Total Recall: Robert De Niro's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Limitless star.

Robert De Niro

When Bradley Cooper achieves super-genius status thanks to an experimental drug in this weekend's Limitless, he'll attract some Oscar-winning attention in the form of the one and only Robert De Niro. He's had a rough few years at the box office, what with stuff like Hide and Seek and Righteous Kill, but De Niro is still one of the most respected actors of his (or any) generation, and even though he isn't the star of Limitless, we decided now would be the perfect time to give his incredible filmography the attention it deserves. Ten movies, and every single one of them over 90 percent on the Tomatometer -- now that's what we call a Total Recall!


91%

10. The King of Comedy

After Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro made Raging Bull together, Scorsese wanted to reunite for the project that eventually became The Last Temptation of Christ, but De Niro wanted to make a comedy instead. Fortunately, De Niro's sense of humor in the early 1980s was a little more subversive than, say, Meet the Fockers; instead of seeking out easy laughs, he took a shine to a pitch-black screenplay titled The King of Comedy. In it, De Niro played Rupert Pupkin, an emotionally disturbed aspiring standup comic who rests his dreams of fame and fortune on scoring a guest slot on a hit talk show -- bad news for the host, Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), who has no intention of booking Rupert and no idea how much trouble he's getting himself into. Today it's regarded as something of a classic, but in 1983, audiences stayed away from The King of Comedy in droves -- and even the critics who liked it weren't quite sure what they were seeing. As Roger Ebert wrote, "It is frustrating to watch, unpleasant to remember, and, in its own way, quite effective."


89%

9. Once Upon a Time in America

With an original cut weighing in at nearly four hours, Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America is a true epic -- and if Leone had been able to convince his producers, it would have been split into two three-hour films. But unlike a lot of sprawling dramas, America justifies its extended running time; Leone, working from Harry Grey's novel The Hoods, had a lot of story to tell -- and with De Niro anchoring a large cast that also included James Woods, Tuesday Weld, and Elizabeth McGovern, he had the actors to tell it. Studio interference resulted in a bowdlerized American cut that reportedly infuriated Leone, whose 1989 death made this "the perfect swan song for Leone," according to Bill Chambers of Film Freak Central.


96%

8. A Bronx Tale

De Niro made his directorial debut with this mob-themed coming-of-age drama, adapted by Chazz Palminteri (who also starred) from his one-man Broadway show. As Lorenzo Anello, the upstanding, no-nonsense father of a boy who continually finds himself drawn into the orbit of a local gangster (Palminteri), De Niro was able to play another side of a story he'd helped tell on numerous occasions before -- and while it wasn't a major commercial success during its theatrical run, it earned praise from most critics, including Clint Morris of Film Threat, who called it "a superb debut and "a gripping movie" and arguing, "De Niro proves to be just as much a force behind the camera as he does in front of it."


95%

7. Midnight Run

Robert De Niro has always been a magnet for tough-guy roles, but he's also very funny -- and although he had an early opportunity to prove it with The King of Comedy, he flashed his comic chops in earnest with 1988's Midnight Run, which found him playing a tightly wound bounty hunter who tracks down a mobster-swindling accountant (Charles Grodin), only to watch in exasperation as his supposedly easy gig unravels into a miserable odyssey of bickering, property destruction, and close calls with the wrong side of the law. But at the box office, things only went right for Run, where it earned more than $80 million -- and it performed just as well with critics like Luke Y. Thompson of the New Times, who wrote, "When it comes to odd-couple action comedies, this is pretty much the epitome of how to do it."


96%

6. Goodfellas

De Niro reunited with Martin Scorsese -- as well as his Raging Bull and Once Upon a Time in America costar, Joe Pesci -- for this masterfully frenetic look at life in the Mafia through the eyes of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), a onetime mobster who rose through the ranks as a young man before famously turning informant in the early 1980s. Scorsese employed a stellar ensemble cast for Goodfellas, including a number of future stars (among them Samuel L. Jackson) -- but the movie's real draw came from the terrible true story at its center, and how convincingly the seductive pull of the criminal lifestyle was portrayed. "You walk away," wrote Richard Schickel for TIME Magazine, "tantalized by a view into the darkest part of yourself, glad that that part is still behind bars."

Comments

Dave J

Dave J

All above the 90's as expected and one of the best on any generation!

Mar 16 - 04:07 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Personal top favorites from DeNiro- "Taxi Driver", "Once Upon A Time in America" and "Goodfellas"!

Mar 17 - 01:25 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

What about Meet the Fockers :(

Mar 17 - 07:32 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

But seriously any of these would be shoo-ins for most mortal actors!:

- The Deer Hunter
- Awakenings
- Casino
- Angel Heart
- Jacknife
- Cape Fear
- Wag the Dog
- Jackie Brown

Biggest stinker? Tussle between Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and We're No Angels.

Mar 17 - 07:54 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

Oh dammit I forgot The Untouchables. So add The Untouchables to that list!

Mar 18 - 11:40 AM

Dave J

Dave J

Some of those are "good" films, the three that I choose to me are great films! There's a difference, maybe to you as well as someone else those other films that you listed may be tops on your list, but to me they're good!

Mar 18 - 12:07 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

All I mean is that for MOST total recaller's, those calibre of films would be in their top ten...I agree with you, Once Upon a Time in America is my personal all time favourite movie, eith easily the best musical score in fiolm history, not to mention the most gruesome "kill" imaginable. If only it had ever come out in its 6-hour form. But my point is just that a lot of those films that don't make it here - The Deer Hunter, The Untouchables - are bona fide classics in their own right.

Mar 18 - 01:14 PM

Dave J

Dave J

The very same claim can be made about everything else except that this list is based on accordingly to prepaid bonified critics and then a different list at the end about the users ratings overall and if they're others that didn't make the grade, it could be the result of the users! As I recall "The Deer Hunter" did make the list onto number 8 on the users list!

Mar 18 - 02:14 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Heat should have gotten higher ratings, but these are all impressive films, proving De Niro is truly one of the greatest actors ever. My pick for his best work would be Taxi Driver. Can't wait for the Blu-ray. Hopefully they don't cheat out on the special features.

Mar 16 - 04:09 PM

quietus28

jj l

Wow - great point. After going through this list you almost forget De Niro did other great work in films like Heat which, I agree, should have rated in the 90s as well.

Mar 17 - 03:20 PM

Yoni G.

Yoni Gottlieb

Robert De Niro has a close to perfect track record its amazing that the first movie on this list is a 92.
And Im the first to post!

Mar 16 - 04:12 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

You are?

Mar 16 - 04:13 PM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

fail. you should never say something like first cause if your wrong you end up looking like a idiot.

Mar 16 - 04:16 PM

Floppay

Chris Amburgy

And if you're right, you also look like an idiot.

Mar 16 - 04:36 PM

Carl M.

Carl Marcel

'i' from idiot is a vowel. Therefore you should have written 'an idiot'. fail

Mar 16 - 04:46 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Grammar nazi.

Mar 16 - 04:57 PM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

Yes, I admit I made a grammar fail. I also failed to capatalize I and fail. Kinda like how you didn't capatalize fail, even though it started a sentence. Another thing that makes you look like a idiot, when you correct grammar but make a grammar error yourself. Also, it's the internet, no one gives a shit about grammar. Like Shiggy said, grammar nazi.

Mar 16 - 05:48 PM

algreen99

AL Green

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas on this thread.

Mar 17 - 01:07 AM

algreen99

AL Green

No Cape Fear?

Mar 17 - 01:09 AM

Lewis S.

Lewis S

You also used "your" where you should have used "you're", and you misspelled "capitalize."

It's not the grammar Nazis that should be worried. It's horrific to watch the degradation of the English Language right before our very eyes. The sad and terrifying thing is how few people actually know when they're wrong. It will escalate to the point where we lose meaning and fail to communicate effectively. I applaud grammar Nazi-ism and all its zealotry.

Don't get so butt-hurt about someone trying to help you. Improve and move on.

Mar 17 - 04:29 AM

Simply Cinema

Anders Gatten

Thanks for the English lesson guys! Because thats why we're all here, right? To learn about grammar. Not something like, oh, I don't know, talking about movies? And on the subject of this list, I think they should have given two ratings for 'Brazil' because of the two different versions. I've only seen the Love Conquers All version, but not the Cruel Reality version or what ever it was called that Terry Gilliam originally intended the film to be like, so I wouldn't know how to compare both. But it still would be interesting to see.

Mar 17 - 06:34 AM

kalikoda

nick c

if you want to talk grammar go to www.grammarblog.com , I care not for your opinions on grammar and punctuation. hurry up and tell me why you think the godfather is the best movie ever so i can disagree with you.

Mar 17 - 09:32 PM

Ken

Kenneth W.

Did you comment here because you were interested in commending De Niro, or did you just want to say "first"?

Mar 16 - 04:56 PM

Stepping Razor

Stepping Razor

Oh, wonderful. I wonder if this means that the "First!!" idiots are going to infiltrate here, too.
I'd rather deal with the "wanna buy something?" spammers than the "First!!" morons -- that's how much I can't stand those losers who play that meaningless, super-annoying game.
There could be an article about every Hollywood studio going bankrupt, and there'd be a bunch of idiots posting "First!" "Second!" "Third!" "Not First!" "14th!!"

Mar 16 - 05:40 PM

JAKEofMIDWORLD

Jake Almond

Yes. I agree. Please don't do the first **** here. Surprisingly one of the few places on the net where I haven't seen that BS very much. Hope you learned that a lot of people find that game very annoying.

Mar 16 - 08:29 PM

doomzdavo

Doomz Davo

Yea well hopefully it's his "Last"

Mar 17 - 10:21 AM

Jules W.

Jules Wagner

First to post! That's really cute. There IS such a thing? TRIBUTE TO ROBERT DE NIRO! The man has been an integral part of more cult classics, original classics and overlooked classics than any-frickin-body else. The man will, and deservedly, get an lifetime achievement award (or whatever those Hollywood blood sucking executives wanna call it). We could argue forever about what was left off and what should have been but really, the actor, in general, is fucking great! Period!

Mar 20 - 09:33 AM

David Tanny

David Tanny

You are?

Mar 16 - 04:13 PM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

Epic top 10 list. Robert de niro is easily one of the best actors in recent memory. If he could just stop being in crap like the focker's movies.

Mar 16 - 04:14 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Agreed. The first one was okay, but after that they sucked.
At least he was funny in Machete.

Mar 16 - 04:23 PM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

I like the first too. That's why I don't like to consider it a ''fockers'' movie. For one fockers isn't in the title, and it's much better. So i just consider the two sequels to be the fockers movies and ''meet the parents'' as a completely unrelated movie except it has the same actors.

Mar 16 - 04:33 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

That's an optimistic way to look at it.

Mar 16 - 04:49 PM

Jeremy D.

Jeremy Dewald

Yeah i don't blame him though because he does the focker movies to get his big paychecks and it is hard to turn down the money they gave him. The writing is just not up too par since the first. He was HILARIOUS in the first one though. That was a great comedy. I think he's the best actor ever, I'm sure there are another one or two people may have up there also.

Mar 16 - 07:24 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

I don't understand you at all. The first was AWFUL; the third was even worse.
But nestled in between them was a wee gem of a comedy featuring one of Dustin Hoffman's greatest outings! And Streisand was great, too. And with those guys around him, De Niro actually had something to play off, other than just predictable Stiller & bits of Owen or Luke Wilson...i never remember who's who. The point is, Meet the Fockers is criminally underrated. Speaking of which, I felt Heat was rather overrated. I think Pacino & De Niro both just tried to hard to please in that movie. And Kilmer? He just looks FAT! :/

Mar 17 - 07:38 PM

anDy

Andreas Babs

Totally. I mean, this top 10 was the first since I've been on RT that has really knocked me out of the chair just with the rush of awesome memories from all of these movies. Hell, even Brazil. I love how his roles in Brazil and Godfather II are so significantly smaller than the lead roles, yet everybody remembers them (I mean, he did win an academy award, well deserved by the way). I've never seen an actor so minimal but so ambitious. All of the determination is there but he not only makes it seem effortless, he makes it seem like he's not acting at all. I wish he would pull a DuVall and get back into far better movies, though (and the weird thing is, he KNOWS he's in shit movies. He even said so at the golden globes). Either way, DeNiro is not only one of the best of our generation, but he's one of the best of all time.

Mar 17 - 02:31 PM

Jules W.

Jules Wagner

The one redeeming value to the whole Fockers franchise is its star power (and I am certainly not talking about Ben Stiller). The premise was crass from the beginning but the real problem is, it wasn't even really witty.

Mar 20 - 09:09 AM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

fail. you should never say something like first cause if your wrong you end up looking like a idiot.

Mar 16 - 04:16 PM

Floppay

Chris Amburgy

And if you're right, you also look like an idiot.

Mar 16 - 04:36 PM

Carl M.

Carl Marcel

'i' from idiot is a vowel. Therefore you should have written 'an idiot'. fail

Mar 16 - 04:46 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Grammar nazi.

Mar 16 - 04:57 PM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

Yes, I admit I made a grammar fail. I also failed to capatalize I and fail. Kinda like how you didn't capatalize fail, even though it started a sentence. Another thing that makes you look like a idiot, when you correct grammar but make a grammar error yourself. Also, it's the internet, no one gives a shit about grammar. Like Shiggy said, grammar nazi.

Mar 16 - 05:48 PM

algreen99

AL Green

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas on this thread.

Mar 17 - 01:07 AM

algreen99

AL Green

No Cape Fear?

Mar 17 - 01:09 AM

Lewis S.

Lewis S

You also used "your" where you should have used "you're", and you misspelled "capitalize."

It's not the grammar Nazis that should be worried. It's horrific to watch the degradation of the English Language right before our very eyes. The sad and terrifying thing is how few people actually know when they're wrong. It will escalate to the point where we lose meaning and fail to communicate effectively. I applaud grammar Nazi-ism and all its zealotry.

Don't get so butt-hurt about someone trying to help you. Improve and move on.

Mar 17 - 04:29 AM

Simply Cinema

Anders Gatten

Thanks for the English lesson guys! Because thats why we're all here, right? To learn about grammar. Not something like, oh, I don't know, talking about movies? And on the subject of this list, I think they should have given two ratings for 'Brazil' because of the two different versions. I've only seen the Love Conquers All version, but not the Cruel Reality version or what ever it was called that Terry Gilliam originally intended the film to be like, so I wouldn't know how to compare both. But it still would be interesting to see.

Mar 17 - 06:34 AM

kalikoda

nick c

if you want to talk grammar go to www.grammarblog.com , I care not for your opinions on grammar and punctuation. hurry up and tell me why you think the godfather is the best movie ever so i can disagree with you.

Mar 17 - 09:32 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Agreed. The first one was okay, but after that they sucked.
At least he was funny in Machete.

Mar 16 - 04:23 PM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

I like the first too. That's why I don't like to consider it a ''fockers'' movie. For one fockers isn't in the title, and it's much better. So i just consider the two sequels to be the fockers movies and ''meet the parents'' as a completely unrelated movie except it has the same actors.

Mar 16 - 04:33 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

That's an optimistic way to look at it.

Mar 16 - 04:49 PM

Jeremy D.

Jeremy Dewald

Yeah i don't blame him though because he does the focker movies to get his big paychecks and it is hard to turn down the money they gave him. The writing is just not up too par since the first. He was HILARIOUS in the first one though. That was a great comedy. I think he's the best actor ever, I'm sure there are another one or two people may have up there also.

Mar 16 - 07:24 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

I don't understand you at all. The first was AWFUL; the third was even worse.
But nestled in between them was a wee gem of a comedy featuring one of Dustin Hoffman's greatest outings! And Streisand was great, too. And with those guys around him, De Niro actually had something to play off, other than just predictable Stiller & bits of Owen or Luke Wilson...i never remember who's who. The point is, Meet the Fockers is criminally underrated. Speaking of which, I felt Heat was rather overrated. I think Pacino & De Niro both just tried to hard to please in that movie. And Kilmer? He just looks FAT! :/

Mar 17 - 07:38 PM

dethburger

dethburger hates Flixster

Great actor, great list.

Nothing more to say.

Mar 16 - 04:28 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

Nothing more for YOU to say perhaps but there's so much more to it!! Like for example him showing his Babe Ruth chops in The Untouchables - Bob could have made it in pro baseball on the strength of that performance; as a creepy on screen Satan in Angel Heart; as powerhouse anti-war vet in The Deer Hunter; I could go on for days but it annoys me when people make glib statements such as "Ooohh. Cool. Nothing more to say", when there is obviously several tomes worth of things to say. So you see, it pays not to annoy me :D

Mar 18 - 01:24 PM

James T.

James Tallman

Robert De Niro is one of the best actors in Hollywood and his film history proves it. Casino is one of my favorites because the movie provides an entertaining crime drama.

Mar 16 - 04:31 PM

SvetaPiatakova

Sviatlana Piatakova

casino is one of the best in terms of dialogue... taxi driver is the strongest.. and cape fear is the craziest

Mar 17 - 01:20 AM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

I like the first too. That's why I don't like to consider it a ''fockers'' movie. For one fockers isn't in the title, and it's much better. So i just consider the two sequels to be the fockers movies and ''meet the parents'' as a completely unrelated movie except it has the same actors.

Mar 16 - 04:33 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

That's an optimistic way to look at it.

Mar 16 - 04:49 PM

Jeremy D.

Jeremy Dewald

Yeah i don't blame him though because he does the focker movies to get his big paychecks and it is hard to turn down the money they gave him. The writing is just not up too par since the first. He was HILARIOUS in the first one though. That was a great comedy. I think he's the best actor ever, I'm sure there are another one or two people may have up there also.

Mar 16 - 07:24 PM

Draic K.

Draic Kin

It's pretty incredible when you think about how many great DeNiro films didn't even make this list: stuff like 'The Deer Hunter', 'Bang the Drum Slowly', 'Heat', 'Wag the Dog', 'Cape Fear', ...

Mar 16 - 04:35 PM

joe397

joe397 joe397

I'd add Awakenings, Jackie Brown, and even The Score and Stardust to the list of films that didn't make the cut.

Mar 17 - 09:25 AM

Floppay

Chris Amburgy

And if you're right, you also look like an idiot.

Mar 16 - 04:36 PM

Bye bye

Steven Bailey

When the King of Comedy is number 10 on your best movies list, you know you've done well.

Mar 16 - 04:40 PM

Wisenheimer

Joshua Dinsmore

One of the best actors in history. Who doesn't like him?

Mar 16 - 04:45 PM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Jack Lemmon, and Peter O'Toole. 1O points to who gets that joke first.

Mar 16 - 05:57 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

They lost the Oscar to him. ;)

Mar 16 - 06:33 PM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

Yeah. You win.

Mar 16 - 06:34 PM

Wisenheimer

Joshua Dinsmore

lol. They must be pissed.

Mar 16 - 09:40 PM

Carl M.

Carl Marcel

'i' from idiot is a vowel. Therefore you should have written 'an idiot'. fail

Mar 16 - 04:46 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Grammar nazi.

Mar 16 - 04:57 PM

General Wiz

Carlos Flores

Yes, I admit I made a grammar fail. I also failed to capatalize I and fail. Kinda like how you didn't capatalize fail, even though it started a sentence. Another thing that makes you look like a idiot, when you correct grammar but make a grammar error yourself. Also, it's the internet, no one gives a shit about grammar. Like Shiggy said, grammar nazi.

Mar 16 - 05:48 PM

algreen99

AL Green

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas on this thread.

Mar 17 - 01:07 AM

algreen99

AL Green

No Cape Fear?

Mar 17 - 01:09 AM

Lewis S.

Lewis S

You also used "your" where you should have used "you're", and you misspelled "capitalize."

It's not the grammar Nazis that should be worried. It's horrific to watch the degradation of the English Language right before our very eyes. The sad and terrifying thing is how few people actually know when they're wrong. It will escalate to the point where we lose meaning and fail to communicate effectively. I applaud grammar Nazi-ism and all its zealotry.

Don't get so butt-hurt about someone trying to help you. Improve and move on.

Mar 17 - 04:29 AM

Simply Cinema

Anders Gatten

Thanks for the English lesson guys! Because thats why we're all here, right? To learn about grammar. Not something like, oh, I don't know, talking about movies? And on the subject of this list, I think they should have given two ratings for 'Brazil' because of the two different versions. I've only seen the Love Conquers All version, but not the Cruel Reality version or what ever it was called that Terry Gilliam originally intended the film to be like, so I wouldn't know how to compare both. But it still would be interesting to see.

Mar 17 - 06:34 AM

kalikoda

nick c

if you want to talk grammar go to www.grammarblog.com , I care not for your opinions on grammar and punctuation. hurry up and tell me why you think the godfather is the best movie ever so i can disagree with you.

Mar 17 - 09:32 PM

Jhon E.

Jhon Evans

All above 90%, sign of one of the best actors ever (best in my opinion) ashame hes never got a 100%

Mar 16 - 04:48 PM

Quadzilla99

Aaron Yovanovits

His next three films; Greetings (92%), Deer Hunter (91%), and Awakenings (90%), are also at or above 90%.

Mar 16 - 04:56 PM

Ken

Kenneth W.

I think "Taxi Driver" had a 100 for a while, but Time Magazine in all their "LOOOKK AT MEEE!!!" mentality had to get in there and spoil it.

Mar 16 - 05:01 PM

Quadzilla99

Aaron Yovanovits

Well if its Time Magazine, then the review is probably from 1976.

Mar 18 - 01:44 AM

Ken

Kenneth W.

That's probably true, I notice a lot of "lone" negative reviews get posted late. Like the one rotten for "The Good the Bad and the Ugly" from the 60s that was posted in 2008.

Mar 19 - 01:23 AM

David Tanny

David Tanny

That's an optimistic way to look at it.

Mar 16 - 04:49 PM

Quadzilla99

Aaron Yovanovits

His next three films; Greetings (92%), Deer Hunter (91%), and Awakenings (90%), are also at or above 90%.

Mar 16 - 04:56 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

While he's played evil a few times, I think his nasty, abusive stepfather in This Boy's Life was a perfect portrayal of a real-life bastard.

Speaking of evil, recently caught Angel Heart and he was great in it. Also nice to see Mickey Rourke before he rearranged his face.

Mar 16 - 04:56 PM

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