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Film & TV

Martin Scorsese’s Top Movies List

Written by MasterClass

Dec 21, 2018 • 3 min read

Martin Scorsese was born in 1942 in New York City, and was raised in the neighborhood of Little Italy, which later provided the inspiration for several of his films. In five decades of Hollywood film production, Scorsese has created some of the most classic, lasting, and iconic movies of all time (including a few that are considered the greatest films ever made). He’s worked with major movie stars like Robert DeNiro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day Lewis, and Liza Minnelli. He’s won all the major awards and received several lifetime achievement awards for his contributions to cinema.

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Written by MasterClass

Dec 21, 2018 • 3 min read

Top 10 Martin Scorsese Movies

These films are ranked according to highest grossing ticket sales*.

1. The Departed (2006)

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Set on the rough, gray streets of Boston, this crime drama has the Irish mob and the FBI playing a lethal game of cat-and-mouse after both sides discover they have something in common: a mole.

2. Cape Fear (1991)

This psychological drama follows a convicted rapist seeking chasing the public defender whom he believes aided in his wrongful imprisonment. The all-star ensemble includes Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, Gregory Peck, and Robert De Niro, in his seventh collaboration with Scorsese.

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3. Shutter Island (2010)

Scorsese brought prolific writer Dennis Lehane’s disorienting novel to terrifying life in this neo-noir thriller that’s set in a mental institution on a remote island. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a criminally insane U.S. Marshal while Sir Ben Kingsley portrays the lead psychiatrist—who may or may not be one of the good guys.

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4. The Aviator (2004)

Howard Hughes was a film mogul with a passion for aviation—and a serious case of OCD that led to his eventual undoing and ruin. DiCaprio played the lead role in Scorsese’s epic biopic, which won five Academy Awards.

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5. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Based on the memoir of the same name, this black comedy follows the (mostly) true story of fast-talking stockbroker Jordan Belfort (played by DiCaprio in his fifth collaboration with Scorsese). Belfort’s astronomical rise and wealth leads to increasingly ridiculous behavior—until the FBI and SEC gets to him.

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6. The Color of Money (1986)

Paul Newman and Tom Cruise star as pool players (who do their own shots!) in this sequel to the 1961 film, The Hustler. Newman won his first Oscar for the role of Fast Eddie Felson, which he reprised from the original.

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7. Taxi Driver (1976)

A critically-acclaimed and important work of art, Taxi Driver tells the tale of a Vietnam war veteran (a young De Niro) who descends into insanity as he drives a decrepit cab along New York’s gritty streets. The infamous “You talkin’ to me?” line De Niro delivers while staring at himself in a mirror is ranked as one of the American Film Institute’s top 100 movie quotes of the last century.

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8. Gangs of New York (2002)

Set in the slums of mid-nineteenth-century New York, this sprawling period drama follows as religious and racial tensions rise between immigrants and slaves. Scorsese lobbied for twenty years to get the film made; it garnered 10 Academy Award nominations.

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9. Goodfellas (1990)

A classic crime caper, this film has it all: glamour, murder, affairs, and a heist. Recognized by the National Film Registry as a “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” film, Scorsese’s mob movie set the stage for countless works of imitation.

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10. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

A rare rom-com in Scorsese’s oeuvre, this film stars Ellen Burstyn as a bereaved widow wandering the American Southwest. The film was nominated for several Oscars, with Burstyn taking home the award for Best Actress.

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Martin Scorsese Complete Narrative Filmography

Who's That Knocking at My Door (1967)
Boxcar Bertha (1972)
Mean Streets (1973)
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
Taxi Driver (1976)
New York, New York (1977)
Raging Bull (1980)
The King of Comedy (1982)
After Hours (1985)
The Color of Money (1986)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Goodfellas (1990)
Cape Fear (1991)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Casino (1995)
Kundun (1997)
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Gangs of New York (2002)
The Aviator (2004)
The Departed (2006)
Shutter Island (2010)
Hugo (2011)
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Silence (2016)

Big Ideas That Sparked Martin Scorsese’s Films

When Scorsese decides that he wants to tell a story on film, there is a spark: a moment in history, as with The Age of Innocence (1993) and Gangs of New York (2002); a character idea, as with The Aviator (2004); a parallel with films he loved in the past, as with Shutter Island (2010); a theological question, as with The Last Temptation of Christ (1988); or simply a script filled with interesting themes, as with Taxi Driver. Sometimes a book will spark his interest, as was the case with Goodfellas. Both the structure of Nick Pileggi’s book Wiseguy and Martin’s connection to its setting influenced his decision to adapt the text for the screen.

The themes that Martin revisits film after film are sin and redemption, good and evil, and weakness and strength.

Martin Scorsese

Teaches Filmmaking: Study with Scorsese

Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films—from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street—have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach to filmmaking, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make—and watch—movies.

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