Robert De Niro’s total number of films is over a hundred, and for a man who has been in the film industry for over five decades, that’s no surprise and means he’s had a successful career as a ‘actor.
Robert De Niro was born in 1943 and at ten years old he had started acting but only on stage. His first performance was in a school play, a production of The Wizard of Oz and he played the role of the Cowardly Lion. For his secondary education, Robert De Niro attended two schools: McBurney School and Rhodes Preparatory School. He then left school at the age of sixteen because of the desire to become an actor.
However, his film debut came in 1963 when he was twenty and as he grew in the film industry, the quality of the films he got to play improved. De Niro’s first major role was as young Vito Corleone in the 1974 film The Godfather Part II, a role for which he won his first Academy Award. He won another Oscar in 1980 and also won two Golden Globes.
All the awards he has won for his performance and the many nominations he has received are a testament to his talent and the hard work he puts into his art. Regardless of that, he always had performances in movies that didn’t match the legacy he managed to build. For more on the iconic Robert De Niro’s best and worst movies, keep reading.
List of Robert De Niro films ranked from best to worst
This Robert De Niro movie was released in 1990 and is considered one of the greatest gangster movies of all time. Goodfellas is an adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy and it chronicles the life of Henry Hill who was a popular mobster . Martin Scorsese, who Robert De Niro had worked with for several films, was also the director of this film and the first person he cast was De Niro. The decision to cast it led to Scorsese securing funding for the film.
De Niro starred as James “Jimmy the Gent” Conway, who was instrumental in the downward spiral of Henry Hill’s life. Goodfellas $46.8 million on a $25 million budget and has been nominated for numerous awards.
2. taxi driver
In another Martin Scorsese 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. The decision to become a taxi driver exposed him to New York’s nightlife basement, and the things he saw sparked his resolve to become a vigilante. His failed attempt at a romantic relationship and the abuse of a twelve-year-old prostitute became the catalyst for his attempted assassination of a presidential candidate and the assassination of a drug ring.
Robert De Niro lost 35 pounds for his role in the film. He also drove a taxi in New York and listened to Arthur Bremer’s diary recordings, in preparation for his role. Taxi Driver is not only considered a cinematic masterpiece, but is also considered historically relevant for its story and De Niro’s performance.
3. angry bull
Based on the memoir of Jake LaMotta, Angry Bull is the life story of professional boxer, Jake LaMotta. The film chronicles the spiral he experienced in life due to his affair with fifteen-year-old Beverly Thailer, later known as Vickie LaMotta, as well as the conflict that separated him from his brother Joey LaMotta and the problems he has with the crowd.
Robert De Niro had read the memoir and decided he wanted to play the role of Jake LaMotta, a performance that won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Like the other eight films he made with Scorsese, it is considered one of the greatest films in the detective genre.
4. The Godfather Part II
One of Robert De Niro’s most popular films, The Godfather II was made on a budget of $13 million and grossed $53.7 million. It is a masterpiece directed by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Coppola and Mario Puzo.
The film is not only a sequel to the events of 1972 The Godfather but also a prequel to how the Corleone family became the powerhouse they were in the 1972 film. Robert De Niro was cast to play the role of a young Vito Corleone, tasked with rising through the ranks of American society as a young man whose entire family had been murdered in his hometown of Sicily. De Niro had previously auditioned to be in The Godfather and those auditions got him to play Vito.
5. Once Upon a Time in America
Most of Robert De Niro’s best films fall into the detective genre and are films he starred in as a young man. Once Upon a Time in America takes its story from Harry Gray’s novel The Hoods. The film was released in different cut and uncut versions in different parts of the world, which affected not only the box office sales but also the reviews of the film. In its original form, Once Upon a Time in Americais 229 minutes, but the production company in charge of the distribution – The Ladd Company, decided to edit the main aspects of the film without the authorization of the director – Sergio Leone, which resulted in the release of a mediocre 139 minutes in the American cinemas. The heavily edited version of the film was a box office failure and bankrupted the company.
Regardless of those failings, the film has aged well and drawn critical acclaim.
6. Meet the parents
In this 2000 film by Robert De Niro, he plays the role of Jack Byrnes who is a retired CIA agent. De Niro’s character is the stern father of Pam Byrnes, who brought home her boyfriend, Gaylord Focker, played by Ben Stiller. The film thrives on the many differences between Ben Stiller’s character and his girlfriend’s family and the deep cultural differences between Gaylord Focker’s more liberal upbringing and the strict Protestant values that served as the foundation of the Byrnes family. .. The film also comments on expectations of masculinity and what happens to men who don’t fit what a man should be.
Robert De Niro, one of the film’s characters, portrays the strong and controlling white male of the American estate, while Ben Stiller portrays the Jewish people forced to adopt certain practices of white Americans even though those practices go against of their identity. The film was a box office success and resonated well with critics.
7. New Year’s Eve
Despite its ensemble cast which boasts of veteran actors, this Robert De Niro film was a flop with critics and has a 7% rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes.
New Year’s Eve, as the name suggests, follows the activities on New Year’s Eve, how each of these characters makes life-changing decisions that night, and how those decisions connect each character to each other. Robert De Niro’s character is dying of cancer after refusing to undergo chemotherapy. All he wants is for the ball to land one last time in Times Square. The film was considered subpar and it earned it a nomination for multiple Raspberry Awards. Regardless of all that, the film was a box office success.
8. Dirty Grandpa
As the actor got older, he took on less serious subjects, but the problem with these types of films is that they don’t sit well with critics. This is why Robert De Niro’s recent films are not considered as highly as his earlier films. Dirty Grandpa is one of those movies. In this film, Robert De Niro goes on a journey with his grandson, and along the journey, they form healthier relationships and, in the process, grow. The film has been criticized for its sexism, homophobia and racism.
9. Murder Season
John Travolta and Robert De Niro are actors who have made their mark in the action movie genre and Killing Season was their first appearance together in such films. Unfortunately, it was a flop and didn’t do well, either at the box office or with critics.
The actions of the film take place in the Appalachian Mountains and are triggered by the killing of Serbs by American soldiers during the Bosnian War. Travolta’s character was out for revenge against De Niro’s character but the two men find they are evenly matched and decide to let go of their past.
10. San Luis Rey Bridge
In 1927, Thornton Wilder published a novel that tells the interconnected story of people who died on a collapsed Inca bridge. The novel became a critical success and inspired other stories as well. The following year, he won the Pulitzer for fiction.
77 years later, in 2004, a film 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 minor role in the film as a cast member.