Best Robert De Niro movies

Written by:
September 23, 2019
Silver Screen Collection // Getty Images

Best Robert De Niro movies

Robert De Niro may be the quintessential American movie star—one known for his powerfully evocative acting. De Niro’s performances across different film genres prove him to be a virtuoso actor. He’s played iconic American gangsters like Al Capone and Vito Corleone, embodying the criminal persona as a figure of power and corruption with an undeniable allure.

De Niro’s characters often hold such dynamic tension: As Max Cady in “Cape Fear,” De Niro audiences found him both chilling and captivating. As the small-town steelworker turned soldier in “The Deer Hunter,” he captured extremes of both courage and dread. His characters often hold a strong sense of authentic humanity even in roles where he’s an “average” man—as a football-obsessed father in “Silver Linings Playbook,” or as a married man falling for Meryl Streep in the romance “Falling in Love.”

De Niro is famous for his immersive, intensive acting style. He studied with famed acting teachers Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, honing the “method,” where an actor manifests the character in totality. De Niro’s preparation for roles is renowned, often altering his body through gaining and losing weight—and even once changing his teeth. He masters languages and talents of his characters, such as the Sicilian dialect of Corleone, the skills of the saxophone player in “New York, New York,” and the methods of actual bounty hunters for “Midnight Run.”

De Niro received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2011 Golden Globes. He’s also received seven Academy Award nominations and won both a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “The Godfather: Part II” and a Best Actor Oscar for “Raging Bull.” He frequently collaborates with director Martin Scorsese; they worked together on nine films, creating such iconic characters as “Taxi Driver’s” unhinged Travis Bickle and the gangster Jimmy in “Goodfellas.”

To find out which of De Niro's films stand out among the rest, Stacker found the top 50 Robert De Niro movies based on IMDb user ratings. Feature films and TV movies in which he had an acting role were considered. Cameo appearances, voiceover roles in documentaries, and films that have not yet been released to the public were not considered. Among the top 50, De Niro frequently represents the spirit of the American gangster, but as this list shows, he also shines in smaller roles and comedic turns, proving his vast range.

You may also like: Best and worst Leonardo DiCaprio movies

1 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#50. Falling in Love (1984)

Directed by Ulu Grosbard

- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Votes: 11,528
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 106 min

De Niro stars opposite Meryl Streep in this romance about two married strangers whose packages get mixed up while Christmas shopping. Though the affair destroys both marriages, the two stars can’t deny they’ve fallen in love. De Niro’s turn as a romantic leading man offers a swoon-worthy departure from his usual gangster type.

2 / 50
Tribeca Productions

#49. Flawless (1999)

Directed by Joel Schumacher

- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Votes: 16,635
- Metascore: 50
- Runtime: 112 min

Critics were skeptical of the story, finding the friendship between a conservative police officer (De Niro) and exuberant drag queen (Philip Seymour Hoffman) too maudlin and melodramatic. However, both veteran actors turn in stellar performances, and the film aims to display and investigate ideas around masculinity with the De Niro persona as a weak (the character suffers a stroke) but conventional man’s man.

3 / 50
Omnilab Media

#48. Killer Elite (2011)

Directed by Gary McKendry

- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Votes: 118,516
- Metascore: 44
- Runtime: 116 min

As the co-star in this Jason Statham action vehicle, De Niro plays Hunter, a lifelong mercenary pulled back into a tangle of murder and its necessary getaways. Hunter is the wizened mentor to the younger agent, and like most heroes in such thrillers, he finds it hard to escape a life of special ops and violence. De Niro makes a spry actioner despite playing the elder operative.

4 / 50
Warner Bros.

#47. Guilty by Suspicion (1991)

Directed by Irwin Winkler

- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 7,229
- Metascore: 64
- Runtime: 105 min

This drama depicts the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee during McCarthyism and the “Red Scare” of the 1950s. De Niro plays a blacklisted Hollywood film director who must name his friends and colleagues or suffer the consequences. De Niro brings a sense of righteousness to the role of a man faced with doing the right thing under pressure.

5 / 50
Fuego Films

#46. Hands of Stone (2016)

Directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz

- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 13,133
- Metascore: 54
- Runtime: 111 min

De Niro returns to the boxing movie genre in this true story of Roberto Durán, a Panamanian boxer who had a tense rivalry with American boxer Sugar Ray Leonard. De Niro throws his all into his portrayal of real-life boxing trainer Ray Arcel, completely transforming his body to play the man who trained champions throughout his long career.

6 / 50
Fox 2000 Pictures

#45. Joy (2015)

Directed by David O. Russell

- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 119,420
- Metascore: 56
- Runtime: 124 min

“Joy” brings together the actors and director of “Silver Linings Playbook,” but without the same captivating sublimity of the previous hit. David O. Russell directs De Niro again, this time as the father of a mop inventor (Jennifer Lawrence) with Bradley Cooper co-starring as the executive who gives her a chance. De Niro brings his signature dash to his role as a divorcee dad still looking to find love.

7 / 50
CBS Films

#44. Last Vegas (2013)

Directed by Jon Turteltaub

- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 122,283
- Metascore: 48
- Runtime: 105 min

De Niro leans into his role as a cranky widower on a jaunt to Vegas with his childhood pals, still friends as senior citizens. The stellar ensemble also stars powerhouses Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, and Morgan Freeman as men in need of some comedic adventure. Old age gags give the romp a presentation of confident, elderly masculinity.

8 / 50
Overnight Films

#43. Machete (2010)

Directed by Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez

- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 183,581
- Metascore: 60
- Runtime: 105 min

Beloved character actor Danny Trejo gets his own vehicle in this violent exploitation film that uses a comedic, campy, B-movie film style. De Niro plays a corrupt, racist politician who serves as a worthy foil to Trejo’s iconic heroism.

9 / 50
Chartoff-Winkler Productions

#42. New York, New York (1977)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 16,449
- Metascore: 62
- Runtime: 155 min

In his third collaboration with director Martin Scorsese, De Niro stars as a saxophone player who falls in love with a nightclub singer (Liza Minnelli) in 1945 in the Big Apple. The film was a box office disappointment that failed to live up to the hype of “Taxi Driver,” released the year before. Nonetheless, De Niro’s performance is sure-footed and charming. He learned to play the sax for the role.

10 / 50
Scott Rudin Productions

#41. Marvin's Room (1996)

Directed by Jerry Zaks

- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 23,822
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 98 min

De Niro steals his scenes in a small role alongside star actresses Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep as sisters with an ailing father. Adapted from a stage play, “Marvin’s Room” is filled with scenery-chewing emotional scenes between the fighting sisters and Leonardo DiCaprio as Streep’s mentally ill son. As the doctor who diagnoses a devastating illness, De Niro offers charm and humanity in a role that departs from his gangster persona.

11 / 50
Imagine Films Entertainment

#40. Backdraft (1991)

Directed by Ron Howard

- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 67,153
- Metascore: 38
- Runtime: 137 min

This melodrama poses fire as a kind of antagonist character out to challenge the cast of firefighters that include Kurt Russell, Scott Glenn, and William Baldwin. De Niro plays a fire expert, a man who knows the intricate ins and outs of fire science and forensics. He understands the force as a worthy foe with a soul for destruction. De Niro delivers the line, “[Fire] is a living thing...It breathes, it eats, and it hates,” with dramatic gravitas.

12 / 50
Universal Pictures

#39. The Good Shepherd (2006)

Directed by Robert De Niro

- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 94,862
- Metascore: 61
- Runtime: 167 min

De Niro produced and directed this 1960s spy thriller loosely based on true events with an all-star cast including Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. De Niro also stars in this film about life as a CIA agent and the tolls of deception that come with the job after intensive training. De Niro’s direction was lauded for precise period detail and pacing that provides a slow-burn toward the tragic end.

13 / 50
Village Roadshow Pictures

#38. Analyze This (1999)

Directed by Harold Ramis

- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 138,989
- Metascore: 61
- Runtime: 103 min

In this comedy about a mobster who needs a psychiatrist, De Niro brings his signature gangster character, this time in a self-aware performance that’s hilarious in turning the familiar persona on its head. Billy Crystal stars as the straight-man shrink who counters De Niro’s schtick.

14 / 50
Home Box Office (HBO)

#37. The Wizard of Lies (2017)

Directed by Barry Levinson

- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Votes: 19,033
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 133 min

De Niro plays the Ponzi scheme criminal Bernie Madoff in this movie made for HBO. De Niro was nominated for an acting Emmy for his portrayal of the scheming businessman and his demise.

15 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#36. The Score (2001)

Directed by Frank Oz

- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Votes: 114,015
- Metascore: 71
- Runtime: 124 min

The plot centers on another “one-final-heist” scenario with De Niro as an older criminal ready to retire after a big job. Edward Norton plays the young upstart who thinks he can outwit the older robber. Notably, Marlon Brando stars in a small role as a black marketeer for stolen goods. It was Brando’s final film and brought together the two acting legends who played Vito Corleone in the “Godfather” franchise.

16 / 50

#35. Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

Directed by John D. Hancock

- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Votes: 5,036
- Metascore: 80
- Runtime: 96 min

Adapted from a classic novel, this tear-jerker was De Niro’s first major film role and catapulted him to prominence as an actor of inimitable force. De Niro stars as a baseball player with Hodgkin’s disease. His teammate, played by Michael Moriarty, won’t let the team release his friend, despite his limitations. De Niro shines as the doomed ballplayer.

17 / 50
Art Linson Productions

#34. Great Expectations (1998)

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Votes: 48,744
- Metascore: 55
- Runtime: 111 min

This stylized adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel sets the action in contemporary New York instead of 19th-century London. De Niro plays the mysterious and brutal convict whom the hero, Finn (Ethan Hawke), helps out when he’s a child. Later the convict returns, an icon of both benevolence and corruption, two traits perfectly captured in De Niro’s performance.

18 / 50

#33. Cop Land (1997)

Directed by James Mangold

- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Votes: 80,291
- Metascore: 64
- Runtime: 105 min

De Niro sports a mustache and a desk-jockey outfit as Moe Tilden, the internal affairs investigator probing a town of corrupt cops. De Niro’s character acts as the moral center for the other characters (an ensemble of actors such as Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, and Robert Patrick) in this acclaimed neo-noir about uncovering malfeasance.

19 / 50
Universal Pictures

#32. Meet the Parents (2000)

Directed by Jay Roach

- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Votes: 295,308
- Metascore: 73
- Runtime: 108 min

In this box office smash, De Niro puts his persona as a hardwired wise guy to hilarious comic effect when his usual bruiser type goes up against his daughter’s hapless fiance, Greg. Ben Stiller plays Greg as the perfect foil for De Niro’s Jack, a former CIA operative determined to run his future son-in-law through the ringer.

20 / 50

#31. Everybody's Fine (2009)

Directed by Kirk Jones

- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Votes: 56,445
- Metascore: 47
- Runtime: 99 min

Proving that he’s an actor adept at any genre, De Niro plays a widowed father in this Christmas dramedy. De Niro’s Frank takes a cross-country trip to visit each of his children after they cancel on him right before the holidays. De Niro’s heartfelt performance was considered the highlight of this film with a tepid critical response and disappointing box office.

21 / 50
Waverly Films

#30. The Intern (2015)

Directed by Nancy Meyers

- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Votes: 194,585
- Metascore: 51
- Runtime: 121 min

This boomer versus millennial comedy examines the generational technology gap but ultimately offers that the older generation is the superior one after all. De Niro plays a widow in his 70s in a senior citizen intern program. He’s hired as the assistant to a high-strung exec (Anne Hathaway) and succeeds in bringing some order to her chaos.

22 / 50
Baltimore Pictures

#29. Wag the Dog (1997)

Directed by Barry Levinson

- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 75,068
- Metascore: 73
- Runtime: 97 min

De Niro plays a Washingtonian spin doctor, a Mr. Fix It brought in to clean up a presidential scandal involving an underage girl. The film premiered just prior to the Bill Clinton scandal with the young intern Monica Lewinsky, giving this movie—about faking a war for political distraction—an ironic cultural resonance.

23 / 50
Fox 2000 Pictures

#28. Men of Honor (2000)

Directed by George Tillman Jr.

- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 101,756
- Metascore: 56
- Runtime: 129 min

Based on a true story, this patriotic melodrama dramatizes life as a master diver in the U.S. Navy. The uplifting tale focuses on a black recruit (Cuba Gooding Jr.) in an elite school where De Niro plays the master instructor for a performance where he sports an accent and plays a man of principle determined to right the wrongs of racism.

24 / 50
Columbia Pictures

#27. American Hustle (2013)

Directed by David O. Russell

- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 422,150
- Metascore: 90
- Runtime: 138 min

Director David O. Russell reunites his “Silver Linings Playbook” cast, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, in this stylized film about con artists in the 1970s. De Niro appears in an uncredited role as mobster, Victor Tellegio, in a tense sequence involving a sting operation and a fake sheikh.

25 / 50
Knickerbocker Films

#26. This Boy's Life (1993)

Directed by Michael Caton-Jones

- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 43,150
- Metascore: 60
- Runtime: 115 min

This film, based on writer Tobias Wolff’s memoir, tells the story of a young boy caught in the dysfunction of his mother’s abusive relationship. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Ellen Barkin’s teenage son, with De Niro cast as the scary and oppressive stepfather who brings chilling tension to every scene.

26 / 50
Carolco International N.V.

#25. Angel Heart (1987)

Directed by Alan Parker

- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 74,021
- Metascore: 61
- Runtime: 113 min

In a “special appearance,” De Niro plays the personification of kingly evil, Louis Cyphre, aka Lucifer, in this atmospheric and brutal New Orleans crime thriller directed by Alan Parker. Cyphre sends an investigator (Mickey Rourke) on a detective odyssey that’s really a fantasia of horror. De Niro plays the fallen angel with ominous braggadocio.

27 / 50
Warner Bros.

#24. Mean Streets (1973)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 86,603
- Metascore: 96
- Runtime: 112 min

This film marked the beginning of the collaboration between De Niro and director Martin Scorsese, in a stylish film that matches cinematic flourish with gritty realism. De Niro stars as the young hothead, Johnny Boy, an impulsive grifter protected by an older friend looking for redemption, played by Harvey Keitel. De Niro employs his signature acting style to fully immerse himself in a character that’s authentic and at the same time inconspicuously vibrant.

28 / 50
Amblin Entertainment

#23. Cape Fear (1991)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 155,902
- Metascore: 73
- Runtime: 128 min

De Niro received his sixth Academy Award nomination for his turn as the villainous ex-con in this remake directed by Martin Scorsese. De Niro plays Max Cady, a man set on terrorizing the defense attorney (Nick Nolte) who had him sent to prison. De Niro captures Cady’s depravity in a way that is sinister, terrifying, and captivating.

29 / 50
FGM Entertainment

#22. Ronin (1998)

Directed by John Frankenheimer

- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 162,821
- Metascore: 67
- Runtime: 122 min

De Niro brings hardened grit to this turn as an American operative who bands with a motley crew of spies to filch a crucial briefcase from a mafioso. Filled with car chases, mayhem, and double-crosses, De Niro’s character also finds doomed romance in the midst of this thrill ride. His paramour, another operative, is played by Natascha McElhone.

30 / 50
Warner Bros.

#21. The Mission (1986)

Directed by Roland Joffé

- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 52,105
- Metascore: 55
- Runtime: 125 min

This action adventure set in 1750s Spain follows a missionary (Jeremy Irons) who tries to convert indigenous Paraguayans to Christianity. De Niro plays a cruel slave trader who seeks penance after he kills his brother (Aidan Quinn) over a woman. Sporting long hair, De Niro makes for a brutal colonialist with unearned redemption despite trying to save the lives of the people he previously brutalized.

31 / 50
Relativity Media

#20. Limitless (2011)

Directed by Neil Burger

- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 497,556
- Metascore: 59
- Runtime: 105 min

In a supporting role, De Niro plays financier Carl Van Loon whose company is helped out by the “unlimited” abilities of Eddie (Bradley Cooper), a man taking a drug that unlocks superhuman genius and strength. In the film’s final scene, Van Loon insists Eddie continues to work for him. Their final interaction invokes a power play between the characters—and movie stars—as an older man gets rebuffed by one who is younger and more powerful.

32 / 50
Universal Pictures

#19. Midnight Run (1988)

Directed by Martin Brest

- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Votes: 65,581
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 126 min

In this box office hit, De Niro teams up with Charles Grodin in a buddy comedy about a bounty hunter tasked with delivering an accountant. His captive is trying to jump bail while wanted by both mobsters and the law. The film’s charisma springs from the chemistry between the two actors; Grodin’s deadpan apathy makes the perfect foil for De Niro’s robust toughie.

33 / 50

#18. Jackie Brown (1997)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Votes: 290,010
- Metascore: 64
- Runtime: 154 min

In Quentin Tarantino’s third film, adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel, De Niro is cast against type. He’s still a gangster, but in this story, he’s a criminal character without the confidence and finesse of the gangsters he usually plays. He’s still a cold-hearted ex-con, but one without his usual charisma.

34 / 50
Astoria Films

#17. Sleepers (1996)

Directed by Barry Levinson

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 176,771
- Metascore: 49
- Runtime: 147 min

He may be playing the priest Father Bobby in “Sleepers,” but De Niro brings his signature tough-guy swagger. The film dramatizes the sexual abuse of four boys in Father Bobby’s neighborhood during their youth and adulthood. De Niro brings the brazen, fearless, smiling-while-he-threatens-you flourish to this role as the boys’ protector.

35 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#16. Stardust (2007)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 240,733
- Metascore: 66
- Runtime: 127 min

In a gender-bending turn with a touch of the whimsical, De Niro plays the splendid Captain Shakespeare in this Neil Gaiman fantasy about a lad who promises to retrieve a fallen star who happens to be a woman. De Niro’s sea captain uses the actor’s signature bravado as a cover for his true side—a man who loves frills, flounce, and rhapsodizing with a pink feather fan.

36 / 50
Produzioni Europee Associate (PEA)

#15. 1900 (1976)

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 20,634
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 317 min

Bernardo Bertolucci’s sprawling period film about politics in the first half of the 20th century in Italy runs over five hours long and was often screened in two parts. De Niro stars in an ensemble cast that includes Gérard Depardieu and Donald Sutherland in this ambitious epic about a landowner (De Niro) and his impoverished friend.

37 / 50
Embassy International Pictures

#14. The King of Comedy (1982)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 69,170
- Metascore: 73
- Runtime: 109 min

After the success of “Raging Bull,” director Martin Scorsese collaborated again with De Niro in this dark comedy that garnered a tepid box office response (perhaps due to its misunderstood satire), despite resonating with critics. De Niro plays another psychopath, Rupert, who is not unlike the damaged men he played in “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” Rupert kidnaps a famous talk-show host, Jerry Langford (played by Jerry Lewis; reportedly the role was offered to Johnny Carson), to get a spot on the show.

38 / 50
The Weinstein Company

#13. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Directed by David O. Russell

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 626,164
- Metascore: 81
- Runtime: 122 min

As the football-obsessed dad of a grown man with bipolar disorder (Bradley Cooper), De Niro steals each scene in which he appears. He captures the tension and fear of parenting an adult once his son moves home after a stint in a psychiatric hospital. De Niro gives the role a comedic intensity imbued with dramatic force as the head of a family where everyone is just a little bit crazy.

39 / 50
Columbia Pictures

#12. Awakenings (1990)

Directed by Penny Marshall

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 113,440
- Metascore: 74
- Runtime: 121 min

De Niro was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his sensitive and immersive portrayal of a man “awakened” from a catatonic state by an experimental drug. Robin Williams co-stars as the doctor who finds a potential cure. De Niro’s performance spans his character’s ecstatic recovery and then the tragic shift as he comes to a realization about his treatment.

40 / 50
Price Entertainment

#11. A Bronx Tale (1993)

Directed by Robert De Niro

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 117,926
- Metascore: 80
- Runtime: 121 min

“A Bronx Tale” marked De Niro’s debut as a director in a film lauded for its evocative portrait of a 1960s-era Bronx neighborhood. De Niro also stars as Lorenzo, a hardworking man who resists the criminality that ensnares his son who’s enamored with a gangster played by Chazz Palminteri. The two actors also collaborated on the screenplay adapted from a one-man stage play written and performed by Palminteri.

41 / 50
Embassy International Pictures

#10. Brazil (1985)

Directed by Terry Gilliam

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 176,953
- Metascore: 88
- Runtime: 132 min

De Niro plays repairman Harry Tuttle in Terry Gilliam’s surrealist reverie about the bureaucratic nightmares of a future world. De Niro infuses the smaller part of Harry with an absurdist intensity in a comedic turn enhanced by the character’s strange tools, bizarre eyewear, and taste for insurrection.

42 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#9. The Untouchables (1987)

Directed by Brian De Palma

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 258,929
- Metascore: 79
- Runtime: 119 min

De Niro altered his physique, gaining weight to play the infamous and pugnacious gangster Al Capone in “The Untouchables,” a film that aestheticizes violent crime in its opulent style. “You’re nothin’ but a lot of talk and badge,” Capone repeats over and over in the scene where he’s finally brought down by Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner).

43 / 50
EMI Films

#8. The Deer Hunter (1978)

Directed by Michael Cimino

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 287,826
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 183 min

De Niro stars as Mike, a Pennsylvanian steelworker shipped off to war in this meditation on the lasting effects of combat for the Vietnam generation. Co-stars Christopher Walken and John Savage play Mike’s friends from home. The three end up as prisoners of war together. De Niro portrays Mike’s intense grit in the infamous scene where they’re forced to play Russian roulette against each other.

44 / 50
Chartoff-Winkler Productions

#7. Raging Bull (1980)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 292,774
- Metascore: 89
- Runtime: 129 min

De Niro won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of boxer Jake LaMotta in his fourth film with director Martin Scorsese, while Joe Pesci plays Jake’s brother, Joey. De Niro’s iconic performance displays his method genius as he embodies the eruptive rage and bitter loneliness of the real-life middleweight champ.

45 / 50
Universal Pictures

#6. Casino (1995)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 420,153
- Metascore: 73
- Runtime: 178 min

De Niro teams up again with “Goodfellas” director Martin Scorsese and co-star Joe Pesci in this epic drama about gangsters in Las Vegas. De Niro plays “Ace,” who runs a casino for the mob and falls in love with a former prostitute played by Sharon Stone. The scenes between the two sizzle with hysterical anguish and the rage-fueled agony of love gone wrong.

46 / 50
Warner Bros.

#5. Heat (1995)

Directed by Michael Mann

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 530,639
- Metascore: 76
- Runtime: 170 min

De Niro plays the quintessential “one-last-job” robber Neil McCauley, whose final heist goes inevitably awry. Like all male heroes of the noir genre, McCauley can’t escape his innate corruption—though a life of love lived abroad beckons. Al Pacino stars as the cop determined to bring him down. When their characters meet in a coffee shop, the actors give a master class in the simmering pleasures of high-stakes stress as they discuss “heat.”

47 / 50
Columbia Pictures

#4. Taxi Driver (1976)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 648,413
- Metascore: 94
- Runtime: 114 min

“You talkin’ to me?” De Niro says the iconic line into a mirror while practicing pulling a gun on various “screwheads” and “scum.” He plays Travis Bickle, a paranoid veteran, consumed with saving a child prostitute and assassinating a political candidate. Despite his derangement and vigilante acts, Bickle’s consistently mistaken for a hero. De Niro captures Bickle’s unhinged bravado and was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award.

48 / 50
The Ladd Company

#3. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Directed by Sergio Leone

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 282,520
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 229 min

De Niro plays the gangster “Noodles” in Sergio Leone’s final film, an epic that critiques the gangster film genre. De Niro’s performance creates an emotionally complex criminal, played at different ages throughout the 1920s, 1930s, and late 1960s.

49 / 50
Warner Bros.

#2. Goodfellas (1990)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 921,360
- Metascore: 89
- Runtime: 146 min

In another of his collaborations with Scorsese, De Niro plays Jimmy in this film that spans 35 years in the lives of mobsters, inhabiting his confident, casual malevolence. When the gang starts to fall apart, the audience shares the character’s suspicions about whether they can trust Jimmy or not. De Niro gives a masterful portrayal of a deceptive, fearless wise guy.

50 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#1. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

- IMDb user rating: 9.0
- Votes: 1,018,437
- Metascore: 90
- Runtime: 202 min

De Niro auditioned to play hotheaded Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather,” the oldest son of the mafioso Vito, but the role went to James Caan. The loss of that role left the actor open to play young Vito in the second installment—a sequel considered as good as, or better than, the first film. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role, sharing with Marlon Brando the distinction of being the only two actors to win Oscars for playing the same character.

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