The James Dean Movie That Robert De Niro Considers One Of His Top 3 Favorites

It's always a funny thing to ponder what inspires the most inspiring people in the world. Two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro has been acting since he dropped out of school to pursue the timeless trade at the ripe age of 16. Throughout the course of over half a century, the "Raging Bull" star has built a legacy alongside some of the most legendary cinematic icons of our time and remains steadfast in his tireless work before the camera. "One of the things about acting is it allows you to live other people's lives without having to pay the price," he once said (via AZ Quotes). Whatever it is that makes the 79-year-old actor tick, it seems to still be working for him. 

For those among us who harbor a sensational passion for the arts, there's always a catalyst — or series of them — we can point to that excites us enough to chase those dreams that we hope will one day become a reality. In an interview with fellow actor Kenneth Branagh, De Niro noted those monuments in filmmaking that stand out to him above all others and keep him inspired as he continues to walk the road of movie magic. "In America, the actors I thought were the most interesting were James Dean, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Kim Stanley and Greta Garbo," he explained. He also revealed his top three favorite films — two of which feature Dean (per Far Out magazine). 

East of Eden (1955)

Among the small handful of films that James Dean got the chance to star in before his tragic death, "East of Eden" was one that stood out to Robert De Niro as one of the best ever made. "When you saw James Dean do 'East of Eden' he was great, but you can't do what he could do," he went on in his interview with Branagh (via Far Out magazine). The cinematic re-envisioning of John Steinbeck's classic 1952 novel earned Dean an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and instilled in the annals of movie history one of the most iconic performances of all time. 

According to Movie Web, Netflix has confirmed that it will be releasing a new adaptation of Steinbeck's novel starring Florence Pugh ("Midsommar") sometime next year. What we know so far is that "East of Eden" will run as a two-part limited series exclusively available on the popular streaming platform, though an official release date and other details have yet to surface. 

Rebel Without a Cause (1955), another favorite

According to Far Our magazine, De Niro also pointed to James Dean's other monumental feat, "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955), as one of his favorite movies. The film came out the same year as "East of Eden" and (also) portrayed him as a frustrated, angsty youth with seemingly nowhere to turn to for solace in the world. There's a good chance you've seen it, as it's likely the most recognizable title within the late actor's small arsenal of films. "'Rebel Without a Cause' was enormously influential at the time, a milestone in the creation of new idea about young people," renowned critic Roger Ebert once said. 

In case you were curious, Robert De Niro's third and final favorite film is "On the Waterfront" (1954) starring Marlon Brando (per Far Out magazine). If you've ever seen "Raging Bull" (Martin Scorsese, 1980), you might remember the scene when De Niro's character recites Brando's most iconic monologue from the film while seated before a mirror. You can watch it here