Can you believe that it has been a whopping 20 years since Romeo + Juliet was first released? The iconic adaptation has stayed in the pop culture lexicon since it's release two decades prior and this film is not budging from it's status as a beloved classic. Baz Luhrmann's intelligent, youthful update retained the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare's play while managing to make it feel relevant to modern teens. He added in unique references to the original play in his set design, swirled in an unstoppable soundtrack, and brought together an incredible cast.
At the helm was Leonardo DiCaprio, playing Romeo, in peak '90s heartthrob form. Romeo + Juliet was released just one year prior to his truly career-making turn in Titanic; however, it was Romeo + Juliet that guaranteed DiCaprio would grace every cover of TigerBeat and Teen Vogue until the end of the '90s. He was irresistible as Romeo: moody, tough, and whimsical. He was dangerous and adorable, writing poetry and seeking vengeance. Outfitted in a tropical shirt and still carrying a bit of baby fat, DiCaprio's take on Romeo made the actor the perfect teen heartthrob, that kind that made you wish you were his Juliet — with the exception that you guys would ride off into the sunset together.
So let's take a trip back to Romeo + Juliet, exploring all of the precise moments in the film that confirmed that yes, DiCaprio is a total '90s babe.
1. His First Appearance On The Beach
Romeo's introduction is set to Radiohead's "Talk Show Host," itself a very melancholic song. It's a simple turn of the head toward the camera, his blond hair blowing in the sea air, that makes my heart skip a beat. Only DiCaprio can make Romeo come alive so coolly. If you're not hooked from this first moment, I am seriously worried for you.
2. When He's Pining For Rosaline
What's more indicative that a boy is a total heartthrob that knowing he's just a sensitive soul? Romeo's lovelorn state of mind while he laments to his cousin Benvolio is just about the sweetest thing I've ever seen. How many guys so readily admit they're pining for the one special person?
3. Just Being One Of The Guys At The Globe
It's fun to watch Romeo and his bros just be a bunch of dudes in The Globe (both a nod to the London playhouse and the name of the pool hall in the film). Sensitivity makes the heart grow fonder, but a good heartthrob is also able to chill out and have a bit of fun, too.
4. Letting Loose At The Capulet's Ball
Romeo definitely needed to take a chill pill after his Rosalind moment. Watching him continue the fun times at the Capulet's Ball always makes me go, "Oh hello, Mr. Heartthrob. Look at you in that dashing knight's costume," before I fall backwards onto my fainting couch. Doesn't that happen to you too? No? Just me? Okay.
5. That Famous Fish Tank Moment
Stop. The. Presses. The infamous "meet-cute at the fish tank in the bathroom" scene has made hearts swell with love and joy for 20 years now and for good reason. It is one of the most perfect, romantic moments in '90s cinema. To be perfectly honest, I always thought meeting your soulmate would go exactly like this scene: with Des'ree's "Kissing You" softly playing in the background while DiCaprio's face was framed by exotic fish in a mansion bathroom.
6. Making Out With Juliet In The Elevator
Oh, and if the meet-cute wasn't heartthrob fodder enough, there's the infamous elevator make-out session. Romeo is the definition of a heartthrob as he pulls Juliet in and gets all romantic and moon-eyed for her, telling her how much he wants to kiss her. This is pure romance, people.
7. Even Sadface Dicaprio Was A Babe
The bad omens begin with Romeo finding out Juliet was a Capulet a.k.a. a sworn enemy of his. Yet even in sadness at the discovery that his one true love is the one person he's been raised to hate, Romeo is still a total dreamboat. I only want to hug him even harder after this moment.
8. Ditching His Squad To Woo Juliet
What about when Romeo is like, "Forget the afterparty. I'm going to woo Juliet some more," and we were all like, "Please come stand under my bedroom window, Romeo. Dear Lord, please." DiCaprio was at his most romantic, adorable, handsome, and dare I say knavish; so help me, he was all the more perfect for it.
9. Making Out In The Pool
I can't even handle this scene. I'm still trying to achieve the perfect recreation of this scene but alas, no guys are as worthy as Romeo — still clad in his costume, blond locks slicked back — to recreate this pool kiss with. DiCaprio looks like a hell of a kissing partner, unconsciously sealing his heartthrob status in this one moment.
10. Seeking Marriage Advice From Friar Lawrence
Okay, I know that even by today's standards (heck, by 1996 standards) Romeo seeking marriage proposal advice from his local religious leader is a bit wild but bear with me. At this point, Romeo is a young man so resolute in his love for Juliet that you can't help but sigh at the pure #romance of it all.
11. Marrying Juliet
We're only a portion of the way through Romeo's, and by extension DiCaprio's, most heartthrob-y moments but this is literally the most romantic moment in the entire film. This is a perfect wedding ceremony, bar none. Why? You have an angelic choir singing Prince's "When Doves Cry." You have Romeo and Juliet in very low-key (but perfect) '90s wedding outfits. You have Juliet's Nurse as the only witness to the ceremony (it's a day wedding because duh, secrecy). It's intimate and full of love and it's perfect, I tell you. Perfect.
12. Getting Vengeance For Mercutio
Revenge is never cool and gun play is certainly a big no-no on the "What Makes Him A Heartthrob?" checklist. For that, Romeo gets some big demerits. What is worth noting here, though, is that DiCaprio's ferocity shines and there's something intensely masculine and heartthrob-y about a young guy fighting to defend the honor of his dead friend.
13. The Morning After His Swoon-Worthy Wedding Night
Many Millenials may have been to young to er, relate to the post-coital bliss of Romeo and Juliet's wedding night when they saw the film in 1996. Despite this, who wouldn't want to be woken up by Romeo at the crack of dawn for a little morning kiss and maybe some breakfast in bed? C'mon now.
14. Pining For Juliet In Exile
What's an ultra-romantic dude who's just trying to do the right thing supposed to do in exile other than pine for his new bride? DiCaprio's passion radiates through the screen and boy, oh boy, do it make my heart burn with passion, too.
15. Pledging His Eternal Love For Juliet
I know deep down that Romeo and Juliet's death scene is the literal definition of tragedy but holy hell, DiCaprio dies like a prince. That final look, just as Juliet wakes up and he's drunk the poison, is so beautiful and sad that it's a punch to the gut.
16. Ending The Mother Of All Family Feuds
It's not easy ending a feud, but dying in the arms of your one true love will pretty much seal the deal. The power of Romeo's death helped to get the Capulets and Montagues to take a damn chill pill. That, in part, is because DiCaprio himself died onscreen so perfectly.
17. Speaking Iambic Pentameter Like A Boss
DiCaprio rocked iambic pentameter like a superstar, causing millions of us to suddenly find a strange new affinity for Shakespeare's plays and all subsequent film adaptations of the Bard's work.