If You Had Only 3 Movies to Watch, Robert De Niro Recommends These Ones

If You Had Only 3 Movies to Watch, Robert De Niro Recommends These Ones
Image credit: Warner Bros., Lionsgate Premiere

These three classic movies shaped Robert De Niro and his acting style.


  • Robert De Niro is a true movie connoisseur with excellent taste.
  • Among his favorite actors are the Hollywood legends who introduced method acting to the industry.
  • De Niro praised the films of Marlon Brando and James Dean.

Robert De Niro's career spans an incredible six decades and he continues to deliver great and unconventional performances. Although he is best known as a close friend and collaborator of Martin Scorsese, having starred in many of his projects from Mean Streets and Taxi Driver to The Irishman and Killers of the Flower Moon, the actor has also appeared in high-profile films by Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, Elia Kazan, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sergio Leone and other notable international filmmakers.

Over the course of such a long career, De Niro has developed an incredibly refined taste in movies, as well as a keen eye for inspiration from his older colleagues in the craft. Let's take a look at three classic Hollywood films that not only became Robert De Niro's favorites, but also influenced his method acting.

Robert De Niro Draws Inspiration from the Best

When Robert De Niro received the Acting Award at the 2020 Palm Springs Film Festival for The Irishman, Scorsese noted that De Niro's creative influence in acting will always be felt as long as there are actors to express their art.

But no art can exist without constantly gathering experience, inspiration and references from seniors. The actor has never been shy about revealing the people who have inspired his craft. His favorite actors include Marlon Brando, James Dean, Kim Stanley, Greta Garbo, Montgomery Clift, Albert Finney and Richard Harris.

Each of these Golden Age of Hollywood stars is considered a pioneer of American method acting, setting the standard for modern cinema. So it's no surprise that two of the actors listed above have starred in three films that Robert De Niro considers his favorites.

The Actor Praises These Three Movies

3. East of Eden

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Release date: April 10, 1955

Director: Elia Kazan

The iconic adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel, directed by Elia Kazan, still stands out among the films of its time for its twisted story full of biblical allegory. But the real highlight of the film is definitely James Dean, for whom East of Eden was the only film released in his lifetime.

Dean, along with another De Niro favorite, Marlon Brando, forever changed the image of a young man in the movies, unafraid to show a rebellious side, contemptuous of piety and intolerant of inexpressive humility on screen. He became not only a product of his time, riding the wave of beatnik frenzy, but a genuine visionary both in film and in the lives of young people.

2. On the Waterfront

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Release date: July 28, 1954

Director: Elia Kazan

Then we move on to another of Kazan's films, a crime drama starring Marlon Brando as a New Jersey longshoreman pitted against his corrupt union. On the Waterfront is one of the finest examples of Brando's acting prowess, pioneering method acting in which he didn't just recite lines, immersing himself in the characters and, like James Dean, not being afraid to portray atypical anti-heroes, often from working class backgrounds, in stark contrast to the performances of Hollywood actors of the time who had been trained in classical stage acting.

1. Rebel Without a Cause

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Release date: October 27, 1955

Director: Nicholas Ray

Finally, one of De Niro's favorites is another James Dean movie, arguably the pinnacle of his career, as it was his performance as Jim Stark that cemented the actor's image as a rebellious heart-throb. Rebel Without a Cause was extremely provocative and shocking for its time, and Dean provided perhaps the best portrayal of young people, showing society the pain and fears of the younger generation.

Source: Variety.