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7 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis performances

BY Ben Stanley

1st Jan 2015 Film & TV

7 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis performances

Daniel Day-Lewis is an iconic performer of both screen and stage. His outstanding talent has landed him three Academy Awards for Best Actor and even a Knighthood in 2014. To celebrate his 60th birthday, Ben Stanley looks back at seven of his greatest film performances.

A Room with a View

A romantic drama that follows a young woman, Lucy, on her trip to Italy. During this trip, she falls for the free-spirited George but their different levels of class cause family concerns.

Day-Lewis is the pretentious Cecil, whom Lucy is arranged to marry on her return to England. There isn’t a romantic spark between the two, which has the audiences rooting for Lucy to reunite with George.

Cecil is irritating, pompous and truly deserving a slap in the face, demonstrating Day-Lewis's remarkable ability to completely transform himself for the characters he plays. 



The Crucible 

Based on the play of the same name and set during the Salem witch trials, John Proctor (Day-Lewis) ends an affair with a younger woman, Abigail Williams, which results in her framing John’s wife for witchcraft.

Proctor is a character full of guilt mixed with a sense of rage which Day-Lewis skillfully depicts as he tries to protect his wife and the repercussion that follows.

Day-Lewis is known for his method acting but his role as John Proctor also involved him ditching his beloved motorcycle for a brown horse, along with helping carpenters build the set prior to filming. 



The Last of the Mohicans


Set during 1750s French and Indian war, the last members of the Mohicans set out to rescue the daughters of a British colonel.

Day-Lewis leads as Hawkeye, an adopted white son of the Mohicans, as he travels through the crossfire of war to free the girls. Hawkeye isn’t a one-note hero as the action-driven conflicts on the battlefield are combined with touching moments of human connection.

Day-Lewis’s method acting was in place throughout this war epic, showcasing his incredible skills, from fighting with tomahawks to skinning animals. The downside of this dedication came after the filming was wrapped: Day-Lewis suffered from mild hallucinations and claustrophobia.




Steven Spielberg directs the acclaimed tale of one of America's most influential presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Day-Lewis stars as Lincoln, the 16th President, at the end of the Civil War.

This performance as Abraham Lincoln earned him his third Academy Award, making him the first actor to ever win three Oscars in the Best Actor category.

Lincoln’s zealous speech about abolishing slavery is an intense highlight of this film, showcasing his powerful presence and acting skill. 



Gangs of New York

Amsterdam Vallon returns to a sinister corner of New York City to seek revenge against his Father’s killer.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads this captivating crime drama but Day-Lewis is the standout performer with his villainous role as Bill "The Butcher" Cutting, a character worthy of the fierce name.

The film's grotesque opening introduces Bill as he butchers down our protagonist’s father, played by Liam Neeson. Neeson usually survives the toughest of situations, so this early demise shows that Bill is a villain not to be messed with.



My Left Foot 

Daniel Day-Lewis stars in this moving biographical story of Christy Brown, an Irish writer and painter with cerebral palsy.

Realistically portraying a sufferer of cerebral palsy is a challenge in itself but the fact that Day-Lewis was able to also integrate characteristics that Brown was known for such as strong sense of humour and wit, proves that he truly deserved the praise that he received, including the Best Actor Oscar.

Day-Lewis’s method acting for this role included spending eight weeks at a cerebral palsy clinic before the cameras started. When he was on set he would remain in character at all times, including staying in his wheelchair.



There Will Be Blood

Money-hungry prospector Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) deals in the oil business.

He is a father, he is a man of business and he is ruthless.

His performance is truly manipulative and unsettling. An example of overacting that works in both a hilarious and menacing sense is the iconic “I drink your milkshake” scene. This culminated in Day-Lewis winning his second Best Actor Oscar.

There Will Be Blood can be seen as a horror film where our main point of view character is truly the monster.


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