Robert De Niro is one of the most recognizable actors in the world. His impressive film career spans 40 years and nearly every genre imaginable. But despite hitting nearly every career milestone, this 72-year-old New York native has shown no signs of slowing down. His career proves what a versatile actor Robert De Niro is. He’s capable of playing comedic roles — in films like Analyze This and Meet the Parents — just as easily as he can pull off dramatic performances in classics like Heat and Awakenings. He’s won countless accolades and more than one lifetime achievement trophy for his contributions to Hollywood and the film community at large. Though it’s difficult to narrow them down, here are seven of Robert De Niro’s most memorable performances.
1. Vito Corleone — The Godfather Part II
Marlon Brando’s turn as mob patriarch Don Corleone in The Godfather reset the standard for legendary performances. So it almost goes without saying that relative unknown Robert De Niro had big shoes to fill when he took on the part in the sequel. Yet he rose to the occasion, crafting a stoic and electric performance in The Godfather Part II. De Niro portrays Vito Corleone from his time as a young immigrant to his rise in the New York mafia.
What is so fascinating and satisfying about his performance as Corleone is that he manages to match Brando’s gravitas without ever feeling like he’s mimicking him. He infuses the younger version of the iconic character with resilience and ambition that somehow informs Corleone’s later incarnation, even though Brando took on the role first. Robert De Niro was so convincing in The Godfather Part II that he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and established himself as a major talent in Hollywood.