10 best Martin Scorsese movies, ranked

Leonardo DiCaprio standing near an American flag in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Paramount Pictures

When looking at the career of an influential filmmaker like Martin Scorsese, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by its vastness. During his nearly six-decade career, Scorsese has made 20 scripted feature films and several documentaries – almost all of which are now considered classics by cinephiles. In the weeks leading up to the release of his latest film, flower moon killerThe quality of Scorsese’s filmography is particularly evident. No other filmmaker over the past 50 years has created so many indelibly classic films – masterpieces that strike the perfect balance between the personal and the universal that has always been at the heart of great cinema.

Trying to rank any of his films feels like a fool’s errand, if only because many of them seem to grow in both depth and complexity based on more time spent with them. However, in honor of Scorsese’s latest directorial effort, we’ve decided to rank his 10 best films as definitively as possible.

10. The Departed (2006)

Matt Damon sits behind Jack Nicholson in The Departed.
Warner Bros. Pictures

heavenly resident It will always be known as the film that finally won Martin Scorsese an Oscar, which is a strange reputation for a film that is so over-the-top, acidic, violent, and devilishly funny. A loose remake of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, heavenly resident Scorsese is at his loosest, funniest, and – quite hilariously – light-hearted.

At no point throughout the film does one get the sense that the director is taking this very seriously, which only adds to its effectiveness. heavenly resident (It’s one of Scorsese’s most purely entertaining films.) And its double-agent plot is even more impressive.

9. Casino (1995)

Robert De Niro stands under the casino lights at the casino.
universal pictures

if someone else had made it casino, this will probably be considered his best film. However, for Martin Scorsese, it undeniably ranks high as one of his many lesser masterpieces. Coming five years after the 1990s goodfellas, the film is bigger, longer, and more astonishingly gorgeous than its predecessor, but not as precise or hard-hitting. When it was released, everyone agreed that it was a charming, but ultimately less spiritual sequel. goodfellasAnd that consensus continues to tarnish its reputation.

However, thirty years later, casino It’s not different because of what it has in common goodfellasBut because of what sets it apart from that film – namely, its glitzy Vegas setting, unnaturally romantic first half, and Sharon Stone’s performance which is one of the best performances Scorsese has ever captured on screen .

8. Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

Lily Gladstone watches Leonardo DiCaprio in Killers of the Flower Moon.
Paramount Pictures/Apple Original Films

Martin Scorsese’s latest film is also one of his most ambitious, grandiose and exciting works to date. Based on the 2017 novel of the same name by David Grann, flower moon killer is a costly 206-minute epic about a series of meticulously organized and brutal murders against the oil-rich people of the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma.

With its grim tone, unflinching depiction of violence, steady gaze, and mournful pace, the film exposes not only the painful truths of America’s past and present sins, but also Scorsese’s own complex relationship with that country, Which he calls his home. It’s probably too early to call it a masterpiece, but time will probably be just as kind flower moon killer As in all Scorsese films.

7. The Age of Innocence (1993)

Michelle Pfeiffer hugs Daniel Day-Lewis in The Age of Innocence.
columbia pictures

Martin Scorsese’s most romantic film to date is one of his most painful, delicate, and beautiful. a left-turn follow-up goodfellasof 1993 age of innocence There’s an Edith Wharton adaptation that sees Scorsese traveling to a version of New York City he’s rarely seen before. It’s a tragedy of etiquette as it is. goodfellasA portrait of a very specific American subculture, age of innocence It was long considered one of Scorsese’s most underrated films. Its recent critical renaissance makes it difficult to classify it as such now, but the praise it has received is deserved.

Boasting two of the all-time great performances from Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis, age of innocence It’s a wonderful cinematic love story – one so full of longing and heartache that at some moments it feels like it’s just going to burst. Of course, that never happens, which is where its genius really lies.

6. The King of Comedy (1982)

Robert De Niro sitting on a red chair in The King of Comedy.
20th century Fox

A satirical black comedy that is becoming more wise and prescient with each passing year, king of comedy It was a box office flop when it was released – a fact that Martin Scorsese himself has still not recovered from. Given how impressive its craft is and how spot-on its criticisms of America’s ever-expanding celebrity culture are, it shouldn’t do either.

Huge loss till 2019 Joker, king of comedy It’s a strange cocktail of disparate, seemingly contradictory voices and performances, and yet it goes more smoothly than it should. Only a filmmaker as talented as Scorsese could have made a film that was so profoundly perceptive as well as watchable, and only someone as openly obsessed as him could have managed to blend comedy, violence and contempt so well. Could have done.

5. The Irishman (2019)

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino standing in a deli in The Irishman.

Irishman The film is the culmination of Martin Scorsese’s lifelong obsession with organized crime and the mob. Starring one of the greatest trio ever to grace the screen in the form of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, the film follows De Niro’s Frank as he slowly but surely tries to keep his life together. It erases the only meaningful aspects of your life. Place within the crowd. It’s just as charming and violent as Scorsese’s other crime films, but what makes it Irishman resonates so deeply its final third, which goes even further mean streets, casinoAnd goodfellas By showing where life without loyalty, respect or love leads.

There is nothing more cruel than creating time and its characters Irishman Fully acknowledging this fact, Scorsese delivers some of his most insightful observations to date about the ways in which selfishness and short-sightedness can diminish the sum total of one’s life.

4. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro stands near the ropes of a boxing ring in Raging Bull.
joint artist

The most fascinating, raw portrayal of male weakness ever put to screen, raging Bull It’s as naked an example of Martin Scorsese’s immense talent as the filmmaker has ever created. Starring Robert De Niro as real-life boxer Jake LaMotta, raging Bull It has long been known for the dramatic physical transformation undergone by its lead actor, who won his second Oscar for his performance in the film.

However, what makes the film such a masterpiece of art is how beautifully Scorsese embodies his own style, which is by turns at its most plain and poetic. raging Bull, both highlights and matches the intensity of De Niro’s seismic performance. The result is one of the most haunting portraits of a psychologically wounded man you will ever see – and yet it is one of the many masterpieces that De Niro and Scorsese have created together.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio standing near a microphone in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Paramount Pictures

The Wolf of Wall Street This is Martin Scorsese’s most disgusting film yet – and also his funniest. A pitch-black comedy about notorious stockbroker and financial criminal Jordan Belfort, the 2013 film is a three-hour tale of American greed that teases its subjects by presenting the absurd excesses of their lives starkly, nakedly. This is the closest Scorsese has ever come to remaking Fellini lovely lifeBut it finds its genius by insisting that the real criminals – financial brokers like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Belfort – feel no sense of shame or internal conflict over the unnecessary indulgences of their lives.

the shamelessness of The Wolf of Wall StreetThe characters make the collective emptiness of its many grand adventures all the more devastating, and it’s a testament to Scorsese’s talent that he’s able to make the film simultaneously funny and exciting.

2. Goodfellas (1990)

Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta sit together at a diner booth in Goodfellas.
Warner Bros. Pictures

goodfellas This is the most beloved film Martin Scorsese has ever made, and with good reason. Based on the life of former mobster Henry Hill, the 1990 classic is a rousing, anxiety-inducing portrait of the New York Mafia that finds Scorsese working at the peak of his filmmaking powers. Featuring four iconic performances from Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco, goodfellas The subject matter represents a complete synthesis of matter and form.

It features the best Steadicam shots of Scorsese’s career, needle drops and coked-up, whip-fast editing, and utilizes the long montage structure of François Truffaut’s first part. Jules and Jim To create a picture of organized crime that is rich in complexity and detail and comprehensive in its scope. This is the rare film that is more than the sum of its parts. It has an indescribable quality goodfellas It will keep you coming back again and again for more.

1. Taxi Driver (1976)

Robert De Niro sitting in a movie theater in Taxi Driver.
columbia pictures

The top two films on this list could easily be swapped. They differ not by degree of greatness, but only by degree of smallness. However, in the 56 years that he has been directing films, Martin Scorsese has never made a film that is so impeccably conceived and constructed. Taxi driver, An exploration of urban loneliness and male toxicity that has yet to be rivaled, this 1976 classic is, perhaps, the greatest character study in cinema history. No other film puts you so easily into the mind of its protagonist, and few have presented the horrors of misplaced bitterness and hatred so effectively.

In a movie that could have easily gone wrong, Scorsese didn’t make a single wrong decision Taxi driver, From each of its immaculately dirty frames to Bernard Herrmann’s breathtaking score and Robert De Niro’s titanic lead performance as Travis Bickle, this is a film made of a million perfect decisions – an opera that never fails to hit the right notes. .

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