Most Robert De Niro movies really suck the big one these days. I’m not sure if it’s his age, and quality films aren’t offered anymore, or does he just want the easy paycheck ? However, in his prime he was one of the best actors around and here are my five favorites.
#1 – The Deer Hunter – (1978) – Mike Vronsky – A movie about how war impacts and disrupts lives, not just for those who served; but how it affects friends and family. De Niro plays a guys’ guy; likes hunting, shooting pool and drinking beer , but is painfully shy around the girl he loves. In Vietnam he takes control, trying to help his childhood buddies survive. He received an Oscar nomination, but lost to Jon Voight (Coming Home). The film won The Best Picture Award.
#2 – Taxi Driver – (1976) – Travis Bickle – A film about a man’s loneliness, isolation and alienation from the rest of society. He is a man trying to find something to live for, when he is surrounded by all the scum, filth and sleaze. He finds redemption in Iris, a child prostitute that he saves from those that would exploit her. De Niro and Taxi Driver both received Oscar nods but lost out to Peter Finch (Network) and Rocky.
#3 – Raging Bull – (1980) – Jake La Motta – About the self-destructive life of real-life boxer Jake La Motta. This film is also known for the physical transformation that De Niro went through to play this role. He had to work out and train in the ring so the first half of the movie could be shot…..then went on an eating binge to gain 60 lbs….so that he could play the older, down and out Jake. De Niro did win the best actor that year, but the Best Picture went to Ordinary People.
#4 – The King of Comedy – (1982) – Rupert Pupkin – Probably the least well known film of my top 5. A story about celebrity obsession and what someone would stoop to, just to get on TV. De Niro plays a loser schlep who lives with his mom and dreams of becoming a famous comedian. When auditioning doesn’t go his way he resorts to kidnapping a talk show host. In the end Rupert does achieve his fame.
#5 – The Godfather Part II – (1974) – Vito Corleone – De Niro plays Vito as a young man who exacts his revenge and eventually becomes the Don. He speaks almost no english in this film and lived in Sicily for months to learn the dialect. De Niro won Best Supporting Actor and the movie won Best Picture.
Honorable Mentions go to; Goodfellas The Untouchables Cape Fear Casino Angel Heart Heat Once Upon a Time in America