Martin Scorsese, lovingly known as ‘Marty’, is a talented and exceptional director whose unique and audacious ventures elevate him to the level of an auteur. This bushy-browed veteran director might come off as the most harmless and demure person possible, but his explosive and personal cinematic content has been studied with pleasure and admiration by film-buffs and cinephiles for decades.
Born to Italian American parents in the Garment District of New York in 1942, Scorsese grew up in Little Italy, experiencing downtown life. His struggle with asthma proved to be a blessing in disguise for when he was unable to play sports he instead started watching films and grew increasingly infatuated with them; thus began Scorsese’s arduous yet rewarding odyssey to becoming one of the greatest auteurs of all time. He has battled heavyweight opponents and made a mark in the industry. Today, his cinematic legacy inspires countless filmmakers.
A champion of cinema and founder of the non-profit Film Foundation, Scorsese has always encouraged young filmmakers, arguing passionately and eloquently on behalf of his favourites. Over the years, he has faced truckloads of criticism, starting from his stereotypical and negative portrayal of Italian-Americans to his problems with the Catholic Church as well as the Chinese government — yet the wise-eyed, cheeky-grinned auteur remains unfrazzled and dauntless, as he approaches his latter years.
Scorsese cannot be typecast into a particular genre. He transcends the boundaries set by cinema and traversing his wide spectrum of films, one encounters violent noir films as well as aristocratic love stories, the conflict between divinity and humanity to dysfunctional relationships being disrupted by jealous insecurities. Scorsese has had brilliant partnerships over the years with talented actors like Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Frank Vincent and more. His longest collaboration has been of nine films with the legendary De Niro, and six films with DiCaprio. While his relationship with the veteran actor is “extraordinary special”, he gushes about Leo being his “muse”.
Recently, Scorsese made headlines for comparing the films in the Marvel franchise to “theme parks” and criticising them for not being “cinema”. He later clarified by saying: “Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalise and even belittle the existence of the other,” a sentiment which, if anything, shows his passion for the honesty of cinematic art.
Scorsese is set to direct his 26th feature film with his favourite collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in his new film Killers of the Flower Moon. The film is supposedly about the FBI investigations regarding the Oklahoma murders in the 1920s with underlying ties to oil deposits and could mark one of the director’s final feature film projects.
While fans wait eagerly for the next feature, the talented and mighty ‘Goodfella’ has successfully completed another trip around the sun. To pay tribute to our beloved Marty, we have attempted to rank the auteur’s films in order of greatness. It is difficult to compare films that include a wide range of themes, including aristocratic and opulent period dramas, controversial biographical dramas to fractured psychological character portraits. Here are the five best Martin Scorsese films on Netflix right now.
Best Martin Scorsese films on Netflix:
Hugo Cabret, a lonely orphan, maintains the station clocks and lives in the station walls in 1930s Paris. Along with Isabella, he embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of the broken automaton as well as find a home.
Not a product of Scorsese’s oeuvre, the extravagance and elegance that lies in the innocence of the film is beautiful. Having been nominated for 11 Academy Awards, the powerful performances, as well as the exquisite aesthetics, make it worth watching. James Cameron called the film “a masterpiece” due to its superior quality of 3D effects. Martin’s unabashed love for cinema finds a relevant and magical homage in this film.
The Irishman (2019)
An old school masterpiece, the film focuses on Frank Sheeran, a truck driver-turned-hitman who works in close collaboration with a North-eastern Pennsylvania crime family, headed by Russell Bufalino. Frank begins “painting houses”, a code word for contract-killing and is cold and charismatic. Eventually, he is introduced to the fiery Jimmy Hoffa who has ties with organised crime. Scorsese’s brand-new outlook on the gangster genre is phenomenal.
Finely curated, the film boasts of a heavyweight ensemble, including Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and more. Pacino is exhausted and vulnerable yet loud and funny. DeNiro as the cold-blooded killer does not talk much and carries out his orders without breaking into a cold sweat. Pesci is equally compelling and communicates with his mere presence. Reminiscent of Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, the film conveys how the upcoming modernity is changing the ways of the old world.
The film ends on a poignant note, and with Scorsese’s name in the credits, it is almost heartbreaking to think of how the golden era has come to an end. A brilliant epic, it features the dream team while paying tribute to the dying genre via the inevitable doom that awaits the characters.
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story (2019)
Bob Dylan is speaking, “I don’t have a clue,” he says. “It’s about nothing. It happened so long ago, I wasn’t even born.” Dylan, talking about a series of concerts he gave at the end of 1975, is trying to add flavour to the new Netflix documentary directed by Martin Scorsese, a project which appears to have made a partly fictional reconstruction of the notorious tour called Rolling Thunder Revue—and Dylan decides to play the game as well. Together they create a kind of reinterpretation of a tour that lasted only six weeks but became a highlight in the musical career of Dylan. The singer was in the middle of an artistic peak and had just completed his masterpiece Blood On The Tracks and successor Desire was in the making.
The film of almost two-and-a-half hours is amusing, misleading, stimulating, and a game that seemingly plays with reality and truth. A visual fever dream. At the same time, Rolling Thunder Revue acts as a parody of music documentaries in which talking heads tell strong stories. Dylan once wrote about his wife Sara, penning the words: “So easy to look at so hard to define,” you could say the same about this film.
But rest assured, much of what we see is real and genuine. Just like the live recordings, and most of the interviews from then and now, are authentic. There was indeed a film crew present who feverishly recorded everything and Scorsese makes good use of it. Dylan, who is in great form, plays along as his band appears a bunch of disorderly, but they assemble beautiful, ragged versions of old and new songs
Shutter Island (2010)
US Marshal Teddy Daniels and his newly assigned partner, Chuck Aule, travel to the Ashcliffe Hospital on a remote island to investigate the disappearance of the patient. As Teddy delves deeper into the investigation, he realises the sinister nature of the asylum and its inmates; he must confront the ghosts of his past as well as his fears to be able to successfully leave the island.
Intense and unsettling, Shutter Island is one of Scorsese’s most phenomenal yet underrated works. Provocative, the film challenges the sanity of the viewers. His pervasive gloom and anxiety is heightened by Leo’s outstanding performance as Teddy Daniels, a man haunted by his traumatic past. Mark Ruffalo adds a brilliant dimension to the former. Scorsese pulls off the greatest plot twist at the end of the movie, leaving an indelible mark on the minds of the viewers.
The Departed (2006)
While constantly infiltrating each others’ organisation, Boston Police officer, Billy Costigan, and Boston Mob member, Colin Sullivan, are embroiled in a vicious cat and mouse chase. They find moles in their respective organizations and go to various lengths to prevent that from getting exposed.
One of Scorsese’s best films to date, The Departed boasts of a heavyweight ensemble that includes Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio among others. According to Entertainment Weekly, “If they’re lucky, directors make one classic film in their career. Martin Scorsese has one per decade (Taxi Driver in the ’70s, Raging Bull in the ’80s, Goodfellas in the ’90s). His 2006 Irish Mafia masterpiece kept the streak alive.” In his third successive film with Scorsese, Leo as the hot-headed Costigan brings a wonderful emotional depth and maturity to his character. Fiercely entertaining, it is a shame how Leo did not get a nomination at the Academy.