The New Yorker is often hailed as the best US actor of our time. As De Niro, who starred in many gangster roles, turns 75, DW recalls 10 of his outstanding performances.
Is Robert De Niro the best American screen actor? Some movie critics, especially those who remember the 1970s and 80s, would unequivocally say yes. They'd say the question is pointless. Who could possibly compare?
One thing is certain: the New York-born actor has made so many masterful appearances on the big screen, won so much praise, and received so many awards that it would be impossible to leave De Niro's name off the list of America's best movie actors.
Immortal Duo: Scorsese and De Niro
Above all, it's the eight films De Niro shot for director Martin Scorsese that have made him immortal — Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino, to name but a few.
From the early years, De Niro showed his brilliance as a solid but slender character who could oscillate between sensitivity and violence. Entire scenes played out on his face.
De Niro is often praised by other actors for his charisma and skill. He could convey meaning just by moving an eyebrow, slightly raising the corner of his mouth or wrinkling his forehead. This came in handy as his career first got off the ground, when De Niro was mainly cast in gangster and mafia films, often in brutal and violent roles.
He used variants of these subtle acting skills in the second half of his career, where he tried his hand at several comedies.
From gangster flicks to rom-coms
Not everything De Niro touched succeeded though. After his great films with Scorsese, there were about a dozen films in which the great actor seemed to rest on his laurels. Sometimes his facial expressions suddenly appeared a little too routine and prepared. Even so, De Niro was still convincing in amiable roles.
The comedy Meet the Parents reaped millions at the box office, and in Midnight Run or Analyze This, De Niro left audiences in stitches. Even in supporting roles, the character actor shone through — his performance in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown must be singled out for mention.
New Yorker through and through
The American has been awarded two Oscars, one as best supporting actor in The Godfather II and one for his brilliant role as a boxer in Raging Bull.
Read more: Raging Bull Jake LaMotta dies, age 95
Several other times he's won nominations for many of Hollywood's top awards. Even so, the American west coast is not his favorite playground. A New Yorker through and through, De Niro grew up there with his favorite director Martin Scorsese and made many of his best films there.
It was in New York that De Niro, a media shy actor who shuns interviews, established the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002 with producer Jane Rosenthal. Named after the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan, it has become one of the most successful events of its kind.
Ninth Scorsese film: "The Irishman"
As De Niro celebrates his 75th birthday on Friday, his gift to his fans is his first collaboration with Scorsese for many years. Once again in the role of a hitman, De Niro stars in The Irishman, a movie where the storyline unfolds mainly in flashbacks.
Probably shown on Netflix at the end of the year, The Irishman also sees De Niro reunited with Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel.