This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Learn more

Scorsese on set

Five decades of filmmaking genius

Scorsese on set

If you don’t like Martin Scorsese you don’t like movies. Not our words, but those of Robert De Niro and he knows a thing or too about the moving pictures business. Ok, they’re our words – we thought using De Niro would add gravitas.

In truth, there’s no need to embellish Martin Marcantonio Luciano Scorsese. His films, from his gritty and breathtaking early work – Mean Streets and Taxi Driver – his grand middle – Raging Bull, The King of Comedy and Goodfellas - and his ascent into filmmaking elder statesman – The Departed and Shutter Island – are all marked by fulsome touches of genius.

What better reason then to have a look at the great master at work.

Pictures: Rex Features, Corbis

Mean Streets (1973)

‘My whole life has been movies and religion. That's it. Nothing else.’ So says the great man himself. And this dichotomy is right there at the heart of his breakout film, Mean Streets, which had the tagline ‘You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets.’ Mean Streets was also his first collaboration with one Robert De Niro. The pair have worked together another seven times.

Taxi Driver (1976)

As much as De Niro owns the role of sociopath Travis Bickle, Scorsese first offered the part to Dustin Hoffman. Incredibly, Hoffman declined the Oscar-grabbing part. A decision he has since acknowledged was somewhat wrong.

Raging Bull (1980)

Scorsese admits that directing Raging Bull saved his life. Prior to making this biog of boxer Jake La Motta, Scorsese was addicted to cocaine and after suffering a near fatal overdose, De Niro implored him to clean up so they could work on this movie.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

For a film already drenched in controversy – a horny Jesus getting it on with Mary Magdalene, yes, that’s not gonna irk anyone in particular, Scorsese banned smoking on set for fear photographers would grab shots of Willem Dafoe puffing on the evil weed. We’re sure the fact that Marty suffers from asthma would have contributed to this decision too.

Goodfellas (1990)

Both Scorsese’s parents had regular cameo appearances in his movies. Perhaps their best known came in his mob masterpiece, Goodfellas. His mum, Catherine, played Joe Pesci’s loving mum (remember how his character Tommy was shot in the face so his mum couldn’t give him an open casket funeral) and his dad Charles was the prisoner who puts too many onions in the tomato sauce.

The Age of Innocence (1993)

You wouldn’t think an adaptation of an Edith Warton novel would prove to be Scorsese’s most violent film, but that’s what he believes The Age of Innocence to be. We assume he’s referring to the emotional violence rather than any physical suffering. The Age of Innocence was also dedicated to his dad who died just before the film was completed.

Gangs of New York (2002)

Although he didn’t make a film about New York’s bloody history in the Five Points area until 2002, Scorsese first planned the film in the seventies. Then he thought about casting Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in the roles of Amsterdam Vallon and Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting. After Belushi’s death talk turned to Mel Gibson and Willem Dafoe in the roles, before, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis starred. Unsurprisingly, De Niro was considered for both parts at various stages of his career.

The Aviator (2004)

Scorsese’s celebrated biopic of legendary Hollywood recluse Howard Hughes begins with Hughes directing Hell’s Angels, a film that Scorsese recognizes as one of his favourite movies.

The Departed (2006)

Upon belatedly winning a best director door stop, sorry, Oscar for his smoking remake of the classic Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, Scorsese explained that The Departed was his only film to have a plot. We think he was being slightly disingenuous.

Shutter Island (2010)

Only released earlier this year, Shutter Island, an adaptation of Dennis ‘The Wire’ Lehane’s feted novel, is already the highest grossing movie of Martin Scorsese’s 40-year career. How queer.