POP 5 – Martin Scorsese Movies (so far)

Martin Scorsese
MovieDecode completes his second Director Season. Here he shares his Top 5 Martin Scorsese movies.

Written By: Cory Hughes
@MovieDecode
Ah, Marty.
The New Yorker’s vast, encyclopaedic knowledge of all things film is matched only by his incredible ability to make them. Starting his directorial career with his first feature-length film ‘I Call First’ in 1967, Scorsese’s impressive filmography has been beloved my cinephiles across the world ever since.
Choosing only 5 films of his for this list brings with it great difficulty, as you’ll see in a moment’s time. Just, please, ease off in the comments. We have feelings too.

martin scorsese

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The Age of Innocence (1993)

Kicking off the list is perhaps Scorsese’s most undervalued and overlooked picture. His crimson-coated story of societal entrapment against the backdrop of upper class nineteenth-century New York is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s in store.
Helmed by a trinity of elegant performances from Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder and Michelle Pfeiffer, Scorsese tells the story of a young lawyer who falls in love with his betrothed’s cousin, yet make no mistake, this is no mere love story. Much like Scorsese’s other works, there are the unforgiving gangsters; it’s just this time they wear corsets and tightly fitted suits. A truly elegant and beautiful film by Scorsese.

The Departed (2006)

Scorsese’s 2006 venture into the streets of Boston embodies his dominant hold over the crime genre, by bringing forth an intelligently crafted story of deceit and betrayal.
With terrific performances from its highly talented ensemble cast including the likes of Jack Nicholson, Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Damon and Martin Sheen, The Departed is a film for the ages; a testament to Marty’s unparalleled ability to engage his audience. And it has a fantastic finale to show for it all, too. 

Raging Bull (1980)

It’s undeniable that Scorsese’s best films are those that tailor around gangsters and the criminal activities they find themselves in, but there have been few occasions within his career where venturing into unknown territory has worked out well.
None more so than Raging Bull, his 1980 biopic based on the boxing career of Jake La Motta (who has sadly recently passed away). Make no mistakes though, as this is not merely a sports story. Instead, this is a visually stunning account of an implosive, destructive man who is in constant battle with himself and those around him. With perhaps Robert De Niro’s career-best performance in the leading role and with Joe Pesci alongside him, Raging Bull is a film that is driven by strong, empathetic performances. A truly mesmerising account of an interesting individual. 

Goodfellas (1990)

Just narrowly missing out on the top spot is perhaps the pioneer of all gangster movies, a film tantamount to the brilliance of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.
Whilst respect must be paid to the terrifying, physical performances by De Niro and Pesci, it would be easy to overlook the brilliance of Ray Liotta, who at the time was a new face on the acting scene. But it’s the synergy of these performances and the way they compliment each other that allow Goodfellas to be as engaging and as memorable as it is, with a tremendous amount of detail going into the complex characters on offer.
This is perhaps the highest point of Scorsese’s illustrious career, and quite rightly so.

Honourable Mentions:

  • The King of Comedy (1982): An under-the-skin satire of celebrity obsession at its most extreme, helmed by an undervalued De Niro performance.
  • Shutter Island (2010): An enigmatic thriller with a denouement that is not only intelligently crafted, but perfectly executed.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (2013): a sharp, relentless, and superbly entertaining depiction of Jordan Belfort’s destructive life.

Taxi Driver (1976)

My top spot goes to what I think is one of the best crime dramas ever made: Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese’s most artistic film to date.
Michael Chaplin’s expert cinematography is a must see for all those interested in the art of camerawork. Chaplin’s slow paced depiction of Travis Bickle’s everyday life is nothing short of extraordinary, foregrounding his inability to function within society through the use of extreme close-ups and that timeless final overhead shot.
Yet it’s once again Robert De Niro’s flawless performance that drives Taxi Driver forward, never allowing the viewer to disengage from Scorsese’s masterpiece. By truly becoming the terrifying and troubled Travis Bickle, De Niro showcases his impeccable ability to transform himself into a character, even when said character is as unstable as Bickle is.
Taking into account Scorsese’s astonishing career, Taxi Driver is, for me, his most remarkable achievement.

Cory Hughes

Do you agree with this list? Missing your favourite? Sound off in the comments below.

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