Renowned for his devotion to his craft, Robert De Niro not only graces the screen in movies, but also manages to shine brighter than his fellow actors. With unforgettable performances in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Godfather 2, and numerous other films, De Niro has consistently delivered a string of blockbuster hits throughout his remarkable career spanning over 50 years and more than 100 films.
His talent goes far beyond his captivating portrayals of dark and violent characters in mafia films. His filmography includes a diverse range of genres, from dramas and crime films to comedies and thrillers. De Niro’s unparalleled talent will be showcased again as he is set to star as two different mafia bosses in Wise Guys, slated to be released in February 2024.
While De Niro may not have been the leading star of blockbuster movies in the 80s, he undeniably stood out as an exceptional actor during that decade. His collaboration with Martin Scorsese led him to win his an Oscar for his portrayal of Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, becoming one of his most celebrated achievements of the decade. For those who admire this powerhouse actor and appreciate the nostalgic charm of the 80s, here is a curated list of De Niro’s films from that era.
Featuring De Niro as Megs, Ed Harris as David Flanagan, and Kathy Baker as Martha Flanagan, this drama directed by David Jones revolves around the complex relationship between three characters as they navigate their haunted pasts and confront the emotional scars left by the war. Each character faces their own demons to confront, heightening tensions of the story and driving the plot.
Jacknifehas been praised by many for its poignant representation of Stephen Metcalfe’s Strange Snow. This character-driven drama explores the traumatic effects of war. It also delves into the complexities of human relationships, examining the challenges of healing and trying to push forward when confronted with trauma. This post-war masterpiece undoubtedly shows De Niro at his kindest.
10True Confessions (1981)
With strong performances by Duvall and De Niro, the crime drama, True Confessions, highlights the complexities of brotherhood, justice, and faith and faith in a morally ambiguous world. Set in Los Angeles during the 1940s, the story revolves around two brothers as they find themselves entangled in a web of corruption, murder, and personal conflicts. De Niro plays Desmond Spellacy, a revered Monsignor in a Catholic Church, while Duvall plays the hard-boiled detective.
Beyond being a mere crime story, this film delves into profound themes as it explores the captivating tale of corruption, guilt, brotherly conflict, devotion and redemption. And as always, De Niro is exceptional in his transformative role as a devoted Monsignor of the Catholic Church. Duvall is equally compelling in his role.
9Midnight Run (1988)
Martin Brest’s Midnight Run seamlessly combines elements of action, comedy, and buddy film dynamics as it follows the journey of its humorous characters. De Niro takes on the role of Jack Walsh, a rugged ex-cop turned bounty hunter who embarks on a mission to find Marduka, a timid accountant who embezzled money from a mobster. The series of obstacles and hilarious escapades they faced during this mission heightens the film’s comedic charm.
Midnight Run may not be the best of De Niro’s films, but it is however one of the smartest, funniest, and most exciting buddy action films ever made. The chemistry between characters not only adds to the film’s entertainment value, but also infuses heartfelt moments. With De Niro leading the way, supported by the likes of Joe Pantoliano, John Ashton, Dennis Farina, and an exceptional cast, the tough-guy dynamic also adds an extra layer of humor to this tale.
8We’re No Angels (1989)
A heart-warming and comedic tale, We’re No Angels follows the misadventures of three escaped convicts who find themselves posing as priests in a small town during the Christmas season.De Niro, Sean Penn, and Demi Moore play these three convicts as they grapple with the dilemma of choosing between their life of crime and their new roles as kind-hearted fathers. However, their criminal identities are at risk of being exposed when a detective arrives in town.
Despite how funny it was, it delves into thought-provoking themes surrounding the brevity of life and the Importance of leading a virtuous life. While many have commended it for its greatness, others have rated it poorly for not being good enough despite having a combination of Penn and De Niro.
7Falling in Love (1984)
In Falling in Love, viewers witness a rare portrayal of De Niro as a man deeply in love. De Niro plays Frank, a construction engineer who unexpectedly falls in love with a woman he regularly encounters during his train commute, despite being married. With the powerful performances of De Niro and Streep, the film explores the complexities of human relationships, intricacies of marital commitment, the nature of attraction and many more.
While some may label this film as dull, it is, however, a mixture of sweet, pleasant, serious, and sad elements. This deliberate combination of emotions aims to paint a realistic portrait of marriage and infidelity. It may be a quite simple story, but the combination of Streep and De Niro makes it almost magical.
6The Mission (1986)
Set in the 18th Century, the story of The Mission revolves around the clash between the Catholic Church, colonial powers, and Indigenous peoples in South America. It follows two main characters Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons), and Rodrigo Mendoza as it explores themes of faith, redemption, and the destructive forces of colonization.
De Niro steps in the role of Rodrigo Mendoza, a mercenary and slave trader who abandons his violent ways, becoming Father Gabriel’s ally in the fight against the injustices committed by the colonial powers. De Niro manages to repress his impulses as he plays this repentant slave trader. The brilliant cinematography, great story and exceptional performance of its cast all contribute to the film’s overall entertainment value.
5The Untouchables (1987)
Directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet, The Untouchables is loosely based on the real-life efforts of law enforcement agent Eliot Ness and his team known as the “Untouchables” to bring down the notorious mob boss Al Capone during the Prohibition era. De Niro plays the notorious Al Capone, while Kevin Costner features as the determined federal agent.
Even after over 30 years, this cops versus gangster flick remains a great film thanks to the compelling performances delivered by its great ensemble cast, Mamet’s electric script and a stylish direction from De Palma. Moreover, the Grammy Award-nominated score composed by Ennio Morricone also added a timeless quality to this masterpiece. Despite how good this cop-drama may seem, there are those who feel it falls short of being a masterpiece.
4The King of Comedy (1982)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, this dark comedy follows Rupert Pupkin, an aspiring, delusional stand-up comedian who becomes obsessed with achieving fame and fortune by perfroming on a popular late-night talk show hosted by his idol, Jerry Langford. Desperate to make his dream come true, Rupert resorts to extreme measures by kidnapping Langford.
With its biting humor, sharp social commentary, and exceptional performances by De Niro and Jerry Lewis, The King of Comedy satirizes celebrity worship and the relentless pursuit of success. Though it was well received by critics, this underrated black comedy was a flop at the box office. However, it is still regarded as one of the best Scorsese films.
3Raging Bull (1980)
De Niro’s remarkable performance as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor. To portray this aggressive and flawed legendary middleweight boxer, De Niro had to undergo a physical transformation. He not only became LaMotta physically but also embodied the raw emotions and complexities of this flawed character, both in and out of the ring.
Set in the 1940s and 1950s under the masterful direction of Scorsese, the film chronicles the rise and fall of the legendary boxer, LaMotta, as he rises to stardom and succumbs to his self-destructive tendencies. The film also received critical acclaim for its gritty realism, intense fight sequences, and Scorsese’s brilliant direction. It is regarded as one of the greatest films of the 80s.
Set in an unnamed city, the dystopian science fiction film, Brazil, follows the journey of a low-level government employee named Sam Lowry as he becomes embroiled in a surreal and nightmarish sequence of events that challenge his perception of reality and his place in society. De Niro plays Archibald “Harry” Tuttle, a renegade heating engineer who is wrongfully labelled as a dangerous terrorist by the government.
With its dark humor and fantastical tale, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil presents a dystopian vision of society that remains relevant in its commentary on the dangers of authoritarianism and the erosion of individuality. Gilliam doesn’t just intend to show the grim aspects of a totalitarian society; he masterfully highlights its inherent absurdity, making Brazil an unforgettable work of satire.
1Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Spanning three generations, this epic crime drama tells the story of a group of Jewish gangsters in New York. The film follows the lives of David “Noodles” (Robert De Niro) and his close friends as it explores the theme of friendship, betrayal, forgiveness and the consequences of a life of crime.
Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America is a visually stunning movie which juxtaposes violent displays with the haunting weight of regret that follows. De Niro certainly knows how to play the tormented soul struggling with remorse. Alongside iconic films like The Godfather, Scarface,Goodfellas, this mafia film holds up as one of the best gangster films ever made. However, those who do not find mafia films enjoyable or can’t deal with the explicit violence, this may be a turn-off.