The verdict's out on the pairing of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in the cops-and-gangsters thriller Righteous Kill, but for the last 30+ years, the two legendary acting titans have given us more than our fair share of classic tough guy movies. Here are ten of our favorites..are we lookin' at you, Mr. De Niro and Mr. Pacino? You betcha...
The Dark Knight owes more than a little to Michael Mann's sprawling L.A. crime masterpiece. The movie pits a first-rate Pacino and De Niro on a thrilling collision course (as a top dog detective
and professional criminal, respectively) that oddly enough, features their first scene
together in a coffee shop. Their acting in the scene is a showcase for how it should be done, and ends as it must - with a mutual acknowlegement and respect.
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
It's the granddaddy of mafia movies, and the bar by which all mobster epics would subsequently be measured. True, De Niro and Pacino never share the screen. But with this classic, featuring Pacino as the tortured head of the Corleone crime family, and De Niro nearly stealing the show in flashbacks as young Vito Corleone, the two actors, bolstered by Francis Coppola's direction, became the number one idols of their generation.
Pacino adds his own classic line to moviedom with "Say hello to my little friend!" That friend being, of couse, Pacino's not-so-little machine gun. Pacino's badder-than-bad Tony Montana is brutal to watch, but still totally fascinating. While other '80s muscle men flexed their biceps to show how tough they were, Pacino (and De Niro) just shot one look at the enemy, and if warnings weren't heeded...prepare for hell to break loose.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Robert De Niro shines in the Best Picture winner of 1978, as a returned Vietnam
War vet. The film tells the story of De Niro's deer hunter, and his buddies, from their
pre-war relationships on through the war and to their return home, and a subsequent trip back
to Vietnam to rescue a friend. De Niro's turn as a solid, enduring warrior who has to
reconcile his worlds before and after the conflict is something special to behold.
Carlito's Way (1993)
Sort of an older, wiser version of Pacino's Scarface persona, his
Carlito Brigante has been around the block enough to know when to use his pistola, and when
to save face. Here, teamed with Scarface director Brian De Palma and upstart Sean Penn, he's forced back to his old ways due to a dangerous loyalty to Penn's sleazeball lawyer. Pacino's in top form throughout, and De Palma throws in some amazing
setpieces to let the actor play in.
Taxi Driver (1976)
De Niro's "You talkin' to me?" is born, and three plus decades later, it's still quite scary to watch his taxi driver Travis Bickle stray from disaffected cabbie to literal gun-toting psychopath. Director Martin Scorsese's film is one of the best-ever movie depcitions of social alienation, and De Niro proves his mastery of playing characters tough, creepy and absolutely transfixing.
Sea of Love (1989)
In 1989, Pacino added a kink to his
cop movie resume with this sexy thriller, which finds his Detective Frank Keller thrown a bit
off his game when he falls for the suspect in a serial murder case, played by the fetching
Ellen Barkin. Somewhat underrated on his list of credits, it features Pacino tough
and vulnerable, and has one of his best "get lost" looks, cast at a
hapless shoe store customer.
Raging Bull (1980)
Never has a film title rang more true. As in Taxi Driver, De Niro's furious
depiction of real-life boxer Jake LaMotta is extremely hard to watch, but it's also
impossible to keep your eyes off of him. Helmer Scorsese and De Niro fire on all cylinders, and the performance is widely considered De Niro's finest. Yes, the film says,
LaMotta was a total animal. But with De Niro's portayal, he's also tragically human.
Right around the time Pacino was taking off into the acting stratosphere with The
Godfather, he was also making good as the title cop in filmmaker Sidney Lumet's
Serpico. Ever since, not just actors, but other police officers have
gained inspiration from Pacino's performance as a tough cop
who was also honest, and unafraid to take on corruption in his own department.
Ronin isn't the all-out acting fireworks display for De Niro that was Raging
Bull. But in the late '90s, it was a return to form. John Frankenheimer directs for maximum zip, and De Niro, as an ex-US spy tracking down a package wanted by the Russians and the Irish, shows that it's not just
the young guys who know how to handle a gun and drive an escape car.
Missed your favorite? Leave a comment below and let us know!