Martin Scorsese turns 79 today. The Oscar-winner’s films have established him as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
Still at the top of his game, Scorsese’s next film “Killers of the Flower Moon” opens in 2022.
To wish the New York-born director and Oscar-winner a happy birthday, we’ll share our 10 favorite films of his.
Read our picks (and honorable mentions) below:
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10) The Irishman (2019)
Martin Scorsese has potential. The kid can make a movie. But he obviously needs help from acting upstarts Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, as well as editing prodigy Thelma Schoonmaker who helped weave together a 3.5-hour crime saga this bunch could have done in their sleep. We see big things for this crew. Look, we had every reason to think this could end up a bit sleepy and bloated, and perhaps that’s true in spurts, but the bulk of “The Irishman” reminded us all just who runs Hollywood. Netflix? OK sure, but Martin Scorsese seemingly stepped back into the wheelhouse of fast-paced and violent gangster stuff, only to bring us a more meditative look at mortality, sin and regret.
9) The Departed (2006)
A remake of the Korean crime film “Infernal Affairs,” this crime saga deftly tells a complicated story of undercover operations keen on infiltrating the Boston mob, thanks to great lead performances from DiCaprio and Matt Damon, plus standout supporting turns from Jack Nicholson and Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg. While perhaps not Scorsese’s greatest work, this highly entertaining cops-and-robbers drama sees Leo at his most stressed-out on screen, juggling the dangers of his undercover work wherein he could made and murdered at any moment along with the personal anguish of his family that led him down the path.
8) Casino (1995)
Only five years removed from “Goodfellas,” the films certainly share some of the same DNA, primarily Scorsese re-teaming with author and co-writer Nicholas Pileggi, but also De Niro and Pesci back together as partners in crime who also compete with each other over a gambling empire. Overstuffed? Sure, but how else do you tell the Las Vegas excess story without a little fat. And what would you cut from the 178 minutes of this technical marvel employing the talents of masters like editor Thelma Schoonmaker and cinematographer Robert Richardson?
7) The Color of Money (1986)
Scorsese’s most underrated movie? This sequel to “The Hustler” finds Fast Eddie Felson teaching a cocky but immensely talented protégé the ropes of pool hustling, which in turn inspires him to make an unlikely comeback. Paul Newman finally scored an Oscar with a clinic in big screen charm, let alone billiards, that proved anything but a “sympathy” win. Newman and Cruise ooze charisma, but the real stars are Marty’s pals like editor Thelma Shoonmaker and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus just lighting it up.
6) Mean Streets (1973)
More than just a taste of the Scorsese we would come to know and worship, this gritty mob movie stars Harvey Keitel as a small-time hood who tries to keep the peace between his no-good friend Johnny Boy (a young, unpredictable Robert De Niro) and his angry creditors. Perhaps above all, it introduced Marty as the king of movie soundtracks thanks to cues like The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman” and a pair of Rolling Stones hits (“Tell Me,” “Jumping Jack Flash”) that sparked a music/film marriage for the ages.
5) The Last Waltz (1978)
On any short list for greatest music docs of all time, Scorsese’s intimate look at The Band’s famed final run just might be the best. Held Thanksgiving Day 1976 at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, the titular concert drew the likes of guests Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Ringo Starr and Emmylou Harris. But The Band itself — Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and longtime Scorsese pal and collaborator Robbie Robertson — steal the show through their timeless music and behind-the-scenes storytelling through the director’s stylish gaze. Favorite tracks: “It Makes No Difference,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Evangeline,” “Such a Night” and “Dry Your Eyes.”
4) Raging Bull (1980)
The life of self-destructive boxer Jake LaMotta (played masterfully by Robert De Niro in an Oscar-winning performance) told in stark tone and gorgeous black-and-white cinematography (the brilliant Michael Chapman behind the camera). We have no rebuttal for those who consider this Scorsese’s true masterpiece, the searing portrait of a man whose ego and violent temper brought him to the top of his profession and sent him back to rock bottom.
3) The King of Comedy (1982)
This belongs in any conversation where people rattle off Scorsese’s finest achievements, and yet it gets left out. Robert De Niro goes for broke as Rupert Pupkin, an unsuccessful comic who stalks and kidnaps his idol, late night host Jerry Langford (the great Jerry Lewis) to find the fame that long eluded him up to that point. If you love to cringe, this is tailor-made for you. If not, you will implode into a pile of nothing. A great film about lost souls yearning for happiness via celebrity however they can get it.
2) Goodfellas (1990)
Based on Nicholas Pileggi’s book “Wiseguy” that tells the story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his life in the mob — covering his relationship with his wife Karen Hill (Lorraine Bracco) and his mob partners Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) in the Italian-American crime syndicate. Unadulterated rock star filmmaking from one of the greatest to ever do it. Its technical merits would send it to the hall of fame if not for the rock solid story told through Liotta’s compelling narration. A morality tale about what we can confuse with the American Dream, and how we obtain it at the expense of innocent people.
1) Taxi Driver (1976)
An unstable veteran working as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City is driven to madness fueled by his distaste for the city’s morally bankrupt underbelly, resulting in violent urges and actions. Robert De Niro stars as Travis Bickle, with Scorsese (and co-writer Paul Schrader) casting us into his deteriorating psyche as he simmers to a boil in what only feels like a nightmare, though a beautifully realized nightmare through De Niro’s performance and the director’s deft choices. Also spurred by Michael Chapman’s cinematography and the great Bernard Herrmann’s unnerving score. Scorsese’s meditation on one man’s disgust with the ugliest elements of America’s nature shows the darkness at which it can drive certain people.
Honorable mentions: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974), After Hours (1985), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Cape Fear (1991), Shutter Island (2010), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Silence (2016)