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The 12 Greatest Robert De Niro Co-Star Performances

Updated October 13, 2018 102 votes 48 voters

Audiences across the world agree Robert De Niro is one of the greatest actors to ever grace the silver screen. As fun as it is to watch him dish out a tasty monologue or walk in slow motion to the Rolling Stones, it’s just as captivating to watch De Niro play off an equally spectacular actor. Classic Robert De Niro costars like Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta have appeared in some of the greatest scenes ever, but these are obvious choices. Some of the best Robert De Niro costar performances come from actors you may not associate with De Niro’s filmography. Yes, the best Robert De Niro costars are the actors who know how to let De Niro do his thing without hampering their own pristine talents.

De Niro has appeared alongside some of cinema’s greatest talents. Despite this, there haven’t been many actors who can go toe-to-toe with this God of the silver screen and improve a scene, rather than looking like a kid from a high school play who wandered into the wrong role (Daniel Day-Lewis has this same effect). Whether he’s appearing in a gritty '70s gangster film or a comedy about old people working in an office filled with millennials, De Niro brings something special to the screen, not just through his own work, but by offering co-stars a chance to shine. Vote up the best performances by any of Robert De Niro’s co-stars, and then go get your shine box. 

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  • Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

    The Intern should not have been as good as it was. Everything about it lulls you into believing it's going to be a Lifetime movie with a big budget, but the moment De Niro and Hathaway are on screen together, this movie takes off like a rocket. Their chemistry even makes a scene about signing an old man up for Facebook pop. Seriously, Hathaway somehow makes the line, "I just knew that a woman with a glass of wine and a laptop had real shopping potential" work perfectly. 

    • Age: 37
    • Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, USA
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Characters: Hot Blonde, Meghan Green
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  • With Heat, Michael Mann accomplished many things, chief among them putting Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on screen together for one of the most tense dialogue scenes of the 20th century. It's hard to say whether Pacino is De Niro's co-star here, since the film focuses perhaps more on the former than the latter, but their meeting of the minds is the perfect collision of Pacino's twitchy theatrics and De Niro's restrained intensity. 

    Having the two greats face off in a diner is akin to cowboys with tremendous mutual respect meeting at high noon surrounded by innocent bystanders, each ready to draw his gun, both aware it's neither the time nor the place. In a stellar take on the "we're not so different, you and I speech," Al Pacino, as an LAPD who's after De Niro, leans in and says 

    "My life's a disaster zone. I got a step daughter so f*cked up because her real father's this large type asshole. I got a wife. We're passing each other on the down slope of a marriage, my third, because I spend all my time chasing guys like you around the block. That's my life."

    The blocking and structure of the scene, much of which goes unseen to those not looking for it, is also a work of genius. See Mann, Pacino, and De Niro discuss it with Christopher Nolan. 

    • Age: 80
    • Birthplace: East Harlem, New York City, New York, United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Characters: Michael Corleone, Roy Cohn
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  • Meet The Parents is easily one of the strangest big budget family movies ever made. Not only does De Niro play a happy-go-lucky family man who rages on a dime, each scene plays out like something from a slightly less weird version of Mr. Show. The water polo, the toilet cat, Owen Wilson as a carpenter paying homage to Jesus. What?

    As the lead, Ben Stiller spends most of the movie playing the straight man to every bizarre character he encounters, and his clenched, slowly building anger and chatty neurosis the perfect foil for all. In this role, he delivers a speech about milking a cat that sits comfortably at the intersection of cringe-inducing and hilarious - especially when he says, "You can milk anything with nipples." To which De Niro responds "I have nipples, Greg. Can you milk me?"

    • Age: 54
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Characters: Garth Motherloving, Strip Club DJ, Rich, Vic, Barry
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  • At some point in the '90s, Robert De Niro began to play with audience expectations by taking on roles that turned his classic hard man character on its head. Thanks to his willingness to make fun of himself, the world got Analyze This, a gangster movie in which Billy Crystal plays a psychiatrist and straight man to De Niro's crime boss. The film does a great job of showing the average American's simultaneous obsession with and revulsion to violence and tyrants. 

    When Crystal has De Niro call his nemesis to get closure, things go horribly wrong, after which Crystal deadpans, "It was going great until the cutting off of the balls and shoving them up his... ass."

    Also: "There's your f*cking pillow."

    • Age: 72
    • Birthplace: Long Beach, New York, USA
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Characters: Billy Crystal, Ben Crane, Jodie Dallas, John Adams, Jack
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