If you’re looking for a great performance from a bold American actor, you needn’t look much farther than a Robert De Niro film of the 1970’s or 1980’s. You will see a lesser commitment or intensity from the star after the 90’s came on, but in his prime is tough to beat by any actor of any generation. From Scorsese films to Deer Hunter, De Niro’s acting clinic was on full display during these times. Here are five De Niro classic now playing in high definition on satellite TV.
1. Mean Streets. To start with De Niro at his best, it will be helpful to track his collaborations with Martin Scorsese. De Niro stars as Johnny Boy, nephew to a local mafia boss and cousin to aspiring Mafioso Harvey Keitel. Johnny Boy does not have his head screwed on right: whether blowing up a mailbox or dodging one of his many debtors, his life seems marked by trouble. Watch De Niro portray the Little Italy thug to perfection in Mean Streets on the Independent Film Channel in HD.
2. Taxi Driver. For De Niro and Scorsese picture, the real film fan can skip over New York, New York with Liza Minnelli and jump straight to Taxi Driver on satellite TV. Penned by Paul Schrader while living out of his car, Taxi Driver tells the story of a demented cabbie with a penchant for vigilante justice. He goes far beyond the commitment usually delivered by actors, reportedly lapsing into character for over a month during filming. “Are you talking to me?” he asks in a famous improvisation.
3. The Deer Hunter. Paired with Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep, He has another meaty role in the late 1970’s which he ate up with relish. Small town Pennsylvania guys go off to Vietnam and come back far in far from the same condition they left in. In fact, Walken never quite makes it back. Watch De Niro channel the angst and sorrow of a generation in this HD classic directed by Michael Cimino.
4. Raging Bull. Swaggering, bullying and terrifying sums up the character of Jake La Motta – and that’s just the boxer’s private life. Once La Motta steps into the ring, it’s bad news for his opponent. This film is perhaps the most perfect collaboration between actor and director even seen in an American film. Commanding his own part of the film yet working seamlessly within Scorsese’s masterpiece, He made a generation learn about an actor’s commitment to his craft with his performance in Raging Bull.
5. King of Comedy. After so many heavy films with all sorts of commentary on the life of Italian Americans in New York, Scorsese and De Niro showed they could have their share of fun in the Big Apple as well. As Rupert Pupkin, De Niro channels the animosity and the borderline insanity of a failed performer. Jerry Lewis is excellent as the Tonight Show host who becomes the victim of Pupkin’s desperate shot at the big time.