9. “The Aviator” (2004)
Howard Hughes is a tough figure to get a handle on. Filled with eccentricities and passions galore, it’s hard to make such an erratic persona fit into a controlled film (just look at “Rules Don’t Apply”). In focusing on his pioneering efforts in aviation and how it bled into the rest of his life, Scorsese found a way to focus the story. My what an opulent story he told. A grand epic filled with planes and movie stars in equal measure, every frame dazzles. The only thing that dazzles further is Leonardo DiCaprio’s pitch perfect performance. He tiptoes towards overacting, but pulls back at necessary moments. He creates a distance from those around him, chiefly the magnanimous Katherine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett). In keeping this distance, we get an air of mystery that still permeates the legend. The film may be long, but the world of yesteryear Scorsese crafts always captivates.