The Great Debates: Al Pacino or Robert De Niro?

Welcome to the latest “Great Debate”!

This time up, we have a debate that’s been going on as far back as I can remember. Two of the greatest actors of all time… Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.

Being roughly the same age, both of Italian descent, and both incredibly gifted performers, it’s unavoidable that the two would draw comparisons to each other. And they have. Over the course of the past four decades, I don’t think any two actors have been compared and contrasted against each other as much as these two have.

Which one do you choose?

Click through to read the tale of the tape!!

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Robert De Niro

Born: August 17, 1943

Total Number of IMDb Credits as an Actor: 94

First Film: “Greetings”

Signature Role: Jake LaMotta, “Raging Bull”

Oscar Nominations: 6 (Best Supporting Actor: “The Godfather Part II”. Best Actor: “Taxi Driver”, “The Deer Hunter”, “Raging Bull”, “Awakenings”, “Cape Fear”)

Oscars: Best Supporting Actor, “The Godfather Part II”. Best Actor, “Raging Bull”

Underrated Movies: “Midnight Run”, “Flawless”

Darkest Hour: “Rocky and Bullwinkle”

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Al Pacino

Born: April 25, 1940

Total Number of IMDb Credits as an Actor: 50

First Film: “Me, Natalie”

Oscar Nominations: 8 (Best Actor in a Supporting Role: “The Godfather”, “Dick Tracy”, “Glengarry Glen Ross”. Best Actor: “The Godfather Part II”, “Serpico”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, “…And Justice For All”, “Scent of a Woman”)

Oscars: Best Actor, “Scent of a Woman”

Signature Role: Michael Corleone, “The Godfather”, “The Godfather Part II”

Underrated Movies: “Glengarry Glen Ross”, “City Hall”

Darkest Hour: “Jack and Jill”

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There you have it folks. Just a couple of facts to stir the pot as we get our discussion started here!

Which is it going to be? Pacino, or De Niro?

They’re both great… now CHOOSE!

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112 thoughts on “The Great Debates: Al Pacino or Robert De Niro?

  1. DeNiro!! Plain and simple. He’s my favourite actor and has been since I was about 12 years old. I’ve also got to be another critic of Pacino’s “Hu-aah” moments. It worked well in the past but not anymore. It’s as if he’s ran out of ideas to bring to a character. Don’t get me wrong, DeNiro hasn’t been fairing that well recently either. If I found a role to compare them, it would be DeNiro’s turn in “Angel Heart” and Pacino’s in “Devils Advocate”. They both play the role of the devil and play it entirely differently. Pacino is scary with his rabid rants but DeNiro is far more reserved, creepy and affecting. The same could be said when they paired up in “Heat”. Pacino tried to grandstand and DeNiro cleverly played it cool, coming out far better in my opinion.
    Great debate though Fogs. I’m surprised this hasn’t arrived sooner. It’s like the debate of “The Beatles” or “The Rolling Stones”. ;-)

    • Which I would consider hosting… if I didnt have a movie blog. LOL.

      I saw the email you hit the like button, before I got to see your comment, and I thought to myself “De Niro vote” LOL

      I think the biggest problem with Pacino’s bellicose “Hu-ahh” period is that he was the same person in his films for awhile. Both of these two had (at one time) the ability to completely change before our eyes. I had NO IDEA what the real De Niro was like, or the real Pacino. Cause they were different everytime you saw them. As opposed to a lot of “Stars” who just do different things in each movie while retaining the same persona.

      Pacino abandoned that during that time period, and people werent amused.

      • To give Pacino his due, I think he’s tryIng to shake some of that stuff off now but still, DeNiro has a real commitment to a role that shows in his delivery. There’s just something special about a DeNiro performance. He’s slicing screen legend and I remember seeing an interview with Tarantino on DeNiro. He rightly pointed out the vast amount of quality directors that DeNiro was working with year after year. Scorsese, Coppola, DePalma, Leone, Bertolucci, Kazan, Cimino, and eventually Tarantino himself. These directors know his quality as do the audience. I’m a big Pacino fan but Bobby is far more intense.

  2. Obviously both are amazing actors and as I look at all the roles I’ve seen them play, I can’t help but lean towards DeNiro. For me it has something to do with his delivery and something mentioned above, character depth. They both can produce strong performances, but I find with DiNiro it isn’t always about what he says but more about what he doesn’t say. If you know what I mean.

    • I do. Basically youre saying he can emote more. You can read what he’s thinking/feeling more easily.

      At the top of their games I might call it a toss up between the two of them in that regard, personally, but if that’s your preference, I certainly wouldnt argue it. Obviously De Niro is a master at it. :D

  3. I’m on the Pacino side. Everyone complains about the Pacino yell and comments about how much people make fun of it, but it seems every impressionist also does DeNiro.

    Love Pacino in Godfather, Scarface, Scent of a Woman, and Glen Gary Glen Ross.

    Never been a big DeNiro fan although he’s been in some movies I really like. Al Capone in Untouchables, Ronin, Men of Honor, and The Score to name a few.

    • Wowww… our first true dissention on one of them. Never been a big De Niro fan? That phrase is foreign to me. You might as well have sent me a reply in Latin or something. LOL

      No love for Taxi Driver or Raging Bull or Deer Hunter? Cmon brother!!

    • So I take it that’s who got your vote then?

      Both of these guys were two of the best at taking roles and just becoming entirely different people for them. Their early careers are filled with movies where you wouldnt recognize them from one role to the next. It’s crazy.

      • That may be why I’m not quite as impressed with DeNiro then… most of what I’ve seen from him has been his later career, in which he mostly is just repeating and/or parodying himself.

      • Yeah, the early stuff is where these guys were at their zenith. For early De Niro Taxi Driver, Deer Hunter, Raging Bull… just those three alone are a mind blowing acting showcase, and he has plenty of others I’m skipping over. Godfather II… plenty of movies.

  4. I love Pacino, I do, but there’s just no stopping De Niro. The man is my favourite actor and has helped create so many incredible characters. That’s not to say Pacino doesn’t have his great roles, but I feel the De Niro characters have left a bigger impression on me.

  5. Once again….here we go into the what testicle do I prefer right or left debate. ..answer….I’ll take them both….I will say this…DeNiro has many more “mail it in” roles…his darkest hour is a night’s worth of goo…can you say Fockers 3…..

  6. I’ll have to go with Al Pacino.

    More consistent body of work that includes ‘The Panic in Needle Park’, where I first noticed him. To ‘Serpico’ and beyond. Still think his best, most understated work was with Gene Hackman in ‘Scarecrow’. Over the top, ‘Scent of a Woman’ and ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’. Also enjoy his documentary, ‘Looking For Richard’.

    He and De Niro hit their peaks with ‘Heat’. Neither have aged very well and De Niro has signed onto a few too many recent, questionable comedic projects that are beneath his stature.

    Securing my Soap Box.
    Carry on.

    • Panic in Needle Park, huh? In Pacino terms, that’s almost pre history :D !

      Never seen it, to me… his career begins with the Godfather. Maybe I should though, it’d probably be a kick. LOL

      I think you may be right about their careers waning post-heat. They’ve both had roles since then that were memorable, but that may have been the height of their powers, and after it was all downhill…. :( Sad

      • Hi, Fogs:

        Panic in Needle Park, huh? In Pacino terms, that’s almost pre history :D !

        Everybody has to start somewhere.

        I still remember seeing Dustin Hoffman flogging VW Beetles before he beat Charles Grodin out for the role of Ben in ‘The Graduate’. And Richard Dreyfuss doing a car ad for the 1970 AMC Javelin between small TV roles.

        Though I agree that Pacino’s role as Michael in ‘The Godfather’ put him on the map. Pacino makes a very believable, smooth talking junkie in ‘Needle Park’.

  7. Dude. The impossible question.

    I’ll go with Pacino, largely because of The Godfather I&II. But honestly, they’re both legends for a reason, and both of them were on absolute fire in the 70s.

    • I try not to make these easy, bro. You should know that by now! :D

      It is an ancient debate, isnt it? A really, truly worthy movie discussion.

      Part of me is glad for a reason to stay nuetral here. I get to hide under pretense of moderation. :D

  8. This is hard, dude this is Sophie’s coiche – love them both, but Pacino for me – his work in Heat and Donnie Brasco stayed with me. Also who do you have to blow to get so many coments?:)

    • :D I hope to always make these “Sophie’s Choices” really really tough “Ohhh come on, why??!!” questions.

      MUAH AHA HA HA HA!!! LOL :D

      In other news, thankfully I havent had to blow anybody. :D LOL Although let me know if that strategy works out for you, Sati.

  9. This is almost impossible. They’ve even followed the same career arc, with both pooping the bed in the last 10-15 years.

    The more I think about it, most of the reason I’d glom onto Pacino would be for his work in the 70s (which was amazing). But Deniro… he was amazing in the 70s, and then kept going. I think the Deniro roles with Scorsese make the difference for me.

    • Ok, I hear you. Pacino DID have some great non 70s stuff, but De Niro probably held that status as King of the Mountain longer.

      And you’re right, De Niro’s movies with Scorsese were incredible, and totally worthy of a tie breaker.

      They’re not done “pooping the bed” either, unfortunately. :(

  10. I had to take a long while to think about this…and I finally chose De Niro.

    with almost twice as many films and some pretty solid performances. Though both have had some pretty big lapses of judgment in role choices,

    BUT…

    Pacino was in Gigli and Jack and Jill so…he’s out! haha

  11. Who is the best? It is a tough question, really. But if you put a gun on my head and ask me to vote, I will probably pick De Niro. Why? Why?? The answer is that De Niro is like a chameleon. One moment he can be very statesmanlike in Men of Honor and the very next moment he can be an absolute creep (Cape Fear). Also, the amount of work he has put into his body is simply amazing. Check out the ripped look in Godfather, Cape Fear and Taxi Driver.

    .

    • Its cool… that’s fine. In terms of voting, that is. No one needs to see everything involved in order to vote…. just base it on your own experience and opinion and you’re good to go!

      But in other news… YOUVE NEVER SEEN THE GODFATHER????!!
      :o

      • (hanging head) nope. Surprising, because I like those types of movies….one of these days. :)

        I’m telling you, you should have a confession thread: “What movies are you ashamed to admit you have never seen?” I would bet money you would be surprised at some of the answers!

      • Have I…

        Did I…

        Huh. I don’t know if I’ve done that one or not. I’m gonna have to look when I get a chance, and if I haven’t, that one will be posted at the first opportunity. Cause that’s a GOOD one.

        I feel like I hit that at one point though… Not sure

      • Nah, you’re generally on the record. The hope would be to help you prioritize. :)

        For example, next movie night you’re tempted to rent some dreck, do yourself a favor and try to scratch the Godfather off the list, instead.

  12. Each is amazing in the right role, and each has had the wrong role many times. DeNiro leads in quality roles because he was the muse to Scorsese for so many years. Pacino ends up winning my support because he can’t be replaced with Leonardo DeCaprio.

  13. Nobody can beat the intensity Pacino brought to The Godfather in his trasformation from innocent to murderer, but I have to pick De Niro as my fav. His intensity, esp in The Deer Hunter, seemed more authentic and natural to me. Great category pick, Dan. You never get boring!

    • Holy shit, Squasher, I think you’re right! I read your comment and I was like, nahhhh… cmon. But I just did a ctrl F on both comments pages for Afternoon AND for Dog (In case someone just said “Dog Day”) and I got nothing.

      That’s a crime. A CRIME!!

      One of the greatest performances ever. Trust me, I love that movie, and one day I will use 2,000 words to sing its praises as an MTESS.

      I hope, in some small way, that that can mitigate the shameful omission made by the combined commenters here over the course of this week! LOL

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