Robert De Niro’s charisma, unpredictability, and way with words in films make him arguably the greatest actor of all time. From thrillers and dramas to romances and comedies, De Niro checks the box for just about every genre that there is in film-making.
To sit down and go through what might’ve been his best movies of all time is nothing sort of a privilege, so let’s get into it.
The outstanding cast that includes Golden Globe award winners Sharon Stone and James Woods, along with Academy Award winner Joe Pesci is the main reason this movie made the list. Directed by Martin Scorcese, the 1995 movie tells the story of a low-level mobster being ordered to lead the “Tangiers Casino”.
Once Upon a Time in America features James Woods and Robert De Niro packing the punch once more in a flashback tale of a Jewish adolescent evolving into a Mafia gang boss. In what can be considered an acquired taste for viewers because of its length (the director’s cut is 250 minutes long), the film’s acting, directing, and writing complement one another perfectly and makes this movie more than worth a watch.
The story of a heart-warming friendship brewed between two baseball teammates is brought to the forefront by De Niro, who plays catcher Bruce Pearson, and Michael Moriarty, who plays star pitcher Henry Wiggen. The film that came out in 1973 successfully lures genuine emotion out of America’s pastime for those that may not even follow baseball, so it scores big points for me.
The box office hit from 1999 took highlighted the troubling mental state of gangster Paul Vitti, played by Robert De Niro, and how he tries to keep his therapy sessions under wraps, which turns out to be quite difficult. We get to see one of the better humorous roles of De Niro in this movie, as he shares the limelight with Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, and Joe Viterelli.
This life-affirming 1990 drama movie highlights the tale of a doctor doing revolutionary work with a group of canonic patients. It seems like whenever Robin Williams, who stars as Dr. Malcolm Sayer, isn’t doing comedic work, which is without his doubt his best work, he’s still doing some of his best acting to date. The duo of Williams and De Niro is solid as hell.
Midnight Run debuted in 1988 and revolves around a bounty hunter, named Jack Walsh and played by De Niro, that is hired to find the accountant to a mob. It’s always those duos that you don’t think you’ll find entertaining, that are the best when you find out that they’re funny as hell. Classic buddy movie, well-deserved to be at 11.
It’s the man that you underestimate who comes back to get you. That’s what psychopath Rupert Pumpkin, played by De Niro, did to Jerry Langford, played by Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy. In this movie, Pumpkin effectively stalked the talk-show host while eventually kidnapping the man; all in an effort to try to land a guest appearance on his show. After watching this movie that was released on February 18th of 1983, you can see why Todd Phillips wanted De Niro to be a part of the 2019 Joker film, as they carry some of the same vibes. Well done.
Getting into the nitty-gritty, we likely won’t see many more Robert De Niro comedies on this list moving forward. This drama intensified 1976 story pits an outcast turned danger-man Travis Bickle against the world, while he tries to fulfill his dreams of “fixing” New York City. Cybill Shepard co-stars in this movie that seems to have found the perfect man in De Niro for this deep dive into the human psyche.
In one of De Niro’s most recent and best films, The Irishman is an elite gangster story that pins truck driver Frank Sheeran, played by De Niro, getting tangled with Russell Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci, and his Northeast crime family. It has the grand, and ambitious nature that we have become accustomed to with Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro collaborations, and is a national treasure in many people’s eyes.
In what might be considered the sequel of all sequels, the Godfather Part II continues the mafia saga and is spearheaded by Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. The movie is a part prequel and part sequel as it tells the story of a young Vito Corleone (the character made famous by Marlon Brando), played by Robert De Niro, coming to age in Sicily. In addition, Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, continues to grow the family business into California, Vegas, and Cuba. It is looked upon as the best movie in one of the greatest series of all time for its plot-heavy nature and fascinating tale.
Based on a true story, Raging Bull features Robert De Niro starring as boxer Jake LaMotta, a man who is trying to climb the boxing ranks but is constantly battling self-inflicted demons outside of the ring. Joe Pesci plays Jake’s brother Joey, and Cathy Moriarty plays Vickie La Motta. Raging Bull is incredibly erratic in a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. One of my favs.
Based on the book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, Goodfellas debuted on September 19th of 1990 and tells the story of Henry Hill, who grows up in a mob and grinds to climb the ranks of the association. Ray Liotta plays a grown-up Henry Hill, while Joe Pesci plays Tommy DeVito, and Robert De Niro plays James Conway. The coming-of-age story has the perfect combination of drama and swag, and in my opinion, is the #1 Robert De Niro movie out ever made.