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The 25 Best Robert De Niro Movies, Ranked

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.

#25 ‘Angel Heart’

The mysterious thriller from 1987 involves a private investigator who is contracted by a man to track down a famous singer. This movie had a variety of genres tied to it and picked up a cult audience after its release. De Niro co-starred with Mickey Rourke, who plays private investigator Harry Angel, while the movie also features Lisa Bonet and Charlotte Rampling.

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#24 ‘Casino’
(Photo by Universal Pictures/Getty Images)
Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone having a tender moment as they lay on a bed in a scene from the film ‘Casino’, 1995.

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”.

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#23 ‘The Untouchables’

The 1987 drama film is a thrilling gangster tale taking place in the heart of Chicago and its highly touted crime period. The cast includes Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Andy Garcia. The movie had many components similar to 1930s gangster films, which is what made it so compelling to audiences.

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#22 ‘Marvin’s Room’

Produced and cast by De Niro, Marvin’s Room dives into the lives of two sisters, who haven’t seen each other for 20 years, while unraveling dire circumstances that allow their paths to be met once more. Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, and Diane Keaton help make up this star-studded cast in 1996, which catapults it above the traditional family drama flick.

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#21 Meet The Parents

What can go wrong does go wrong for Greg Focker, played by actor Ben Stiller, in meeting his girlfriends’ parents for the first time. This was a change of pace comedy act for Robert De Niro, who plays the intimidating father, debuted on October 3rd of 2000, and was renowned for the great duo of Stiller and De Niro that was cracking everyone up in the early 2000s.

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https://www.amazon.com/Meet-Parents-Robert-Niro/dp/B00ECTJBN2/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=MEET+THE+PARENTS&qid=1630089676&s=instant-video&sr=1-1
#20 ‘Once Upon A Time in America’
(Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
Robert De Niro sitting with James Woods behind him in a scene from the film ‘Once Upon A Time In America’, 1984

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.

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#19 ‘Wag The Dog’

Dustin Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and Anne Heche star alongside De Niro in this 1997 drama that pins a spin doctor and Hollywood Producer together, with the intent to mask a Presidential sex scandal right before an election. The movie is a comedy that successfully entertains while never straying away from its political target.

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https://www.amazon.com/Wag-Dog-Dustin-Hoffman/dp/B000YHGCOW/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=WAG+DOG&qid=1630089739&s=instant-video&sr=1-1
#18 ‘Jackie Brown’

In what might be considered Quentin Tarantino’s best film, Jackie Brown makes the list on De Niro’s top movies with the plot of a flight attendant double-crossing two opposing parties amid a drug smuggling shin-dig. Pam Grier is the star of this 1997 movie, and her Foxy-Brown-like performance, along with the appearance of co-stars Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Forester, is a big reason why it made the list.

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#17 ‘Greetings’

Greetings is one of those movies that a general audience could relate to when it was released on January 20th of 1970. It’s about three buddies with distinctively different personalities trying to navigate New York during the time period that included the Vietnam War and JFK’s assassination. A young Robert De Niro starred in this movie, as it was one of the first films that talked about life during the war.

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#16 ‘Bang The Drum Slowly’
Photo : Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
Robert De Niro in Bang The Drum Slowly

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.

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https://www.amazon.com/Bang-Drum-Slowly-Robert-Niro/dp/B08X1X8463/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=BANG+THE+DRUM+SLOWLY&qid=1630091500&s=instant-video&sr=1-1
#15 ‘Analyze This’
1999 Warner Bros.
Photo Credit: Phillip Caruso

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.

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https://www.amazon.com/Analyze-This-Robert-Niro/dp/B003D3L6OA/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=ANALYSE+THIS&qid=1630091537&s=instant-video&sr=1-1
#14 ‘Joker’

While Robert De Niro doesn’t make many appearances in this one, he’s spot on in every scene that he’s in. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Joker was the coming-of-age story of one of the movie world’s most popular “villains”, and it’s hard to imagine that De Niro didn’t have a hand in at least a few of the scenes that made this movie so good.

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#13 ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

Bradley Cooper plays a man named Pat Solatano in Silver Linings Playbook, who moves home with his parents after losing his wife and job and but is given an ultimatum to win them back. De Niro isn’t the star in this film, but certainly finds some of his best footings in his father role to Pat.

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#12 ‘Awakenings’
Thirteen.org

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.

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#11 ‘Midnight Run’
(Photo by Universal/Getty Images)
Robert De Niro stands in the desert with Charles Grodin in a scene from the film ‘Midnight Run’, 1988.

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.

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#10 ‘The King of Comedy’
Filmmaker Magazine

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.

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https://www.amazon.com/King-Comedy-Robert-Niro/dp/B00CJVH786/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+king+of+comedy&qid=1630090534&s=instant-video&sr=1-1
#9 ‘Taxi Driver’
(Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)
odie Foster and Robert De Niro at diner table in a scene from the film ‘Taxi Driver’, 1976.

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.

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#8 ‘The Deer Hunter’

The Deer Hunter is about a group of American steelworkers who go through a life-changing experience during the Vietnam War. Co-stars include Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, and John Savage spearhead this powerful lineup alongside Robert De Niro, as it was released at a point in time in 1979 when society was very much still feeling the effects of the Vietnam war.

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#7 ‘Cape Fear’

The thrilling mystery that came out in 1991 features Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, and Nick Nolte in roles with Robert De Niro, who stars as Max Cady. Cady is the main antagonist seeking revenge against an attorney that withheld information after 14 years, information that would’ve acquitted Max’s arrest on rape charges. You’ll be hard-pressed to beat a good old-fashioned revenge story for me, especially when one side isn’t aware, and that’s why I marvel at this 1962 Martin Scorcese remake.

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6. ‘Brazil’

Brazil was that 1985 dark comedy that we didn’t know we needed in our lives until we got it. It told the story of a low-level bureaucrat, played by Jonathan Pryce, and his reoccurring dream that comes to life. Robert De Niro co-stars in this chaotic movie along with Kim Greist, and goes down as one of De Niro’s best movies, but not #1 on this list.

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#5 ‘Heat’

While one of his greatest films, the fact that De Niro and Al Pacino are rarely seen in the same scene it’s an interesting aspect of this film. Nevertheless, Heat, which came out on December 15th, 1995, takes us through the adventures of a super criminal and lieutenant, each of whom is trying to foil the other’s plans. Whenever it’s hard to pick a character’s side while watching a movie, you know you got a good one on your hands.

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#4 ‘The Irishman’
Netflix
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Ray Romano star in “The Irishman.” Source: Netflix

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.

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#3 ‘The Godfather Part II’
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)
NEW YORK – 1974: Robert De Niro performs a scene in The Godfather Part II directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1974 in New York, New York.

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.

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#2 ‘Raging Bull’
(Photo by United Artists/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
American actor Robert De Niro as boxer Jake LaMotta in a scene from ‘Raging Bull’, directed by Martin Scorsese, 1980.

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.

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#1 ‘GoodFellas’
(Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci publicity portrait for the film ‘Goodfellas’, 1990.

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.

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