Since turning the simple question “Are you talking to me?” become an iconic quote, Robert De Niro has given us many memorable performances. Starring in classic fortunes, such as Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Hot And Godfather Part IIit’s easy to forget some of the other stuff that’s in between.

Previously he intimidated us as sneaky mobster Jimmy Conway Goodfellashe gets sentimental Meryl Streep in the Fall in love. And only a year after Hothis release, he took us to church as Pastor Bobby Sleep. So while some of his appearances will always stand out in the actor’s filmography, it’s time to highlight the lesser known ones that offer De Niro moments that are just as special.

RELATED: The 15 Best Robert De Niro Performances From Non-Crime Movies



Walter Koontz in ‘Perfect’ (1999)

Image via MGM

This Joel Schumacher-the directed movie was a bit difficult as far as the iconic actor goes. When the movie first started you bet it was Impeccably is just De Niro’s tough guy role, but at about 20 minutes in, you realize that this is going to be something completely different. De Niro stars as Walter Koontz, a homophobic ex-cop who is forced to confront his bigotry after a stroke lands him in the care of his cross-dressing gay neighbor Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffmann in his own criminally understated performance). Throughout the film, the two form an unlikely friendship in moving portrayals by De Niro and Hoffman that remind us to never judge a book by its cover. Flawless is a must-see not only for De Niro’s under-the-radar performance but also for the message that resonates.

Joseph ‘Megs’ Megessy in ‘Jacknife’ (1989)

Robert De Niro as Megs in the 1989 film, 'Jacknife.'

Another DeNiro appearance that seemed to come and go without enough fanfare was in the emotional 1989 film Jacknife. Star partner Ed Harris got most of the attention and Golden Globe nominations, but De Niro as Joe “Megs” Megessy, a crass and gruff Vietnam vet with PTSD who reunites with an old alcoholic friend, Dave (Harris). “Megs” finds herself attracted to Dave’s sister Martha’s nanny (Kathy Baker), and despite the protests of his veteran friend, maintained a relationship with him. The long-haired, bearded De Niro looks unlike anything we’ve ever seen and brings a nuanced blend of raw energy and common-sense wisdom to the role. And the three of them together bring palpable unspoken tension to a strange triangular relationship.

Leonard Lowe in ‘Awakenings’ (1990)


When an actor can outdo others without even saying a word, that’s true talent. This is De Niro’s challenging task Resurrection. Based on a true story, tells the story of a young doctor played by Robin Williams, who administered a new drug to catatonic patients, with astonishing results. De Niro played one such patient, Leonard Lowe.

Taking character from someone who relies on boards to communicate to someone full of quirky bugs and finally to someone who finds his true voice, De Niro nailed every part of Leonard’s journey. The film shows that he is definitely not an actor to be typecast and just because he has a knack for playing a hardcore gangster, doesn’t mean he won’t transition into a vulnerable character, worthy of making the audience shed a tear or two.

Frank Good enters Everyone is fine (2009)

Everyone is fine

With a quality ensemble cast, including De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate BeckinsaleAnd Sam Rockwell, Everyone is fine maybe it should be a little more successful than before. While many critics found him too soft, De Niro impresses as the quiet and wise patriarch of the family.

Realizing that most of his relationship with his adult children stems from his recently deceased wife, Frank (De Niro) is determined to change that. He travels to visit each of them but soon realizes that their lives are not as perfect as they had been led to believe. With this performance, De Niro perfectly translates heartbreak over loss, both in real life and in imagination.

Pastor Bobby Carillo enters Sleep (1996)

Image via Warner Bros.

While he doesn’t have a major role in this one, his performances suggest that even just a little bit of De Niro’s screen time is better than none. Based on Lorenzo Carcaterra’s book of the same name, Sleep is the somber and disturbing story of four boys who experience a world of abuse at the hands of guards in a detention center, after a prank goes horribly wrong. What follows is a tale of revenge. Although Carcaterra claimed this was a true story, questions have since arisen as to how real it is. True story or not, this film grips the viewer and doesn’t let go. While a shout-out is definitely deserved for the young actors, De Niro’s small but important role is equally deserving of the spotlight.

He played Father Bobby Carillo, a local pastor with close ties to the boys. De Niro excels at mustering the emotional depth needed to portray a man of God, wrestling between his moral values ​​and his heart when called upon to provide alibis in court. Plus, who else can pull off extreme close-ups that just seem to go on and on? Without saying a word, De Niro let the audience feel what Father Bobby was going through. Now those are some strong acting characters.

Frank Raftis enters Fall in love (1984)

Fall in love

A forbidden affair and the breakup of a marriage may not be the most exuberant of premises, but Fall in love definitely deserves a place on the Christmas watch list. It tells the story of two married strangers who accidentally mix up their gifts while on a last minute Christmas shopping trip. And, as it says on the tin, they end up “falling in love.” But when the two strangers are Robert De Niro and a young Meryl Streep, it’s hard not to root for this affair. Far enough away from the gun-wielding role he most associates with, this character allows De Niro to show a softer, more romantic side of him and it’s definitely worth watching.

Dwight Hansen enters Long Live This Boy (1993)

Long Live This Boy

De Niro and DiCaprio play stepfather and stepdaughter, could someone do better? This early 90s drama, adapted from Tobias Wolff’s autobiography, tells the story of a family thrown into turmoil after a recent marriage turns violent. De Niro stars as Dwight, a man who, on the outside, looks like Mr. Right, but soon showed his true nature. In one of his most prominent appearances, he brilliantly portrays a character with self-esteem so low that he has to bring down everyone around him—even his own stepsons. Scene between Dwight and his rebellious stepson Toby (Leonardo DiCaprio) very strong, and Long Live This Boy proved to be an important addition to both actors’ filmography. Fortunately, we were once again treated to this powerhouse couple just a few years later with the 1996 drama, Marvin’s room.

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