Robert De Niro's Best, Worst and Craziest Performances

From 'Raging Bull' to 'Rocky & Bullwinkle'

Ugly: 'Backdraft' (1991)

De Niro has a small but crucial role in Ron Howard's drama about crime and firefighting, playing Donald "Shadow" Rimgale — a veteran arson inspector who takes his job seriously. By which, of course, we mean very, very seriously. He deftly underplays the part, as when he quietly shuts down a loony arsonist's parole hearing with a few simple questions. But Shadow's calmness belies the life he's led, as confirmed by one shot of his grotesquely burned torso. De Niro plays the reveal as no big deal, wordlessly establishing Shadow as the sort of tough guy who doesn't have to make that big a deal about it. Still, we wished he would have played the arsonist's role, which went to Donald Sutherland; he'd have had a field day with it. KP

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