9 Best Movies to Watch by Robert De Niro

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It’s a testament to Agnès Varda’s remarkable ability to glean so much raw beauty and truth from the world that this autobiographical documentary is such a rewarding watch, even for people unfamiliar with her. The Beaches finds the pioneering director in reflective mode as she looks back at her work and life, but her artistic impulses are by no means stagnant: she approaches the past with the same — if not more of the — generous candor and youthful spirit that colored her career.

It’s also a testament to Varda’s inimitable artistic touch that she turns a usually-bleak subject — mortality — into something this life-affirming. The Beaches was made when she was 81, aware of her own ticking clock and still nursing the decades-long loss of so many loved ones (chiefly, husband Jacques Demy). Just as her grief-stricken reflections don’t overwhelm the film with sadness, the whimsical impulses she indulges here — like constructing a beach on the street in front of her office — don’t blunt the sharpness of her candor. The overall effect is bittersweet and profoundly inspiring: as with the mirrors she places in front of the tide in the film's first scene, she’s showing us it’s possible to face the inescapable with a twinkle in your eye.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Agnès Varda, Gérard Depardieu, Harrison Ford, Jane Birkin, Mathieu Demy, Robert De Niro, Rosalie Varda

Director: Agnès Varda

, 1985

In the movie Brazil, our hero Sam Lowery (Jonathan Pryce) lives in a dystopian world that relies on the cold productivity grind of machines. He’s in a constant battle between the high-level dominating powers that be and the low-level beatdown scums of society. Saving him from complete misery is a recurring dream he has of a beautiful woman. There, nothing else matters but love, which fills his draining soul and makes his life seem worthwhile. 

The way director Terry Gilliam handles a serious matter in such a comedic way is fantastic, and the amount of thought and effort he puts into creating every single bit of existence in this film is mind-boggling. With Brazil, he succeeds in establishing his own style, making a mark for himself in an age when plenty of auteurs compete for mere recognition.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Ann Way, Barbara Hicks, Bill Wallis, Bob Hoskins, Brian Miller, Bryan Pringle, Charles McKeown, David Gant, Derek Deadman, Derrick O'Connor, Don Henderson, Gorden Kaye, Harold Innocent, Howard Lew Lewis, Ian Holm, Ian Richardson, Jack Purvis, James Coyle, Jim Broadbent, John Flanagan, John Grillo, John Pierce Jones, Jonathan Pryce, Katherine Helmond, Kathryn Pogson, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Myrtle Devenish, Nigel Planer, Oscar Quitak, Patrick Connor, Peter Vaughan, Ralph Nossek, Ray Cooper, Robert De Niro, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Sheila Reid, Simon Jones, Terence Bayler, Terry Gilliam

Director: Terry Gilliam

Rating: R

Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon isn’t a whodunnit; in fact, it’s closer to a who-didn’t-do-it. We know from the very beginning who is responsible for committing the brutal serial murders of wealthy Osage Native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma that the film chronicles: pretty much every single one of their white neighbors, spearheaded by William Hale (a skin-crawling Robert De Niro). Scorsese, most often associated with mafia stories, stealthily suggests here that the most dangerous gang of all is the one into which all these perpetrators have been born. That’s an idea he investigates through the confused loyalties of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart, the Judas-like husband of Mollie (movie-stealer Lily Gladstone), an Osage woman who owns lucrative oil headrights that William wants to fatten his own pockets with. This searing epic — based on a harrowing chapter of real American history — is an unsparing and self-implicating look at complicity and greed in the eye, a monumental movie that cements its maker as one of the greatest to ever do it.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Actor: Adam Washington, Addie Roanhorse, Alexandria Toineeta, Alexis Ann, Alexis Waller, Barry Corbin, Beau Smith, Ben Hall, Bravery Nowlin, Brendan Fraser, Brent Langdon, Brian Shoop, Bronson Redeagle, Candice Costello, Cara Jade Myers, Carl Palmer, Chance Rush, Charisse Satepauhoodle, Charlie Musselwhite, Chase Parker, Christopher Cote, Clint Rohr, Dana Daylight, Danny Frost, David Born, David Fields, Delani Chambers, DJ Whited, Dolan Wilson, Ed Yellowfish, Elden Henson, Elisha Pratt, Elizabeth Waller, Eric Parkinson, Everett Waller, Gabriel Casdorph, Garrison Panzer, Gary Basaraba, Gene Jones, Gregory Fallis, Harrison Shackelford, J. C. MacKenzie, Jack White, Jackie Wyatt, Jacob Johnson, Jacob Lux, James Carroll, James Healy Jr., JaNae Collins, Jarad Looper, Jason Isbell, Jay Paulson, Jeffrey Stevenson, Jennifer Moses, Jennifer Rader, Jeremy Goodvoice, Jerry Logsdon, Jerry Wolf, Jesse Plemons, Jessica Harjo, Jezy Gray, Jillian Dion, Jo Harvey Allen, Joe Chrest, Joey Oglesby, John Gibbs, John Lithgow, Johnny Baier, Joseph Spinelli, Joshua Close, Julia Lookout, Justin France, Karen Garlitz, Katherine Willis, Kristin Keith, Kyle Dillingham, Larry Fessenden, Larry Jack Dotson, Larry Sellers, Lee Eddy, Leland Prater, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Louis Cancelmi, Lucas Ross, Lynette Satepauhoodle, Mahada Sanders, Mamie Cozad, Marc Phaneuf, Margaret Gray, Mark Landon Smith, Mark Lopeman, Marko Costanzo, Martin Scorsese, Mary Buss, Mason Bighorse, Mason Cunningham, Matt Tolentino, Melissa Tiger, Michael Abbott Jr., Mike Cook, Moe Headrick, Moira Redcorn, Nathalie Standingcloud, Nathaniel Arcand, Nicholas White, Nick W. Nicholson, Nokosee Fields, Norma Jean, Norris Bighorse, Pat Healy, Patrick Bubert, Paul Woodiel, Penny Potts, Pete Yorn, Peter Yarin, Randy Houser, Rayna Gellert, Reignen Yellowfish, River Rhoades, Robert De Niro, Ron McMahan, Sam Bardfeld, Samuel French, Samuel Gray, Sarah Spurger, Scott George, Scott Shepherd, Seth Buckminster, Shonagh Smith, Silas Satepauhoodle, Stephen Berkman, Steve Eastin, Steve Routman, Steve Witting, Sturgill Simpson, Tahlee Redcorn, Tanner Brantley, Tantoo Cardinal, Tatanka Means, Ted Welch, Terry Allen, Tom Ashmore, Tommy Schultz, Ty Mitchell, Vann Bighorse, Victor McCay, Vince Giordano, Vinny Raniolo, Wally Welch, Welker White, William Belleau, Xavier Toehay, Zachary Hokeah

Director: Martin Scorsese

Rating: R

Watch this documentary and find yourself amazed at how much of Hollywood history was determined by one woman: legendary casting director Marion Dougherty. At a time when studios were casting actors based on “type,” Dougherty revolutionized the process with her preternatural ability to see the potential in budding actors like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Glenn Close. Her work in introducing NYC’s theater actors to the silver screen launched countless careers and indelibly shaped iconic films like Midnight Cowboy and Lethal Weapon.

And yet, Dougherty’s work — and that of those who followed in her steps — is criminally underappreciated, as this doc both lays bare and seeks to redress. A largely female profession, casting was long devalued by a casually misogynistic industry, the persistent legacy of which is subtly highlighted in some interviews here. Among the talking heads sharing appreciation and anecdotes are many of the actors and casting directors whose careers Dougherty launched, as well as filmmakers (including Martin Scorsese) testifying to the pivotal role casting has played in their work. Playing the villain is Ray director Taylor Hackford, who believes casting directors add little to the filmmaking process — an argument that the doc wryly disproves with the sheer weight of refuting evidence it offers up.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Al Pacino, Amanda Mackey, Bette Midler, Buck Henry, Burt Young, Clint Eastwood, Cybill Shepherd, Danny Glover, David Rubin, Deborah Aquila, Diane Lane, Don Phillips, Dustin Hoffman, Ed Asner, Ed Lauter, Ellen Chenoweth, Ellen Lewis, Fred Roos, Glenn Close, Gretchen Rennell, Jeanine Basinger, Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow, John Papsidera, John Sayles, John Travolta, Jon Voight, Juliet Taylor, Linda Lowy, Lora Kennedy, Lynn Stalmaster, Marion Dougherty, Martin Scorsese, Mel Gibson, Mike Fenton, Nancy Klopper, Ned Beatty, Nessa Hyams, Norman Lear, Oliver Stone, Paul Haggis, Paul Mazursky, Paul Rudd, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Donner, Richard Dreyfuss, Risa Bramon Garcia, Rita Hayworth, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Ronna Kress, Ronny Cox, Taylor Hackford, Tony Bill, Wallis Nicita, Woody Allen

Director: Tom Donahue

This charming documentary about one of the most brilliant, groundbreaking comedians alive strikes a delicate balance between accessible and deeply appreciative, making it both a great gateway for those yet to be uninitiated into the Albert Brooks fan club and a satisfying retrospective for us confirmed devotees. It’s directed and fronted by Rob Reiner, celebrated director himself and one of Albert Brooks’ oldest friends, and the choice is perfect: his rapport with Brooks is warm and easy, extracting real sincerity from the famously deadpan comedian-writer-actor-director.

Defending My Life features plenty of talking heads gushing about Brooks’ dazzling multi-hyphenate talents (among them Steven Spielberg and Sharon Stone), a standard convention for documentaries of this kind. But what elevates this into a portrait worthy of its subject are the scenes from a dinner shared by Brooks and Reiner, during which the former opens up about his childhood, reflects on his career, and divulges the autobiographical elements that informed his work. Their tete-a-tete flows with all the unforced rhythm of conversation between good friends; Reiner’s presence coaxes illuminating insight from Brooks, which makes watching the documentary feel as close to pulling up a seat at their table as you’d hope for. The 90 minutes just fly by.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alana Haim, Albert Brooks, Anthony Jeselnik, Ben Stiller, Brian Williams, Chris Rock, Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, James L. Brooks, Jon Stewart, Jonah Hill, Judd Apatow, Larry David, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nikki Glaser, Rob Reiner, Robert De Niro, Sarah Silverman, Sharon Stone, Steven Spielberg, Tiffany Haddish, Wanda Sykes

Director: Rob Reiner

Rating: PG-13

, 2023

The mythology surrounding Sylvester Stallone: the action hero is so big and successful that many people, including myself, often forget about Sylvester Stallone: the prolific writer. He failed to bag roles as a young actor in the 1970s, so he whipped out a script (in a span of three days!) that became the iconic film Rocky. Later on, after witnessing the power of elderly entertainers, Stallone rewrote a screenplay that would become the ongoing franchise The Expendables. He’s a hunk in many people’s eyes, nothing more and nothing less, but Sly successfully steers you away from that one-dimensional reputation and reintroduces you to the dramatist and artist Stallone has been all along. The film begins as an immigrant story (Stallone hails from Italy), then turns into a rags-to-riches story (he grew up in a tough New York neighborhood without formal education) before finally transforming into an honest and earnest meditation on superstardom and artistry. Going in, I was wary that this would be just another puff piece on a Hollywood has-been. And while it does have its fair share of schmaltz, I now believe it's a well-deserved and long overdue ode to Stallone’s unwavering commitment to the power of movies. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brian Dennehy, Bruce Willis, Burgess Meredith, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Chazz Palminteri, David Caruso, Dinah Shore, Dolph Lundgren, Estelle Getty, Frank Stallone, Frank Stallone Jr., Henry Winkler, Jack Lemmon, James Cagney, Jason Statham, Jennifer Flavin Stallone, Jet Li, John Herzfeld, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Mickey Rourke, Milo Ventimiglia, Mr. T, Perry King, Peter O'Toole, Peter Riegert, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Crenna, Robert De Niro, Sage Stallone, Sandra Bullock, Scarlet Rose Stallone, Sharon Stone, Sistine Rose Stallone, Sophia Rose Stallone, Steve Austin, Steve Reeves, Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Teri Hatcher, Terry Crews, Woody Allen

Director: Thom Zimny

Rating: R

This is right up your alley if you have a thing for gangster films. Actually, if you have a thing for stupendous acting and just Robert de Niro in general, then A Bronx Tale might do the job for you. The 1960’s was a tough time for Lorenzo (de Niro), father to conflicted Calogero (Lillo Brancato), who seems to have befriended Bronx’s big man, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri). Torn between his moral integrity and a few other factors in the mix, the young boy’s leap to the crazed world of mobsters doesn’t get any more real than this. Tragedy and fascination take human form through the eyes of De Niro’s directorial debut and Palminteri’s work of art, leaving you with a gripping feeling long after the credits have stopped rolling.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: A.J. Ekoku, Alfred Sauchelli Jr., Chazz Palminteri, Clem Caserta, Dave Salerno, Derrick Simmons, Domenick Lombardozzi, Dominick Rocchio, Eddie Montanaro, Francis Capra, Frank Pietrangolare, Fred Fischer, Gianna Ranaudo, Joe Pesci, Joseph D'Onofrio, Katherine Narducci, Kathrine Narducci, Lillo Brancato, Louis Vanaria, Max Genovino, Mitch Kolpan, Nicky Blair, Nina von Arx, Patrick Borriello, Phil Foglia, Richard DeDomenico, Robert De Niro, Sobe Bailey, Taral Hicks

Director: Robert De Niro

Rating: R

While this documentary may not provide the level of insight or as cohesive a narrative as other films from recent years about children's entertainment, Hot Potato benefits from the sheer charm and approachability of The Wiggles themselves. It's inspiring to see these men and women be perfectly ordinary people who just patiently put in the work to get to where they are today. The film doesn't necessarily find a central idea or philosophy behind The Wiggles' music, but their creativity and enthusiasm for performing manages to turn the simplest things (like fruit salad) into a celebration of life. The documentary isn't particularly good at balancing its tones, especially when it deals with the struggles that various Wiggles have faced in their personal lives, but it remains likable and wholesome all the same.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Anthony Field, Bindi Irwin, Caterina Mete, Emma Watkins, Evie Ferris, Greg Page, Jeff Fatt, John Travolta, Lachlan Gillespie, Lucia Field, Matthew Broderick, Murray Cook, Paul Field, Paul Paddick, Robert De Niro, Sam Moran, Sarah Jessica Parker, Simon Pryce, Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin, Tsehay Hawkins

Director: Sally Aitken

About My Father is clearly intended to be a cringe comedy a la Meet the Parents (it even features Robert De Niro as another grumpy dad), but it stretches the concept of “funny” so thin that the memory of that scene in which a cat pees on the contents of a smashed urn will feel like dizzying comic heights in comparison. The premise — an Italian-American man struggles to win the acceptance of his WASPish in-laws — might have made sense 100 years ago, but today, it strikes as farfetched. Even without that weak foundation, much of About My Father has a shaky grasp on what makes a movie work. The screenplay feels like the product of crudely stitching together several over-manufactured set-pieces, with the result being an almost total lack of fluidity and characters who often contradict themselves.

The film starts out on its worst foot: star–co-writer Sebastian Maniscalco lays the voiceover on thick, while Sebastian’s brash Sicilian father Salvo (De Niro) is so unceasingly negative that it turns a presence that should be great into one that’s only grating. Though it does find something of a footing as a saccharine family drama in its back half, it’s much too little, too late.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adan James Carrillo, Anders Holm, Brett Dier, David Rasche, Kim Cattrall, Leslie Bibb, Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco

Director: Laura Terruso