Editor’s Note: This is a collective forum of film students, cinephiles, nerds, and enthusiasts. That said, this is a fairly comprehensive study of one of these aforementioned geeks. Please enjoy.
You ranking me? You ranking me??? Well, I’m the only one here.
– Robert De Niro, once he found out we’re ranking Scorsese films.
Martin Scorsese has been a filmmaker in the industry for more than 50 years. Since his 1967 debut, Scorsese has become a legend in cinema.
What’s not to like? Everyone loves him. Film nerds love him. People who beat up film nerds love him. The parents and grandparents of both the film nerds and the people who beat up film nerds love him.
The highly anticipated gangster epic, The Irishman, releasing this November and reunites Scorsese with his greatest collaborators after a 20-year absence: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. And, he is finally teaming with Al Pacino. All that anticipation. All that excitement.
I took upon myself the practically futile, task of ranking the top 10 films in Scorsese’s filmography. Is your favorite in this list?
10. Bringing Out the Dead
Paul Schrader‘s script is as dense as First Reformed and Taxi Driver, painting troubled souls in a hyper realistic ’90s New York as Frank (played by Nicolas Cage) is privy to the terrible intimacy of his ambulance passengers. He must bear witness to everyone’s suffering, the dying and bereaved alike. People cry in front of him, have mental breakdowns in front of him, pray in front of him.
Frank is continuously thrust into them, given a front-row seat to the defining moments of strangers’ lives, day after day. If you have any conscience at all, it can take you down with it, and it makes this film one of Scorsese’s more understated and powerful films.
9. After Hours
After Hours is a one night long Kafkaesque odyssey through SoHo in the ’80s (not the upscale gentrified fashion hub it is now) much like Good Time (another film which I have talked about enough here).
Scorsese gives us a gritty and neon-infused New York that you can only really see in the New York films of the ’70s and ’80s. It’s one of Scorsese’s most underappreciated films, ready to be “rediscovered” as a classic.
8. The Departed
This movie tends to get a lot of slander based solely on the fact that this was the film that won Scorsese his first and only Best Director Oscar. Blame the Academy.
Featuring probably the most stacked cast in Scorsese’s career with Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson (hamming it up in every scene), Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin and Vera Farmiga; the film has some of the best acting in any Scorsese film.
Murder, suspicion and thrilling sequences ensue. It’s a rollercoaster for sure.
7. The Wolf of Wall Street
The film has caught a lot of flack for “glorifying” the despicable lifestyle Jordan Belfort and his cohorts led, but I personally think it’s more of a mirror to the audience going like “you know you want this and you know you like it.”
DiCaprio gives a good performance, but what really stands out are the supporting actors. Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Rob Reiner and even Matthew McConaughey all fit into this world and give outstanding supporting performances. The whole thing makes you feel like you just snorted some cocaine and now you’re about to go on a wild ride. (You get the reference. If not, see the movie.)
6. The Last Temptation of Christ
A lot has been said about this film, and even more has been said about the subject. Scorsese’s deeply personal film about the end of Christ’s life is a visceral and understated work about faith, doubt, sin, death, and the existential questions that face us all. Probably Scorsese’s most deeply cleansing and personal film, I would be remiss if it wasn’t included here.
5. Mean Streets
This is the film that put Scorsese on the map.
Casting Harvey Keitel from his first feature Who’s That Knocking On My Door and teaming up with muse Robert De Niro for the very first time, Scorsese sought to portray the streets of Little Italy in Manhattan where he grew up. It isn’t exactly a gangster film but it visits the world of drugs and money, loan sharks and excessive swearing.
Also, the pool hall scene is one of the best scenes in any of his films.
4. The King of Comedy
Robert De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, an aspiring comedian who has some serious issues and still lives with his mother, who one day dreams of performing stand up for Jerry Langford’s (played by legend Jerry Lewis) late-night show. Things get into creepy stalker territory and it involves kidnapping, possible dream sequences and the most awkward house party ever put to film. It’s perfect pitch black comedy.
King of Comedy is Scorsese’s most underrated film up to this date and also has De Niro’s most underrated performance. (Many believe it’s also the muse for another talked about film coming to theaters soon.)
3. Raging Bull
My film directing teacher said one time: “You can take any frame of Raging Bull and put it in a museum.” and I can’t say he’s wrong.
From a filmmaking and editing standpoint, it’s Scorsese’s best work. He was planning on it being his last film before retiring and you can see it in how meticulously he frames his shots and how he perfectly cuts like he made every moment of the film like it was his last.
Robert De Niro is also at the top of his game, he trained as a boxer for months before taking a break and gaining sixty pounds to play the older Jake LaMotta.
2. Taxi Driver
One of the most iconic American films to date, this film was a response to the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the treatment of the soldiers coming back home. It was a response to grimy environment they lived in. Although they don’t commend Travis Bickle (De Niro) for the heinous acts he commits, some dark part of their psyche does.
De Niro gives another career defining performance (Scorsese and he really are meant to work together) and Scorsese pulls his influences for his filmmaking techniques from classic auteurs like Hitchcock and the directing duo Powell and Pressburger.
Was there really any surprise?
Often considered one of the greatest movies ever made, and certainly one of the most influential, this gangster epic is the movie Scorsese is most known for, and rightfully so.
It’s intense, bloody and most importantly, a lot of fun. Somehow it makes two and a half hours feel like nothing; Scorsese is an expert at pacing. I don’t throw around the word ‘perfect’ too often, but this IS one of the closest things we’re going to get to a perfect movie.
So what do you think? Is there a movie you think should be on the list? Scorsese has yet to make a truly bad movie, so obviously no answer is a wrong one. Let us know your thoughts!