The name De Niro has long been synonymous with masterful acting work, so it comes as no surprise that the esteemed thespian was recently named the latest recipient of the SAG Life Achievement Award. The accolade honors the recipient’s career achievements as well as his or her humanitarian accomplishments. Considering that De Niro co-founded both the Tribeca Film Festival, which breathed new life into post-9/11 Manhattan, and the non-profit Tribeca Film Institute, he easily earned the humanitarian portion of the award. And while it’s not possible to list all the films that prove De Niro worthy of the career accolade, we’re going to explore some that especially represent why he’s deserving of the SAG Life Achievement Award.
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Marlon Brando won an Oscar for his performance as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, and De Niro followed Brando’s lead with his own portrayal of Vito in the series’ second installment. De Niro took home Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his take on the younger version of the character.
Taxi Driver (1976)
De Niro was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as the mentally unstable Travis Bickle. He may not have won the award, but he gave an iconic delivery of, “Are you talking to me?” Thanks to his work and writer Paul Schrader’s words, the now-famous line is referenced to this day.
Raging Bull (1980)
Portraying the life of boxer Jake LaMotta earned De Niro the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. It was well-deserved, considering his total embodiment of the explosive character, a role for which he gained 60 pounds.
Cape Fear (1991)
De Niro racked up another Oscar nom for his disturbing performance as Max Cady, a convicted rapist. And while Anthony Hopkins beat him out for Best Actor in a Leading Role that year, the film proved De Niro’s skills within the thriller genre.
Meet the Parents (2000)
This film didn’t garner any Academy Award nominations or wins for De Niro, but his performance is a strong example of his comedic ability, which, though not as prevalent in his body of work, should still be mentioned. De Niro gifted audiences with his reprisals of overprotective father Jack Byrnes for the film’s respective sequels: Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers.
The Intern (2015)
De Niro’s portrayal of Ben Whittaker, a 70-year-old intern, is nothing short of heartwarming. The role stands out from his more ruthless characters, and De Niro’s Ben is the perfect complement to Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of his boss Jules Ostin in the dramedy from auteur Nancy Meyers.
The Irishman (2019)
Netflix just released Scorsese’s latest film on November 27, and it’s already generating Oscar buzz, including speculation on a nom for De Niro and his portrayal of mob hitman Frank Sheeran. De Niro’s overall performance in the film is made even more impressive by the fact that it translates through the digital facelift he underwent for the role.
There are so many more films that support why the 76-year-old actor is deserving of the SAG Life Achievement Award. The Deer Hunter, Goodfellas, Casino, Stardust and Silver Linings Playbook are just a few titles on a long list of projects that prove the actor’s versatility and his mastery of the craft. To hear what the notoriously private actor has to say for himself upon receiving the accolade, make sure to watch the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 19.