Al Pacino vs. Robert De Niro: Who's the better actor?


Fact Box

  • Born August 17th, 1943, in New York City, Robert De Niro dropped out of school at age 16 to study acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting.
  • Famous for playing mobster Michael Corleone in The Godfather trilogy, Al Pacino actually has roots in Corleone, Sicily, as his grandfather was born there. 
  • Robert De Niro and Al Pacino have collaborated on four films: The Godfather Part II, Heat, Righteous Kill, and The Irishman
  • An IMDB “Friday Face-Off” poll of over 2,800 people asking, “Which actor, Pacino or De Niro, do you prefer?” revealed that 1,637 preferred De Niro, while 1,164 preferred Pacino.

Gina Petty (De Niro)

Since Robert De Niro’s 1969 big-screen debut, he has taken the cinematic world by storm by being linked to some of history’s most legendary characters. Within his first six years of acting, he had impressed directors so much that Francis Ford Coppola offered De Niro the role of young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, “forgoing even a screen test,” according to britannica.com. Although Pacino and De Niro both earned an Oscar nomination for their roles in that film, Robert was the only one to take home the award.  

One of the most distinctive qualities of a great actor is their range. Robert De Niro has an expansive portfolio of diverse movies ranging from comedy, suspense, thriller, drama, and beyond. And unlike Pacino, who has never hosted Saturday Night Live, De Niro has hosted it three times, which shows his ability to do sketch comedy and to do it so well that he was invited back multiple times. 

De Niro has been so influential that in 2016, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This prestigious award is the highest civilian award in the United States and is reserved for those who have made considerable contributions in “the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” 

De Niro has established a whopping $520 million net worth compared to his counterpart (Pacino) with $120 million. He also has 128 acting credits to his name, whereas Pacino has only 64. This proves that De Niro’s acting is far more in demand. Fifty-three years into his career, this thespian hero is still going strong, with many more films coming our way. 

Maha (Pacino)

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro were GQ's 2019 Men of the Year. Both have formidable reputations, a sweet nature, and decades' worth of movies. But while comparing them may be 'Sophie's Choice,' there's no doubt that Al Pacino is the better actor. 

Pacino tends to slip into his characters. Take his performances in The Godfather and Scarface. Despite playing a gangster in both movies, he managed to make both characters unique. 

Meanwhile, it's still easy to see De Niro's own personality in his characters. Comparing his acting in The Godfather Part II and Meet the Parents, there's very little difference--aside from him speaking Sicilian Italian in the former. 

This is one of the reasons Al Pacino tends to receive more praise even when both actors share the screen. Al Pacino received three nominations for The Godfather Part II, whereas Robert De Niro received two. Similarly, Pacino received more nominations for The Irishman despite being a supporting actor. 

Yes, Pacino has one less Academy Award than De Niro. However, he has been nominated more in comparison. Moreover, he has three Golden Globes of his own. 

Even when the actors make bad choices—Jack & Jill for Pacino and Little Fockers for De Niro—the latter receives more scathing remarks. In fact, for the third installment of Meet the Parents, De Niro revealed his limitations as a comic performer. Meanwhile, Pacino somehow received positive reviews

Confirming all the above is box office numbers. Despite Pacino acting in fewer movies, his numbers are much higher, according to Rotten Tomatoes

So, for these reasons alone, Al Pacino wins this battle royale.

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