Robert de Niro is already 77 years old, but the age doesn’t prevent him from still being active in many film productions. I have huge respect for that. Upcoming movies that we should see are War with Grandpa (2020) and The Comeback Trail (2020), followed by the Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moon (2021).
Nevertheless, in recent years he has appeared in many questionable comedies such as Dirty Grandpa (2016), yet he remains an actor who has left his mark on film history with many iconic film roles. And, I also appreciate him for being diverse.
I’ve picked 7 of Robert De Niro most iconic roles.
Robert de Niro’s most iconic roles
7. Jimmy “the Gent” Conway – Goodfellas
Henry Hill (Liotta) has wanted to join the mafia from an early age. He starts as an errand boy and over the years he gets to do more and more jobs. He falls under the care of Jimmy Conway (De Niro), an old professional in his business. Henry earns tons of money and everything goes like clockwork. After a few years Henry finds out that Jimmy has some business outside the mafia. Then he notices that he also has to take care of himself if he wants to survive in the hard Mafia world.
If you’ve never seen Goodfellas, definitely go and see it. It’s one of the greatest classics of all time.
6. Frank Sheeran – The Irishman
The Irishman follows the true story of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro). Frank is a World War II veteran who has become a renowned hitman working for Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel) and Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). Rumor has it that he played a role in the disappearance of union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
Robert De Niro’s performance as Frank Sheeran is stunning. The scene that appealed to me the most was the phone call. I’m not going to say what it was about. Otherwise I could spoil you.
This film is one of the best Netflix’s Originals.
5. Sam Rothstein – Casino
Strangely enough, the same year as Heat, De Niro came up with this Casino, which evoked old memories of Goodfellas (1990). And these films are also one of Robert de Niro’s most iconic roles.
De Niro and Joe Pesci came back in a familiar position with Casino and played another game of roulette with Scorsese. Of all the amazing visual effects in Martin Scorsese’s stunningly stylish film about a glamorous casino, it’s a glimpse of ordinary people that intrigues the most.
Strategically timed to compensate for three hours of vintage Las Vegas glitter, it is a reminder that Mr. Scorsese has given this film the surreal and breathtaking intensity of a money-hungry world. The real world looks less glamorous by comparison.
4. Jake La Motta – Raging Bull
The transformation was very intense in his role in Raging Bull. Also, he could act it as if he were a real boxer. Raging Bull was another genius creation of Martin Scorcese’s brain.
Robert De Niro is famous for his incredible weight to play the boxer in later years. But he also got a lot of muscle mass to transform himself into the boxing legend in his prime. Between Scorsese’s attention to detail and De Niro’s complete method of playing LaMotta, Raging Bull is one of the best boxing films without Sylvester Stallone in the lead role.
3. Neil McCauley in Heat
Heat was Niro’s and Pacino’s second film together, and again it sparked. When does it not spark, right? These were the golden times for De Niro.
Part of that had to do with the contrast between an introvert actor who acts more from the belly (like De Niro) and a more explosive and exuberant actor (like Al Pacino) who is not averse to a little theatricality.
De Niro is more pragmatic, organized, and plays a game with his eyes. His strength lies in his restraint with extreme emotions as if he let them swirl inside. It seems as if he has everything under control. Often you don’t know if he’ll be okay or if he’ll hit your head in two. The Irishman also included this skill. Both can be very charming but suddenly very aggressive.
Somewhere in the middle of the film, these two gentlemen meet each other at a dinner, where we feel an upcoming heated dispute.
2. Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver
De Niro plays Travis Bickle, a veteran of the Vietnam War who works as a cab driver at night to deal with his insomnia. His growing insanity and infatuation with Betsy, a campaign volunteer for Senator Palantine, leads to the idea that he has to kill that guy.
1. Vito Corleone – The Godfather: Part II
How do you make a sequel to the Oscar-winning film The Godfather (1972) and make it even better than the first film? You add good old Robert De Niro to the mix.
De Niro plays a young Vito in The Godfather: Part II. While the film tells about the rise of his son Michael and the struggle to keep his power, the film also shows Vito’s first rise to power. De Niro learned Italian for the role and even won an Oscar for his performance. And that’s why it’s not only one of Robert De Niro’s most iconic roles, it’s the best one. Al Pacino had to wait 18 years for his first Oscar with the very sweet Scent of a Woman (1992). That was also his only Oscar.
If you have a different list, you may certainly share them in the comments, I’m looking forward to hearing your preferences.