10 Best Italian-American Actors

Tuesday, March 15 by Jason Cuthbert

Italian-Americans have contributed excitement to the tapestry of cinema,  especially these 10 best Italian-American actors. Sure, there have been great gangster films, but these men destroyed those Italian stereotypes as well, playing everything from taxi drivers to lawyers. You could build a brilliant film collection just from these Italian-American actors alone.

  1. Robert De Niro. Robert De Niro is not just the best Italian-America actor – but the greatest ever. His unprecedented body of work includes cinematic miracles such as: "The Godfather Part: II," "Taxi Driver," and "Raging Bull." De Niro's dedication to his craft, by extensively studying the backgrounds of his characters, can be summed up by this quote: "You don't just play a part. You've got to earn the right to play them."
  2. Al Pacino. Known for his intensity on screen, this Italian-American actor has captured our attention in "The Godfather" trilogy, "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Scarface." He was trained in the famed Actor's Studio by Lee Stasberg, known for the immersive style of acting known as the "Method." Pacino has the distinction of winning prestigious awards for film, television, and theater. 
  3. Leonardo DiCaprio. This amazing Italian-American actor has worked with many talented directors, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and James Cameron. The great actors DiCaprio has shared films with include Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp and Daniel-Day Lewis. Still in his 30's, DiCaprio's best work may still have yet to come.
  4. John Turturro. John Turturro has been directed by New York City's most heralded directors, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen. His relatable, every-man demeanor has glowed in independent films and blockbusters alike. The Coen Brothers have directed him four times and Spike Lee worked with him nine times as of 2011.
  5. Steve Buscemi. Another Italian-American actor that has worked with The Coen Brothers quite often, five times and counting, is Steve Buscemi. Their collaborations on "Fargo" and "The Big Lebowski" are of particular merit.  Buscemi has the uncanny ability to play light comedy and dark drama, often in the same film.
  6. Joe Pesci. Pesci has played some of the most vicious gangsters in cinema, one minute making you laugh, the next minute disturbing you. He was the bad guy that you love to watch in "Goodfellas" and "Casino," and a decent guy with a sense of humor in "Easy Money" and "My Cousin VInny." This Italian-American actor is also a talented musician, having first recorded under the name "Joe Ritchie" in the mid-1960's.
  7. Chazz Palminteri. If you've seen him play Sonny in "A Bronx Tale," then also understand that Chazz Palminteri wrote that screenplay based loosely on his life. The authenticity that Palminteri brings to his urban characters is shown in films like "Bullets Over Broadway," "Mulholland Falls" and "The Usual Suspects." Chazz Palminteri's one-man Broadway theater performance of "A Bronx Tale" is what interested Robert De Niro in directing it.
  8. Danny Aiello. Danny Aiello's performances are known for wrapping a tough exterior around a passionate heart. His extraordinary portrayal of Sal, the pizzeria owner in the classic "Do the Right Thing", earned him nominations for both a Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. His resume includes, "Once Upon a Time in America," "The Professional" and "Moonstruck."
  9. Danny DeVito. Before his role as Louis De Palma on the television series "Taxi", Danny DeVito played a mental patient with Jack Nicholson in the Academy-Award-winning "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." This Italian-American comedic actor played along side Michael Douglass and Kathleen Turner in three successful films of the 1980's, "Romancing the Stone," "The Jewel of the Nile," and "The War of the Roses." Danny DeVito became a triple threat, acting, producing and directing. 
  10. Vincent D'Onofrio. For his transformation into Private Pile in "Full Metal Jacket," he gained 70 pounds, beating Robert De Niro's record of 60 pounds gained for "Raging Bull." Di'Onofrio tends to choose character-driven films over commercial movies. He ironically played Bill Newman in "Malcolm X" and "JFK" as well as Orson Welles in both "Ed Wood" and "Five Minutes, Mr. Welles."