Friday, April 27, 2012

Pacino vs. De Niro: An Exhaustive Showdown

Since the birth of their careers, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro have had the distinct misfortune of being compared to one another.  When you think about it, on the most basic level, it’s completely unfair to compare the work of two different actors, simply because they come from the same place and have a penchant for playing similar characters.

Or is it?

Both actors were born in New York City in the early 1940s (Pacino in 1940, De Niro in ‘43) with Italian in their blood. Both were stage actors who studied and trained at the Actors Studio. Both had a few minor film roles before catching their break in the early ‘70s, eventually leading to one flawless, iconic performance after another.

Since the 1970s, both have had numerous hits, flops, and comebacks before landing where they are now: in relative career embarrassment.

Pacino playing "himself" in Jack and Jill
This is no joke, what I’m about to tell you is horrifyingly real. Right around the time Titanic was rereleased, and very ill-informed kids were figuring out that, yes, Titanic was an actual ship that actually sank, I was standing in a grocery store checkout line when I heard two kids (estimated ages 14 or 15), both males, who were discussing the film Jack and Jill. The kids were, thankfully, bashing the movie, but toward the end of their discussion, one of the guys noted how “shitty” of an actor Al Pacino is. He then said something to the effect of, “Isn’t that guy supposed to be one of the best actors ever? He’s awful in everything.”

I was stunned to the point of silence. But then it hit me. To our youths, Pacino is a bad actor, and Robert De Niro is a horrible one. Think about it, if those kids have only seen Jack and Jill, 88 Minutes, Righteous Kill, New Year’s Eve, Killer Elite and/or Everybody’s Fine, then what else do they have to go on? Are they uncultured? Sure. But, hell, they’re 14.

The fact that the work of two of the best actors that ever lived is being forgotten, overlooked, or not even considered, depresses me to no end. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. What I want to do here, in this post, is definitively decide who is the better actor. Pacino vs. De Niro. In doing this, I will take into account everything the two actors have done: the good, the bad, and the god awful ugly. I hope to have an answer by the time I’m done writing this, but, as it often the case when this conversation comes into play, by the end of this post, I may end up being more confounded then when I began.

The Rise
Pacino/The Godfather - De Niro/Mean Streets
Pacino’s immediate transition from stage to screen went exactly as well as De Niro’s. Both starred in a string of films no one saw, then found very moderate success (Panic in Needle Park for Pacino, Bang the Drum Slowly for De Niro) before being instantly shot to fame. De Niro’s luck hit when he teamed with Martin Scorsese for the first time to play Johnny Boy in the masterfully raw Mean Streets. Similarly, once people saw Pacino as Michael Corleone, the man’s career path was all but set.

Johnny Boy remains one of the most viciously memorable, furiously unhinged performances of De Niro’s career, and Michael Corleone is, well, Michael Corleone. After those respective roles, the sky was limit.

Much has been (justly) made about the importance of ‘70s American film over the cinematic medium as a whole. And, when discussing this decade in filmic terms, it is virtually impossible to get through three whole sentences without mentioning the influence of Pacino and De Niro. You don’t even need to explain the movies, the impact of their titles say enough. After The Godfather, Pacino had Serpico, The Godfather: Part II, Dog Day Afternoon, and …And Justice For All, while De Niro was busy winning an Oscar for playing the character Marlon Brando made famous, and appearing in movies like Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter.

Playing father and son at the same age in different eras in The Godfather: Part II
Between them, Pacino and De Niro were nominated for eight Oscars in the ‘70s, all for characters that were, and are, essential to the importance and cultural influence of cinema today.

During the ‘80s, their careers spilt. De Niro reached a peak in the form of his flawless incarnation of Jake La Motta in 1980’s Raging Bull, then delivered subsequent, notable performances in The King of Comedy, Once Upon a Time in America, Brazil, The Mission, and The Untouchables. Pacino’s ‘80s weren’t as memorable. While I respect his remarkably audacious role in 1980’s Cruising, it’s basically Serpico: In the Gay Zone. The surprising, random impact Scarface has had on contemporary pop culture (specifically in the rap game), doesn’t make me appreciate the film any more. It’s long and boring and mildly entertaining. I’ve always found it just okay.

De Niro/Raging Bull - Pacino/Cruising
In short, De Niro’s ‘80s were better than Pacino’s. (De Niro, for the record, had more chances to fail, or succeed, as he appeared in 13 movies between 1980-1989, far more than Pacino’s five roles.)

In the ‘90s, their careers became more parallel. Both we’re nominated for Oscars in 1990 (Pacino for Dick Tracy, De Niro for Awakenings), and reached newfound critical acclaim in flicks like Glengarry Glen Ross, Scent of a Woman and Carlito’s Way (Pacino), and GoodFellas, Cape Fear, Backdraft and Casino (De Niro). But it was in 1995 that their two careers finally, miraculously, literally merged together, when they starred in a film that can be labeled as one of the most significant films of their respective careers.

The Heat
Michael Mann wrote his epic crime saga, Heat, specifically for Pacino and De Niro. The effort to get these to screen icons (and off-screen friends) in a movie together was a long time comin’, and Mann’s modern day cops-vs.-robbers tale of morality has proved to be the perfect outlet.

Heat is a masterpiece, and both Pacino, as obsessive police Lt. Vincent Hanna, and De Niro, as calculating thief Neil McCauley, are masterful in it. Not since Dog Day Afternoon and Raging Bull, respectively, had we seen such an all-encompassing command of their individually talents. The fact that Pacino and De Niro didn’t occupy two spots of the Oscar race for Best Actor in 1995 is something I’ll never quite understand. Hanna and McCauley are two of the most thoroughly conceived, brilliantly executed characters of modern cinema, and, despite the lack of awards attention, the two roles remain some of the best work Pacino and De Niro have ever done.

In essence, the two peaked in Heat in a way they haven’t since. Don’t get me wrong, Pacino’s performance in Donnie Brasco is pure bliss and I love (fucking LOVE) De Niro’s role as a sympathetic priest in Barry Levinson’s criminally underseen Sleepers, but after Heat, things just weren’t the same.

The Downfall
De Niro delivering a career low in The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle
For De Niro, it was the lethal one-two punch of Ronin and Analyze That that marked the worst acting decisions of his career. Ronin, while disliked by me, has its fair share of die hard fans. It’s an out-and-out action film, the first of De Niro’s since Heat. The difference is, in Heat, De Niro was exercising badass De Niro. His Neil McCauley was lean and mean and ruthless and charming. It was De Niro, personified. His Sam in Ronin was a grizzle schlub, which has paved way for the numerous grizzled schlubs De Niro has played in bad action films since. I’m talking Men of Honor, 15 Minutes, City by the Sea, Righteous Kill, Killer Elite, and the like.

Similarly, Analyze This proved that De Niro could be a bankable comedy star, and for good reason. Harold Ramis’ mob comedy remains lacerating and funny in all the best ways. In fact, I don’t have a bad thing to say about it – it’s an action comedy that achieves what it wants to. But, let’s be honest, Analyze That ruined De Niro’s career. It led to De Niro’s monumentally successful role in 2000’s Meet the Parents, another comedy I have no problem with, and from there, it was straight to hell. Rocky & Bullwinkle, Meet the Fockers, New Year’s Eve, Little Fockers, and on.

Are there waves of redemption post-Meet the Parents? Maybe. The Score is a breezy, decent action flick, and What Just Happened is a worthy insider comedy. Is De Niro good in them? Sure. Is he Robert De Niro-good? Of course not.

As a man way out of his depth in Jackie Brown
For my money the last great performance De Niro gave was as Louis Gara in Quentin Tarantino’s underrated Jackie Brown. Louis is an underwritten character who does nothing more than get stoned on a couch and watch in-home peep shows. That is until Louis and Melanie (Bridget Fonda) are forced to team up for the film’s grand con. Just watch De Niro in those scenes. The slicked-back hair, the foreboding walk, the fatal attitude; that’s the De Niro I love. (For the record, while Louis is De Niro’s last great performance, his last De Niro-good performance is, again, as McCauley in Heat.)

It’s a little more difficult to trace exactly when Pacino’s career began to nosedive, simply because Pacino is far more choosier with his roles than De Niro. Point in fact, I was amazed to discover that, according to IMDb, Pacino has been in about half as many films as De Niro. Because of this, we must acknowledge a truth in Pacino’s later career: while largely littered with crap, there are subtle hints of greatness mixed in.

Pacino's Gigli performance is as bad as that hair and suit
Let’s start with the bad. While Pacino didn’t set out to completely reinvent his career by becoming an action/comedy punchline like De Niro, he has, in recent years, pushed his… Pacinoness to the point of exhaustion. Take The Devil’s Advocate, The Recruit, 88 Minutes, Ocean’s Thirteen, and Righteous Kill, for examples. Some of those are good, some are shit, all contain Pacino performances in which he is capitalizing on nothing more than the fact that he is Al Pacino. Mix those in with uncontestable garbage like Gigli, S1m0ne, and Jack and Jill, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Those are some seriously bad films, but are there as many as De Niro? Nope. Furthermore, Pacino’s post-Heat career has been sprinkled with far more dashes of wonderment than De Niro’s. Donnie Brasco, Insomnia, Angels in America, and You Don’t Know Jack are all evidence of the greatness that made Michael Corleone so iconic. De Niro hasn’t been great since ‘97’s Jackie Brown, whereas Pacino was lastly great in 2010’s You Don’t Know Jack, and Pacino-good in 1999’s The Insider and Any Given Sunday.

So, to summarize the respective downfalls of these two actors, De Niro has made his career much more of a running joke than Pacino’s. I’ve essentially come to accept the fact that Pacino will continue to make shit films for large paychecks, while winning Emmy’s for HBO movies, while De Niro will simply continue to just make shit films for large paychecks.

The Showdown
De Niro/Taxi Driver - Pacino/Dog Day Afternoon
So what does it all come down to? Who is better: Pacino or De Niro?

Here’s what I know: De Niro’s pre-Heat career marks some of the finest acting ever put on screen (as does Pacino’s, but stay with me here). Raging Bull is, in no uncertain terms, the very finest acting performance I have ever seen, second only to Marlon Brando’s in A Streetcar Named Desire. Travis Bickle is, in no uncertain terms, my favorite film character of all time. Johnny Boy is delightfully menacing, Vito Corleone is haunting and imposing, Michael from The Deer Hunter is angry yet remorseful, Rupert Pupkin, Al Capone, Jimmy Conway, Max Cady, Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein – these are all characters that allow the film medium to be as essential as it is.

Likewise, Pacino’s Michael Corleone, Frank Serpico, Sonny Wortzik, Big Boy Caprice, Ricky Roma, and Col. Frank Slade, who all help make the decision of choosing which actor is better nearly impossible. De Niro’s pre-Heat career trumps Pacino’s, while Pacino’s post-Heat career far surpasses De Niro’s, so who wins?

Put a gun to my head and I’ll tell you Robert De Niro is a better actor than Al Pacino. But I’ll also tell you that he’s made far more poor career decisions, too. To (finally) reach an all-encompassing point: we can all agree that the career nosedives of both De Niro and Pacino are heartbreaking. And, I think, we can all also agree that no matter what shit these two manage to dish out, their previous work has left them with more career passes than any 10 actors combined. Let’s crudely consider that for every bad performance these give, a pass granted to them for a prior flawless performance is either chipped at or taken away. If we go about this based solely on that criterion, then De Niro still has more passes leftover.

I may never again witness another great Robert De Niro performance, but his prior work will live with me forever, slightly more than Pacino’s. Because, at the end of the day, what is more infamous: Pacino telling us how his father makes offers people can’t refuse, or De Niro reminding us that he is the boss. He is the boss. He is the boss. You tell me.


  1. What an excellent post. This is a debate that I have had several times before, and every time I end up siding that De Niro is the superior actor. As much as I love Pacino and his performances, he never gave a performance that matched "Taxi Driver" or "Raging Bull" in my opinion. Nevertheless they are both two of the greatest actors of all time.

    I would love to see you write a post about who you think are the ten greatest actors of all time. I know that the best actors relay race is similar to what I'm saying but those weren't all your picks. Again its something I'd love to see from you.

  2. Good analysis. I don't agree with all of your good/bad examples (I liked Ronin), but by and large we're in the same ballpark. By the way, I'd pick Deniro as the better of the two.

    I was disappointed by Heat precisely because it was supposed to be Deniro and Pacino finally on screen together - and it never happens!

    What's that you say? They had the conversation in the diner? If you watch it they don't actually show them together. After all the hype and anticipation they present it as a oneshot facing Pacino, then cut to facing Deniro, then cut back and forth. They could have been on different sets, on different continents, months apart when they shot their scenes for all we get to see in the film. (I know they weren't, but it still was a huge disappointment to STILL not get to see them together.)

    I never knew Pacino was older than Deniro. Huh.

  3. Wow... this is tough but also sad considering how great these guys used to be. De Niro and Pacino in the 70s, no one could touch them. Neither had a bad performance. In the 80s, it was de Niro. In the 90s, it was Pacino. It's like having Scarface vs. Al Capone. I would probably say de Niro because he hasn't embarrassed himself as bad as Pacino.

    de Niro has had one performance that I enjoyed. It was him wearing a dress in Stardust and dancing to the can-can. I got a kick out of that. For Pacino, probably The Merchant of Venice that showed him doing Shakespeare.

    Their last great roles had been long and gone. Yet, I don't know who is doing worse. Pacino with Jack & Jill or de Niro with Little Fockers?

    I can't help but feel sorry for the kids of today to see that these great actors we grow up knowing have become such shitty actors now.

  4. @areservationatdorsia First off, thanks so much for stopping by and giving such a thoughtful comment.

    Second, I agree with everything you said - Pacino never had a Travis Bickle or Jake La Motta, which, to me, is the deciding factor in my decision here.

    Third, I'd like to make a 10 best actors list as well, but, damn, wouldn't that be tough?

    Lastly, I fucking LOVE your handle and name of your blog. "Dorsia, Friday night... how'd he swing that?"

  5. @Chip Lary In fact, I believe the only time they are on screen is in the still in this post, and in the very I-told-you-I-wasn't-goin'-back end.

    Would've been great to see them actually ON screen together, but either way, I love HEAT to no end. Thanks for stopping by, Chip!

  6. @thevoid99 EXACTLY, I pity our youth, most are just so... unaware with things like this. Great comments you gave... but you would go with De Niro as the better of the two?

  7. I've just spent more than 10 minutes agonising over which actor I prefer, and I've decided I simply cannot choose. Pacino's performances in SCARFACE and THE GODFATHER: PART II are simply unbeatable, but the scene in GOODFELLAS where De Niro practically demolishes a phonebooth is one of my favourite scenes of the entire 90s decade. I can't choose between the two of them, they've both done some astonishing work (and equally, some horrendous bullshit).

  8. @Tyler Ha fair enough man, it's a tough choice indeed.

    You may already know this, but the script said that De Niro's character was to "get angry" during that tollbooth scene. The demolishing of the booth and the crying was all improvised. Scorsese only shot one take.

    Fucking. Amazing.

  9. I agree that both actors confine to embarass themselves as time progresses. For me, it's De Niro.

    You can't beat Taxi Driver. Plain and simple.

  10. great article but i gotta go with Al Pacino, and for me it's because of the scene in the Italian restaurant wright when he comes out of the bathroom, watching the realization of what he's about to do well up in his face is what sticks with me most for either of the two of them. My favorite De Niro scene is watching him testify in court in Sleepers.

  11. @BK Fuck, what a scene in Sleepers that is, just goddamn devastating. My favorite scene of De Niro's in that flick is the extended, still shot of his face after Jason Patric has just told him what really happened at that place.

    Anyhow, love seeing a vote for Pacino. That restaurant scene is as iconic as anything you're likely to find in any film.

    Great to hear from you, buddy!

  12. @Alex Withrow

    Probably because he didn't do something as humiliating as Jack & Jill.

  13. @thevoid99 Ha, fair enough. That too is a tough call.

  14. Great article Alex! For me Pacino is a clear win - I love De Niro but Pacino has this amazing sense of urgency and passion in his work - he always captivates me. As much as I love De Niro in Raging bull and Taxi Driver I adore Pacino in Godfather movies and Dog Day AfterNoon and Donnie Brasco.

  15. You couldn't have asked a more difficult question. Even though I haven't seen most of the terrible movies you refer to, in my opinion De Niro has more quality and Pacino has more quantity. By that I mean, Deniro has done many excellent roles, more than Pacino but at the same time, as you said, more pathetic roles as well. Pacino is little bit better, though he may not have as many memorable roles as De Niro.

    So, who do I choose ?? Fuck, if I know. But again, if you hold the Gun to my head, probably DeNiro.

  16. @Sati. Awesome, I like that Pacino got a least more than one vote here. Your mention of sense of urgency is really interesting to me, and really quite true. Again, a tough choice here.

  17. @SDG Hahah awesome man, it's such a tough call, but I'm glad to see De Niro came through!

  18. I'm late to this dueling has-been discussion, but I can't resist pooping in my 1.7 cents.

    It's a shame to see these two, the obviously finest actors of their generation, take the low-effort, Big Name Movie Star route of letting their agents pick lousy vehicles for the money, then phoning-in the performances.

    Nevertheless, I give the edge to De Niro for the sheer astonishing range over the years. I liked Ronin (but then, I'm a Frankenheimer nut anyway), and I think De Niro played Sam the right way, YMMV. I'm surprised nobody mentioned Angel Heart - a fascinating, disturbing, cult gem with a mesmerizing performance by De Niro in a difficult supporting role.

    A double-shame, now that these guys have aged into their world-weary faces; they could do award-winning character work for the rest of their careers, and we the audience would be all the more fortunate for it.

    1. Oooh Angel Heart is a warped little flick, isn't it? He's definitely good in that one. You know, before I wrote this, I really had no idea who I liked better, but since writing it, De Niro really is the obvious winner for me.

      Thanks for commenting! Always love hearing your input.

  19. Both are overrated. They have presence, which is not the same as being a 'good' actor.
    Everytimes you see de Niro, or Pacino in a new film you say: Look, there is de Niro, or Pacino.

    Thati s not a good sign.

    1. I agree with you, but only based on their current work. Their older work lives forever, in my opinion.

    2. Yepp, I def go with De Niro!! I like Al Pacino, but fuckin love De Niro!! Ps: Did somebody mentioned the scene from Casino, where De Niro and Sharon Stone are sitting in the restaurant and De Niro is gettin upset and nervous? Thats some fuckin great stuff!! LOVE IT!!

    3. Hell yeah, De Niro is a god!

      I did mention that scene in another post of mine, hope you like it!

  20. De Niro all the way. I never liked Pacino. Don't get me wrong, he is a fantastic actor but I never like his characters. I can never emotionally attach to them, their wants, their needs, their hopes, their dreams. This then reflects on the real-life Pacino for me because I've come to see him as cold and distant. De Niro, I find, is more versatile. Take Travis Bickle for example. Now, that is a sick f*ck, yet I love him. I can feel for him, despite how revolting some of his thoughts/actions are. De Niro a thousand times.

    1. I completely understand everything you're saying here. I don't necessarily agree (I really like much of Pacino's work and his characters) but since writing this essay De Niro is the clear victor here. Thanks for scouting this post out and commenting!

  21. Must remember that Pacino didn't get to work with Scorsese for half of his great performances. De Niro's best work always came with great great directors, Pacino has been able to pull out great performances even with shitty directors

    There is a consistency in Pacino, stemming likely from his stronger stage background, that De Niro doesn't have. At their best they are both unbeatable, but De Niro is a film guy through and through.

    Half of Pacino's career has been theatre, half of his greatest performances have been forgotten because they were never recorded.

    1. Fair and valid points here, no doubt. I don't know enough about the theater to comment on it articulately, but yes, from what I've heard, much of Pacino's best work was captured on stage. God, I would kill to see him perform live. I just can't imagine.

      Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your insight!

  22. I really enjoyed reading your article and your analysis of the two actor's career paths. Never actually gave their post-70s/80s work a serious thought, so this is a refreshing read. The vote for me however goes to Pacino.

    I've always considered Pacino to be more versatile considering the diverse characters he's portrayed. De Niro is terrific, but he's characters aren't always a different range from one another (most of them are mafia-ish), although De Niro does have the upper hand in comedy (his performance in King of Comedy is splendid); but what Pacino lacks in comedy, he makes up for it through Shakespeare.

    Also, I have to second the previous anonymous's comment about De Niro being able to work with better directors. He has definitely been luckier than Pacino when it comes to film opportunities. Even so, Pacino's performances (Michael Corleone, Tony Montana, Sonny Wortzik, Roy Cohn) are less forgettable than De Niro's (not to mention the amount of memorable movie quotes he's dedicated).

    Even though they have been playing the same roles in the last few decades (which probably just comes with age), the two are and will continue to be cinematic treasures.

    Again, great article!

    1. Hey there, thanks so much for stopping by and reading!

      I love that Pacino gets another vote here. Like I said in the original article, picking a "favorite" among the two of them is damn near impossible. They're both just so good.

      You bring up such solid insight - some of which I hadn't even considered before. And you're right, although both of their careers have faltered as of late, there's no denying that they will remain treasures. And there's also no giving up hope. If De Niro has a Silver Lining in him, Pacino surely has some left to give.

      Thanks again for reading!

  23. I have to say that I have always held Both actors on level playing ground they are way too close to even decide. So why have to? They are both excellent at their strengths and liberal in their weaknesses so they try new shit and suck at it..they have both made enough quality and timeless copy selling films that they have that right. I think personally though deniro is kind of fishin around to stay in the light. Pacino is gonna retire on a lake somewhere while he can still enjoy life and may pop up in a cameo here and thats a career.

    1. Great point here... why even choose in the first place?

      I love what you said about De Niro fishing and Pacino cameoing. So very true. I'm still holding out for that one final, truly great Pacino performance. I think we saw De Niro's with Silver Linings Playbook. But Pacino, man. Bring it.

  24. No one mentioned A Bronx Tale where De Niro acts and directs. Not one of his best performances, but a great movie that he deserves a lot of credit for! Midnight Run with Charles Grodin was when I first realized De Niro could be funny.

    1. Oh I love A Bronx Tale, but for the purposes of this post, I was very deliberate to not discuss movies both men have directed, only starred in. Bobby D is great in Midnight Run. I need to watch that again.

      Thanks for the comment!

  25. Robert De Niro is my favorite actor of all time. He still can be ''Robert De Niro-good''. Silver Linings Playbook, The Family, American Hustle (his cameo there, just brilliant). But when he is bad he isn't awful. He act like he is not trying. In my opinion he was the best in Taxidriver. Why? Because he worked as a taxi driver to do his best and he did it for me.

    Al Pacino...Is the best actor after De Niro. If we count just The Godfather he is masterful already. But DeNiro didn't act horibble in the 2 worst films of all time. He parodiate himself in Jack and Jill, and act awful in Gigli. He isn't as good as DeNiro, but its more patetic. "Dunkacino". Just awful! But I can see his good roles Stand Up Guys, You Don't Know Jack, Ocean's Thirteen. And he want to redeem himself: The Humbling looks good, Manglehorn sounds better, Maybe Danny Collins. Today, for me, The Godfather Part II is Pacino's greatest performance.

    1. Taxi Driver is my favorite De Niro performance as well. I'll always love him in that movie.

      Dog Day Afternoon is my favorite Pacino performance, but The Godfather Part II is a very close second. Such a great film.

    2. But DeNiro also trained with LaMotta until LaMotta felt he was ready to box professionally.

    3. He was so cut in that movie. He fought exactly how La Motta fought. An incredible transformation.

  26. He is the greatest. No other actor has given so many memorable performances. His body of work is incredible. No actor even comes close.
    1- 8 films in imdb top 250. Last one being ” The deer hunter” ranked 155. In all the 8 fims he is the lead or main supporting actor.
    2- 5 films in AFI 100 greatest movies of all time. Maximum among all the actors.
    3- Maximum no of films in Empire magazine 500 greatest movies of all time list. 4 in top 20 and 8 in top 100.

    I love Al Pacino. I tremble with him when Diane Keaton tells him about her abortion. But in the end he has got far less iconic roles than DeNiro.

    1. Yep, I agree with you all the way here. They're both iconic actors, but De Niro has to win out for me.

  27. Love this article. I have had discussions with a friend about this topic and I side with De Niro. He in my opinion is far more versatile than Pacino. De Niro was excellent in his early films but my favorite roles of his are Rupert Pupkin (king of Comedy). He is excellent in this complex, narcissistic, and vain glory performance. He was also great as Noodles in Once upon a time in America. Also I like the scene in Midnight Run when he is confronted with the daughter he hasn't seen in such a long time. The emotions that play over his face is so telling. I liked him in Ronin. After all he put down Ned Stark in that movie. He was also good as the returning Vet in Jack Knife. I liked him in Heat, as his portrayal of Neil was reminiscent of Richard Stark's Parker character. The false note however, was his decision to go back to the hotel on a vendetta when he had gotten away safe. Parker is strictly a professional and would never have made a decision based on emotion and I doubt Neil's character would have. Another amazing role of De Niro was his portrayal of the patient in Awakenings. Although he is somewhat overshadowed by Robin Williams, I think De Niro equipped himself well in this complex role of a person trying for normalcy instead of being viewed as a lab rat.
    Pacino is great also but he seems to play almost the same type every time. He is always angry, barely contained,never subdued. My favorite roles of Pacino is in Carlito's Way and Donnie Brasco. My favorite scene of his is in Donnie Brasco when he gets "the Call" from Sonny (Michael Madsen). You can see he realizes he wont be coming back, so he removes his watch and wedding band and leaves it where his wife can find it before going out. So I say, De Niro because he can play great against type in such a variety of roles, ie. antisocial hoodlum, Mean Streets; psychotic, Taxi Driver and Good Fellas; pompous narcissistic in King of Comedy; hustling loser type in Midnight Run and ordinary person looking for some normalcy in Awakenings. Pacino hasn't had the variety of roles to prove that he is gifted as De Niro. He does anger and he is great at that but again my vote is for De Niro.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I still have never seen Jacknife, but I really want to. That scene you mentioned in Heat... that's kind of what the movie is all about, you know? Not being able to let shit go. He should've never gone back for Eady either. He broke his own rules and paid the ultimate price.

      LOVE that scene in Donnie Brasco. Poor guy is going down.

  28. You should do a sequel/continuation of this post after The Irishman (the next De Niro/Pacino collaboration) comes out.

    1. Now that is a damn fine idea, provided The Irishman gets made!

  29. I understand people are more in love with De Niro, But I always go with Pacino. What all you all confusing with is De Niro's more Iconic roles to Pacino's less Iconic Roles. Pacino didnt even do one film with Marty while De Niro did a dozen something . Marty is the best director living today and makes Iconic films. Pacino has two Tonies to De Niro's 0, Pacino has won Bafta for Godfather and Dog Day, while De Niro never won a Bafta. His Dog day is voted over Jake La Motta, and Godfather is voted above Travis bickle in 100 greatest Performances of all time.

  30. De Niro gives the same expression but is very intense in his performances, Pacino is more Natural and relaxed in his performances...Post Scent of a woman has something to do with his mockery for the critics. Pacino is also constantly called a Crazy Lunatic(which I admire as an Artist myself) so I am guessing he stopped giving a fuck about his legacy as he must have been a nihilistic person, hence the yelling and go to hell attitude. De Niro has more iconic movies to Pacino's thanks to Scorsese films, but Pacino is the better Actor. Before 93 he had done 18 Full time Movies, 8 Oscar Nods, 13 Golden Globe Nods, 2 Tonies, a Bafta. Even Daniel Day Lewis doesnt have that Movies to awards Ratio. btw its true that De Niro has double the movies, 80 movies to Pacino's 35. still has only 7 Oscar nods, 0 Baftas and 8 Golden Globe nods