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Survey Reveals People's Vote For The Worst Leonardo DiCaprio Movie

There was a time when audiences didn't really know who Leonardo DiCaprio was going to be. 

From almost the beginning of his film career, DiCaprio proved himself capable of taking on and disappearing into challenging roles, as evidenced by his careful study of intellectual disabilities as Arnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? But he also explored a bit more in those early days, taking parts in films like the Sam Raimi action-western The Quick and the Dead and the family drama Marvin's Room. When Romeo + Juliet was followed closely by Titanic, the easy route definitely would have been to embrace his inner heartthrob and settle into a niche as a romantic lead.

In other words, there was a time in his career when DiCaprio couldn't afford to be quite so picky and when he wasn't necessarily the first pick of everyone from Martin Scorsese to Steven Spielberg to Quentin Tarantino, when the material he was being offered, and perhaps his sense for the material, weren't quite at the level they are today. He's had his fair share of real stinkers, so Looper asked fans, "What is Leonardo DiCaprio's worst movie?" More than 500 people responded, and the top pick may surprise you.

The worst Leonardo DiCaprio film sees him star as a drug-addicted high schooler

Instead of going for notorious flops The Beach or The Man in the Iron Mask, nearly a quarter of the 528 poll respondents selected 1995's The Basketball Diaries, starring DiCaprio as a drug-addicted high school basketball player, as the actor's biggest stinker.

It's a tough charge to refute, even if your first choice would be one of those others. Critics said the movie is self-indulgent in its depiction of a teenager hitting rock bottom. The cast, which includes DiCaprio as well as Mark Wahlberg, Michael Imperioli, and Ernie Hudson, seem to wallow in the misery of their descent into crime, violence, and sex work caused by their heroin habits. The film even cheats its redemption arc. Jim (DiCaprio) is sent to prison at Rikers Island and is finally able to get clean there, which allows him to tap into his talent as a writer. But this period is all but nonexistent, the difficulty of recovery skipped in favor of showing Jim giving a reading in hardly any screen time at all. 

But critics agree that the highlight of The Basketball Diaries was DiCaprio's performance, which elevated the film from being an after-school special. The Basketball Diaries was released just two years after What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and the one-two punch of those proved to reviewers that DiCaprio could do nearly anything.

Two of Leonardo DiCaprio's most notorious flops were runners-up

Some of the nearly anythings Leonardo DiCaprio chose to attach himself to in the years after The Basketball Diaries were Titanic. Some of them were titanic flops. 

The survey's runner-up was director Danny Boyle's notorious 2000 drama The Beach, which earned DiCaprio his only Golden Raspberry for Worst Actor nomination. (He "lost" to John Travolta for Battlefield: Earth and Lucky Numbers.) As the young American Richard who happens upon what appears to be a utopian tropical paradise in Thailand (spoiler alert: it's not), DiCaprio never seemed to know what exactly he was aiming at, which is fair, since the movie was accused of being pulled in too many directions as well.  

In third place with 15 percent of the vote was 1998's The Man in the Iron Mask, which featured DiCaprio playing the dual roles of King Louis XIV and his secret twin brother Phillipe, whom the veteran musketeers Athos (John Malkovich), Porthos (Gérard Depardieu), and Aramis (Jeremy Irons) conspire to switch with the cruel and heartless king. As the king, DiCaprio's menace was more like pouting; as the locked away brother, his naivete was often conveyed through the ratcheting up and down of the same deer-in-the-headlights expression. He would end up winning a Razzie for this one, as both halves of the Worst Screen Couple.

Leonardo DiCaprio got more selective but still landed some stinkers

Each of the top vote-getters are from DiCaprio's early period, when it was still a mystery as to exactly what kind of performer he might end up being. Then the four-movie run of Gangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can, The Aviator, and The Departed proved that there was no doubt he was going to be not just a serious star but a serious actor. The "When is Leo going to win his Oscar" countdown could start in earnest then. 

But even once DiCaprio had settled into his preferred career mode, he wasn't immune to picking the occasional stinker. Fourth place was the 2011 Clint Eastwood-directed biopic J. Edgar, taking 12 percent of the vote. In fifth place was 2013's The Great Gatsby, which received a little more than 10 percent of the vote. Bringing up the rear, the best of the worst, was the terrorism thriller Body of Lies, which got just under 10 percent. 

Nine percent of respondents picked "Other." Remember how we said DiCaprio's potential was evident from "almost" the beginning of his film career? That's because his first-ever film role was an appearance in Critters 3. If he had stuck with that path, he'd have had a very different career indeed.