With Dirty Grandpa, we may have officially reached the point where a Robert De Niro impression is guaranteed to be more enjoyable than a Robert De Niro performance. Fortunately, the indisputable fact that he’s one of the most iconic actors in movie history means that there’s a ton of imitators out there.
If the man behind Travis Bickle, Jake La Motta and young Vito Corleone isn’t quite as common a target as Christopher Walken or Al Pacino, that’s only because he’s a little bit harder to get right (watch the video above to see master impressionist Jim Meskimen explain how it’s done). Lucky for us, that hasn’t stopped a number of De Niro’s celebrity friends from giving it their best shot. From the good to the bad to whatever the hell Tina Fey is doing, check out our seven favorite Robert De Niro impressions from the people who know him best.
Jimmy Fallon introduces Fey’s De Niro by calling it “One of the worst impressions I’ve ever seen,” and that’s pretty much all you need to know. But hang in there, because the Barbara Walters, Sofia Vergara, and Elmo imitations she does afterwards more than make up for it.
Easily the most casual De Niro impression we’ve seen, Tucker’s endearing take on his Silver Linings Playbook co-star is all in the hands. It may lack for precision, but his impression certainly paints a vivid picture of what it might be like to hit up craft services with one of the greatest film actors of all time.
Oldman can never quite snuff out the unique sound of his super recognizable voice, but his De Niro impression compensates for that in so many other ways. From his one-eyed squint to the way he jerks his head sideways before every line like he’s reloading, Oldman’s affectations are so good that you almost want to see the venerable British actor star in a remake of The Intern.
If enthusiasm were the only criteria, Tom Hiddleston would clearly have the world’s greatest Robert De Niro impression. “I know whole pages of Heat,” he declares on The Graham Norton Show, before performing both the De Niro and the Al Pacino parts of the famous diner scene from Michael Mann’s cops and robbers classic. Hiddleston definitely aces the visual component — he’s got that De Niro squint on lock — but the voice isn’t quite there. Still, you have to give the Brit credit for doing all of this in front of De Niro.
There’s a bit in Neighbors in which Zac Efron and his frat bros host a De Niro-themed house party, and watching this behind the scenes clip gives you the distinct impression that the filmmakers wrote the scene just so that Dave Franco could share his Jack Byrnes impression with the world. Fully immersing himself in De Niro’s weirdly iconic role from Meet the Parents (he even has a stuffed Mr. Jinx), Franco’s uncanny imitation is so good that a shocked Efron can’t help but compliment his co-star. “I like playing dress-up,” is all a sheepish Franco can muster in response.
Technically, this is Alec Baldwin doing an impression of 30 Rock co-star Lonny Ross doing an impression of Robert De Niro (as an auctioneer), but that’s okay. The clip only lasts for a few seconds, but that’s more than enough time to tell that Baldwin’s imitation is flawless — if it went on any longer, the Taxi Driver might have needed an acting credit on the episode. (Baldwin does a dead-on De Niro in this SNL sketch against Jim Bruer’s Joe Pesci.)
There are good De Niro faces, and there there’s Paul Rudd’s De Niro Face, which is so spot-on that it almost looks like a film still from Raging Bull. Perhaps the greatest testament to the impression he does of the star in Knocked Up is that its killer line (“These shoes?”) is delivered so perfectly that people forget it isn’t from a De Niro movie, and that Rudd’s character is just talking about projectile baby vomit.