Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Scorsese films ranked from worst to best

With one of the most acclaimed movies of 2019 in the form of The Irishman making its much-anticipated debut on Netflix from 7.00pm this evening, what better time can there be than right now to take a crack at ranking every feature movie ever made by directing ace Martin Scorsese?

There are a few more duds in there than most of us would assume, but let the record show when the man's output is good, it is undoubtedly great.

So here they come, in reverse order, with longtime collaborator Robert De Niro at his very best in the bulk of 'em, and Leonardo DiCaprio covering some of the more prominent gaps in later works.

 

25. SHUTTER ISLAND (2010)

The worst thing Martin Scorsese will ever do is a shoddy, ploddy psych-illogical thriller, parking Leonardo DiCaprio in a 1950s insane asylum to battle a chronic case of alcoholism and an even more chronic case of flashback-itis. When it takes 120 minutes just to get to the point where a character must use a blackboard to fill all remaining plot holes, you know you've done your time cold.

WHERE TO WATCH: Amazon Prime Video, Foxtel Go.

 

Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from the “shoddy” Shutter Island.
Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from the “shoddy” Shutter Island.

 

24. KUNDUN (1997)

Scorsese's famous preoccupation with matters of faith, religion and a higher calling has long been linked to a possible cure for insomnia. All the proof you need is this hyper-dull rendering of the early days of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. You've never seen a Dalai lamer. Zzzzzz.

WHERE TO WATCH: SBS ON DEMAND

 

23. WHO'S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR? (1967)

Everyone has to start somewhere, and this was Scorsese's first try at feature filmmaking. There are faint flickers of a future brilliance that can be clearly detected, but not enough to warrant a complete sit-through. A young Harvey Keitel plays a selfish, needy New Yorker who can't handle the fact his girlfriend has "a past," even though it was hardly her fault.

WHERE TO WATCH: not currently available.

 

22. BOXCAR BERTHA (1972)

Movie number two after a five-year hiatus showed some marginal improvement, but no sign of the powerful creative lightning that was set to strike the film world just a year later. A B-grade Bonnie and Clyde with too many flat spots to count. Star Barbara Hershey gives her all. Co-star David Carradine give nothin' whatsoever.

WHERE TO WATCH: STAN

 

Liam Neeson in Silence. Picture: Supplied
Liam Neeson in Silence. Picture: Supplied

 

21. SILENCE (2016)

A punishing passion project from Scorsese is one for the true believers only. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play two young Portuguese priests secretly journeying across 17th century Japan to find out what has happened to long-lost mentor Liam Neeson.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via GOOGLE PLAY, ITUNES, YOUTUBE MOVIES

 

20. NEW YORK, NEW YORK (1977)

A risky experiment by Scorsese - fusing the classic musicals of Hollywood's Golden Age with contemporary acting and storytelling norms - became grand folly inside the first half-hour. Just as grating as this substance-free, suspiciously stylised affair was the annoying pairing of Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli. A few of the performance sequences - including the title track which later became a signature tune for Frank Sinatra - earn a grudging pass mark. The rest is like watching paint never quite dry.

WHERE TO WATCH: not currently available.

 

19. ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (1974)

A rare Scorsese movie that allows for a female protagonist (a criticism that has dogged the filmmaker for decades). As fine as Ellen Burstyn's performance is as a woman looking to reinvent herself after too much bad luck and a few wrong choices, the energy of the film feels very off-kilter, and its ultimate intentions kind of dubious. Some movies just don't stand the test of time, and this is one of 'em.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via iTunes.

 

18. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988)

Just over thirty years ago, the world went into meltdown over the semi-heretic nature of this highly strung "alternative biopic" of Jesus of Nazareth. How alternative? Spoiler alert: he gets off the cross and marries Mary Magdalene. The sacrilegious fun and games don't stop there. And the coherency of this scattershot movie never really gets started for long. Willem Dafoe gives his all in playing the conflicted carpenter, but can't totally overpower the many flaws in play.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via GOOGLE PLAY, YOUTUBE MOVIES

 

17. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993)

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer, this conventional costume drama (adapted from the novel by Edith Wharton) is the safest, 'softest' Scorsese movie on record. There's not a blade to the chest, punch to the head, filthy insult or dollop of blood anywhere to seen. Jeez, you can't even find a single Italian in here for love or money.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via GOOGLE PLAY, YOUTUBE MOVIES

 

Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis in The Age of Innocence.
Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis in The Age of Innocence.

 

 

16. THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986)

This highly unnecessary sequel to the 1960s classic The Hustler is not as bad as the faintly complimentary wraps it received upon release. There's just nothing much cinematic about an old guy (Paul Newman) and a young fella (Tom Cruise) making their best "hey, I'm tryin' to make a difficult shot here!" faces around a pool table for two hours.

WHERE TO WATCH: FOXTEL GO

 

Paul Newman reprises his role as Fast Eddie in The Color of Money.
Paul Newman reprises his role as Fast Eddie in The Color of Money.

 

 

15. BRINGING OUT THE DEAD (1999)

Now we're finally getting to the genuinely good stuff. Nicolas Cage plays Frank, an emergency paramedic in the final throes of losing his mind. However, even at his most unhinged, Frank can't unlearn his reflex tendency to save lives. Will Frank kill himself with drink, drugs and fatigue? Not when the rest of New York City seems to be beating him to it.

WHERE TO WATCH: not currently available

 

14. HUGO (2011)

A truly wonderful children's picture, a work of consummate skill and feeling not normally associated with family fare. The basic plot follows a young orphan boy (Asa Butterfield) who lives in secret at a Paris train station in the 1930s, tending to the maintenance of the platform clocks. However, it is when Scorsese later moves to celebrate the early magic of silent cinema with some inspired flashback sequences that his film really hits a glorious stride. Best 3D visuals this side of Avatar, too!

WHERE TO WATCH: STAN

 

Sacha Baron Cohen and Asa Butterfield in Hugo.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Asa Butterfield in Hugo.

 

13. CAPE FEAR (1991)

Topping the original 1962 pulp thriller (which starred Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum) was always going to take something special for this remake. Enter a tatted-up and off-his-tree Robert De Niro as the menacing Max Cadee, an ex-con harassing his former lawyer (Nick Nolte) for supposedly bungling his defence. The apparent serenity of the two main settings - the lawyer's house, and his houseboat on a remote bayou - is shattered repeatedly with every fresh sighting of the maniacal Max.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via GOOGLE PLAY, ITUNES, YOUTUBE MOVIES

 

12. GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002)

Scorsese's gritty tale of mob rule on the streets of NYC in the mid-1800s represents a truly epic cinematic achievement, steeped in determination, endurance and self-expression. The sheer scale of the project towers over the sum of its parts, especially the uneven performances. Daniel Day-Lewis' virtuoso display as a brutal gang leader sometimes leaves co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz looking rather helpless.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via GOOGLE PLAY, YOUTUBE MOVIES

 

Daniel Day Lewis delivers a virtuoso performance in Gangs of New York.
Daniel Day Lewis delivers a virtuoso performance in Gangs of New York.

 

11. AFTER HOURS (1984)

Probably the only time Scorsese successfully strayed outside his comfort zone and made something great with bits and pieces in his toolbox not used all that often. If you count yourself a true fan and have never seen this atmospheric dark comedy, make sure you correct that oversight this summer. Griffin Dunne (what, no De Niro?) stars as a clueless ordinary Joe who gets sucked in to a sense-snapping night of multiple misfortunes in the artsy-fartsy SoHo precinct of NYC. Very strange, but very strong stuff.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via GOOGLE PLAY, ITUNES

 

10. THE AVIATOR (2004)

A highly entertaining biopic of the eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes, teasing out all the right bits of a loopy life story. What's not to like about an introverted pantsman who somehow produced and directed movies, built a studio, and designed and tested planes while trying to keep a lid on a crippling fear of germs? Scorsese's direction is both wired and inspired, qualities mirrored by a fine performance from Leo DiCaprio as Hughes.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via GOOGLE PLAY, YOUTUBE MOVIES

 

DiCaprio plays Howard Hughes in The Aviator.
DiCaprio plays Howard Hughes in The Aviator.

 

 

9. CASINO (1996)

Robert De Niro plays Sam "Ace" Rothstein, a master gambler appointed head of a plush Vegas casino by elderly Sicilian hoods. To make sure he doesn't get too big for his boots, they also send Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) along for the ride. Nicky is your typically hot-headed Pesci creation, so tactless he's utterly charming, and so cold-bloodedly vicious he should be checked for a pulse. While this pair gradually get on the wrong side of the Mob, Scorsese shoots Vegas as if it is an Old Testament temple pimped out in neon and glitter.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via GOOGLE PLAY, ITUNES, YOUTUBE MOVIES

 

De Niro plays betting ace Sam Rothstein in Casino.
De Niro plays betting ace Sam Rothstein in Casino.

 

 

8. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2012)

At the age of 71, Scorsese returned from an uncharacteristic bout of "playing nice" to the scorched-earth brand of filmmaking with which he made his name. It was all because of the funny, troubling and revelatory true story of Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), the man who put the "broke" in stockbroker. As filtered through an astonishing, abrasively nuanced performance from DiCaprio, the movie keeps acting on a demented urge to be in your face, up your nose and on your nerves at all times.

WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX

 

Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.

 

 

7. THE DEPARTED (2006)

It might well have been a remake - of a wonderful, if little-seen, Hong Kong thriller called Infernal Affairs - but in no way were we being sold second-hand goods. By the time the final act arrives, there is so much pent-up energy on the screen you feel like hiding behind the sofa purely to ensure your personal safety. Then again, even if you were watching from the car park through binoculars, The Departed will still whack you with full force. The ensemble cast blitzes on all fronts, particularly a sinister and domineering Jack Nicholson, reaching a final career peak before disappearing from the business for good.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via GOOGLE PLAY, ITUNES, YOUTUBE MOVIES

 

Jack Nicholson in The Departed.
Jack Nicholson in The Departed.

 

6. THE KING OF COMEDY (1982)

An under-rated entry on the honour roll of grand collaborations between actor Robert De Niro and director Martin Scorsese. De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, a disturbed stand-up comedian who won't stop until his non-existent career actually gets started. Becoming a deranged stalker of a talk-show host (Jerry Lewis in a rare dramatic role) does not turn out to be a great move for Rupe.

WHERE TO WATCH: AMAZON PRIME

 

5. MEAN STREETS (1973)

The rock-solid foundation stone upon which Scorsese based his entire career. All the skills, themes, flourishes and frenetic swings in mood are there for all to see. Set in New York's fabled Little Italy precinct (but interestingly, shot mainly in well-disguised Los Angeles locations), Mean Streets runs with a pack of wannabe "good fellas", the crooks at the bottom of organised crime's pecking order that populated the world Scorsese himself grew up in. The two you'll recognise most prominently are the raw, hungry and hard-up-for-anything duo of Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro. They were unknowns at the time. But not for much longer.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via iTunes.

 

4. THE IRISHMAN (2019)

The 25th feature of Scorsese's storied career is a bona fide masterpiece. Now that it is widely accessible on home streaming via Netflix from today, make sure you catch up with it ASAP. Make a special occasion of it. For that is exactly what Scorsese, longtime allies Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and new recruit Al Pacino (his first movie for Scorsese) have done with their exemplary work here. The movie is based on a disputed, yet compelling true story drawn from the experiences of ex-WWII veteran and Mafia henchman Frank Sheeran (De Niro). With the aid of de-aging screen effects, the narrative spans almost fifty years in Sheeran's life, including his admission to the inner circle of imposing mobster boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his role in the still-unsolved disappearance of charismatic American union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). A three-and-a-half-hour movie that simply glides by with grace, precision, menace and sorrow.

WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX from 7.00pm tonight AEDST

 

Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in The Irishman.
Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in The Irishman.

 

3. TAXI DRIVER (1976)

"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to?"

A landmark drama of urban despair, framed around one of the most complex and deep-coursing character studies ever committed to screen. Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle is an angst-ridden Vietnam War veteran fed up with a country and a culture that has, in his eyes, gone completely to seed. His solution is to turn himself into a vigilante, realising his own chilling prediction that "someday, a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." When Bickle finally snaps, man, does it pour. The masterpiece that secured the reputations of both De Niro and Scorsese for all time.

WHERE TO WATCH: FOXTEL GO

 

2. GOODFELLAS (1990)

A telling reminder of why Martin Scorsese is regarded as one of the great filmmakers of our time. GoodFellas is the true story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), who rose swiftly through the ranks of US organised crime, only to blow it all by contravening the mob's code on dealing in illicit drugs.

In many ways, GoodFellas is an amoral work. Hill declares in the introduction that he believed "being a gangster was better than being President of the United States," and it is sometimes hard not to suspect that Scorsese and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi feel exactly the same way. However, the film makes up for its attractive glamorisation of the gangster way of life in a classic second half, where Hill falls to pieces in synch with a growing cocaine addiction.

Liotta's powerhouse performance is matched in turn by former Raging Bull buddies Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and Scorsese's integration of a hit-driven soundtrack with some audacious camera and editing maneuvers remains a pure master class in movie direction.

WHERE TO WATCH: Rent only via GOOGLE PLAY, ITUNES, YOUTUBE MOVIES

 

Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in the masterpiece Goodfellas. Picture: Supplied
Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in the masterpiece Goodfellas. Picture: Supplied

 

 

1. RAGING BULL (1980)

To spend 130 minutes in the company of Raging Bull is to spend 130 minutes in the thrall of pure cinematic genius.

Remembered by most buffs for the spartan, square-jawed brutality of its boxing scenes (which took director Martin Scorsese over 2 months to film), what really hits you about Raging Bull these days is just how confronting this movie is whenever it steps out of the ring.

For champion pug Jake LaMotta (played with method-maddened accuracy by Robert De Niro), life comes close to making sense only when punching or being punched.

De Niro as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, a movie of “pure cinematic genius”.
De Niro as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, a movie of “pure cinematic genius”.

Almost 40 years on from its original release, all the elements that rendered Raging Bull an instant classic are immaculately preserved inside a vicious vacuum.

You can hardly miss them: Scorsese's abrasive, unsparing assault on his real-life subject, shot in a gritty black-and-white. De Niro's chameleonic morphing into LaMotta, the bloated monster. Joe Pesci cursing and cringing as the boxer's brother, and also, his niggling conscience.

They just don't make films like Raging Bull anymore. Then again, perhaps they never really were meant to at all - believe it or not, Raging Bull lost the 1980 Best Picture Oscar to Ordinary People.

WHERE TO WATCH: Stan

 

 

Tom Cruise is a pool shark in The Color of Money.
Tom Cruise is a pool shark in The Color of Money.


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