20th Dec2018

Do I amuse you?! Martin Scorsese’s Six Best Hits

by James Smith

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Arguably the finest filmmaker of the modern era, Martin Scorsese has continued to entertain and thrill fans with his cinematic brilliance and gripping storylines. The Italian-American has enjoyed a career spanning five decades, generating a reputation that has seen him credited with making some of the best films in history. Although he won’t be in the running for the Oscars best director in 2019, Scorsese has won over 140 awards during his illustrious career and remains one of the most poignant directors in Hollywood, often accumulating praise from the likes of Leonardo Di Caprio and Robert De Niro.

With over 20 films to his name, Scorsese has enjoyed his success after venturing into somewhat unknown territory with his unique style and risky approach to a range of genres. Here, we take a look at Scorsese’s six best hits, and if truth be told, it’s not easy to define them.

6. Shutter Island

Released in 2010, Shutter Island is a psychological thriller which Scorsese directed and featured Di Caprio, Mark Ruffalo and Sir Ben Kingsley in lead roles. Set in 1954, Shutter Island is an institution for the criminally insane which sees Federal Marshalls Edward “Teddy” Daniels (Di Caprio) and Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) travel to the island to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Dr John Cawley (Kingsley) is the lead psychiatrist and his shady behaviour provides reason for Daniels and Aule to be concerned; thus providing a series of plot twists and surprises that eventually reveal the truth behind the disappearance and Daniels’ own identity.

Shutter Island received positive feedback and was voted in the top ten films of 2010 by the National Board of Review, also drawing $294.8m dollars from the Box Office. Although it’s not Scorsese’s best hit, Shutter Island is not to be missed.

5. Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver is one of Scorsese’s more controversial films, but continues to be recognised as one of his finest hits to this day. Starring De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Jodie Foster, Taxi Driver portrays a lonely war veteran called Travis Bickle (De Niro), who eventually succumbs to insanity after becoming angry and frustrated with the world around him.

Bickle plots to assassinate a presidential candidate and save a 12-year-old girl (Foster) from underage prostitution, killing her pimp in the process (Keitel). Bickle also kills an armed robber when he enters a convenience store just moments before the robbery takes place. Although Bickle is later recognised as a local hero, the underlying issues still exist and Scorsese expertly delivers a stunning masterpiece reflecting mental illness and the struggles of daily life.
The 1976 hit has a rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Taxi Driver won the Palme d’Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival – really putting Scorsese’s work on the map.

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4. Gangs of New York

The historical epic is set in the mid-1800s and features Di Caprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz in lead roles. Gangs of New York is perhaps one of Scorsese’s more violent films, centred on the political corruption that was rife at the time. Day-Lewis is simply electrifying in his role as William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting, with Di Caprio playing an orphan named Amsterdam, of whom he attempts to avenge his father’s death from Cutting 16 years previous. Cutting is unaware of Amsterdam’s true identity and intentions, when he befriends him after a chance meeting.

The ensuing acts of violence and brilliant dialogue make Gangs of New York a masterpiece of the modern era. The film was nominated for ten Oscars and generated $193.8m at the Box Office. Day-Lewis won several awards for his role as Bill the Butcher and Scorsese landed the Best Director at the Golden Globe Awards and Florida Film Critics Circle Awards in 2002.

3. The Departed

Released in 2006, The Departed is an American crime drama that stars Di Caprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen. It’s typically portrayed as a modern day tale of cat and mouse, with Di Caprio and Damon’s characters (William Costigan and Colin Sullivan) entangled in trying to reveal a mole placed inside the Massachusetts State Police. Nicholson is stunning in his role as the mob boss (Frank Costello), with brilliant performances coming from Winstone, Sheen and Baldwin which make The Departed one of the best films of the noughties. Scorsese doesn’t hold back any punches and provides a gritty insight into the corruption and deceit that exists throughout the whole film.

The Departed was nominated for several awards and has provided Scorsese’s only Oscars to date, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. Furthermore, The Departed accumulated £291.5m at the Box Office

2. The Wolf of Wall Street

One of 2013’s biggest hits, The Wolf of Wall Street is a biographical crime film that depicts the life of stock broker Jordan Belfort, played by Di Caprio. Belfort led an extraordinary life as he headed his own stock brokerage firm and got stinking rich using unethical and illegal means. Belfort’s lavish lifestyle is represented via a means of hard drugs, sex, and prostitution. The money-driven Belfort is captured superbly by Di Caprio, who unsurprisingly didn’t pick up an Oscar for his role in the film.

The Wolf of Wall Street grossed over $390m and continues to be one of Scorsese’s finest pieces of work to this day. The likes of Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie – who play Di Caprio’s best friend and wife – drew many plaudits for their performances.

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1. Goodfellas

Undeniably one of the best movies of all time, Goodfellas is by far Scorsese’s finest film to date. Released in 1990 and starring Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and De Niro, the American crime film follows the rise and fall of mobster Henry Hill. Hill’s (Liotta) account is based on true events and the film is renowned for the stunning performance of Pesci, who plays Tommy DeVito. De Niro plays truck hijacker Jimmy Conway and it’s arguably one of his finest performances under the direction of Scorsese.

Goodfellas won countless awards after its release including five BAFTA’s in 1991. Pesci was rewarded for his efforts, winning the Best Supporting Actor at the 1991 Oscars. A truly stunning film that will excite generations for years to come.
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