Dirty Grandpa opens this week starring Robert De Niro and Zac Efron, which means I get to countdown my 10 favorite High School Musical karaoke songs…. or my favourite De Niro films, I went with the latter. This list was really hard to put together, De Niro is easily in my top 5 actors of all time and when you look at all of his great films it’s, amazing how many masterpieces he’s been involved in. So that being said, there will probably be some of your favorites not on my list or low down on it but that’s bound to happen when you’re talking about one of the best of all time.
Mean Streets (1973)
The first film on the list is the first collaboration of De Niro and Scorsese (it won’t be the last on the list). De Niro and Scorsese hit instant gold right of the bat, Mean Streets just has such style and energy constantly flowing through its bones and with the two lead performances, we have the first of many masterpieces.
Midnight Run (1988)
Action, comedy, De Niro, Grodin and an awesome 80s soundtrack, you can’t go wrong with Midnight Run. This film is so much fun and I’m a sucker for road trip films. Grodin’s dull, dry humor against a hot headed De Niro, is hilarious every time. Throw in Joe Pantoliano screaming down a phone in all his scenes into the mix and you’ve got yourself an 80s classic.
I had never seen this film until just a couple of days ago and I immediately fell in love with it. It’s impossible not to like Robin Williams and his chemistry with De Niro is truley amazing. It’s devastating that these two actors will never be able to work together again but at least we have this emotional gem of a film.
Raging Bull (1980)
I know, I know most people probably have Raging Bull at number 1 or 2 and I get that, this film is outstanding but for me personally there are six other films that I enjoy more. It would be extremely difficult to rank the best De Niro performances but Jake La Motta would easily be in my top 3, and Joe Pesci is great, as always. Scorsese directs De Niro masterfully to his second Oscar win.
Pacino vs. De Niro for the first time ever (and the last, Righteous Kill never happened). No one shoots LA like Michael Mann and Heat is no exception, the delivery shootout scene, the bank robbery shootout scene, the end shootout scene, Michael Mann is a master behind the camera. And you know, she really did have A GREAT ASS!
Taxi Driver (1976)
Taxi Driver didn’t win a single Oscar, how is that possible?
Scorsese is back on the list at number 5, with one of the most chilling films ever. There are so many famous scenes from Taxi Driver, that could make up a top ten list in the future but I want to give a huge shoutout to the legendary Bernard Herrmann who composed one of my favorite scores for this film. De Niro again gives one of the greatest performances as one of the first nighttime vigilantes, Travis Bickle.
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
I don’t think there’s anything new I can say about The Godfather 2, other than it sucks but then I’d be lying. By adding De Niro, you kept The Godfather series fresh by going back in time to see the rise of Vito Corleone, by far the best sequel ever although I prefer the first one, but that’s another conversation for another time. The Godfather 2 was an excellent end to the greatest story ever told (because like Righteous Kill, The Godfather 3 never happened).
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Another mob epic and another perfect film. A great actor is a great actor but there’s an obvious trend with a great actor and a great director. De Niro is one of the greats but just like what Leonardo DiCaprio is doing now, De Niro was working with the best directors in the 70s and 80s, who elevated him to legendary status and we’ve seen what happens when good actors don’t work with the best directors (looking at you Johnny Depp). Once Upon a Time in America is my favorite Sergio Leone film and was close to being my favourite of De Niro’s filmography. If you thought the Oscars snubbed Taxi Driver, they didn’t even give Once Upon a Time in America a single nomination, come on that Ennio Morricone score is beautiful.
“Hey, what do you like, the leg or the wing, Henry?” After 50 times that line still kills me. Goodfellas the perfect mob film. You get everything you could ever want from a mob film in Goodfellas, the sexy appeal of being a gangster, the crazy characters, the brutal violence, the money, the rise and fall, it’s perfect. Joe Pesci has played some crazy men, Tommy DeVito may just be the most crazy and scary of them all. The tracking shot, funny how, Tommy’s mother, Goodfellas is full of the greatest scenes in film history, a plethora of gangsters, gangsters wives and future Sopranos cast members.
The King of Comedy (1982)
In my opinion The King of Comedy is the most unappreciated De Niro and Scorsese film. When I first saw the film I thought it was OK but I kept getting drawn back to it and after several viewings, I realised The King of Comedy is not only my favorite De Niro film, not only my favorite Scorsese film but also one of my top ten films of all time. Rupert Pupkin is one of the most interesting characters ever created. The way Scorsese depicts the obsessive fandom, that us nerds feel over certain people I found so relatable (although I haven’t kidnapped The Rock… yet). I love dark comedies and Rupert Pupkin is hilarious throughout. Jerry Lewis, who’s playing a version of himself is excellent, Sandra Bernhard is terrifying and brilliant but De Niro’s mustache gives the best performance of the film. I could talk about this films for ages and plan to in a long analysis of the film later this week.
The Deer Hunter
A Bronx Tale
Next Week – Top Ten Dreamworks Animation Films