Robert De Niro’s 10 greatest performances of all time | London Evening Standard
hen Robert De Niro starred in the successive films Mean Streets, The Godfather Part II and Taxi Driver in the mid-1970s, he announced himself as the main actor of his generation.
After a series of incredible films over the next 20 years and frequent collaborations with visionary director Martin Scorsese, he has become one of the greats in the industry and the natural successor to the leading men of his age. Hollywood gold.
It is true, however, that recent years have not seen such big returns for the actor. While his 2012 performance in Silver Linings Playbook suggested a return to form after a failed film streak, some of the worst films of his career have popped up quickly in recent times, most notably the appalling sex comedy Dirty Grandpa in 2016. This was no worse than his turn in Rocky and Bullwinkle, but quite possibly nothing is worse than that.
A performer as masterful as De Niro, however, can never be dismissed and fans are still hoping the great actor will star in great movies again, especially after a return to form in Scorsese’s 2019 epic The Irishman.
There is an incredible catalog of films to browse while we wait to see where De Niro’s career goes. From leading roles in sprawling criminal epics to quirky dramas and unforgettable thrillers, these are his greatest performances of all time.
Robert De Niro’s 10 greatest performances of all time
10. Men of honor
This 2000 drama does not belong to any of its protagonists, De Niro or Cuba Gooding Jr, but to the extraordinary story of Carl Brashear, the US Navy’s first black master diver, who rose to his rank despite some tough walls – little education, little money, and institutional racism. He later lost a leg but fought to maintain his position; his life was a remarkable thing. The movie might be a biopic in numbers, but something always comes to it. De Niro plays fictional Master Chief Leslie Sunday; it’s not a screen-stealing performance by any means, but pretty much halfway through it does on its own, going from one-dimensional, angry military type to someone struggling with their place in the world. , embittered as his past glories fade and end up forgotten. There is pain in his grip, with De Niro drawing power from his growing uselessness; it is an old one with a few pieces to play and not much time to play them. The movie moves for all kinds of reasons, most of it just because of Brashear, but this little look at how a life can crumble into nothingness is yet another gut twist.
9. Cap Fear
De Niro gave one of his most visceral performances of his career in the 1991 thriller Cape Fear, bringing venomous criminal Max Cady to life onscreen with real venom. The insidious film follows Cady, a convicted rapist, who returns from prison to wreak havoc on his former defense attorney, whom he blames for his imprisonment. Everything from the appalling interactions with the attorney’s 16-year-old daughter (Juliette Lewis) to the shocking finale, is terribly captivating, making it one of the most memorable films of De Niro’s mid-career. He confirmed his status as one of the best physical actors in the game with the role as well, hitting the weights to help him produce one of his most imposing and menacing performances at the age of nearly 50.
The bad thing about Heat is that she has, over the years, inspired Tom Hiddleston to do impressions Al Pacino and De Niro in their final showdown. That aside, the movie showed that roughly 20 years after Godfather II, Taxi Driver, and Deer Hunter, De Niro still threatens better than anyone, but can also keep things stylish. De Niro plays career criminal Neil McCauley, at one time angry, at other times calm, introspective, almost gentle. When he walks over to Charlene Shiherlis (Ashley Judd), berating her for cheating on her husband Chris (Val Kilmer), the screen practically shakes as he screams. Then there’s the famous restaurant scene, when Pacino’s detective takes De Niro’s crook for coffee; Sometimes De Niro is supposed to overplay, but here he’s calm, almost delicate. Sure, he’s doing the lip thing, his eyes half closed, but it works – it’s genuine, rather than parody, because there’s an unwavering confidence in it.
7. Godfather II
The Godfather II Trailer
De Niro had the unenviable task of following Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in The Godfather II. De Niro played a younger version of the growing Mafia boss in New York City and no one could have channeled the Don’s charisma and cruelty like him. While he was true to the portrayal of Brando in the first film, he was also convinced to bring his own take on the character – an impressive feat. The film saw De Niro win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, which announced him on the world stage as one of the most talented stars of his generation. He would later win Best Acting Gong for Raging Bull, but that first gem is one of his most memorable performances.
6. Raging Bull
There’s a lot of talk about De Niro’s dramatic transformation during production of Raging Bull – he gained 60 pounds to shoot the film’s later scenes – but the actor’s performance as legendary boxer Jake LaMotta transcends physical change. After first working with Martin Scorsese on the excellent 1973 Mean Streets, De Niro again worked with the director on Taxi Driver, New York, New York and this project, together painting the image of a champion. sportsman with a deeply flawed personal life, raging with inner demons. The scene where De Niro beats the wall of a police cell towards the end of the film, having lost everything, is one of the most profound sequences the actor has ever recorded.
5. Good friends
De Niro was part of an incredible cast in the 1995 classic Goodfellas, but while Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta’s performances are stronger and more brash, his performance as James “Jimmy the Gent” Conway quietly steals the show. . His presence is incredible throughout the film and despite the horrific crimes we see Jimmy commit, his performance is deeply and darkly charismatic. He finds subtle ways to focus in group scenes and displays his full range of acting skills when overcome with emotion following the death of Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito. For all the great scenes that take place throughout the film, this is actually one of De Niro’s simpler scenes, where he smokes a cigarette, looking incredibly cool and menacing as Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love plays on the soundtrack, which becomes one of the most punchy in the whole movie.
4. Once upon a time in America
Once Upon a Time in America Trailer
The sprawling Once Upon a Time in America epic follows two New York gangsters over three decades, retracing their rise from inseparable childhood friends to mafia mainstays and ultimately sworn enemies. De Niro’s portrayal of protagonist Noodles is incredibly good, capturing nuance and shadows where others might portray the Jewish gang leader as one-dimensional or cliché. The final scene in the Opium Den is unforgettable, with De Niro sporting a deranged smile and gazing into oblivion before Ennio Morricone’s sweeping score plays the film. A masterful film and undeniably one of De Niro’s greatest works.
3. The king of comedy
In The King of Comedy, there is no ladle, no badass sneer, no blood washed scenes. It doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of most De Niro hit movies, which is all the stranger since Scorsese made it happen (he’s also releasing one of his best soundtracks). Maybe that’s why it lasted so well – there’s no stopping it. The film follows De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin, a stand-up hack whose failure has led to a loosening of the grip on reality; it’s a hurt image, an uncomfortable remark about an out of control ego and unrealistic dreams. De Niro is atrocious as Pupkin, puffed up with importance and oblivious to reality. It’s a subtle twist, more than a collection of ticks in a costume. Pupkin’s inability to come to terms with his failures is not only devastating, but also frustrating after a while. That we end up with something like reluctant respect for him is a testament to how De Niro with an audience. The film would later become a touchstone for Joker, which featured a known cameo from De Niro himself.
2. Taxi driver
Do teenagers still put posters on their walls? Who knows, but when they did, Taxi Driver was the go-to, right next to James Dean’s brooding plans. Although he comes after the second Godfather, for which he won an Oscar, this is the part that really made De Niro From Niro. Scorsese’s film is dripping with sordid. It’s violent and dirty; De Niro is fueled by disgust, by disdain, by his depression. Ex-Marine and insomniac, De Niro’s Travis Bickle is isolated and lonely, obsessed with porn, handguns and everything he considers corruption. This anger is self-righteous and fragile; long before he shaves his head he feels brittle, like a little rustle will crack him – at first he looks at Harvey Keitel’s pimp while Keitel jokes with him and it looks like we see his eyes tighten in rage , as if he was looking at him through us too. In a way, he does it with sunglasses. The improvised monologue “you look at me” was inspired by a concert De Niro had seen shortly before filming; he had watched Bruce Springsteen perform with the audience and decided to turn everything upside down.
1. The deer hunter
The Deer Hunter is a strange movie; it is long, awkwardly long and draining. Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep co-star, both brilliantly, but De Niro as steelmaker Mike Vronsky is extraordinary. His eyes are always everything, but never more than in this movie: there are no fishy, lemon-sucking De Niro faces here. Instead, we watch him as he watches, whether it’s his best friend’s girlfriend, the barrel of his shotgun, or the Vietnamese he mercilessly exterminates with a flamethrower. He does everything with eyes circled in red. The topic of discussion, notoriously, is Russian Roulette when De Niro and Walken are prisoners of war. They play this scene like crazy. Later, back in the United States, the duo perform again, although the character of Walken is now gone and lost, engulfed in his memory. Now we see the heartbreaking side of it: Walken is as thin as paper and white as a ghost and De Niro is desperately trying to reach him. For a flicker, it looks like he did, and then Walken shoots himself. De Niro screams, but there is much more pain before, when he tells his friend that he loves him. Ugly tragedy after a moment of beauty.