Martin Scorsese is one of the true cinematic greats, having directed some of the best films ever made across seven decades.
Starting with 1967’s Who’s That Knocking at My Door, the diminutive New Yorker has released 25 feature films. He’s all set to launch a 26th in Killers of the Flower Moon, via Apple TV+ and Paramount Pictures.
Based on the 2017 non-fiction book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, it relates the grizzly story of a series of murders that took place in 1920s Oklahoma after oil is discovered on native American land.
As you’d expect of Scorsese, it’s packed full to the rafters with star names. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, Brendan Fraser, John Lithgow — and, of course, Robert De Niro — all feature.
Also typical of a Scorsese joint, it’s damned long, with a running time that approaches the 3 hours and 30 minutes mark. Look, Marty, if you’re going to insist that we watch your movies in a cinema, stop busting our bladders, capisce?
Ahead of the film’s world premiere at Cannes on May 20, we thought now would be the ideal time to highlight the best of Scorsese. Here are the great man’s 10 best films. It’s up to you to vote for the very best.
- Next up, vote for the greatest gangster character of TV and film
Best Martin Scorsese movies
1. Goodfellas (1990)Watch now (Prime Video)
One of the definitive mob films of any era, Goodfellas tells the true life story of Henry Hill, an Irish-Italian-American mobster turned FBI informant. While Ray Liotta is brilliant in the lead role, it’s the support that hits hardest (quite literally), with Joe Pesci’s unpredictable Tommy DeVito on Oscar-worthy form. The true star here, however, is Scorsese himself, with his famous single-take nightclub scene worthy of a major award all by itself.
2. Taxi Driver (1976)Watch now (NOW)
“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?” is a line that has entered into movie lexicon. It comes courtesy of a transcendent performance by Robert De Niro as the troubled war-vet-turned-cabbie Travis Bickle. Scorsese’s film is utterly unflinching in its depiction of mid-’70s New York street life, with its cast of pimps, perverts, and underage call girls – the latter providing an eyebrow-raising early role for Jodie Foster. Too edgy for the Oscars, Taxi Driver nevertheless secured Marty his one and only Palme d’Or.
3. Raging Bull (1980)Watch now (MGM)
From the swooning Pietro Mascagni theme to the technically stunning fight choreography and the striking black and white cinematography, Raging Bull is just about as iconic as Scorsese films get. In one of several signature Scorsese-directed roles, Robert De Niro plays middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta, who battles inner demons and brutal opponents alike. It was the performance that won De Niro his only Best Actor Oscar to date, with Cathy Moriarty and Joe Pesci providing more-than-worthy backup
4. The Departed (2006)Watch now (Netflix)
Hollywood remakes of highly regarded Asian films don’t tend to turn out too well. Scorsese’s The Departed, however, runs the original (Andrew Lau’s Infernal Affairs) mighty close, and might even top it, with only a pat resolution falling short of its inspiration. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon play opposing undercover operatives in a protracted war between the Boston mob and local law enforcement. If nothing else, The Departed is notable for giving Scorsese his one and only Best Director Oscar to date.
5. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)Watch now (Prime Video)
The Wolf of Wall Street was made with a manic energy that you wouldn’t necessarily have expected from a then–70-year-old Martin Scorsese. It’s the perfect approach for a story of such wanton, cocaine-fuelled debauchery and financial impropriety, based on the true life story of corrupt stockbroker Jordan Belfort. Leonardo DiCaprio puts in a suitably manic turn as Belfort, while Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie provide much needed heart and levity in what is, when you really get down to it, a rather nauseating tale of excess.
6. Shutter Island (2010)Watch now (Netflix)
This dark, twisty psychological thriller saw Scorsese returning to his Hitchcock influences, dropping his usual widescreen concerns for a disturbing tale of identity and trauma. Leonardo DiCaprio continues his status as the director’s Robert De Niro for the new millennium, playing a Deputy U.S. Marshal investigating a missing person case on a creepy psychiatric ward. Shutter Island might not have the heft of some of Scorsese’s most famous work, but it’s impeccably made, and it’ll keep you guessing til the end.
7. Cape Fear (1991)Watch now (Prime Video)
Robert De Niro gets to play crazy for Scorsese once again, this time as a convicted rapist seeking vengeance on the lawyer (played by Nick Nolte) he feels deliberately botched his case. Not for the last time, the film sees Scorsese indulging his Hitchcock fandom with a tight, steadily escalating thriller that transcends its humble premise and works its way under your skin. Scorsese ratchets the tension up to almost unbearable levels during several key scenes as De Niro’s muscular baddie terrorises Nolte and his young family.
8. The King of Comedy (1982)Watch now (Disney Plus)
Robert De Niro plays wannabe comic Rupert Pupkin, who obsessively stalks talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) in a bid to catch his big break. Unusually for a Scorsese film, King of Comedy was a bit of a commercial dud, sending the director to the Hollywood naughty step for a time. History has been much kinder to the film, with its twisted, satirically comic edge proving both immensely influential (Todd Phillips’s Joker is essentially a tribute act) and hugely prescient in a celebrity-obsessed age.
9. Mean Streets (1973)Watch now (Freevee)
Mean Streets represents an early run out for a whole bunch of recurring Scorsese themes, including organised crime, brutal violence, catholic guilt, and Robert De Niro chewing the scenery. However, this is no mere prototype. Mean Streets is a great film in its own right, deftly telling the tale of young Italian-American Charlie Cappa (Harvey Keitel) and his attempts to protect his wayward friend Johnny Civello (De Niro) from various unsavoury influences.
10. The Irishman (2019)Watch now (Netflix)
Scorsese’s debut for streaming service Netflix turned out to be a quintessential Scorsese film in many respects, but with some noteworthy extra ingredients. It’s a familiar tale of (true) crime, violence and regret, albeit told across dozens of years courtesy of some fancy de-ageing effects. While it stars Scorsese regulars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, the film also marks Al Pacino’s first ever Scorsese performance. A 209 minute running time, much like Killers of the Flower Moon, suggests that Scorsese sees the streaming age as an excuse to have his way in the editing room.