There is no doubt that Robert De Niro is one of the most talented, fearless and ferocious actors of the last forty plus years. It is with this in mind that has led me to my most recent top 5 list, or should I say, lists. I have decided to break down De Niro's career, decade by decade with a top 5 list for every decade he has been relevant in the business.
The top 5 list will begin with the decade in which De Niro blazed on the scene and quickly became one of the most respected actors, the 1970's. De Niro's work was fairly limited in the 70's but not at all to be forgotten as some of his most moving and unforgettable films would be made in the 70's. Without any more build up, here is Robert De Niro's best films of the 1970's.
5. Bang The Drum Slowly
De Niro plays a baseball player with a fatal illness who forms a strong bond with one pitcher on the team. This was the first film in which people really took notice of De Niro and his acting ability. Based on a New York baseball team, it would be a fellow New Yorker that would cement him and begin his legacy.
4. Mean Streets
This would prove to be one of the most pivotal films in De Niro's career. It aligned him with a young visionary director named Martin Scorsese. The marriage of Scorsese and De Niro would prove to be one of the most prolific in Hollywood history. This pairing will appear many more times as these lists are written. Mean Streets is a raw, real look at life and crime in early 70's New York City.
3. Taxi Driver
The second film made with Scorsese is the second film on the list. Playing Travis Bickle was a total master performance. De Niro is absolutely terrifying and intense as the outcast cab driver who has crazy intentions and lives an odd life. Set in New York City it again portrays a scene in New York at the time it was filmed that people were not used to seeing and became afraid of.
2. The Godfather II
Playing one of the most iconic characters in film history, Vito Corleone, De Niro would take home his first Academy Award. As a young Vito his role would be spoken almost exclusively in Italian, which De Niro learned just for the role. This is the first and only time, two actors won Oscars for playing the same role. The Godfather II would go on to make De Niro a household name and star.
1. The Deer Hunter
The character of Michael and the film are quite possibly the most emotional in film history. De Niro is nothing shy of brilliant and fortunate to be surrounded by maybe the best performance by an ensemble cast ever. With memorable scenes like the Russian roulette scene and when Michael visits Steven in the hospital, he quite possibly became the greatest actor of his time. De Niro was never so emotional talking about a film as he was when he received his AFI life achievement award and spoke about his scene with John Savage when he visited him in the hospital, De Niro broke down in tears. That was enough to place this film at the top of all the movies he made in the 1970's.