LegenDARy Actors: Robert De Niro

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-There are certain actors who captivate the world with their wit, charm, and natural ability. Robert De Niro is one of those. He's able to go from comedy to drama to action to even the edge of horror and make you believe each performance. Today, I wanted to give the floor to the team to openly discuss the greatness of Robert De Niro and his film work. Let's get into it.

I often talk about legends and classics and the greatest, but it’s always in the context of hip hop or music in some way. There are only 5 people in Hollywood who fit that description and Robert De Niro is easily one of them. Not only has he truly gifted audiences for the last 50 years or so with the most amazing on-screen performances, but he's been known to advocate causes for which he believes in (regardless of how controversial they are). He is truly someone who epitomizes talent and intelligence and has used both to excel in his career.

As I mentioned, De Niro's been in front of the big screen since 1965 and has over 100 films under his belt. He’s been nominated for a total of 21 awards and won 3, 2 of which were Oscars. He's won lifetime achievement awards and is often referenced as one of the best actors Hollywood has ever seen. He’s been cast in the very best films of all time and each of them portrays his versatility as he brings each and every character to life in the most believable way! Let’s take a look at my 5 favorite films in his catalogue and the reason why he shares my number one spot for greatest actor of all time.

Let’s start with the number five spot –“Raging Bull”, which was released in 1980. Now I don’t talk about this movie too much, but I think it’s fantastic. The story is profound, the acting from De Niro is brilliant and what seems like a movie about boxing is actually about the twist, turns, downward spirals, internal conflicts and redemption which is almost guaranteed from life. It really has everything! This was released at a time when boxing movies were the “wave”, so it comes as no surprise that these weighty themes would be portrayed in this way. Martin Scorsese is the director to thank for bringing everything to life, as we know he’s a true genius and everything he does is profound and layered with meaning after meaning. There is no shortage of credit to be given to De Niro and it’s no wonder he was so amazing in this role, as he not only read the biography of Jake LaMotta, but he also trained and conditioned himself as a boxer to make the role more believable. He ended up winning the Oscar for Best Actor for this that same year.

Fourth spot goes to “Taxi Driver”, which was released in 1976. Of course, another Martin Scorsese project. Interestingly enough, it follows the same recipe as the one I just mentioned, because the New York taxi driver front is only that. This movie is twisted in some way, it revolves heavily around sex workers, pimps, and pretty much the dark side of Times Square. As much as Travis Bickle hates that stuff, he ultimately harbors so much anger, jealousy and hatred towards being rejected that he lashes out to the woman/women, he is so desperately trying to woo. De Niro plays this role surprisingly well. The “you talking to me” scene is a testament to that, he’d have you convinced he was the character. The storyline is different, but this is where we see the versatility show and he was nominated for best actor.

Third, we have “Goodfellas”, released in 1990. By the time this movie came out, De Niro was ranked as one of the best actors of all time. He had been cast as several very different roles. He  played a boxer, a mafia Don, a crazed Taxi driver, and one of the greatest real life gangsters of all time in the Untouchables! It’s undeniable that De Niro is a powerhouse on the screen. Now why do I love Goodfellas so much? It’s set up in true Scorsese form with the narrating, the chronological account of mob life and showing them working their way up the ladder to being “made men” while incorporating elements of the real life Luchese family. The cast was just unbelievable: Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and De Niro are truly an all-star cast and manage to create such a natural and seamless dynamic. In this movie, I think what De Niro did best is play a meeker role while maintaining his screen presence (which we expect) and he still manages to give us a memorable performance. I have a couple favorite scenes in this movie and one of them is when De Niro is teaching his young mobster apprentices the cardinal rule of the streets of “never rat on your friends”. This movie has absolutely everything, teaching, learning, life lessons, and it’s all done in a stylish charismatic way that is largely attributed to De Niro.

In the 2.5 spot (yes you saw correctly it’s 2.5 and I promise I’ll keep it short), we have “Heat” released in 1995 and directed by Michael Mann. De Niro reunites with Pacino, so OF COURSE I love this movie. These two just complement each other so well, as they get each others’ acting styles and are able to draw on that to create one of the most flawless and perfectly seen co-star dynamics ever.  This heist movie is different than the gangster mafia–boss roles we like to see from De Niro, but his talent yet again proves that he can deliver a flawless performance. I also have to mention that one of my favorite quotes ever uttered in a movie is said by De Niro in this, which I’m sure you’re familiar with:  “A guy told me one time, "Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." This is one of those lines that should be applied to in life situations. Personally, what I think is another fascinating thing with the acting is, both Pacino and De Niro are such great actors and it’s impressive that they don’t outshine one another. It’s a shared spotlight and it keeps the audience incredibly engaged and looking forward to the unraveling scenes that follow.

Now my number 2 spot goes to “Casino” directed by Scorsese and released in the same year as Heat(1995). I know, the man is unbelievable, 2 brilliant full features in the same year. This to me is the role De Niro was created for: a laid back yet serious, fun yet high strung casino owner. The story here is an interesting one, again it has the narrating which adds a great perspective. It’s your typical “women are the downfall of every empire” type story infused with the shady and unpredictable happenings of a mob-owned casino. What impressed me the first time I saw this was how believable he was when dealing with his “trophy wife”. With her he was the exact opposite of how he was in his business. The cast is pretty amazing; Sharon Stone plays the female role and we see De Niro paired up with Pesci once again. We loved their dynamic in Goodfellas and we can expect amazing here as well. I have a profound appreciation for the Italian culture infusion throughout this movie. Pesci and De Niro were able to flawlessly bring to life Scorsese's vision for this and they did it in a truly perfect way. This movie is non-stop and very enjoyable to watch!

And my most favorite movie in De Niro's catalogue is also my second favorite movie of all time. "The Godfather Pt. II" released in 1974 ...DAR very recently took an extensive look at the entire Godfather Trilogy (which I strongly recommend reading), but let me touch on this again. De Niro plays the role of Young Vito Corleone. This was so early in DeNiro's career that I don't think anyone had any real expectation from him including Coppola who directed this, but they gave him the book and the script and through the direction of both Puzo and Coppola, De Niro was able to shine. We get to hear him speak Italian and truly bring his culture and heritage to each character. He played the role of a cold and heartless killer when needed as well as a soft and caring family man just minutes later. As I mentioned above and for anyone familiar with De Niro's films, it wouldn't be the last time we would see this type of contrast, from cold hearted to sensitive and loving, be mastered on screen! This was also the first time we saw him and Pacino together and it would be decades later that they would be reunited on screen again...their chemistry and dynamic is brilliant much like De Niro is with all his co-stars. His performance in this exceeded any and all expectations with his acting. Since this was the first "real" gangster/mob role he ever played, I'd like to think this is what created the foundation of De Niro being such a sought after actor.

So there you have it, the movies which to me showcase De Niro at his very best and the reason why he's the best actor to ever do it, but I have to mention, it hasn't always been mobsters, fighters and ruthless villains. He's done everything including animated and feel good family films, which is why he could never be a type-casted actor. His humor and fun-loving side has also been explored in "Meet The Parents" "Meet The Fockers" and "Shark Tale", De Niro is someone who can master any role and his catalog is a true testament to that. He's worked with the best directors and is known to deliver Academy Award winning performances each and every time. There will never be enough credit given to someone who has spent five decades perfecting a craft he embarked on so many years ago. He is truly a representation of greatness and although none will ever come close, he will forever be the example for upcoming actors.

What inspired Robert DeNiro to work on two Meet the Parents sequels. Oh, wait, what? This isn't a WIRTB? Fuck me. If you're a sexy 5'3--ok, ok lemme get back on track here before True kicks me off this one. Robert De Niro is a great actor. A bit underrated in some ways. For instance, his turn as young Vito in Godfather II.

We talk about it as a great performance, but it was more than just great. We got to see what made the former crime boss's rise to power so crazy, so emotional. It was a perfect parallel to what Michael went through in the film. But, I couldn't have seen another actor play young Vito. That's the thing with De Niro. You see him in a film and he owns it, even if it's a shitty Meet the Parents sequel. He'll take a clunker, shine it up, and you'll never see him phone it in.

All of the praises, film-wise, he gets? He deserves them. And then some.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-For all the years we've watched him, DeNiro has shined brightly in many movies. He's got some underrated films, and some interesting turns, most of which are rooted in his darker movies, like Cape Fear, which is an underrated performance and one I've always thought should be appreciated more. I like his role in Sleepers also, as I find that film to be slightly underrated as well. Of course, I love his roles in Heat and Casino, and if I had to pick a mob movie to watch, Goodfellas is the one. Hands down. De Niro has so many classic films and starring roles that it's impossible to list them all here, but if you look at his filmography, you'll see the legacy and the greatness. He's still going too, as he has plenty of movies to come and one currently in theaters, titled Hands of Stone. After 50 years, he shows no sign of slowing up. A true legendary actor.



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