Is Robert De Niro the best actor on the American screen? Some movie critics, especially those who remember the 1970s and ’80s, would undoubtedly say “yes.” They will say that the question is pointless. Who can compare?
One thing is certain: the actor born in New York has made so many masterful appearances on the big screen, won so much praise, and received so many awards that it is impossible to leave De Niro’s name on the list of the best American film actor. .
Immortal Duo: Scorsese and De Niro
Above all, it is the eight films that De Niro shot with director Martin Scorsese that made him immortal — “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas” and ” Casino,” to name but a few.
From the start, De Niro shows his brilliance as a strong yet slender character who can alternate between sensitivity and violence. Whole scenes were displayed on his face.
De Niro is often praised by other actors for his charisma and skills. He can convey meaning just by moving an eyebrow, slightly raising the corner of his mouth or frowning.
This was useful as his career first fell to the ground, when De Niro was mostly cast in gangster and mafia films, often in brutal and violent roles.
He used variants of this subtle acting skill in the second half of his career, where he tried his hand at many comedies.
From gangster flicks to rom-coms
Not everything De Niro touched was successful. After his wonderful films with Scorsese, there are about a dozen films where the actor seems to be resting on his laurels. Sometimes his facial expressions suddenly appear a bit routine and prepared. However, De Niro is still convincing in lighter roles.
The comedy “Meet the Parents” made millions at the box office, and in “Midnight Run” and “Analyze This,” De Niro left audiences in awe. Even in supporting roles, the character actor shines — his performance in Quentin Taratino’s “Jackie Brown” should be singled out in this regard.
New Yorker forever
The American was awarded two Oscars, one as best supporting actor in “The Godfather Part II,” and one for his brilliant lead role as boxer Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull.”
Many times he won nominations for many leading awards in Hollywood. However, the west coast of America was not his favorite playground. A New Yorker through and through, De Niro grew up there, as did his favorite director, Martin Scorsese, and he made many of his best films there.
It was in New York that De Niro, a media-shy actor who avoided interviews, founded the Tribeca Festival in 2002 with producer Jane Rosenthal. Named after Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, it has become one of the most successful and important events for independent artists.
Reunion with Scorsese: “The Irishman”
In 2019, De Niro gave his fans around the world a great gift: “The Irishman” – apart from a short film – his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese after many years. Perhaps predictably, this is a Mafia film. Co-starring with Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel, De Niro plays a contract killer. The story line mainly consists of flashbacks and thus is also a kind of retrospective of an illustrious career. It was a hit with fans and critics. In the same year, De Niro gave a convincing performance with Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker.”
When Robert De Niro turned 80 on Thursday, he showed no signs of retiring from acting. In October 2023, “Killers of the Flower Moon” will be released, his eleventh collaboration with Martin Scorsese, who marks his 80th birthday in 2022.
This article was originally written in German and was first published in 2018. It was updated in August 2023.