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Best Martin Scorsese movies, ranked

by Stewart Cole

“There is no such thing as simple. Simple is difficult.” – Martin Scorsese

Legend. Mr. The OG of modern cinema in its ultimate glory. Director, writer and producer Martin Scorsese is undoubtedly one of the most influential and greatest directors of all time. His visceral focus and intense dedication to filmmaking have inspired generations of artists not only in directing and writing, but also aspiring actors, artisans and anyone in love with the medium.

The visionary director turns 80 on Thursday and to celebrate his birthday, Variety ranks the top 25 narrative feature films of his career so far.

I was first hypnotized by Scorsese with his 1962 remake of Cape Fear (1991), starring Oscar nominee Robert De Niro and a young Juliette Lewis, whom I knew from the cult classic My Stepmother is an Alien ( 1988). The visceral nature of how the film is framed, cutting back and forth between DeNiro’s loud and boisterous monologues, terrified me. This Oscar ceremony marked the first I watched from start to finish that saw “The Silence of the Lambs” win the “Big Five” including Best Picture. More importantly, it demonstrated the Academy’s appetite for suspense and tension, something that Scorsese has excelled at.

From his endless list of accolades, both in the US and internationally, he has amassed an impressive roster that includes nine Best Director Academy Award nominations, the most of any lifetime, and second only to William Wyler’s 12 total. They include “Raging Bull” (1980), “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988), “Goodfellas” (1990), “Gangs of New York” (2002), “The Aviator” (2004), “The Departed” (2006), ‘Hugo’ (2011), ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013) and ‘The Irishman’ (2019). His only statuette is for the 2006 remake of “Infernal Affairs,” which also won best picture, adapted screenplay (William Monahan) and editing (Thelma Schoonmaker).

His entire filmography has grossed more than $2.1 billion worldwide. Domestically, all of his films rank among the top 50 directors in history. Born in New York to Italian parents, he is known for his undying love of cinema and has responded ten times over. After attending Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, Scorsese initially set out to become a priest and attended a preparatory seminary, but dropped out after his first year. He later enrolled at New York University, earning a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education.

After making several short films in the 1960s, he made his directorial debut Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967), originally titled I Call First, starring fellow Tisch School actor Harvey Keitel and longtime editor Schoonmaker. From there, it was off to the races, working with countless actors, many of whom have embraced Oscars. Some of them include winners Ellen Burstyn for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (1974), Robert DeNiro for “Raging Bull,” Paul Newman for “The Color of Money” (1986), Joe Pesci for “Goodfellas” and Cate Blanchett for “The Aviator”.

Killers of the Flower Moon
Courtesy of Apple

Next up for Scorsese will be an adaptation of David Grann’s book ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ which reunites him with frequent muses and Oscar winners Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, along with Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone and Brendan Fraser. It is distributed by Apple Original Films and is expected to be released in 2023.

Reading Variety the ranking of his 25 narrative films below.

“Death comes in a flash, and that’s the truth, the person is gone in less than 24 frames of film.”

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