncredited cameo requiring him to vandalize cars outside his local church—in this 1971 British drama. Though it was a truly blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part, Day-Lewis has said that the experience of being paid to be a thug was “heaven.”*Gandhi* (1982)

Gandhi (1982)

In Gandhi, Day-Lewis was promoted from nonspeaking thug (in Sunday Bloody Sunday) to speaking punk—insulting Gandhi himself (Ben Kingsley) onscreen while wearing a newsboy cap. He made a convincing thug in those few minutes of screen time.*Nanou* (1986)

Nanou (1986)

Incredibly, there was a time when even Day-Lewis played the simple supporting part of the “nice English boyfriend” to a film’s protagonist, as he did in this forgettable drama-romance.Photo: From Photo 12/Alamy Stock Photo.*Stars and Bars* (1988)

Stars and Bars (1988)

If you’ve ever yearned to see Day-Lewis chase Joan Cusack through a hotel while wearing only a blazer and a towel, then Stars and Bars—in which the actor plays a British art expert searching America in pursuit of a Renoir—is for you. It may not crack the National Film Registry, but Stars and Bars proves Day-Lewis can play slapstick (in a bananas cast including Harry Dean Stanton, Laurie Metcalf, and Martha Plimpton)—and, for some, that is enough.Photo: From AF Archive/Alamy Stock Photo.*My Left Foot* (1989)

My Left Foot (1989)

Day-Lewis first proved his incredible commitment to character by learning to write and paint with his toes to play Irish writer and painter Christy Brown for this Sheridan-directed biopic. On set, Day-Lewis famously spent most of the shoot in his wheelchair to remain in character—a particular devotion which led to his first Oscar.Photo: From Pictorial Press LTD/Alamy Stock Photo.*Lincoln* (2012)

Lincoln (2012)

Day-Lewis has confessed that, while making this Steven Spielberg-directed biopic, he was able to convince himself that he was indeed the titular president—a metamorphosis so complete that he spoke in his character’s high-pitched voice between takes and went on to earn a third Oscar.Photo: From Collection Christophel/Alamy Stock Photo.*There Will Be Blood* (2007)

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Day-Lewis has said that he was “deeply unsettled” by Daniel Plainview, the oil prospector he plays with chilling intensity in this Paul Thomas Anderson drama set in turn-of-the-century California. The Telegraph](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3669814/Daniel-Day-Lewis-the-perfectionist.html) deemed the film “a Citizen Kane-esque character study about the corrupting desire for power and riches”—and thanks to Day-Lewis’s stunning, haunting, and powerful performance, There Will Be Blood will be remembered and re-watched, like its predecessor, long after its star is gone.Photo: From Entertainment Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo.PreviousNext

<em>Sunday Bloody Sunday</em> (1971)

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

At age 14, Day-Lewis scored his first feature part—an uncredited cameo requiring him to vandalize cars outside his local church—in this 1971 British drama. Though it was a truly blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part, Day-Lewis has said that the experience of being paid to be a thug was “heaven.”

<em>Gandhi</em> (1982)

Gandhi (1982)

In Gandhi, Day-Lewis was promoted from nonspeaking thug (in Sunday Bloody Sunday) to speaking punk—insulting Gandhi himself (Ben Kingsley) onscreen while wearing a newsboy cap. He made a convincing thug in those few minutes of screen time.

<em>Nanou</em> (1986)

Nanou (1986)

Incredibly, there was a time when even Day-Lewis played the simple supporting part of the “nice English boyfriend” to a film’s protagonist, as he did in this forgettable drama-romance.From Photo 12/Alamy Stock Photo.

<em>Stars and Bars</em> (1988)

Stars and Bars (1988)

If you’ve ever yearned to see Day-Lewis chase Joan Cusack through a hotel while wearing only a blazer and a towel, then Stars and Bars—in which the actor plays a British art expert searching America in pursuit of a Renoir—is for you. It may not crack the National Film Registry, but Stars and Bars proves Day-Lewis can play slapstick (in a bananas cast including Harry Dean Stanton, Laurie Metcalf, and Martha Plimpton)—and, for some, that is enough.From AF Archive/Alamy Stock Photo.

<em>Eversmile, New Jersey</em> (1989)

Eversmile, New Jersey (1989)

A long time ago, Day-Lewis attempted romantic comedy—playing a traveling Irish dentist who offers gratis services to the people of rural Argentina while romancing a woman (Mirjana Joković) he encounters during a motor-repair meet-cute. (Yes, you read that correctly.)From J&M Entertainment/Everett Collection.

<em>Nine</em> (2009)

Nine (2009)

If we were ranking the best Day-Lewis performances that involve him crooning in an Italian accent and fedora, his work in Nine—as a filmmaker attempting to sing his way out of writer’s block—would be at the top. Ebert wondered why Day-Lewis was cast in the part, given that the actor “isn’t romantic, musical, comic, baffled, exasperated—and not in the slightest degree Italian”—but perhaps this is what makes Guido one of Day-Lewis’s boldest creations . . . even if it is lost in an otherwise disappointing musical.From AF Archive/Alamy Stock Photo.

<em>The Bounty</em> (1984)

The Bounty (1984)

Day-Lewis got the chance to face off against Anthony Hopkins in this adaptation of the 1789 mutiny on the HMS Bounty—with Day-Lewis playing the Bounty’s sailing master to Hopkins’s captain—but it was another newcomer, Mel Gibson, playing Fletcher Christian, who was name-checked as an up-and-comer worth watching.From Photo 12/Alamy Stock Photo.

<em>The Ballad of Jack and Rose</em> (2005)

The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005)

In this drama, written and directed by Day-Lewis’s real-life wife Rebecca Miller, Day-Lewis plays a withering counterculture castaway trying to reverse the complex father-daughter dynamic he has with his daughter, Rose (Camilla Belle).From AF Archive/Alamy Stock Photo.

<em>A Room with a View</em> (1985)

A Room with a View (1985)

In his fourth feature-film role, Day-Lewis brought the perfect amount of snobbishness and pretentiousness to E.M. Forster’s character Cecil Vyse, who courts Helena Bonham Carter’s heroine Lucy Honeychurch.From Cincom International/Everett Collection.

<em>Gangs of New York</em> (2002)

Gangs of New York (2002)

Day-Lewis took a five-year hiatus before playing mustachioed, knife-throwing, 19th-century sociopath and gang boss Bill the Butcher in Martin Scorsese’s period drama—for which the actor prepared by dressing and talking in the style of his character, and taking butchery lessons.From AF Archive/Alamy Stock Photo.

<em>The Crucible</em> (1996)

The Crucible (1996)

In Arthur Miller’s adaptation of his own play about the Salem witch trials, Day-Lewis tackled the role of John Proctor, a Puritan farmer whose moment of marital indiscretion (with a character played by Winona Ryder) begins his undoing. Though he gave a credible, competent performance, it was ultimately outshone by Joan Allen’s work as Proctor’s wife Elizabeth.By AF Archive/Alamy Stock Photo.

<em>The Boxer</em> (1997)

The Boxer (1997)

Day-Lewis stars as the titular boxer—I.R.A. member Danny Flynn—who attempts to build a peaceful life for himself in Belfast and rekindle a relationship (with Emily Watson) after a 14-year prison term, in this Sheridan-directed biopic.From Universal/Everett Collection.

<em>The Unbearable Lightness of Being</em> (1988)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

Day-Lewis managed to make even serial seducer Tomas, a Czech surgeon and womanizer, sympathetic in this adaptation of Milan Kundera’s novel.From Everett Collection.

<em>My Beautiful Laundrette</em> (1985)

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Day-Lewis’s performance as Cockney drifter Johnny, who opens a laundromat with a gay lover, was so incredible that Roger Ebert, who had seen the actor in A Room With a View the same year, wrote, “That one man could play these two opposites is astonishing.”From Orion Pictures/Everett Collection.

<em>The Last of the Mohicans</em> (1992)

The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

When Day-Lewis was offered the role of hunky frontiersman hero Hawkeye, the actor had barely spent any time in America—which makes his performance all the more impressive. Though the role “scared the life out” of him, he prepared in typical D.D.L. fashion—learning how to track and skin animals, build a canoe, and use a 12-lb flintlock gun—until he was able to authentically portray the character and stun critics with the latest proof of his remarkable range.From 20th Century Fox Film C1orp.

<em>Age of Innocence</em> (1993)

Age of Innocence (1993)

When Day-Lewis was approached to play aristocratic New Yorker Newland Archer, the actor has said, “I was struggling to escape from English drawing rooms.” Because Martin Scorsese was heading this Edith Wharton adaptation, Day-Lewis signed on—though his reluctance to tackle another period drama is apparent in early scenes. Day-Lewis, who was a fan of Taxi Driver, would not get the “rough-and-tumble” Scorsese collaboration he dreamt of until Gangs of New York came along.From AF Archive/Alamy Stock Photo.

<em>In the Name of the Father</em> (1993)

In the Name of the Father (1993)

Day-Lewis brought power to his performance as the real-life Gerry Conlon, an unlucky Irish scoundrel falsely convicted of the 1974 Guildford pub bombings, in this biographical courtroom drama, which marked Day-Lewis’s second collaboration with filmmaker Jim Sheridan.From Everett Collection.

<em>Phantom Thread</em> (2017)

Phantom Thread (2017)

Fussy fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock may be Day-Lewis’s funniest performance to date. Paul Thomas Anderson and Day-Lewis created the exacting character together, and Day-Lewis collaborated with costume designer Mark Bridges to ensure that Woodcock’s sartorial stamp was felt throughout the film.By Laurie Sparham/Focus Features.

<em>My Left Foot</em> (1989)

My Left Foot (1989)

Day-Lewis first proved his incredible commitment to character by learning to write and paint with his toes to play Irish writer and painter Christy Brown for this Sheridan-directed biopic. On set, Day-Lewis famously spent most of the shoot in his wheelchair to remain in character—a particular devotion which led to his first Oscar.From Pictorial Press LTD/Alamy Stock Photo.

<em>Lincoln</em> (2012)

Lincoln (2012)

Day-Lewis has confessed that, while making this Steven Spielberg-directed biopic, he was able to convince himself that he was indeed the titular president—a metamorphosis so complete that he spoke in his character’s high-pitched voice between takes and went on to earn a third Oscar.From Collection Christophel/Alamy Stock Photo.

<em>There Will Be Blood</em> (2007)

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Day-Lewis has said that he was “deeply unsettled” by Daniel Plainview, the oil prospector he plays with chilling intensity in this Paul Thomas Anderson drama set in turn-of-the-century California. The Telegraph](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3669814/Daniel-Day-Lewis-the-perfectionist.html) deemed the film “a Citizen Kane-esque character study about the corrupting desire for power and riches”—and thanks to Day-Lewis’s stunning, haunting, and powerful performance, There Will Be Blood will be remembered and re-watched, like its predecessor, long after its star is gone.From Entertainment Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo.

At several different points in his three-time Oscar-winning career, Daniel Day-Lewis has threatened to quit acting—each time in appropriately dramatic fashion for the legendarily eccentric, method actor. And last summer, after channeling couture-fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock for Paul Thomas Anderson’sPhantom Thread, the actor—drained from the metamorphosis—again announced his retirement from on-screen shape-shifting, perhaps this time for good. In the event that March’s Oscars really do conclude Day-Lewis’s final awards-season odyssey, Vanity Fair has compiled a photographic ode to Day-Lewis’s on-screen roles, ranking them from good to better to best. (Because even at his lowest point, a Daniel Day-Lewis performance is never bad.)

Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Julie MillerJulie Miller is a Senior Hollywood writer for Vanity Fair’s website.

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