“One of the things about acting is it allows you to live other people’s lives without having to pay the price.” — Robert DeNiro
Inarguably one of the greatest actors of all time, Robert DeNiro is a legend whose brilliant and undeniable contribution to cinema with his wide variety of acting roles has helped curate a legacy that continues to inspire filmmakers, actors and more. Having received the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, he has won hordes of awards and accolades, including two Academy Awards for his marvellous on-screen presence.
A man of few words but with long-lasting friendships in the industry, including Martin Scorsese, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and more, DeNiro’s innate ability to transform himself physically and psychologically for every role is commendable. DeNiro has never been the one to shy away from difficult roles that are emotionally and psychologically draining. When asked what prompted him to make such choices, he said, “To totally submerge into another character and experience life through him, without having to risk the real-life consequences—well, it’s a cheap way to do doing things that you would never dare to do yourself”.
Known for his brilliant performances in films like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Godfather Part II, The Deer Hunter, The Irishman and more, DeNiro is a consistent performer who often believes that he has no time to stop as he can rest once he’s dead. Witty and humorous, he often pokes fun at film roles that have not been well-received. While accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award, he cheekily thanked the reviewers for agreeing to give him the Award “before you had a chance to review Little Fockers“, a film that had been received quite poorly.
DeNiro will be seen in Scorsese’s upcoming film about oil mining murders Killers of the Flower Moon, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and will also have a part in David O Russell’s new unnamed project. That film stars Mike Myers, John David Washington, Christian Bale, Anya Taylor-Joy and Margot Robbie, among others.
The renowned actor turns 78 today, and let us pay tribute to him by taking a look at some of his best films available for streaming on Netflix:
The 8 best Robert DeNiro films on Netflix
8. Killer Elite (Gary McKendry, 2011)
A ruthless killer and his longtime mentor find themselves pitted against a cunning chief of a secret society as they embark on a dangerous game of revenge, lies, deception and power across the globe.
Robert DeNiro as Jason Statham’s mentor, is something that we did not expect to see, but here we are! The film is well-paced with brilliantly stylized action sequences. Good acting and well-choreographed fight scenes could not, however, manage to resuscitate the film that fell flat on its nose due to the weak script.
7. Dirty Grandpa (Dan Mazer, 2016)
An uptight bachelor Jason Kelly loses his grandmother right before his wedding. Trying to console his grandpa for his loss, he is tricked into a salacious spring break road trip to Vegas as his grandpa tries to be young, wild and free yet again.
Starring DeNiro and Zac Efron, the film is a thorough comedy filled with raunchy jokes, lewd and politically incorrect humour and perfunctory action. Who would have thought that one day Don Corleone would jerk off on-screen and spew out crude jokes?
6. Limitless (Neil Burger, 2011)
A pharmaceutical miracle, NZT is a performance enhancement drug that helps an unemployed writer get out of his creative slump and use his fully functional brain. This attracts a business mogul who wants to use the drug but soon leads to various convoluting consequences that hinder success.
Starring Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish and Robert DeNiro, the film is high on suspense and action. Cooper is enigmatic in his performance, while DeNiro looks menacing and intimidating in his role of the mercenary businessman. Although it is not as mind-bending as Inception, it is witty and well-executed.
5. Cape Fear (Martin Scorsese, 1991)
A convicted rapist, Max Cady, uses his unbridled knowledge of the law as well as the loopholes in the justice system to avenge being imprisoned for 14 years. He blames the public defender for hiding proof that could have led to his acquittal. ‘
DeNiro is sleazy and terrifying in his psychopathic role as Max Cady. This marks his seventh collaboration with Scorsese. However, released just a year after his blockbuster Goodfellas, Cape Fear was not too extraordinary. Scorsese has, however, applied certain Hitchcockian techniques in terms of lighting, camera shots and angles in the film.
4. Sleepers (Barry Levinson, 1996)
When a prank goes disastrously wrong, four young boys are sentenced to a reformation home for a year where they get abused, beaten, humiliated and battered by the guards kept for their protection. Years later, they find the golden opportunity to avenge themselves.
The film is heartwrenching and a riveting watch, starring Brad Pitt, Robert DeNiro, Kevin Bacon, Jason Patric, and more. Filled with powerful performances, it is a complex story of revenge and atonement. Pitt gives one of his best performances in the film, being the worthy successor of DeNiro, the greatest actor of all times.
3. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
In Scorsese’s old-school tribute to the gangster genre, a truck driver named Frank Sheeran is also a hitman working for a crime family. He murders in cold blood and is soon introduced to a fiery Jimmy Hoffa and gets introduced to the world of organised crime.
The film boasts of a heavyweight ensemble cast that includes the legendary DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci etc. DeNiro is cold and calculative in his role and adds his personal charisma to the film. It is indeed a wonderful epic-like end to the golden era of the dying genre with a dream team. Make sure you check out the 23-minute The Irishman: In Conversation on Netflix starring the director and his golden trio as they discuss filmmaking!
2. Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
Amidst the rapidly changing socio-political landscape of Las Vegas in the background, a Jewish-American gambling expert gradually finds his life and relationships, marriage slowly disintegrating. He faces operational difficulties due to the involvement of the mafia in the casino he has been entrusted with overseeing.
In the lead role as the troubled gambling expert Ace, Robert DeNiro is supported by brilliant and enigmatic performances by the likes of Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, James Wood, Frank Vincent, Kevin Pollard, and more. A take on the story of American opulence, extravaganza and exuberance, the film is a delicate blend of jazzy humour and violent tragedy.
1. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
Arguably one of the genre’s greatest films, the film follows the lives of three pivotal figures as they journey through the 1960s and ‘70s infamous New York mafia and try to survive amidst the changing landscape.
Starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta, the film made Scorsese a household name. A gritting narrative and phenomenal performances make this film one of the greatest of all time. It is also interesting that the rehearsals led to the actors using a variety of ad-libs and improv retained in the improvised script. Scorsese gave them the creative freedom to explore their characters further, and they did so with aplomb.
It makes Goodfellas feel like one of the most authentic gangster movies ever made.