An Underrated Robert De Niro Comedy Is Crushing On Netflix

Robert De Niro stars in Dirty Grandpa, now one of the top 10 films on Netflix.

By Phillip Moyer | Updated

dirty grandpa streaming hulu

While Robert De Niro is perhaps best known for his roles in crime films like  Taxi DriverGoodfellas, and Casino, he’s also proven he has comedy chops with enjoyable films like Meet the Parents and Analyze This. Then, there’s Dirty Grandpa, a mostly-unknown gross-out comedy that critics dismissed as a waste of De Niro’s talents. However, with Flix Patrol showing the film gaining traction on Netflix, it seems there’s an audience out there that appreciates the movie.

Most of the attention that Dirty Grandpa is getting comes from Australia, where it regularly appeared in Netflix‘s top 10 for most of the previous week. It also has gained some attention in the United States, though to a notably lesser degree — ranking #7 on Netflix on June 3, but not appearing on the list again for the rest of the week. Interestingly, it became the second-most-popular movie on iTunes in Nicaragua on June 7. 

Dirty Grandpa stars Robert De Niro as a very perverted retired army veteran who is traveling with his grandson to Boca Raton, Florida. The humor generally revolves around how inappropriate De Niro’s character is, in contrast to his uptight grandson (played by High School Musical star Zac Efron). Many gags involve drugs, bad behavior, and the liberal use of De Niro’s penis, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the type of humor on display.

aubrey plaza
Aubrey Plaza as Lenore in Dirty Grandpa

One especially noteworthy role in Dirty Grandpa was the one played by Aubrey Plaza, whose character, Lenore, is a girl whose primary character trait is that she wants to have sex with Robert de Niro’s character. She makes her desire for his character more than obvious throughout the course of the entire movie, sometimes through double entendres (saying a pull-out couch is the “only thing that’s gonna be pulling out tonight”) and sometimes through even-less subtle means. She mentioned in an interview that she used method acting during filming to get into character — something that she says freaked De Niro out onset.

The movie was nominated for Five Golden Raspberries, and currently has a low 10% critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a higher (but not good) 44% audience score. While that kind of rating implies that the film was widely reviled, this wasn’t the case when it came out in 2016. It received a pretty decent B CinemaScore, and made more than $100 million off of a budget of less than $25 million.

Since the movie’s release, some critics have come out of the woodwork to defend the now-forgotten comedy. For example, in 2021, The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard called critics who hate the film “showboating snobs” who think farcical films are beneath Robert De Niro. The unexpected success that Dirty Grandpa has found on Netflix shows that Shoard is not alone in this opinion.

While many critics lamented Robert De Niro’s downfall at the time, the 79-year-old Robert De Niro has continued to be active in Hollywood after the release of Dirty Grandpa. He has appeared in crime films such as Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon(2023) and The Irishman (2019), along with comedies such as The War with Grandpa and The Comeback Trail (both released in 2020).

Robert De Niro’s co-star Zac Efron appeared in multiple back-to-back comedies the year after Dirty Grandpa came out, including BaywatchNeighbors 2: Sorority RisingMike and Dave need Wedding Dates. He also played Phillip Carlyle in the Hugh Jackman musical drama The Greatest Showman and had a minor role in the biographical film The Disaster Artist, which is about the infamous The Room director Tommy Wiseau. While his work hasn’t been nearly as prolific as of late, Efron has continued to work in comedies such as 2022’s The Greatest Beer Run Ever and more serious fare such as the 2022 remake of the Stephen King horror story Firestarter.

Flix Patrol shows this renewed interest in Dirty Grandpa two weeks after the film first arrived on Netflix. Previously, the Robert De Niro comedy has been hopping around the major streaming platforms — it was available on HBO Max and Amazon Prime earlier this year, though it never took off on those platforms. It did have some success back in 2022, however, when the film was available on Hulu.