(Written by David Greco)
Robert De Niro is one of the most recognized and talented actors of all time and has had nothing short of an illustrious career. This week mars Bobby’s 70th birthday and in those 70 years he has provided the world with some of the most iconic roles in cinema. He got his big break off a casting call from fellow Italian-American New Yorker Martin Scorsese for his debut film Mean Streets and the rest is history. Here are my top 5 performances by Mr. De Niro:
5. Mean Streets (1973)
Maybe not as well known as his other roles, but this is where he started, and this is where his true brilliance and talent was put on display. Playing a role close to home and close to his roots, De Niro is perfect as the young hoodlum Johnny Boy and carries most of this film on his back. This was the start of a lot of good things for both Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro.
4. Goodfellas (1990)
An iconic film and an even more iconic role as James “Jimmy” Conway. We see Robert De Niro further solidifying himself as one of the top actors of all time. This came a little later in his career but it showed his effect and value as a supporting character and primary antagonist. He didn’t miss a beat while portraying real life Irish gangster James Burke.
3. Raging Bull (1980)
The life story of legendary boxer Jake Lamotta – a role and film that De Niro so desperately fought to be brought to life. At first Martin Scorcese didn’t feel enough of an emotional connection to the story of Jake Lamotta, but future health circumstances and Robert’s persistence made Martin see things a bit differently and what we received is something truly historic. Adding on a substantial amount of weight mid-production to portray the essence of the character and story truthfully is something few actors would even attempt and so successfully. Robert went there and he didn’t look back. Arguably the best sports related film ever made and a lot of that has to do with the passion that De Niro approached this project with. One of his most iconic roles, I’d argue.
2. The Godfather 2 (1974)
Robert De Niro was given the task to portray an already legendary character in the shadow of Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in a prelude to what we already have seen. The role of Young Vito Corleone is just as memorable, intricate and impressive. There isn’t much to say here, I mean he plays a character who is truly a-whole-nother nationality then what he is used to playing but it has the same effect and is able to evoke the same emotions from the audience.
1. Taxi Driver (1976)
There was not a question in my mind when deciding that I was going to be picking Robert De Niro’s portrayal as Travis Bickle In Taxi Driver as number 1 for this list… The film is him. It’s all him. I mean rarely do we see a full feature film have so much of one character, (not to mention his thoughts as well) and not have it bother you. This film in my mind is brilliant and will always be one of my favorites. This is when he became Robert De Niro The Actor. I believe there was NO ONE else in the world that could’ve done what he did with this role. A breathtaking performance which was done with such subtleness but perfection that it’s hard to see the actor behind the character; it’s a remarkable performance. And that, my friends, IS Robert De Niro.
Once Upon A Time In America (1984)