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The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles

The actor's retirement today came as a shock to fans.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. (Miramax)
Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. (Miramax)

Film buffs everywhere should be in virtual mourning today. Daniel Day-Lewis has announced his retirement from acting, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The following statement was released by a representative of the actor:

"Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor. He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject."

Daniel Day-Lewis on May 5, 2016 in New York City. (Getty Images)

More news on the matter will likely be forthcoming, but that will bring little solace to both the actor's fans, and the entire acting community. Day-Lewis is arguably the finest talent of his generation (sorry, Meryl). He didn't make many movies, but his impact will span the centuries. 

Day-Lewis is the only man to win the Best Actor Academy Award three times. He was actually nominated for the award for 25 percent of his films (five nominations for 20 movies). And he may not be done. His 21st and presumably final film, Phantom Thread, will premiere this Christmas. The project reunites Day-Lewis with Paul Thomas Anderson, who directed the actor to Oscar glory in There Will Be Blood.

Final film or not, Day-Lewis has had a career for the ages. However, choosing his finest work is like shopping for a Lamborghini. It's near-impossible to pick one. We're going to try, and try to do the Great One justice in doing so. 

10. Cecil Vyse - A Room with a View (1985)

DDL's portrayal of the E.M. Forster character brings comic relief to the well-mannered A Room with a View. The pretentious Cecil Vyse is a quintessential dandy fop and DDL couldn't be more convincing. He once called the character "a bound-up aesthetic who can't open his mouth without clearing the room."

The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles
Curzon Film Distributors

9. Johnny Burfoot - My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

The same year DDL appeared as Vyse, he also played a bleach blond homosexual punk named Johnny in My Beautiful Laundrette. It's another stellar supporting role, but a much riskier one than Vyse. Day-Lewis was never afraid of taking on a challenge and this one got him noticed in a major way during the '80s.

The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles
Orion Classics

8. John Proctor - The Crucible (1996)

A great example of a big performance in a small movie. The Crucible certainly has its problems, but DDL isn't one of them. His turn as John Proctor, a 17th century farmer torn between his God and his sin of adultery, is powerful at every turn.

The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles
Fox

7. Hawkeye - The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Hawkeye, the adopted white son of Chingachook, is a moral hero for all-time. Immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his seminal novel set during the French and Indian War, Hawkeye is even more vivid onscreen thanks to Day-Lewis. With long, flowing hair and a bravery that belies the savagery of the time, he's almost out of time in the film. It's his greatest action performance.

The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles
Fox

6. Gerry Conlon - In the Name of the Father (1993)

Day-Lewis' portrait of the wrongly convicted Gerry Conlon is a sweeping performance of a man over many periods of his life. Conlon, a hippy imprisoned for a vicious IRA bombing in England, fights the system for years, watching the police arrest members of his family along the way. DDL brings the joy of freedom, the bewilderment of being wrongly accused, the depression of realization, and the anger of injustice in equal amounts.

The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles
Universal

5. Danny Flynn - The Boxer (1997)

Day-Lewis' second IRA-themed film working with director Jim Sheridan was The Boxer. In it, DDL plays the title hero, a former IRA youth released from prison years later. He wants to stay on the straight and narrow, but his old neighborhood and boss, beckons. In a quietly powerful performance, Day-Lewis conveys the pain of a man who needs to forget his past, but knows he still has unfinished business.

The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles
Universal

4. Abraham Lincoln - Lincoln (2012)

For anyone else, this would be a career achievement: Portraying Honest Abe and winning an Oscar for it. But, for Day-Lewis, it's simply another great role in a career made of them. The greatest feat he pulls off as the 16th president is convincing the world he is just that. Watching the film, you forget about the actor behind the top hat and iconic chin strap beard.

The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

3. Bill the Butcher - Gangs of New York (2002)

This is another example of the role being greater than the sum of its subject matter. Gangs of New York may not go down as a great film, but its villain will. Day-Lewis brings true viciousness to his portrayal of Bill the Butcher, the de facto crime boss in turn of the 20th century New York City. Losing any semblance of his Britsh accent and disappearing behind matted hair and a glass eye, Day-Lewis personifies early American greed, violence, and prejudice.

The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles
Miramax

2. Daniel Plainview - There Will Be Blood (2007)

Perhaps more than any other cinematic anti-hero of the past 50 years, Daniel Plainview defies categorization. His evil is the result of a lifetime of hard work, something most Americans know plenty about. Can we blame him for how he turns out? The mystery is due to the performance of Day-Lewis, who instills in Plainview a work ethic any father would want in their son. But his American Dream comes at a price, and Plainview pays it over and over again, sacrificing his humanity along the way. There Will Be Blood stands as the signature film for the corruption of the American Dream and Day-Lewis stands as the reason why.

The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles
Paramount Vantage

1. Christy Brown - My Left Foot (1989)

A list of the greatest movie performances of all time, on its own, would be hard-pressed to forget what Day-Lewis put onscreen in My Left Foot. Yes, he won the Oscar for the role and yes, it's a hugely respected piece of dramatic art, but you've still got to see it to believe it. DDL was well-known as a strict method actor and he went to incredible lengths in his portrait of Christy Brown, an Irish artist born with cerebral palsy who only had control of his left foot. Confined to a wheelchair for much of the film, Day-Lewis must rely on his body to communicate, not his voice. It's the single most impressive physical performance you'll ever see, and the greatest of the actor's storied career.

The 10 Greatest Daniel Day-Lewis Roles
Miramax
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