Robert De Niro’s Best Movie Is Being Appreciated By A New Generation Thanks To Streaming

Robert De Niro's classic movie Heat is in the top ten most-watched movies on Netflix.

By Robert Scucci | Published

heat 2 robert de niro

It looks like Robert De Niro’s Heat is heating up again on Netflix by breaking into the top 10 on the streaming platform. According to FlixPatrol, the 1995 crime film is currently ranked at #8, which goes to show you that this is one of De Niro’s best films, and it has certainly stood the test of time. With so many new films and series being released daily, it’s always refreshing to see a modern classic rise through the rankings and be exposed to an entire new generation of viewers.

Heat is the first time we saw Robert De Niro and Al Pacino share the silver screen since 1974’s The Godfather Part II. Though the two stars filmed their scenes separately for the Francis Ford Coppola film, their chemistry is unmatched in Heat. And since both De Niro and Pacino had successful runs at the box office leading up to the production of Heat with films like Cape Fear (De Niro), and Scarface (Pacino), promotional efforts for the film used their star power to hype it up.

And it’s no mystery that Heat is getting the same amount of love in 2023 that it did back in 1995. We’re not talking about an obscure Robert De Niro film that’s getting a second chance, but rather a film that was quite successful upon its initial release. Heat made $187.4 million at the box office against a budget of $60 million.

Robert De Niro in Heat

The plot of Heat is simple but executed flawlessly. Robert De Niro portrays Neil McCauley, a Los Angeles-based professional thief based on a real-life Chicago criminal of the same name. Al Pacino’s Lieutenant Vincent Hanna of the LAPD is tasked with tracking down McCauley after he robbed $1.6 million in bearer bonds from an armored car, leaving three guards dead.

This incident marks the beginning of an epic cat-and-mouse chase between Robert De Niro’s McCauley and Pacino’s Hanna. Though both characters are adversaries right out the gate, it’s worth noting that their separate lives are not without parallels. And because of these parallels, the two men actually have quite a bit of respect for one another even though McCauley will stop at nothing to evade the police, and Hanna will absolutely use violent measures to take out McCauley if necessary.

Hanna has difficulties with his third marriage and trouble connecting with his stepdaughter, while McCauley is a loner with his own rigid personal code: “allow nothing to be in your life that you cannot walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner.” This code is so iconic, it’s almost impossible to read it without hearing Robert De Niro’s voice in your head.

But Robert De Niro’s McCauley does in fact get attached when he starts a relationship with a graphic designer named Eady (Amy Brenneman). And in a way, this relationship causes McCauley’s judgment to be clouded as the film reaches its climax.

But Heat’s legacy lends itself to much more than just ranking in the top 10 on Netflix this week. In fact, the Robert De Niro film’s impact not only inspired scenes and cinematography in Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight, but was also cited as an inspiration for the highly successful Grand Theft Auto III, IV, and V video games in which banks and armored cars are robbed in a very similar fashion.

Video games and film properties aside, Heat also inspired a number of real-life crimes due to the iconic nature of Robert De Niro’s portrayal of McCauley. The most notable instance on record was the 1997 North Hollywood shootout that found criminals Larry Phillips Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu attempting to rob the North Hollywood branch of Bank of America. Though both robbers met their fate during this robbery, they injured eleven police officers and seven civilians.

Though making a film is an artistic exercise, and we cannot fault actors like Robert De Niro for their cinematic portrayal of violent crime, Heat was heavily referenced in the news cycles that followed this shootout. In fact, it was reported that Larry Phillips Jr. even had a copy of the film in his home. But in the case of most real-life violent crimes, if one film didn’t inspire such a heist, it’s safe to say that another form of inspiration would have manifested in its place.

So if you’re ready to do a Robert De Niro deep-dive, or it’s just been a while since you’ve given Heat a look, it’s safe to say that the film still holds up, and its legacy is here to stay.