Although he may have well and truly gone flying off the deep-end in terms of his career choices (we will never forgive 'Dirty Grandpa'), there's no denying that Robert De Niro has made an incredible impact on modern filmmaking.

One of the most well-known practitioners of method acting, De Niro's skill at enveloping himself entirely in a character is legendary. There's countless stories surrounding his work on 'Taxi Driver', 'The Untouchables' (he famously wore silk boxers for the entire film, just as Al Capone did) and his ability to command a scene was second to none.

So, in honour of his 75th birthday, we've pulled - in our opinion, anyway - his five best scenes.

 

5. 'Midnight Run' - "He... he doesn't like to fly."

Although most audiences might associate Robert De Niro's comedy stylings with 'Meet The Parents' or the truly dreadful 'Dirty Grandpa', he's also starred in what is one of the best action comedies ever made. 'Midnight Run' is, pound for pound, the best comedy Robert De Niro's ever made. It's outrageously funny and you can really see that De Niro's actually giving it his all rather than just phoning it in. This scene, however, stands out as one of the best in the film. The entire film centres around De Niro's bounty hunter getting a federal witness to Chicago. The witness, played by the brilliant Charles Grodin, becomes increasingly neurotic and refuses to fly.

 

4. 'Goodfellas' - "I told you, don't buy anything big."

In a film that's replete with incredible dialogue scenes, this one exchange with De Niro's Jimmy Conway and two bungling underlings is pitch-perfect. It demonstrates just how natural and unfettered an actor De Niro was. It's a simple scene, nothing fancy or obtrusive in its setting, but it's so fascinating to watch because the tone changes so quickly from laughing and jovial to exasperated and tense in an instant. De Niro's ability to flip so freely between each emotion and really sell it was unparalleled. You can really see just how annoyed and frustrated he is and, as well, how natural the interaction is.

 

3. 'The Untouchables' - "I get nowhere unless the team wins!"

Much like in 'Goodfellas' and the next entry, De Niro's ability to turn a scene in a few, short seconds was unparalleled. This classic scene from 'The Untouchables' is another excellent example of just how effective he was. It begins almost like a Tony Robbins seminar about teamwork and individualism and, by the end of it, he's beating a man's brains in with a baseball bat. It's as much De Niro's scene as it is Brian DePalma's, as the camerawork and use of editing is pitch-perfect and in sync with what's on screen.

 

2. 'Heat' - "I will not hesitate. Not for a second."

The only thing keeping this off the top spot is that the scene is shared with Al Pacino and, as such, he shares the credit. Still, it's an incredible scene and there's so much going on with so little words. Both actors, known for their showy performances and bravado, completely dial it back and turn it into a soft little moment in a film that's anything but. Michael Mann based the meeting between high-line robber Neil McAuley (De Niro) and LAPD detective Vincent Hanna (Pacino) on a real-life meeting between a career criminal and a cop hunting him. Again, it's all about the turns in De Niro's performance. De Niro's expression just drops when asked if he could gun Hanna down and, like a machine, he answers truthfully and unrepentantly. 

 

 

1. 'Taxi Driver' - "You got a gun?"

Even forty years after its release, 'Taxi Driver' is still truly shocking on almost every level. De Niro's portrayal of disturbed loner Travis Bickle has gone down in history as one of the finest performances ever, but the finale truly shows just how far the character has gone. Almost like a robot, Bickle enters the seedy den of Sport (Keitel) and proceeds to blow everyone away in a matter of minutes. Throughout the entire scene, De Niro says almost nothing and wears a completely blank expression on his face. It's truly disturbing and one of the great Grand Guignol finishes to a film. De Niro's wry smile as he puts his finger to his head is nothing short of chilling.