Ranking De Niro's Performances In Scorsese Films

One of cinema's greatest teams - but which performance is De Niro's finest?

Robert DeNiro Taxi Driver
Columbia Pictures

Film making is, by its nature, a collaborative medium. It takes a lot of manpower to make a motion picture, so it’s important to surround yourself with the right people. Sometimes, creative people bounce off each other and become more than the sum of their parts - and there can be few better examples of that than the combination of director Martin Scorsese and his leading man, Robert De Niro.

From a creative perspective there’s no denying that they tick each other’s boxes, and much of the strongest work from both parties has come when they work together. As of 2019 they have combined for nine films, all of which are at the very least somewhat interesting.

Picking the best of the best in De Niro’s filmography is a tricky task indeed, and he has some incredible work with other directors to be proud of. But ultimately it’s his work with Scorsese that makes up the most iconic part of his CV. You’re talking not far shy of 50 years’ worth of films there, and there are some astonishing characters and parts to choose from. But which will end up at the top of the pile?

9. Jimmy Doyle - New York, New York

Robert DeNiro Taxi Driver
United Artists

When you think Bobby De Niro, you likely imagine a gangster picture, or a gritty tale of a troubled man in the big city. Similarly, Martin Scorsese made his name in heavy dramas replete with violence and morality tales. So it must have been some surprise when the pair decided to follow up the much lauded Taxi Driver with a musical drama about a jazz saxophonist, co-starring Liza Minelli.

Minelli shines in a genre she is far more suited to, but De Niro is a bit lost here. An actor of rarely matched talents, he throws himself into the role of an out of control musician with no little confidence, but it never quite clicks.

The film itself is a bit of a muddle, part relationship drama, part pop cultural love letter. Bobby at times dials up the intensity to an inappropriate level, and the leads can seem as though they’re acting in two different films. The movie was apparently hacked down from an initial four hour run time, which could explain some of the disconnect in the performance.

His charisma is as on point as ever and the very notion of Robert De Niro as a masterful jazz man is an amusing one, but the huge risk they took when making this distinctly odd film unfortunately never quite pays off. Bobby reportedly mastered the basics of the instrument in readiness for the film - you can’t help but think there might have been better ways to use that time.


Yorkshire-based writer of screenplays, essays, and fiction. Big fan of having a laugh. Read more of my stuff @ www.twotownsover.com (if you want!)