Robert De Niro has a new movie out this week, which is not unusual in that he's turned up in at least one movie per year for more than a decade (in 2013 alone, he appeared in six). De Niro has always worked a lot, but his post-'90s work has disappointed plenty of fair-weather fans, who sometimes appear unusually confused by the fact that De Niro is a working actor who is now in his seventies, which is to say it's not all Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann movies (and it never was, but releasing Casino and Heat within weeks of each other in 1995 sure helped create that impression in retrospect).
Since he scored one of his biggest-ever hits in 2000 with Meet the Parents, De Niro's filmography has mixed broad studio comedies, character actor parts in larger ensembles, indirect-to-DVD schlock, and even some movies for kids. A lot of these movies are beneath his talent, and that includes his new one The Comedian, in which De Niro tries his hand at stand-up comedy (he's not a natural, but he's not half bad; it's the movie that kinda sucks). But to blanket dismiss the past decade and a half of his work is to dismiss plenty of good and varied performances from one of our best actors. Here, then, a brief primer: the ten best performances of De Niro's new-millennium career, counted down. (Caveat: I have not seen all of Being Flynn, for which De Niro received positive notices. The movie theater power went out in the middle and I never caught up with the rest. I have also not seen Freelancers, in which he costars with 50 Cent. I've seen most of the rest of his 2000-and-beyond output, give or take a few movies.)