Nine nominations for the Best Director category at the Academy Awards makes Scorsese the most nominated living director and second to only William Wyler (12 nominations).
Martin Charles Scorsese is one of the greatest directors that Hollywood has and is one of the major contributors in the New Hollywood era.
Scorsese’s movies usually involve the themes of Catholic concepts such as guilt and redemption, the identity of Italian-Americans and the world of crime with most of his films known for their characteristic depiction of violence, rock music, and profanity.
Scorsese was born on November 17 in 1942, in the Queens, New York City, he attended the New York University and notably, Scorsese did a bachelors in English Literature, and it was in his masters that he pursued Fine Arts in films from the Tisch Scool of the Arts in NYU.
His directorial debut was the feature film known as Who’s That Knocking at My Door which was released in the Chicago Film Festival; the film got critic Roger Ebert upon seeing the movie exclaimed it was “a marvellous evocation of American city life, announcing the arrival of an important new director” and he couldn’t have been more correct as Scorsese is now one of the top directors in the film industry, and his movies have collectively earned around $1.9 Billion at the Box office.
With a plethora of awards and much-deserved recognition, Martin has had a tremendous influence on the Hollywood industry; his most collaborations are with screenwriter Paul Schrader, actor Robert De Niro (9 films), Leonardo DiCaprio (5 movies), Joe Pesci and many other notable names in the film industry.
If you wanna freshen up the memories of his movies or even if you are new to the world of Scorsese, here we have compiled a list of 20 films ranging from the worst to the best of his works, read on to know more.
20. Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 70%
While other works of Scorsese might have taken the place of number 20 on this list but “Who’s That Knocking at My Door” is a worthy mention on this list being the directorial debut of Scorsese.
The movie before all the movies was filmed across several years and started as a short film during Scorsese’s student years. The movie stars Harvey Keitel playing the role of a young man, J.R. who is going with the course of life but finally in love with a beautiful girl who has a terrible secret to hide.
The movie might not be the fantastic directorial debut that every director is looking for, but it was the start of a career that will redefine the Hollywood film industry
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
Scorsese’s first-ever movie that dealt with family entertainment didn’t turn out to be such a hit and is one of the biggest box-flops of his career.
While the movie has a good critic rating, it failed to live up with the audience; it wasn’t that the film is not one of his best works and also not entirely due to the fault of the film but due to the genre.
Scorsese in all his genius made the movie work as he would work any other movie, knitting the thrill and wonder into a complex storyline accompanied by stunning graphics but where the film failed to hit the mark was the fact that after all the film was for kids. The film was unable to pique the interests of the same.
18. Gangs Of New York (2002)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 73%
Daniel Day-Lewis makes this movie worth watching, but the crime epic set in the 19th century has a lot of loose ends and is not the best work of Scorsese as compared to his other works on this list.
The movie features the conflict that is inherent in a city which is going through changes featuring protest by Irish immigrants, feuds between Catholics and Protestants as well as the various gangs of the Manhattan’s Five Points.
Featuring Leo, the movie has some very interesting aspects in it but certainly fails to hit the mark even with all the amazing costumes and set designs. Still, its attention to detail makes it bearable.
17. Cape Fear (1991)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%
Scorsese’s world of crime is mostly depicted in a very restrained way, but in some movies, you get to see the full force of it, and Cape Fear is one of them.
The remake features De Niro embracing the popular aspect of the movies and increasing the tension of the original to unprecedented heights. This movie shows the full-fledged world of the crime, sometimes showing very disturbing elements even rawer than the original film.
The raw elements of the movie are the ones that push it to this part of the list, but it is nonetheless a worthy watch for the people who can heart it.
16. After Hours (1985)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%
While the greater part of Scorsese was invested in The Last Temptation of Christ in the 80s, he took upon a smaller project in the form of After Hours.
The movie stars Griffin Dunne in the character of a dull office worker who enters a night full of nightmares in the form of a couple of burglars, a punk gang, and a dead woman.
This dark comedy by Scorsese features many underrated actors but still managed to win Scorsese, the Best Director at Cannes. The movie released with mixed reviews and was not much of a success until much later.
15. Shutter Island (2010)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 68%
Just like the duo of Scorsese and De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio has been a big collaborator of Scorsese in the 21st century. The partnership has created some noteworthy pieces of works together.
Shutter Island is another work of Scorsese that casts DiCaprio with other stars such as Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, and Max Von Sydow. The psychological thriller features the characters of traumatized U. S Marshall, who is called to a mental asylum on an island.
The movie had an amazing storyline but prominently failed to be a hit amongst the audience and thus takes its place so low on this list.
14. Bringing Out The Dead (1999)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 72%
Paul Schrader, the screenwriter of this movie, is more to credit than Martin Scorsese, but it was still under the direction of Scorsese.
Nicolas Cage portrays a paramedic in the movie who is working on a particularly hellish night shift, the film shows dark humour and intensity unlike another and is a journey for the audience into a dark world that comes alive during the night.
Nobody else could have managed to do justice to this work by providing it with the right amount of everything other than the collaboration of Paul and Scorsese.
13. The Aviator (2004)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Aviator was the hugely anticipated release of 2004 before Million Dollar Baby by Clint Eastwood took up all the attention.
The movie is one of his most conventional works, showing the modernity in the world while still taking inspiration from old Hollywood. The character of Hughes helps bring Scorsese into his vision perfectly as he dives into the dark world full of hubris and demons.
12. Casino (1995)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%
The movie was misjudged for bearing a close resemblance to the earlier works of Scorsese as it features the characteristic world of gangsters, but the film managed to build a name for itself after finishing.
Reuniting Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro, the movie is inspired by a real story that centres itself onto a Las Vegas lowlife, casinos run by Mafia, and De Niro serving as an expert on gambling he is hired by a Chicago Outfit to monitor the Tangiers Casino.
The movie is a brilliant work by Scorsese and features an unparalleled performance by Sharon Stone, who earned the film’s only Oscar nomination.
11. Kundun (1997)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 75%
Kundun is one of the lesser-known works by Scorsese, but it is not one to be taken lightly.
Written by Melissa Mathison, the movie is a biopic based on the life of Tenzin Gyatso who is the 14th Dalai Lama; the film was shot in Morocco and featured a cast of entirely unknown actors.
The movie was a huge risk by Scorsese, but it turned out to be a stunning piece of work, but sadly the film didn’t make it far in the mainstream media because the contributor on the film, Disney did little to no promotion of it and also after China banned the film, Disney even apologized for the release of the film to get back into the Chinese market.
10. The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%
Scorsese had a particular interest in the themes of doubt and faith, and this movie was one of his works following his interest in the direction, the film was written by Paul Schrader and followed the struggle of Jesus with doubt, lust, and temptation.
The movie was an attempt to show Jesus in a less than two dimensions way that he is often depicted, showing him with a want to lead a simple life and dreaming of a sexual love relationship with Mary Magdalene. The movie show emotions and living in a very normal manner and the performance of Willem Dafoe helped a lot.
The movie is one of the greatest works of Scorsese, but it garnered a very negative reception because of a boycott by Christian groups deeming it to be unacceptable; the movie is a great work, and if you watch it’ll show a different perspective into a widely recognized two-dimensional symbol.
9. Silence (2016)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%
Scorsese was as much invested in this movie than any other person could be. It took him almost two decades to get the film to the big screen.
The movie is based on a novel by Shūsaku Endō. It takes its inspiration from a true story of a duo of 17th century Jesuit priests, the two of them travel to Edo-era Japan from Portugal to spread the word of God, at the same time searching for their missing mentor.
The movie is as surprising and thrilling as the story is and shows the ultimate experience of martyrdom and faith with an enthralling performance by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver and is one of the greatest works of Scorsese.
8. The King Of Comedy (1982)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%
If a box office flop makes it to number 8 on the list, you have to understand the genius of the director that is Scorsese. Although the movie wasn’t that big of a hit at the start, it eventually managed to found an audience in time.
Lightyears ahead of its time, The King of Comedy is the depiction of the vile of the entertainment industries and portrays the fall of the idea of celebrity worship.
The movie is uncomfortable for many and was dismissed as being pointless, but it shows how the people are broken and how the fame of being a celebrity is used as a substitute to survive in this world.
For the younger generation, it is the original from which Joker borrowed its idea of the American entertainment industry.
7. The Departed (2006)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%
The movie that finally won Scorsese the Oscar for Best Director was a remake of the ‘Internal Affairs‘, a Hong Kong film.
The Departed is not so much the best work of Scorsese as it is a remake, but if you watch the movie in comparison to the original, you can understand why Scorsese is regarded as one of the best directors of all time.
The attention to detail, the driving force of the movie, and the depiction of the emotional elements of the film make it so much better and brings out the depth of Scorsese’s genius.
6. The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%
For the younger generation, this is the one Scorsese movie that they might be familiar with, The Wolf of Wall Street is another one of the masterpieces by Martin Scorsese.
The story of Jordan Belfort gives you the thrill of an exhaustingly enthralling life as he goes about his scams and schemes, diving into the life of crime and the crushing conclusion to the movie.
Depicting the corruption of Wall Street and the exploitation of the poor by the rich, this movie is not just the best of Scorsese but is one of the best performances by Dicaprio.
5. The Irishman (2019)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%
The Irishman might be the latest addition to the long list of works by Scorsese, but it is one of the best on this list. The movie is widely regarded as the culmination of the career of Scorsese.
The movie depicts the possibly true story of Frank Sheeran, who is a mob assassin and claimed that he had some involvement in the death of Jimmy Hoffa.
De Niro returns with Joe Pesci in the new tale of the various hitmen, gangsters, and the crime existent in the society. The amazing depiction of the life of the mob has shown once again that Scorsese hasn’t lost his touch and has much left to offer.
The movie has used CGI to de-age De Niro and others to depict younger versions of them.
4. Mean Streets (1973)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
The movie which was the first of the Scorsese-De Niro partnership is much deserving of this position; the film follows the story of two small-time Italian American thugs who exist on the border of the mob world in New York.
Showing complexities in characters as De Niro’s character struggles to manage crime and his catholic faith, the movie is one of the best of Scorsese’s works, and the amazing portrayal by De Niro and Keitel makes the film all the better.
3. Raging Bull (1980)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
Robert De Niro and Scorsese return together yet again to give us this masterpiece, the movie is based on the real story of Jake LaMotta, a very complex character, whose talent in the boxing ring was only in competition with his self-destructive nature.
The Italian-American middleweight boxer cannot keep in control his psychosocial insecurity or his professional jealousy which lead him into trouble, the movie is widely regarded as the best boxing movie in Hollywood, and much like other Scorsese’s movie, there have been many attempts to recreate the masterpiece.
2. Goodfellas (1990)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%
The Goodfellas has set up gangster movie precedents like no other movie and after all this time is still one of the films which have been regularly ripped off for its iconic scenes by new directors.
The movie is the perfect depiction of the life of a gangster and Scorsese doesn’t fail to all the parameters of the life of a gangster, making us feel for the gangsters while also making sure the gangsters don’t get off the hook and get what’s coming for them.
It is a thrilling journey in the criminal life and manages to completely capture the different points and levels of living in a world of crime.
Critics and audiences have praised it alike, and it is even said that The American Dream has never been depicted so perfectly in a movie before. It is considered one of the best Martin Scorsese movies in the crime genre and has set a precedent.
1. Taxi Driver (1976)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%
Taxi Driver changed the film industry and is regarded as one of the Best Martin Scorsese movies. The psychological thriller follows the life of Travis Bickle in the New York City of the 1970s and his descent into a state of mental hell.
Not only is it the best movie of Scorsese but it is also the career-defining performance of one of the best actors in the movie industry, Robert De Niro, the mental breakdown of a man in a broken society is enthralling to see as the audience still struggles to differentiate the real with the imaginary all these decades later.
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