The only actor with three Academy Awards for Best Actor which is a simple validation of his dazzling talent, Daniel Day-Lewis is a wonderful artist. With a tall and sharp stature, Day-Lewis has made quite the reputation as a method actor who gets really deep into the core of his character, often randomly picking fights with strangers to be as aggressive or demanding the crew to wheel him around the sets just because his character is unable to walk.
In his nearly four-decade career, the veteran actor has only focused on quality over quantity. His extreme devotion to his craft and knack for method acting has catapulted him into superstardom, carving out a legacy in the heart of cinema for people who will always remember his glorious characters that cannot be transcended into a particular genre.
From playing a homosexual working-class man to the acclaimed President of the United States, from being a ruthless and mercenary oil mogul to an obsessive fashion designer, the actor has done it all.
Day-Lewis was last seen in two-time collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 film Phantom Thread and has retired from acting ever since. Anderson even joked, “I know, I know. I know. I’ve killed off the world’s greatest actor.” Anderson even spoke of how Day-Lewis brings the character to life and all the director has to do is “follow him and film him”.
Here we rank some of the best Daniel Day-Lewis films available for streaming on Netflix in order of greatness:
Ranking Daniel Day-Lewis films on Netflix in order of greatness
5. The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese, 1993)
Adapted from Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel, Scorsese’s historical romantic drama revolves around the lives of New York aristocrats in the 1870s where a wealthy lawyer, engaged to a charming socialite, is enamoured by her beautiful cousin. This makes him question his love and engagement amidst moral and social dilemmas.
The Age of Innocence was created by Scorsese as a tribute to his father and even features the Scorsese parents in small cameos. Although the film was not a box office success, the opulence and grandeur of 1870s New York is a visual treat for the audience in this saga of unrequited and unconsummated love. The ensemble cast comprises Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder in prominent roles, with Day-Lewis portraying the role of a lovelorn, confused man extremely well.
4. In the Name of the Father (Jim Sheridan, 1993)
Based on the true story of Guildford Four where four people were falsely convicted of bombing the pub, this biographical crime drama sees Day-Lewis as Gerry, a man who is coerced into making a false confession regarding his involvement in bombing the eponymous Guildford pub, also leading to his father’s imprisonment. However, a just lawyer decides to fight to prove their innocence despite massive obstacles in her path.
Starring Day-Lewis, Dame Emma Thompson and others in lead roles, this critically acclaimed film won seven Academy Award nominations, including the Best Actor in Leading Role nomination for Day-Lewis, marking his second nomination. A brilliant commentary on justice and humanism, Day-Lewis’ indelible performance makes the film even more memorable.
3. Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese, 2002)
The film records the heightened tension among the Catholic and Protestant communities in the 1800s when a man named Priest Vallon is mercilessly slaughtered by William the Butcher. Vallon’s son witnesses the harrowing incident and returns to the town in 1862 using an alias of Amsterdam to avenge his father’s death with William’s blood.
Gangs of New York was the first-ever Martin Scorsese film Leonardo DiCaprio starred in before becoming a frequent collaborator. Nominated for ten Oscars, the film received critical acclaim for Daniel Day-Lewis’ magnetic and ruthless performance as the Butcher. Day-Lewis adopted method acting to prepare himself for the role, constantly speaking in Yankee dialect and randomly picking fights with strangers to adopt his character’s aggression.
2. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
Daniel Day-Lewis’ final role before his retirement saw him as the obsessive and meticulous fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock who leads a well-planned life. However, his life changes drastically when he meets his new muse and lover, Alma. Admittedly, Day-Lewis said that the film “overwhelmed” him with a strange “sense of sadness”.
Johnny Greenwood reunited with Anderson to create a haunting and masterful score that added to the general hollow atmosphere of the film. His rich and subtle tracks created a distinct aesthetic for this poignant tale of toxic masculinity, complementing Daniel Day-Lewis’ intoxicating performance.
1. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Referred to as “one of the best movies made in this decade” by none other than Quentin Tarantino, this Academy Award-winning film is Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnum opus. It takes the audience on a harrowing and remorseless journey coupled with the haunting compositions of Johnny Greenwood.
In Anderson’s exploration of ambition and extreme hunger for success, Daniel Day-Lewis plays the role of a ruthless and mercenary oilman who strives relentlessly to achieve his dream of becoming an oil mogul. Greenwood’s unabashedly remorseless music resonates with Day-Lewis’ character core who does not even hesitate to manipulate his adopted son.