Film - Martin Scorsese Top 5


With news of a season of Martin Scorsese films coming to BFI, Susan Omand picks her top five Scorsese films...

Yes, the BFI have announced plans for "a major focus on the films of the colossus of world cinema Martin Scorsese" early next year. The season coincides with the release of his latest historical epic, Silence, which comes to cinemas on 1st January 2017. So this got me thinking about the HUGE back catalogue of work that the man has produced, directed and, yes, even acted in, and I realise that I have hardly scratched the surface. He has 60 Director credits to his name, 58 Producer/Exec Producer, not to mention his numerous acting roles and uncredited cameos and a very memorable Porcupine Fish called Sykes. I don't think I've seen even half of the things Scorsese has been involved in, so there's bound to be obvious things that you're shouting at me for missing off my list below. If there's any really "must see" things, do feel free to add them into the comments and I'll give them a go.

However, before I even get to my film list, I must mention a TV project of Scorsese's that I absolutely LOVED. This was the single season, ten episode, brilliance of Vinyl, co-created by Scorsese with series writer Rich Cohen, Mick Jagger (yes, that Mick Jagger) and Terence Winter of Sopranos, Wolf of Wall Street and Boardwalk Empire fame - how could it NOT be good, right? Set in the 1970's burgeoning New York music industry, Vinyl followed the fortunes of record executive Richie Fenestra, played by the sublime Bobby Cannavale, as he tries to save his failing label at Century Records, having turned down a buy out offer from Polygram, against the backdrop of organised crime, murder, sex, drugs and music... oh the music. I must go on at further length at some point about this series on our twin site at AlbieMedia so that I can talk about the music.

Anyway, I digress. Here's my choices for my top 5 Scorsese films (that I have seen so far.)

5) The Color of Money

Eddie Felson: The balls roll funny for everybody, kiddo.

The 25-years-in-the-making sequel to The Hustler sees Paul Newman return to his character of Fast Eddie from that film in training up a kid to take over the business. That kid was Tom Cruise (and I think we can fairly safely say he did take over the business, in more ways than one). Quite a departure from previous Scorsese films, this one didn't do well with either critics or box-office at the time but I implore you to revisit it, as it really is an oft-overlooked gem.

4) The Last Temptation of Christ

Pontius Pilate: It's one thing to want to change the way people live... but you want to change how they think, how they feel.

Yes, really. This was Scorsese's only R-rated film to date that didn't have any swearing in and was actually banned for quite a while because of its perceived blasphemy for daring to question religious beliefs and for portraying the Christian god as a mere man, in all his weakness. The acting from both Willem Dafoe in the title role and Harvey Keitel as Judas was top-notch, the cinematography and music score were beautiful and this is altogether a film not to be written off as purely for (or NOT for) religious types.

3) Goodfellas

Henry Hill: For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster. To me that was better than being president of the United States. To be a gangster was to own the world.

What? Goodfellas only at number 3? Well, yeah. It's my list. And, while I would agree with you that this is probably one of the best mob-related films ever, yes, even better than The Godfather film, I still think there are better Scorsese films. However this one is great. It has a stellar cast, the acting by Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco et al was pretty near perfect, and marvellous camera work all brought together under the guiding hand of a master in Scorsese's direction.

2) Taxi Driver

Travis Bickle: Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man.

De Niro and Scorsese just work so well together, don't they? Each just really seems to bring out the best in the other, and Taxi Driver is a stunning example of that. Between them they bring such depth and subtlety to the darkness in this film. There's a bleak inevitability behind the violence, a pathos behind the brutality that makes it a truly character led piece. Nobody else could have played Travis Bickle with such broken loneliness in such a minimalistic way and nobody but Scorsese could have got that performance out of him. So what possibly could beat this film?

1) Raging Bull

Joey LaMotta: If you win, you win. If you lose, you still win.

The dream team of Scorsese, De Niro and screen-writer Paul Schrader come together again to make the true-story boxing film that isn't really about boxing. Although De Niro won his Oscar this time for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta, having been nominated previously for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull was the first time Scorsese got an Oscar nomination and it's easy to see why; he really pushed the boundaries. He made a very brave decision, at the time, to film it all in black and white, because that was how he remembered watching the boxing bouts of his youth. The fight scenes themselves, both in and out of the ring, are brutal, violent and intense and the use of sound in the film, particularly the utter silence between rounds is shockingly tangible. All this was storyboarded and planned beforehand by Scorsese then brought vividly to the screen by the Oscar winning editing talent of Thelma Shoonmaker. This is not a film for the faint-hearted but it is a film that really must be seen as a study of man, the animal.

Images & quotes - IMDb

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