Robert Anthony De Niro became famous for his portrayals of gritty characters at the beginning of his career. Once the New York native hit the comedic spotlight in the 2000s with Meet The Parents playing the part of a cranky old man, De Niro managed to keep a healthy balance of comedy and drama in his filmography. His next film will be Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon; the two have made ten feature films together since 1973’s Mean Streets.
De Niro’s parents divorced when he was just two years old after his father, Robert De Niro Sr., announced he was gay. His mother, Virginia Admiral, raised De Niro in Manhattan’s Little Italy. Robert took an interest in acting at age 10, playing the role of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the Dramatic Workshop. Marlon Brando attended the same drama school and later became an inspiration for De Niro. As a way to relieve his shyness, De Niro became fascinated by cinema. By age 16, he dropped out of high school to pursue a professional career in acting. He later said in his biography De Niro: A Life, “When I was around 18, I was looking at a TV show, and I said, ‘If these actors are making a living at it, and they’re not really that good, I can’t do any worse than them.'”
De Niro had minor film roles in the late 60s before landing a major role in Brian De Palma’s Greetings (1968), a satirical film about men avoiding the Vietnam War draft. With seven movies and two more De Palma collaborations, De Niro starred in two theater performances. He then returned to the big screen with 1973’s Bang the Drum Slowly, which received critical acclaim and helped De Niro gain further recognition. In 1973, De Niro began collaborating with Martin Scorsese in the crime film Mean Streets, co-starring Harvey Keitel. The following year, De Niro landed a pivotal role in Francis Ford Coppola’s crime epic The Godfather Part II (1974), winning an Academy Award for his portrayal of the young Vito Corleone.
Take a look below at our top 5 picks of Robert De Niro’s best films. With over 135 acting credits and 67 awards, it is tough to pick out De Niro’s best of the best, but we did our best.