Robert De Niro began his seven-decade career in movies with a starring role in the Vietnam War-era comedy/drama Greetings. The 1968 film would be his opening joint effort with Brian De Palma (they followed up with The Wedding Party, dark satire Hi, Mom!, and gangland epic The Untouchables), and would be the first of many fruitful actor/director partnerships that would come to define De Niro’s image.
Martin Scorsese is the most obvious director he’s worked with in this way: Their legendary collaborative run began with 1973’s Mean Streets, continuing into Taxi Driver, New York, New York, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Casino, and The Irishman. De Niro’s performances in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull especially changed the acting game, executing a method-style of performance wherein the actor not only mentally inhabits their character, but transforms their physical shape entirely. De Niro won the Best Actor Oscar for becoming boxer Jake ‘The Raging Bull’ LaMotta in 1981, topping his Best Supporting Actor win in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II as young Vito Corleone, and nominations in ’77 and ’79 for Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter, respectively.
Just as he did in the ’70s, De Niro appeared in some of the best movies of the decades that subsequently followed. In the ’80s, he worked with Terry Gilliam for Brazil and Sergio Leone for Once Upon a Time in America, and delivered enduring action-comedy Midnight Run. Inside the ’90s, aside from the aforementioned Scorsese collaborations, De Niro starred in Michael Mann’s Heat and Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. Wag the Dog might belong on someone’s best-of-’90s list if you asked around a bit, but Barry Levinson is another director De Niro has frequently worked with; outside of Dog, they also put together What Just Happened?, Sleepers, and The Wizard of Lies.
Towards the end of the ’90s, De Niro began to satirize his on-screen tough-guy persona, returning to the comedy mode of his early career with films like 1999’s Analyze This, 2000’s Meet the Parents, and 2007’s Stardust. He would be nominated again for an Oscar for his role in 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, kicking off another director partnership with David O. Russell. They would continue with the decidedly Scorsese-like American Hustle, Joy, and an upcoming historical drama. Another recent Scorsese-esque movie, Joker, echoed the bleak media dystopia presented in The King of Comedy and grossed $1 billion worldwide. But why settle: After starring in and being nominated for Best Picture as a producer on The Irishman, he’s back with Scorsese for the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon.
Now, we’re ranking all Robert De Niro movies by Tomatometer, Certified Fresh Films first! —Alex Vo
Critics Consensus: Drawing on strong performances by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola's continuation of Mario Puzo's Mafia saga set new standards for sequels that have yet to be matched or broken.
Synopsis: The compelling sequel to "The Godfather," contrasting the life of Corleone father and son. Traces the problems of Michael Corleone... [More]
Critics Consensus:Mean Streets is a powerful tale of urban sin and guilt that marks Scorsese's arrival as an important cinematic voice and features electrifying performances from Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro.
Synopsis: A slice of street life in Little Italy among lower echelon Mafiosos, unbalanced punks, and petty criminals. A small-time hood... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though Al Pacino and Robert De Niro share but a handful of screen minutes together, Heat is an engrossing crime drama that draws compelling performances from its stars -- and confirms Michael Mann's mastery of the genre.
Synopsis: Master criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is trying to control the rogue actions of one of his men, while... [More]
Critics Consensus: Its greatness is blunted by its length and one-sided point of view, but the film's weaknesses are overpowered by Michael Cimino's sympathetic direction and a series of heartbreaking performances from Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken.
Synopsis: In 1968, Michael (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken) and Steven (John Savage), lifelong friends from a working-class Pennsylvania steel... [More]
Critics Consensus: Sergio Leone's epic crime drama is visually stunning, stylistically bold, and emotionally haunting, and filled with great performances from the likes of Robert De Niro and James Woods.
Synopsis: In 1968, the elderly David "Noodles" Aaronson (Robert De Niro) returns to New York, where he had a career in... [More]
Critics Consensus: Despite sometimes sitcom-like execution, Meet the Parents is a hilarious look at familial relationships that works mostly because the chemistry between its two leads is so effective.
Synopsis: Everything that can possibly go wrong for groom-to-be Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) does. The problems begin with Greg's disastrous first... [More]
Critics Consensus: Slick on the surface but loaded with artful touches, Brian DePalma's classical gangster thriller is a sharp look at period Chicago crime, featuring excellent performances from a top-notch cast.
Synopsis: After building an empire with bootleg alcohol, legendary crime boss Al Capone (Robert De Niro) rules Chicago with an iron... [More]
Critics Consensus: Impressive ambition and bravura performances from an outstanding cast help Casino pay off in spite of a familiar narrative that may strike some viewers as a safe bet for director Martin Scorsese.
Synopsis: In early-1970s Las Vegas, low-level mobster Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro) gets tapped by his bosses to head the... [More]
Critics Consensus: A faithful interpretation that captures the spirit of whimsy, action, and off-kilter humor of Neil Gaiman, Stardust juggles multiple genres and tones to create a fantastical experience.
Synopsis: To win the heart of his beloved (Sienna Miller), a young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) ventures into the realm... [More]
Critics Consensus:Cop Land matches its star-studded cast with richly imagined characters while throttling the audience with carefully ratcheted suspense, although it lacks the moral complexity of classic crime thrillers.
Synopsis: When hotheaded Superboy (Michael Rapaport) accidentally gets involved in an ugly racially-motivated incident, his uncle Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel), a... [More]
Critics Consensus: A harrowing, moving drama about a young boy, his single mother, and his abusive stepfather, This Boy's Life benefits from its terrific cast, and features a breakout performance from a young Leonardo DiCaprio.
Synopsis: In the 1950s, Toby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his mom, Caroline (Ellen Barkin), move to the state of Washington. There they... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Mission is a well-meaning epic given delicate heft by its sumptuous visuals and a standout score by Ennio Morricone, but its staid presentation never stirs an emotional investment in its characters.
Synopsis: Jesuit priest Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) enters the Guarani lands in South America with the purpose of converting the natives... [More]
Critics Consensus:Joy is anchored by a strong performance from Jennifer Lawrence, although director David O. Russell's uncertain approach to its fascinating fact-based tale only sporadically sparks bursts of the titular emotion.
Synopsis: A story of a family across four generations, centered on the girl who becomes the woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who founds... [More]
Critics Consensus: Martin Scorsese's technical virtuosity and Liza Minelli's magnetic presence are on full display in New York, New York, although this ambitious musical's blend of swooning style and hard-bitten realism makes for a queasy mixture.
Synopsis: Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro), an aspiring saxophone player, meets established USO band singer Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) during V-J... [More]
Critics Consensus: Stone boasts a cast that includes Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, and Milla Jovovich, and it features strong dialogue, but it's ultimately undone by its heavy-handed symbolism and overabundant plot twists.
Synopsis: Parole officer Jack Mabry (Robert De Niro) is just days from retirement and busy wrapping up the last few cases,... [More]
Critics Consensus: Tony Scott's visceral flash proves to be an ill fit for The Fan, a queasy tale of obsession that succeeds at making audiences uncomfortable, but strikes out when it comes to delivering the thrills.
Synopsis: A troubled salesman who peddles knives, Gil Renard (Robert De Niro) has a volatile personality, which has resulted in divorce... [More]
Critics Consensus: Robert De Niro and especially Dakota Fanning have earned some praise for their work in Hide and Seek, but critics have called the rest of the film derivative, illogical and somewhat silly.
Synopsis: Following the suicide of his wife (Amy Irving), psychologist David Callaway (Robert De Niro) decides to take his daughter, Emily... [More]