Martin Scorsese’s Best Movies, Ranked

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

Legend. Teacher. The OG of modern cinema in the infinite glory of it. Director, writer, and producer Martin Scorsese is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time. His visceral approach and keen devotion to film have inspired generations of artists not only in directing and screenwriting, but also in aspiring actors, craftsmen, and anyone in love with the medium.

The visionary director turns 80 this Thursday, and to celebrate his birthday, Variety ranks the 25 narrative features of his career so far.

Scorsese first mesmerized me with his remake of the 1962 film “Cape Fear” (1991), starring Oscar nominee Robert DeNiro and a young Juliette Lewis, whom he had met from the cult classic “My Stepmother.” He’s an alien.” (1988). The visceral nature of the way the film is framed, interrupting DeNiro’s loud and boisterous monologues, terrified me. That Oscars ceremony marked the first I’ve seen from start to finish, where the likes of “The Silence of the Lambs” won the “Big Five,” including best picture. More importantly, it showcased the Academy’s appetite for suspense and tension, something Scorsese has excelled at.

From his endless list of accolades, both in the US and internationally, he has amassed an impressive list that includes nine Best Director Oscar nominations, the most ever living, and second only to 12 from William Wyler altogether. 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. On the domestic side, his total films have him in the top 50 highest-grossing directors in history. Born in New York City to Italian parents, he is known for his undying love of movies, and it has been reciprocated ten times. 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 freshman year. He later enrolled in New York University, where he earned 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 in Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967), originally titled I Call First, starring fellow Tisch School actor Harvey Keitel and editor Schoonmaker. From there, he went off to the races, working with countless actors, many of whom have been Academy Award nominees. 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.”

Moonflower Killers
Courtesy of Apple

Next up for Scorsese will be his adaptation of David Grann’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which teams him up with frequent Oscar-winning muses Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, along with Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone and Brendan Fraser. Distributed by Apple Original Films, it is expected to be released in 2023.

Read variety Ranking of his 25 narrative feature films below.

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

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