RANKED! 7 Best Martin Scorsese Movies Before ‘The Irishman’
Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures
Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, let alone of the New Hollywood generation. He shines even among his sainted contemporaries like Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas. Indeed, his films have been celebrated for decades—and rightfully so. Today, he is a film mogul, serving as a producer and film restorer as much as he does a director or writer. He has filled his filmography of late with documentaries and even a short-lived television series, Vinyl.
For a man well into his 70s, he has shown very little struggle adjusting to the times. His next film, The Irishman, is highly anticipated and will rear its head on Netflix later this year. With a cast including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, and Joe Pesci, it really does feel like Scorsese is getting the old band back together. Until then, here are his seven best films ranked.
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7. ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street proved to any naysayers that Scorsese still had the juice to make a fantastic picture, even well into the 21st century. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a transformative performance—one of the best of his career—as Jordan Belfort. Belfort is a real-life scammer who made his vast fortune by overstating the value of penny stocks. It is as darkly funny and well-paced as anything Scorsese made when he was at the height of his skill and popularity.
6. ‘Bringing Out the Dead’ (1999)
Bringing Out the Dead is an understandably glib film based on the novel of the same name by Joe Connelly. Nicolas Cage gives one of his career-best performances as a New York City paramedic who is starved for sleep and haunted by the ghosts of the victims he couldn’t save. This underrated film is both moving and unnerving.
5. ‘Raging Bull’ (1980)
Raging Bull, based on Jake LaMotta’s own memoir, Robert De Niro gives a fantastically layered performance as the raging bull himself. LaMotta was a boxer whose heyday was in post-war New York City. His career and life were tumultuous at best. Here, Scorsese does what he does best: adapting a written intimate look at a dark character of recent American history and masterfully bringing it to screen with all the grace and skill we have come to expect.
4. ‘Mean Streets’ (1973)
Everyone has to start somewhere, but rarely is someone’s early work as refined as Mean Streets is. While not his directorial debut, it is at least three years older than any other movie in this list. It is a somewhat aimless film, which mirrors its characters and their struggle to know what to do—or to care about whether they’re doing the “right” thing or not. It is a brutally honest film in the way only a young filmmaker could make, yet Scorsese’s hand behind the camera shows a steady confidence well beyond his years.
3. ’The King of Comedy’ (1982)
The King of Comedy is easily Scorsese’s most underrated film. It seems only right that Scorsese bring his dark comedic sensibility to the stand-up comedy scene when it was at its peak in the early 1980s. De Niro gives one of his many laudable performances as Rupert Pupkin, a mentally unstable would-be comedian who goes through rather unorthodox and undeniably Scorsesian methods to break into the comedy industry. If someone were to insist it was the best of his films, it would be hard to argue against.
2. ‘Goodfellas’ (1990)
Just about every grown American knows the story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), almost entirely thanks to Goodfellas. Drawing from Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy, Scorsese painstakingly recreates a great deal of Hill's life being groomed by mobsters and eventually rising through the ranks himself. The May 11, 1980 sequence in particular is truly spectacular. In fact, we think it’s one of the crowning achievements of his illustrious career.
1. ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976)
Taxi Driver was Scorsese’s breakout film for a reason. It features an all-timer performance from the great Robert De Niro and an undeniable script from Paul Schrader. It sees De Niro as Travis Bickle, a New York City cabbie whose inability to affect change in the harsh world around him leads him to a break with reality. It is difficult to find something to say that has not already been said about the deservedly-praised Taxi Driver. What is perhaps most shocking is that it was only the second film that Schrader wrote. It would begin one of the most valuable partnerships in American cinema.