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Martin Scorsese Films

Movies | By A.J. for The Top 13 on February 22, 2010

With Shutter Island now in theaters, the Top 13 has been thinking quite a bit about Martin Scorsese's accomplished career. He was at his best when working with Robert De Niro, who starred in a whopping eight of his films. But Scorsese's new acting protégé, Leonardo DiCaprio, continues to prove a worthy replacement for De Niro, as he has been an integral part of the director's most consistent decade yet. With a Cecil B. DeMille Award already in his pocket, the master isn't finished quite yet. Up next is an adaptation of the children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret and biopics about Frank Sinatra and Theodore Roosevelt. Though Scorsese is also an accomplished documentarian, only his narratives were considered for this list.

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Taxi Driver

1

Taxi Driver

1976

Of Scorsese's twenty-one feature-length narratives, his finest is still his fifth, Taxi Driver. The first of many Scorsese masterpieces to be snubbed for a Best Picture win in the Academy Awards or even a Directing nomination, this film is the character study of all character studies. This gritty Paul Schrader-penned film effectively puts the audience in the head of its psychopathic character, even if it seems impossible to relate to him. Taxi Driver is rightfully considered by many to be one of the best films of all time.

Raging Bull

2

Raging Bull

1980

Scorsese didn't want to make Raging Bull, but his friend Robert De Niro convinced him to kick his drug habit and helm this biopic about boxer Jake LaMotta. Once convinced, he was sure it would be his last film. Thankfully, that wasn't the case, but it did compel the director to make it as memorable as possible, which we believe he succeeded in doing. Though Raging Bull was snubbed for Best Picture, Scorsese at least got his first nomination for Directing and his longtime collaborators De Niro and editor Thelma Schoonmaker deservedly won Oscars for their work.

Goodfellas

3

Goodfellas

1990

After a few box office duds in the 1980s (other than The Color of Money), Scorsese made a big comeback with this adaptation by Nicholas Pileggi of his own novel, Wiseguy. Goodfellas, for which frequent Scorsese collaborator Joe Pesci won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, is perhaps Scorsese's most popular film, and is usually considered to be the second best gangster film of all time after The Godfather. Ironically, it was released the same year as the disappointing The Godfather: Part III.

The Departed

4

The Departed

2006

Thirty years after Taxi Driver, Scorsese was finally granted golden statues for Best Picture and Best Director. A remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, The Departed features an all-star cast - including Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Leonard DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and a scene stealing Alec Baldwin - that led the director to his biggest box office success yet, though there is a strong possibility that Shutter Island could surpass it.

Gangs of New York

5

Gangs of New York

2002

No director's name is more synonymous with New York than Scorsese (with the possible exception of Woody Allen), so it was only appropriate that he adapt Herbert Asbury's nonfiction book, though the adaptation was so loose that it was nominated for an Original Screenplay Oscar. Interestingly, the film takes place in the 1860s, the decade preceding Scorsese's earlier NYC-set film The Age of Innocence, though the two films reveal completely opposite worlds. Both films even starred Daniel Day-Lewis in jaw-dropping performances.

The Aviator

6

The Aviator

2004

Few biopics have ever been as entertaining as Scorsese's, whether it be a three-decade long study of Henry Hill or an epic exposé on the reclusive Howard Hughes. The Aviator is notable for what could be DiCaprio's best performance, a great supporting cast (including Cate Blanchett, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin and more), and for its incredibly detailed production design. The film had a record costume design budget of $2 million, for which Sandy Powell, Scorsese's constant collaborator since Gangs of New York, won the Oscar.

Mean Streets

7

Mean Streets

1973

Scorsese's breakout hit, Mean Streets is also probably his most personal film. It features frequent collaborators De Niro and Harvey Keitel, who made his acting debut in Scorsese' first film, Who's That Knocking at My Door?, which barely missed this list. The film focuses on New York's Little Italy, where Scorsese grew up. Indeed, many of the events in the film happened to the director or people he knew.

Shutter Island

8

Shutter Island

2010

After a long delay from its initial scheduled release in October, this adaptation of Dennis Lehane's psychological thriller was finally released this past Friday. Though it is unlike anything Scorsese has done before, he is still at the top of his game. With subtle inconsistencies in lighting and sound mixing coupled with lush, intimate flashbacks, Scorsese paints a disturbing portrait of madness that refuses to let you feel comfortable for even a second.

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

9

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

1974

Scorsese's fourth film and his follow-up to Mean Streets is still only one of two Scorsese films with a true female lead. When Ellen Burstyn requested him personally, the director took the opportunity to demonstrate that he could direct a strong female lead. His endeavor was a successful one. Not only did it win Burstyn the Oscar, it spawned the long-running sitcom Alice, which spun off yet another sitcom, Flo, though the latter was much less successful.

After Hours

10

After Hours

1985

Most Scorsese films have a fair amount of comedy, but his only work that really approached pure comedy was After Hours. The film managed to perfectly blend dark comedy with absurdity as one horrible night unfolded in New York's Soho neighborhood. With a strange, but excellent cast that includes Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Catherine O'Hara, and Cheech & Chong as a couple of thieves, After Hours remains one of Scorsese's most underrated films.

Casino

11

Casino

1995

Like Goodfellas, Casino was adapted by Nicholas Pileggi from his own book, which opened the door to criticism that it was too similar to Scorsese's previous Pileggi adaptation. Though this complaint isn't totally unwarranted, Casino still stands on its own as a fascinating Las Vegas mob story. The film marks Scorsese's last collaboration with De Niro, but plans are developing to reunite the two in a story about Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran, the union man who claimed to have killed Jimmy Hoffa.

Cape Fear

12

Cape Fear

1991

Though this is a remake of a 1962 film by J. Lee Thompson, it actually serves as the perfect homage to Alfred Hitchcock. It uses the same score as the original film, composed by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann. And although Scorsese's remake owes much to Hitchcock, it doesn't ignore the original. Indeed, he even went so far as to cast original stars Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck in smaller roles. Meanwhile, both De Niro and Juliette Lewis received Oscar nominations for the film.

The King of Comedy

13

The King of Comedy

1982

In this dreadfully uncomfortable experiment in awkwardness, Robert De Niro gives what Scorsese has deemed the best performance the actor ever gave him. As Rupert Pupkin, De Niro balances charm, obsession, and unrelenting ambition to become the new "king of comedy." The second act is as impressive as it is painful, but the hysterical ending featuring a once-in-a-lifetime performance by Sandra Bernhard is worth all the trouble.

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Comments Leave a comment

stillathreat ★★

Great list, but Cape Fear should be much higher. And I think you should have included Scorsese's documentaries; there are some great ones.

7:47 AM   Feb 22, 2010

oshoney 

very nice list.

7:56 AM   Feb 22, 2010

jasun 

Yeah, The Last Waltz is a horrible omission.
Great inclusion of After Hours though.

1:14 PM   Feb 22, 2010

jasun 

Hmm... Didn't think the intro addressed docs when I read it this morning.
Carry on.

1:18 PM   Feb 22, 2010

KingKrentist 

#1 Raging Bull is the greatest film made by any director. Ever
#2 The Last Waltz

1:35 PM   Apr 15, 2010

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