The total count of Robert De Niro’s movies exceeds one hundred, and for a man who has been in the movie industry for more than five decades, this doesn’t come as a surprise and also implies that he has had a successful career as an actor.
Robert De Niro was born in 1943 and by the time he was ten, he had started acting but only on stage. His first stage performance was in a school play, a production of The Wizard of OZ and he played the role of the Cowardly Lion. For his high school education, Robert De Niro attended two schools – the McBurney School and Rhodes Preparatory School. He then dropped out of the school at the age of sixteen because of a desire to pursue acting.
However, his film debut came in 1963 when he was twenty and as he grew in the film industry, the quality of films he got to act in got better. The first major role De Niro was cast in was that of a young Vito Corleone in the 1974 film The Godfather Part II, a role for which he won his first Academy Award. He won one more Academy Award in 1980 and has also won two Golden Globes.
All the awards he has garnered for his acting and the many nominations he has gotten, speak to his talent and the hard work he puts into his art. Regardless of this, he has still had performances in movies that fell short of the legacy he has managed to build for himself. To learn more about the best and worst movies of the iconic Robert De Niro, keep reading.
List of Robert De Niro Movies Ranked From Best To Worst
This Robert De Niro movie was released in 1990 and it is considered as one of the greatest gangster films of all time. Goodfellas is an adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi book’s Wiseguy and it chronicles the life of Henry Hill, who was a popular mobster. Martin Scorsese, who Robert De Niro had worked with on a number of films, was also the director of this film and the first person he cast was De Niro. The decision to cast him led to Scorsese getting funding for the film.
De Niro played the role of James “Jimmy the Gent” Conway who was instrumental in the downward spiral of the life of Henry Hill. Goodfellas made $46.8 million on a budget of $25 million and was nominated for numerous awards.
2. Taxi Driver
In another Martin Scorsese directed film, Robert De Niro played the insomniac taxi driver, Travis Bickle, who has the idealistic notion of ridding New York of individuals he considers scum of the earth. At the age of twenty-six, Bickle had been discharged from the Marines and he led a lonely and depressing life. Deciding to be a taxi driver exposed him to the underbelly of the New York nightlife and the things he saw sparked his resolution to become a vigilante of some sort. His failed attempt at romance and the abuse of a twelve-year-old prostitute became the catalyst to his attempt at assassinating a presidential candidate and killing a ring of traffickers.
Robert De Niro lost 35 pounds for his role in the movie. He also drove a taxi in New York and listened to the recordings of Arthur Bremer’s diaries all in preparation for the role. Taxi Driver is not only remembered as a cinematic masterpiece but is considered historically relevant for its story and De Niro’s performance.
3. Raging Bull
Based on the memoir of Jake LaMotta, Raging Bull is the story of the life of the professional boxer, Jake LaMotta. The film chronicles the downward spiral he experienced in life because of his affair with the fifteen-year-old, Beverly Thailer who later came to be known as Vickie LaMotta, as well as the rift that existed between him and his brother, Joey LaMotta and the issues he has with the mob.
Robert De Niro had read the memoir and decided that he wanted to play the role of Jake LaMotta, a performance that earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Like the other eight films he has done with Scorsese, this is considered one of the greatest films in the crime genre.
4. The Godfather Part II
Easily one of the most popular Robert De Niro movies, The Godfather II was made on a budget of $13 million and grossed $53.7 million. It is a masterpiece that was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Coppola and Mario Puzo.
The film is not only a sequel to the events that happened in 1972’s The Godfather but also a prequel on how the Corleone family came to be the powerhouse they were in the 1972 film. Robert De Niro was cast to play the role of a younger Vito Corleone who is tasked with the responsibility of rising through the ranks of the American society as a young man whose entire family had been killed in his native town of Sicily. De Niro had previously auditioned to be in The Godfather and these auditions were what paved the way for him to play Vito.
5. Once Upon A Time In America
Most of Robert De Niro’s best movies fit into the crime genre and were films he acted in as a young man. Once Upon a Time in America takes its story from the Harry Grey novel, The Hoods. The film was released in various cut and uncut versions in different regions of the world and this affected not only its box office sales but also criticism of the film. In its original form, Once Upon a Time in America is 229 minutes long, but the production company in charge of distribution – The Ladd Company, decided to edit major aspects of the film without the permission of the director – Sergio Leone, leading to a release of a mediocre 139 minutes in American cinemas. The heavily edited version of the film was a box office flop and bankrupted the company.
Regardless of these failings, the movie has aged well and has resonated with critics.
6. Meet The Parents
In this 2000 Robert De Niro movie, he plays the role of Jack Byrnes who is a retired CIA operative. De Niro’s character is the stern father of Pam Byrnes, who has brought home her boyfriend, Gaylord Focker who is played by Ben Stiller. The film thrives on the many ways that Ben Stiller’s character is different from his girlfriend’s family and how there’s a deep line of cultural differences between the more liberal upbringing of Gaylord Focker as opposed to the strict protestant values that served as the foundation of the Byrnes household. The film is also a commentary on the expectations of masculinity and what happens to men who do not fit into the spectrum of what a man should be like.
Robert De Niro, who is one of the film’s characters, is representative of the white male in the American domain, strong and controlling while Ben Stiller is representative of the Jewish people who are forced to adopt certain practices of white Americans even if these practices go against who they are as people. The film was a hit at the box office and resonated well with critics.
7. New Year’s Eve
Despite its ensemble cast that boasts of seasoned actors, this Robert De Niro movie was a flop with critics and has 7% on the critic site Rotten Tomatoes.
New Year’s Eve, just as the name implies, follows the activities of its main characters on New Year’s Eve and how each of these characters makes life-altering decisions on this particular night and how these decisions connect each character to one another. Robert De Niro’s character is dying from cancer after refusing to have chemotherapy and all he wants to see is the ball drop one last time at Times Square. The movie was considered as subpar and this led to it being nominated for various Raspberry Awards. Regardless of all this, the movie was a hit at the box office.
8. Dirty Grandpa
As the actor got older, he took on films that had less serious subject matters, but the problem with these type of movies is they do not sit well with critics. This is why recent Robert De Niro movies are not regarded as highly as his earlier films. Dirty Grandpa is one of such films. In this movie, Robert De Niro goes on a road trip with his grandson and while on the trip, they foster a better relationship with each other and in the process, they grow. The film was bashed for being sexist, homophobic and racist.
9. Killing Season
John Travolta and Robert De Niro are actors who made their marks in the action film genre and Killing Season was their first appearance together in such films. Sadly, it was a flop and did not fare well at either the box office or with critics.
The actions in the film take place in the Appalachian Mountains and are set off by the killing of Serbians by American soldiers during the Bosnian War. Travolta’s character was on a quest to enact vengeance on De Niro’s character but both men find out that they are equally matched and decide to let go of their past.
10. The Bridge of San Luis Rey
In 1927, Thornton Wilder released a novel that tells the interconnected story of the people who died on an Inca bridge that collapsed. The novel went on to become a critical success and also inspired other stories. In the following year, it won the Pulitzer for fiction.
Seventy-seven years after, in 2004, a movie based on the plot of the novel was released and unlike the book, it did not achieve critical acclaim. It earned $1.8 million on a budget of $24 million. Robert De Niro played a relatively small role in the movie as part of its ensemble cast.