Martin Scorsese’s Best Movies Ranked – The Hollywood Reporter

Martin Scorsese’s 27 narrative feature films range from beloved gangster titles to bold religious trilogy, popcorn thrillers and dark character portraits. Picking and ranking his top 10? The list is “wrong” before it even starts (except maybe #1, which might be an undisputed choice). Much depends on which version of Scorsese is most appreciated by the voter. Do you idolize Scorsese’s breakthrough films from the 70s? His more mainstream hits of the 21st century? Do you find his religious films exciting or a snooze?

Here’s the point of this particular list: Scorsese is at his best when his masterful technique is paired with compelling characters and propulsive storytelling. Some of the Catholic-raised filmmakers’ titles (such as Silence, Taxi driver and his last, Killers of the Flower Moon) compel moviegoers to endure a cinematic penance that mirrors the journey of its tormented characters. They spark that eternal debate between what really makes a movie great: its artistry or its ability to entertain. Fortunately, so many of Scorsese’s titles successfully do both, and below, these films take precedence.

10. Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

Color moon is extremely well made; a clear Oscar contender that manages to provoke outrage and empathy while telling an important story about the plight of the persecuted Osage tribe, who have been systematically killed over their rights to oil-rich property. It’s also a punishing three and a half hours of watching people suffer and die amid non-stop gaslights and brutality. For most of the film, every character is presented as completely evil or a naïve, passive victim (with possibly an overemphasis on the white characters). Towards the end, Scorsese begins to inject bits of his most underrated secret weapon—his dark, dry sense of humor—which until then feels tonally inconsistent. Opening this week, it’s powerful but sure to be divisive.

9. After hours (1985) and The King of Comedy (1982) (tie)

After hours is a Scorsese fan favorite. Quite a time capsule (and a bit dated on repeat viewings), this charming comedy follows a hapless man (Griffin Dunn) who experiences one disaster after another over the course of one surreal night in New York. in The King of ComedyRobert De Niro plays a manic stand-up comedian who kidnaps and tortures his favorite comedian (Jerry Lewis). King of Comedy is one of several early Scorsese pictures that have become increasingly revered over time, and Todd Phillips Joker it wouldn’t exist without him.

8. Cape Fear (1991)

In this remake of the 1962 film, De Niro plays obsessive ex-con Max Cuddy, stalking his ex-lawyer (Nick Nolte) and his family. Cape Fear is such a caricature of a thriller that it comes as a surprise that it’s from Scorsese, when it feels more like the Coen brothers channeling Hitchcock into bath salts. The film contains the occasional goosebumps (such as Cady’s attempt to seduce teenage Juliet Lewis), but Cape Fear is a journey that is one of the director’s most popular films (bonus: Cape Fear inspired a whole Simpson episode — the much-loved “Cape Feare” from season five).

7. Age of Innocence (1993)

A fine example of Scorsese coloring from a different palette, the director has been praised for stepping far outside his comfort zone with this romantic drama based on Edith Wharton’s novel set in early 20th century New York . The story follows the courtship and marriage of Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) to May Welland (Winona Ryder) amid various entanglements. A gorgeous era.

6. Taxi driver (1976)

De Niro plays the original insel, Travis Bickle, a lonely, angry Vietnam veteran who Scorsese recently noted in an interview has become an all-too-common personality type these days. In her breakout role, 12-year-old Jodie Foster plays a prostitute that Bickle tries to protect. The film (written by Paul Schrader) is a raw, gritty, bitter portrait of a ticking time bomb that is equal parts destructive and self-destructive. The would-be assassin of President Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley Jr., said he was inspired to impress Foster after seeing Taxi driver. Important work in a world you won’t want to visit anytime soon.

5. Casino (1995)

Often underestimated as “Good boysjust not as good,” Casino is another dynamic gangster film that is based on a true story described in a book by Nicholas Pileggi. De Niro as a controlling casino boss and Joe Pesci as his hot-headed gangster cohort are as magnetic as you’d expect, but the surprise is Sharon Stone in perhaps the best performance of her career as De Niro’s fussy, drug-addicted wife. The trio form an unstable triangle for which tragic fates seem inevitable as Scorsese delights in depicting late 1970s Las Vegas with all its flashing lights, coins and money, and holes in the desert.

4. Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in Scorsese’s highest-grossing film, based on a loose adaptation of the rise and fall of 1990s stock market king Jordan Belfort, with Margot Robbie in her breakthrough role as Belfort’s seductive wife. In the chronology of Wall Street excess, the film itself is excessive — even exhausting. Wolf of Wall Street is a three-hour firehose blast against profanity, drugs, sex and money (scripted by Soprano great Terence Winter). It’s a testament to Scorsese’s talent that he manages to make this so much fun while pushing DiCaprio for his wildest performance yet. Aside: Scorsese’s five highest-grossing films, all starring DiCaprio (Wolf, Shutter Island, The deceased, The aviator and Gangs of New York).

3. Raging bull (1980)

The black-and-white biographical drama (written by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin) about boxing champion Jake LaMotta stars De Niro in a transformative role and marks his first pairing with Pesci. Scorsese combines sports action with the criminal underworld, and the film is notable for its magnificent cinematic ring scenes and De Niro’s extraordinary performance. Modestly received upon release and considered powerful but sometimes difficult to watch, Raging bull is considered one of the greatest films of all time and earned De Niro an Oscar for Best Actor.

2. The deceased (2006)

It’s rare for a movie to be great although Jack Nicholson. The Oscar winner’s mocking performance is perhaps the weakest of the film’s star-studded cast. The deceased is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal deeds and plays like a Scorsese version of a Shakespearean tragedy (it even has a deep cut Hamlet quote). The film (written by William Monaghan) combines Scorsese’s best-known storytelling style—which can often feel like free-flowing stream-of-consciousness storytelling—with a taut and tightly structured plot. Here, DiCaprio and Matt Damon play dueling cops, both leading double lives – one working undercover in the criminal underworld and the other working undercover for the mob. Throw in the paternal Martin Sheen, the quick-witted Vera Farmiga, the obnoxious Mark Wahlberg and the cantankerous Alec Baldwin, and you have a compelling crime drama where every scene is stolen by someone. For The deceasedScorsese finally won the Academy Award for Best Director, and the film won Best Picture.

1. Good boys (1990)

Good boys and Godfather (I and II), however, are often considered contenders for the title of greatest mob drama of all time Good boys was initially underrated (the film grossed $47 million worldwide, less than The color of money, released a few years earlier). All the tropes of the director’s crime drama are here: the rise and fall of wise men, voice-over narration, a retro rock soundtrack, graphic violence and a large ensemble of colorful characters. But it’s in Good boys that Scorsese turned all his familiar components into a symphonic crime masterpiece. It’s such a memorable story filled with so much drama (written by Pileggi and Scorsese) that it’s hard to believe Good boys clocks in at less than two and a half hours. De Niro and Pesci are back, along with Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco. Pesci won an Oscar for his performances (as the film lost to Dances with Wolves and Kevin Costner for Best Picture and Director respectively).

Near misses: Silence, The Last Temptation of Christ, The aviator, Alice doesn’t live here anymore.

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