Five Mr Scorsese Films Every Man Should See
Mr Robert De Niro in Goodfellas, 1990. All photographs courtesy of BFI.
We round-up the best of the director’s films, ahead of a season of tributes at the BFI.
Known for gritty tales that often draw on his Italian-American Heritage, Mr Martin Scorsese is one of the most celebrated directors working today, as equally adept at drawing voluminous praise from critics as he is at generating those all-important box-office numbers. His landmark films Taxi Driver and Goodfellas (both starring Mr Robert De Niro in career-defining roles) are among the masterpieces of modern film, a fact that is being duly recognised this month by the rerelease of both at cinemas nationwide.
However, Scorsese’s canon of work goes far beyond the “mean streets” scenarios with which he is most commonly associated, covering everything from psychological horror to quirky comedy and sharp biopics, the common thread through all being his intense focus on character development and gripping storytelling abilities.
For anyone not completely au fait with Mr Scorsese’s oeuvre up until now: good news. January (let’s just call it “Scorsese month”) starts with the release of his latest, Silence, based on the 1966 novel by Japanese author Mr Shusako Endo. Then, in the following eight weeks, the BFI are celebrating the filmmaker’s 40-year career through a comprehensive series of film screenings covering almost every Scorsese era, as well as a selection of films curated by the man himself, all of which he considers formative to his work. All, are, of course, recommended viewing (and if you haven’t seen Goodfellas and Taxi Driver… well… sort it out). But if you’re in a hurry and want to just see five, scroll down for our top picks:
Who’s That Knocking At My Door?
Ms Zina Bethune and Mr Harvey Keitel in Who’s That Knocking At My Door, 1967
Scorsese’s first feature film was an unconventional attack on religion and the “guilt of Catholicism”. Mr Harvey Keitel plays JR, a Catholic New Yorker who believes in sex after marriage, only to break down when he learns that his wife was once raped. An upfront story of belief systems and the complex nature of modern relationships, it landed just a few years before the 1960s “free love” bubble burst.
The Color Of Money
Mr Paul Newman in The Color of Money, 1986
Mr Paul Newman stars as Fast Eddie, a champion pool player who turned his back on the circuit of fast deals and table hustles – until he meets Vincent (Mr Tom Cruise), a prodigious player with a bright future and the potential to make Eddie lots of money. This tale of greed, manipulation and humanity sees Scorsese at his most forgiving, capturing the intergenerational conflicts between the two men as psychological drama unfolds between them.
Messrs Johnny Barnes and Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, 1980
From Mr De Niros vast cannon of method acting roles with Mr Scorsese, his portrayal of Bronx-born boxer Jake LaMotta is arguably his finest. Painfully gripping, it follows the story of the firebrand, whose flair and tenacity in the ring was eventually subsumed by personal demons in his domestic life. Much of the fighting in the fiml is real: De Niro fought in three real boxing matches in Brooklyn while training and even broke Mr Joe Pesci’s rib during filming.
Mses Juliette Lewis and Jessica Lange, and Mr Nick Nolte in Cape Fear, 1991
Mr Scorsese’s remake of the 1960s horror classic showed a different side of the director, more Mr Stephen King than street laureate. A convicted rapist, released from prison after a 14-year sentence, begins to rigorously stalk the family of the lawyer who defended him. Thanks to the relatively simple plot, Mr Scorsese was here able to focused his considerable energies on getting the most out of his actors – Mr Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Max Cady is widely considered one of the most compellingly terrifying ever to be committed to celluloid.
Messrs Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon in The Departed, 2006
This classic tale of deception continued Scorsese’s partnership with Mr Leonardo DiCaprio, who he first worked with on 2002’s historical epic Gangs of New York. In the film, the director once again trained his eye upon organised crime, but swapped New York grit (Mean Streets) and Las Vegas glitz (Casino) for Boston’s Irish-American underworld. Featuring A-list performances from Messrs Jack Nicholson, DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg, The Departed dropped Scorsese’s linear narratives for fast-paced, jaw-dropping complexity and was duly rewarded with many awards upon release, including the Academy Awards For Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay.