Martin Scorsese may be a couple months shy of his 73rd birthday, but retirement seems to be the last thing on his mind. He recently wrapped filming on his upcoming movie Silence, starring Liam Neeson and Adam Driver, and right now he's working with Mick Jagger on Vinyl, a 1970s rock show set to air on HBO sometime next year. As we await both new projects, we asked our readers to vote for their favorite films that Scorsese has directed throughout his entire career. Here are the results.
After years of making movies about the mob in the 20th century Martin Scorsese decided to roll back to clock with Gangs of New York. The 2002 film takes place in New York City around the time of the Civil War when vicious gangs battled throughout the city. Daniel Day-Lewis played Bill "The Butcher," a vicious nativist who battles an immigrant gang. Leonardo DiCaprio played an Irish immigrant bent on taking down Bill "The Butcher." The film features an amazing recreation of the New York city Draft Riots that ravaged New York in 1863. It was also the first time that Scorsese worked with DiCaprio, kicking off a very long and mutually rewarding relationship.
Martin Scorsese worked on a few movies before 1973, and was even in the mud at Woodstock as an assistant director, but once he helmed Mean Streets that year his life was never the same. It's the first movie where he had complete creative control, and the story of a couple of small time hoods in New York's Little Italy was instantly hailed as a masterpiece. The film also played a big role in launching Robert De Niro's career, and the two would cross paths many times in the future. It may not get as much airtime as Goodfellas or even Casino these days, but without Mean Streets neither of those movies would exist.
Martin Scorsese's career hit a bit of a slump in the mid-1980s. After The King of Comedy landed with a thud, he was unable to secure funding for The Last Temptation of Christ. He wound up signing onto this wonderfully bizarre movie about a professor who meets a girl in a coffee shop and winds up having the strangest night of his life as he tracks her down to Soho. The black comedy wasn't a huge box-office hit, but critics were rather impressed. Scorsese played ball with Hollywood the next year and directed The Color of Money, and by 1988 was able to finally get a green light for The Last Temptation of Christ.
Casino is, in no way, a sequel to Goodfellas. They are completely different movies involving completely different characters. That said, the two films are very much connected. Both are mob films written by Nicholas Pileggi. Both star Robert De Niro as a cunning, criminal figure and Joe Pesci as a mobster prone to violent, uncontrollable rages. Both show the mob at the zenith of its power before the feds move in and the whole scene unravels. The comparisons were a little too close for some critics who saw Casino as a Goodfellas remake, but fans were just happy to return to this violent underworld one more time. It also holds up amazingly well on repeat viewings, and Sharon Stone and James Woods are absolutely brilliant as a prostitute and a sleazy pimp. Don't watch the version they show all the time on USA. It's not the same movie without the swear words.
After the incredible success of Raging Bull in 1980, Scorsese wanted to make The Last Temptation of Christ with Robert De Niro portraying Jesus Christ. Tired of serious dramas, De Niro proposed they create a comedy instead. The result was The King of Comedy, which centers around a wannabe comic who stalks a talk show host. Scorsese originally eyed Johnny Carson for the role of the talk show host, but when he balked he wound up casting Jerry Lewis. Audiences were largely baffled by the black comedy, which was very atypical for Scorsese, but critics were mostly positive. Scorsese has pretty much stuck entirely to dramas in the three decades since this came out.
Martin Scorsese didn't get a Best Director Academy Award for Goodfellas. They gave it to Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves instead. He also didn't get one for Taxi Driver, Mean Streets or Raging Bull. The Academy Awards didn't give him a single statue until 2007 for The Departed. It's not his best movie, but it's still a wildly entertaining picture about the Irish mob planting a mole within the Massachusetts State Police. Based on the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, it keeps you guessing until the very end as the body count grows and grows. It's the sort of movie Scorsese could have created in his sleep, but it still pulled in nearly $300 million and kicked off a big string of hits for the director.
On Thanksgiving Eve, 1976, the Band threw a farewell concert at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom, inviting an incredible crew of guests that included Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Neil Diamond and many others. Lucky for the rest of the world, Martin Scorsese was on sight with a huge documentary crew to capture nearly every second of it on film. He spent roughly a year editing the footage, while snorting heroic amounts of cocaine, and the end result is arguably the greatest concert film of all time. Band drummer Levon Helm was a noted dissenter, passionately arguing it plays up the contributions of Robbie Robertson and fails to shine a spotlight on Richard Manuel, even when he's singing lead on a song. He has a point, but it's still a great movie.
Jake LaMotta's 1970 memoir Raging Bull: My Story is, at best, a mildly interesting book about a 1940s middleweight boxer with major personal problems. In the hands of Martin Scorsese, it became one of the greatest movies of all time. Robert De Niro gave everything he had to the character, getting into primo shape for the boxing sequences and gaining 60 pounds to display LaMotta in the 1960s when he was washed up and doing comedy shows at seedy bars. Joe Pesci was a largely unknown actor when he was cast as LaMotta's brother, but Scorsese saw the brilliance within him. Raging Bull was hailed by critics when it came out in 1980, and its reputation has only grown in the years since.
The back-to-back success of Mean Streets and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore meant that Martin Scorsese had the power to make pretty much whatever movie he wanted in 1976. The end product of that freedom was Taxi Driver, the tale of a disturbed New York cabbie that becomes infatuated with a woman working for a political candidate. The more she rebuffs his advances, the crazier he gets until he decides to take a drastic action. Along the way, he befriends a teenage prostitute played by Jodie Foster. Over the years, Scorsese and De Niro have talked about creating a sequel, but it seems unlikely that'll ever happen. That's probably a good thing. Some things are best left alone.
Is any movie in the history of Hollywood as infinitely re-watchable as Goodfellas? As good as The Big Lebowski may be, you need to be in the right mood and see it from start to finish to fully appreciate it. Goodfellas doesn't have that problem. Any time it turns up on TV, no matter what point it's at and no matter how badly the network has censored it, changing the station is impossible. Every single scene is compelling. Every line is quotable. It proceeds at a breakneck pace, and by the time Ray Liotta is chasing helicopters while coked out of his mind, you can viscerally feel his fear and paranoia. That's why it won this poll in a colossal landslide, scoring nearly three times as much votes as the Number Two selection.