Beginning his career in the 1960s, Robert De Niro moved up the ranks of Hollywood to become one of the most well-respected and talented film actors of his era.
From box office hits to stellar performances that won him two Academy Awards, here are some of De Niro’s greatest films.
In the remake of J. Lee Thompson’s 1962 film Cape Fear, Robert De Niro portrays Max Cady, a recently released inmate who has it out for the lawyer who put him behind bars.
His bone-chilling, eerie performance has critics and viewers in awe of his talent, winning De Niro the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Meet The Parents
In one of Robert De Niro’s more comedic performances, his performance as retired CIA agent Jack Byrnes in Meet the Parents is classic. Upon its release in 2000, the film was considered “the funniest” or “one of the funniest” films of the entire year!
De Niro even earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his performance.
Bang The Drum Slowly
Considered one of the greatest baseball movies of all time, Bang the Drum Slowly was widely praised upon its release in 1973.
A solid 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, Robert De Niro’s performance as player Bruce Pearson who learns he has Hodgkin’s Disease earned him a New York Film Critics Circle Award win for Best Supporting Actor.
Upon its release in 2019, Joker blew audiences away with its “not your regular comic book film” cinematography and the insane acting chops of Joaquin Phoenix as the title character and Robert De Niro as talk show host Murray Franklin.
The film grossed $1.074 billion at the box office and became one of De Niro’s best films of all time as it received 11 Academy Award nominations, winning two.
The Godfather: Part II
Playing the role of a young Don Vito Corleone growing up and becoming head of the crime family, it can be argued that Robert De Niro’s performance in The Godfather: Part II is his best ever.
A box office success, the sequel film is widely considered the best of the trilogy, winning De Niro an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
A beautiful movie of life and second chances, Awakenings has Robert De Niro acting alongside Robin Williams as Leonard Lowe, a catatonic Parkinson’s patient who takes an experimental drug that “awakens” him.
Based on a true story, De Niro’s performance was raw, emotional, and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
In the epic crime thriller Casino, Robert De Niro plays the role of Jewish gangster Sam “Ace” Rothstein.
While he didn’t earn any award nominations for his performance as the Tangiers Casino owner, the film has gone from being considered a mediocre work to being widely praised for its thematically mature approach to the mafia world.
A Bronx Tale
Robert De Niro’s directorial debut came in 1991 with the release of A Bronx Tale, a film he also starred in as MTA bus driver Lorenzo. While the film didn’t do too well at the box office, only grossing $17 million domestically, critics praised De Niro’s performance and vision.
Critic Roger Ebert said, “It is filled with life and colorful characters and great lines of dialogue, and De Niro, in his debut as a director, finds the right notes as he moves from laughter to anger to tears [while] retaining its values.”
New York, New York
In one of Robert De Niro’s many collaborations with director Martin Scorsese comes New York, New York.
While this film underperformed at the box office upon its debut, grossing $16.4 million on a $14 million budget, it has since gained critical acclaim for the performance of De Niro as smooth-talking saxophone player Jimmy Doyle and his co-star, Liza Minnelli.
An underappreciated movie at the time of its 1987 release, Angel Heart has since been deemed a great and influential movie, in part thanks to Robert De Niro’s intense and haunting portrayal of Louis Cyphre, aka Lucifer.
Many critics, including William Hjortsberg, author of Falling Angel, have stated that De Niro’s casting was a “brilliant touch.”
Portraying the infamous Al Capone, Robert De Niro’s film The Untouchables was widely praised by critics upon its release in 1987. Starring Sean Connery, the film went on to earn four Academy Award nominations, ultimately winning Best Actor for Connery.
According to Vincent Canby of The New York Times, the film is “vulgar, violent, funny and sometimes breathtakingly beautiful.”
Hard-hitting and compelling, Martin Scorsese’s film Taxi Driver is one of Robert De Niro’s greatest performances. Playing the role of Vietnam veteran turned taxi driver Travis Bickle, De Niro’s descent into the character’s madness is was widely praised.
The film earned him an Academy Award nomination or Best Actor, with critics saying the film saw “Robert De Niro at his best.”
In 1988, the film Midnight Run was released and became one of Robert De Niro’s best films. His performance as bounty hunter Jack Walsh was widely praised and earned him an award nomination.
In 1989, De Niro was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
Wag The Dog
The 1997 film Wag the Dog had Robert De Niro playing spin doctor Conrad Brean opposite Dustin Hoffman’s Hollywood producer character Stanley Motss. The film was not only well-received by critics, but it also grossed $64.3 million on a $15 million budget.
While Hoffman was the actor to earn an Academy Award nomination, De Niro’s talent was on equal footing throughout the duration of the film.
Robert De Niro threw everything into his role of boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. Gaining 70 pounds for the role, De Niro gives a haunting performance as a man who lost everything to be the best in his sport.
Arguably one of De Niro and Martin Scorsese’s best collaborations, the actor won an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Grossing $176.9 million worldwide, Analyze This is widely considered one of Robert De Niro’s more prolific comedy films.
Playing crisis-stricken mob boss Paul Vitti who puts himself into therapy, De Niro went on to earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
The King Of Comedy
The 1982 film The King Of Comedy shows Robert De Niro at his best, playing the role of stand-up comedian Rupert Pupkin whose mental health issues has him slowly spiraling into insanity.
According to director Martin Scorses, out of all of their collaborations, De Niro’s performance in this particular film is one of his favorites.
The praise that came upon The Irishman’s release is enough to call The Irishman one of Robert De Niro’s best films. A haunting tale of truck driver turned hitman for a Philadelphia crime family; the movie was called “An epic gangster drama that earns its extended runtime.”
It even earned ten nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony.
In one of Robert De Niro’s most iconic films, he plays the role of Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas. With a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is “certified fresh” and considered one of the greatest films ever made,
Opening weekend, Goodfellas topped the box office, grossing $6.3 million from 1,070 theaters. It was even nominated for six Academy Awards.
The Comeback Trail
Set for a 2022 release, The Comeback Trail is said to be Robert De Niro’s “comeback” to comedy.
Film critic James Marsh says, “Robert De Niro is engaged, enthusiastic and funny in The Comeback Trail – a far cry from his other lowbrow comedies like Little Fockers and Dirty Grandpa.“
Silver Linings Playbook
Film critic Roger Ebert called Silver Linings Playbook “so good; it could almost be a terrific old classic.” One of Robert De Niro’s more modern films, the romantic comedy-drama, is one of his best performances, portraying the father of a man with OCD.
His dramatic, fatherly approach to the character of Pat Solatino Sr. earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Once Upon A Time In America
An extended cut of four hours, Once Upon a Time in America is considered one of the greatest gangster films ever made. Following the lives of two friends going from children to notorious gangsters, the film covers the themes of life, love, and the rise and fall of mobsters in America.
Playing the role of Scott Tiler, aka Noodles, Rober De Niro’s performances was cited as stylistically bold and emotionally haunting.
The Deer Hunter
Even though The Deer Hunter went over budget and over-schedule, it is considered one of the greatest films ever made. Following a trio of Vietnam War veterans, the war epic was widely praised for the performances of Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken.
For his role as Staff Sergeant Michael Vronsky, De Niro went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, one of nine for the film.
While Robert De Niro’s role as ex-con Louis Gara in Jackie Brown was a bit on the smaller side, it doesn’t detract from the fact that the film and his performance are top-notch.
Alongside an all-star cast of Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, and Robert Forster, the film was “alive, authentic and spontaneous,” according to film critic Roger Ebert.
Considered one of the most influential films of its genre, the 1995 crime drama Heat was widely praised for the performances of both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. According to film critic Roger Ebert, “It’s not just an action picture.”
“Above all, the dialogue is complex enough to allow the characters to say what they’re thinking: They are eloquent, insightful, fanciful, poetic when necessary. They’re not trapped with cliches.”
This Boy’s Life
The 1993 film This Boy’s Life marks the first time Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio collaborated.
Playing the role of the abusive stepfather Dwight Hansen, De Niro’s performance alongside the young actor is harrowing, emotional, and profound in such a way that critics couldn’t help but praise him for his talent.
In his first-ever collaboration with director Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro plays John “Johnny Boy” Civello in the 1973 crime drama Mean Streets.
Named “one of the best American films of the decade” by Time Out magazine, De Niro’s performance landed him a National Society of Film Critics award for Best Supporting Actor
In The Score, Robert De Niro plays the role of Nick Wells, a master safe-cracker who wants to retire from a life of crime. Of course, there is one more heist he gets wrapped up in, alongside the one and only Marllon Brando.
This film marks the one, and only time the two legendary actors are onscreen together, and it is truly a marvel.
Based on the novel of the same name, True Confessions follows the story of the Spellacy brothers, one a detective the other a priest. While the detective, played by Robert Duvall, investigates a murder, the priest, played by Robert De Niro, is trying to expand his church in a shady way.
The two actors’ chemistry was widely praised by critics, calling it “a reminder of just how good commercial American movies can be when the right people come together.”
The Good Shepard
Telling the untold story of the beginning of the CIA, The Good Shepard is gripping and was widely praised for the direction of Robert De Niro. While he portrays General Bill Sullivan in the film, De Niro’s directorial vision was a bigger topic of conversation.
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote, “He imbues The Good Shepherd with a funereal vibe that works especially well on the dark, dank streets of London, where Wilson learns his first repellent lesson in spy-catching…”
Old habits die hard for Robert De Niro in The Family. Following the story of a mafia family under witness protection in Normandy, France, they soon find out that being normal and fitting in isn’t as easy as it looks.
De Niro and his co-stars, namely Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones, were widely praised for their performances, with The Huffington Post saying all three “brought 100% to their roles.”