Here’s every Al Pacino and Robert De Niro Movie collaboration, ranked from worst to best. No list of greatest film actors of all time would be complete without De Niro or Pacino featuring on it somewhere. The two broke through in a major way in the early ’70s with an almost embarrassing run of brilliant performances in classic films.
Pacino had Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico and The Panic in Needle Park while De Niro had Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter. In the decades that passed, the two have appeared in their fair share of duds, but they’ve given some iconic turns too. While both played major roles in The Godfather Part II – where Marlon Brando rejected a cameo – they didn’t share any screen time. Movie fans would have to wait over two decades for that to come to pass with 1995’s Heat.
The duo has reteamed a couple of times since then too. Here’s every Al Pacino and Robert De Niro movie, ranked.
4. Righteous Kill (2008)
Righteous Kill sounded – on paper – like a dream come true. Following the acclaim that greeted Heat, Righteous Kill was pitched as a movie that would have the pair working together throughout, as they played detectives on the trail of a killer. The movie also featured Carla Gugino and Brian Dennehy, but the result was a scaldingly generic, lifeless thriller. The movie runs through cop movie cliches like it’s ticking off a list, Pacino and De Niro seem unenthused by it, while Jon Avnet’s direction is totally perfunctory.
3. The Irishman (2019)
Speaking with Variety in 2019, De Niro recalled the Italian premiere of Righteous Kill, where he and Pacino – who turned down Goodfellas – were greeted with love from the crowd. De Niro turned to his co-star and stated “This is a great reaction, but it would be nice if they were here for a movie that we really feel proud about. Next time we’ll do one we like.’”
That next project would be Netflix’s The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese and co-starring Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. The film is an epic drama detailing the life of mob hitman Frank Sheeran (De Niro), with Pacino playing Jimmy Hoffa. Much was made of the de-aging technology explored o make the duo look younger, its budget and length, but the result is one of Scorsese’s best. It’s a dark, funny and mournful mafia thriller that feels like the director reflecting on his own career with an insight that only comes with age.
2. The Godfather Part II (1974)
The Godfather Part II – which was referenced in House Of Gucci – quickly followed the acclaimed original. If The Godfather is considered one of the best movies ever made, while Part II is often regarded as one of the best sequels. The film tells an ambitious, split timeline saga of Pacino’s Michael coming to terms with his life as the new Don of his family while flashbacks detail the rise of his father Vito, played by De Niro.
The Godfather Part II is a masterful, textured crime drama that displays director Francis Ford Coppola’s mastery of drama and cinematic language. It also features some of the best work of De Niro and Pacino’s careers, with the silent final scene featuring the latter being quietly devastating.
1. Heat (1995)
Outside of Righteous Kill, pretty much every Al Pacino and Robert De Niro Movie is a masterpiece. Heat – which has a definitive director’s cut – was heavily advertised as the first onscreen pairing between the two, with their diner meeting now considered a classic in its own right. Michael Mann’s epic crime thriller cast Pacino as a cop chasing De Niro’s expert thief, but the film is also a rich ensemble with its bank heist setpiece being one of the best screen gunfights. Heat is endlessly quotable, feature many memorable sequences and performances and is about as good as action thrillers can get.