Streampix Watch: De Niro vs. Pacino: Who Rules?

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino (Universal Pictures)

They were both born in New York City within three years of each other, and each is of Italian descent, carving out film careers as the quintessential street hustlers, gangsters and wise guys. Between them, Robert De Niro (7) and Al Pacino (8) have garnered a total of 15 Oscar nominations, De Niro winning twice (Best Actor for “Raging Bull” in 1980; Best Supporting Actor for “The Godfather, Part II” in 1975) and Pacino once (Best Actor for “Scent of a Woman” in 1993).

The two have only appeared together in three movies, including ‘75’s “The Godfather, Part II,” though they never actually had any scenes together, separated by flashbacks, with Pacino as Michael Corleone and De Niro playing his father Vito Corleone, the role immortalized by Marlon Brando in the original. Both received Academy Award nominations for the movie, though, Pacino losing out in Best Actor to “Harry and Tonto”’s Art Carney in a field which included Dustin Hoffman (“Lenny”), Jack Nicholson (“Chinatown”) and Albert Finney (“Murder on the Orient Express”). The two were also memorably matched up in Michael Mann’s 1995 police thriller “Heat,” where they squared off as antagonists—Pacino playing a robbery/homicide detective on the trail of De Niro’s slick chief of a gang that heists precious metals, who confront one another in a memorable diner sit down scene. They appeared together last in Jon Avnet’s little-seen 2008 “Righteous Kill,” as two veteran police detectives, De Niro’s Turk and Pacino’s Rooster working on a vigilante serial killer case, who eventually confront one another in a deadly shoot-out.

The two have experienced career rebirths over the last few years, De Niro earning his seventh Oscar nomination last year for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his part as the Philadelphia Eagles fanatic and Bradley Cooper’s dad in “Silver Linings Playbook,” while Pacino won a Prime Time Emmy (his second) for playing euthanasia doctor Jack Kevorkian in 2010’s HBO movie “You Don’t Know Jack” and received a nomination for his role as the notorious “Wall of Sound” producer in 2013’s “Phil Spector.”

De Niro or Pacino? Which one is the leading actor of his generation? Streampix offers seven features starring one or the other to help you make the call.

Analyze This”: This 1999 comedy was a turning point for De Niro, as he demonstrated the comic chops he’d soon show off in the “Meet the Parents” series, as an anxiety-ridden crime boss who turns to Billy Crystal’s shrink to solve his problems in this Harold Ramis comedy that anticipates a similar theme in “The Sopranos,” which premiered on HBO later that. year.

Analyze That”: The 2002 sequel finds De Niro’s neurotic mobster Paul Vitti released from Sing Sing after faking insanity (including warbling show tunes from “West Side Story”) into the custody of Crystal’s Dr. Sobel, as he moves in with the family, causing havoc along the way.

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The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle”: De Niro plays the villain Fearless Leader in this 2000 big screen version—featuring live action and animation—of Jay Ward’s successful cartoon series, shamelessly mugging in eye patch playing opposite Jason Alexander and Rene Russo as Russian spies Boris and Natsha, chasing after “moose and squirrel.” A notorious flop, this isn’t one of De Niro’s better moments, but you can’t say he doesn’t get into the spirit of the movie.

The Good Shepherd”: De Niro directed and appears in this 2006 movie, which traces the evolution of the C.I.A., from its beginnings in Yale’s powerful secret society Skull and Bones in 1939 to its pervasive role in U.S. military operations, including the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Cuban invasion in 1961.  Matt Damon stars as Edward Wilson, who is recruited into the OSS by De Niro’s General Bill Sullivan, a character based on that agency’s head William Donovan, who started the C.I.A., known as “the father of American Intelligence.”

Dog Day Afternoon”: Sidney Lumet’s 1975 movie about the real-life tale of a homosexual bank robber who holds hostages in hopes of securing a sex change operation for his lover earned Al Pacino his third of five Best Actor in a Leading Role Osca nominations, though he lost out to Jack Nicholson for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Frank Pierson’s Original Screenplay won Oscar honors, with nominations also going to the movie for Best Picture, Lumet and Chris Sarandon (Best \Actor in a Supporting Role). Pacino is best remembered for his “Att-ica, Att-ica, Att-ica” rant while holding court outside the bank.

Scarface”: Brian De Palma’s 1983 classic, starring Pacino as drug lord Tony Montana, has become a cult favorite among would-be hip-hop gangstas for its over-the-top violence, deco-soaked depiction of ‘80s Miami and numerous oft-quoted lines, including “Say hello to my little friend,” referring to his automatic weapon. Ironically, Pacino didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for one of his best-known roles, but did get a Golden Globe nom for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture—Drama, along with co-star Steve Bauer and Giorgio Moroder’s pulsating score.

Carlito’s Way”: Brian De Palma’s 1993 moody crime thriller could almost be a sequel to “Scarface,” with Pacino starring as ex-drug dealer Carlos Brigante. who attempts to go straight, memorable for Sean Penn’s performance as curly-afro-haired Jewish mob lawyer Dave Kleinfeld, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination, along with Penelope Ann Miller. Look for John Leguizamo, Luis Guzman, James Rebhorn, Adrian Pasdar and Viggo Mortensen among the cast. The film was generally dismissed by critics and the public, but has since grown into a cult classic, spawning a 2005 prequel, “Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power,” also available on Streampix.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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