Robert De Niro's top 5 performances

In a new series of articles, we rank the five finest performances from a range of big-name actors. First up is our favourite mobster, Bobby De Niro.

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Once the best in the world of cinema. Once known for his intensity, presence, dynamism, and aura that felt as austere as it did painfully vulnerable, despite all the strength he also expressed. Robert De Niro's greatest achievements as a character actor are five films that every film lover has of course seen, and that we have all been stunned by. Today, old Bobby is a caricature of himself, a casually typecast grumpy grandpa who feels about as relevant as a pair of 200-year-old socks. But once upon a time... Once upon a time, he was the best of them all. Here are his five finest achievements.

5. The Deer Hunter (1978)

The intimate, poignant, dark, messy, uncomfortable portrait of how the Vietnam War damaged the psyche of many young American men cemented De Niro's place among the truly great character actors and to this day his performance is so raw, intense and believably strong that you just sit there, mesmerised by how real and heavy every little emotional expression is.

Robert De Niro's top 5 performances

4. Taxi Driver (1976)

Character studies above all other character studies, Taxi Driver is that. The film that not only put Martin Scorsese on the filmmaking map but also proved, once again, that a young De Niro was perhaps the greatest actor in cinema. His portrayal of the frozen, unstable Travis Bickle who is constantly on the verge of exploding like a homicidal grenade is nothing short of sheer brilliance.

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Robert De Niro's top 5 performances

3. Cape Fear (1991)

More than 30 years have passed since this film was released and despite all those years, and despite having seen it probably 10 times since its release, De Niro's super-psychopath Max Cady scares me just as much, every time. There is an uncontrollable fury in his portrayal of the character that makes it feel like he exists, for real. Very, very good acting in a very good thriller.

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Robert De Niro's top 5 performances

2. Raging Bull (1980)

Bobby won an Oscar for his portrayal of Jake Lamotta in Scorsese's acclaimed, beloved, iconic drama and that, of course, is neither hard to understand nor anything but right. Because he's that good, here. De Niro is great and in addition to the physical transformation he makes when the film makes a couple of big time jumps, he steps into the character in a way that makes his passion shine through every single time.

Robert De Niro's top 5 performances

1. The Godfather Part II (1974)

There is a rawness to the way De Niro in his younger days portrayed his characters. With a tightness and intensity that could cut through cinema curtains, De Niro plunged headlong into the dark psyche of his characters and his portrayal of a young, hungry, fearless and uncompromisingly tough Vito Corleone, won an Oscar for his efforts, and stands as his very best performance in a film to date.

Robert De Niro's top 5 performances

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