1. There Will Be Blood (2007)

IMDB Rating: 8.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 91%

Storyline:
Set in California in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the epic saga follows Daniel Plainview, a ruthless, self-made oil tycoon. The movie navigates through Plainview’s relentless pursuit of wealth and power in the booming oil industry, depicting his tumultuous relationships with his son and a charismatic preacher, Eli Sunday.

Why it’s a Major Performance:
Daniel Day-Lewis puts in one of his most compelling performances, creating an iconic character whose ambition and obsession fuel his demise. His portrayal of Plainview — using a unique voice, fierce scowl, and intimidating presence — won him his second Academy Award for Best Actor.

2. Lincoln (2012)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%

Storyline:
In this historical drama, Day-Lewis portrays the 16th United States President, Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War. The film revolves around Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery, all amid the ongoing war and personal conflicts.

Why it’s a Major Performance:
Day-Lewis convincingly portrays Lincoln with an uncanny impersonation, not just physically but capturing his oratorical style and statesman-like demeanour too. This compelling performance earned Day-Lewis his third Best Actor Oscar, making him the only actor to have achieved this feat so far.

3. My Left Foot (1989)

IMDB Rating: 7.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%

Storyline:
The movie tells the true story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy who could only control his left foot. Despite his physical limitations, Christy grows up to become a successful writer and artist.

Why it’s a Major Performance:
Day-Lewis gave a transformative performance, fully immersing himself into the character of Brown. He convincingly depicted the constraints of cerebral palsy and the character’s fierce determination. His committed performance led to his first Academy Award for Best Actor.

4. Phantom Thread (2017)

IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 91%

Storyline:
The movie takes place in 1950s London and follows Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.

Why it’s a Major Performance:
Day-Lewis delivers an intense and nuanced performance as the obsessive, perfectionist designer whose life unravels when confronted with love. The role, which Day-Lewis stated would be his last before retirement, earned him another Oscar nomination.

5. In the Name of the Father (1993)

IMDB Rating: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%

Storyline:
The film is based on the true story of Gerry Conlon, who was wrongly convicted of the 1974 Guildford pub bombings attributed to the IRA. Facing life imprisonment, Conlon and his father struggle to prove their innocence with the help of an uncompromising lawyer.

Why it’s a Major Performance:
Day-Lewis delivers a powerful performance full of anger, frustration, and despair, representing a man wronged by the justice system. His magnetic portrayal earned him an Oscar nomination and critical acclaim.

6. Gangs of New York (2002)

IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73%

Storyline:
The film focuses on the violent, early history of New York City during the mid-19th century, with Day-Lewis playing Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting, a ruthless, powerful gang leader. The movie explores his ongoing feud with a young man seeking vengeance for his father’s death.

Why it’s a Major Performance:
Day-Lewis gives a commanding performance as the brutal and theatrical ‘The Butcher’, offering an unforgettable character portrayal that earned him another Oscar nomination.

7. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%

Storyline:
This historic epic is set during the French and Indian War in the American wilderness. Day-Lewis plays Hawkeye, a frontiersman raised by the Mohican tribe, who gets entangled in a dangerous quest to rescue the daughters of a British colonel.

Why it’s a Major Performance:
Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Hawkeye defined him as a bonafide action star. His dedicated approach to physically preparing for acting roles became evident in the grueling action sequences he convincingly pulled off in this film.

8. The Crucible (1996)

IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 68%

Storyline:
The film is an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play of the same name, mirroring the events surrounding the Salem witch trials of the 17th century. Day-Lewis portrays farmer John Proctor, who is falsely accused of witchcraft.

Why it’s a Major Performance:
Though the movie received mixed reviews, Day-Lewis’s performance as a man grappling with guilt, fear, and his ethical convictions was widely appreciated by critics and viewers alike.

9. A Room with a View (1985)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%

Storyline:
In this film, Day-Lewis plays Cecil Vyse, an upper-class but socially awkward Englishman in this romantic drama set in Italy and England. The story revolves around the repressed romance between Vyse’s fiancée, Lucy Honeychurch, and a free-spirited young man, George Emerson.

Why it’s a Major Performance:
In one of Day-Lewis’s earlier film roles, he shines as the hidebound, social anomaly with unrequited love. His performance confirms his versatility and helped to establish him as a leading actor in international cinema.

10. The Age of Innocence (1993)

IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%

Storyline:
Set in the high society of 19th century New York, Day-Lewis plays Newland Archer, a man torn between his passion for a free-spirited woman and his loyalty to his traditionalist wife.

Why it’s a Major Performance:
Day-Lewis’s restrained performance masterfully captures the inner conflict of a man trapped in a societal mold, and the agony of choosing moral obligation over personal satisfaction.