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All 24 Martin Scorsese Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

21 March 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Redmond Bacon

The Hollywood New Wave was one of the most fruitful periods for American filmmaking, giving birth to directors as diverse as Oliver Stone, Francis Ford Coppola, Hal Ashby, Brian De Palma and Steven Spielberg. Yet, of those directors, there is one that ranks head and shoulders above the rest: the Italian-American maestro Martin Scorsese.

From his 1967 debut Who’s That Knocking On My Door to this year’s Silence, Scorsese has repeatedly proven himself to be not only the greatest American director, but perhaps the greatest director of all time. Very few filmmakers have a filmography that contains just so many classics.

This makes ranking them a tricky proposition. With so many great films, just how does one go about listing them from best to worst? The difficulty with Martin Scorsese is not so much in knowing where to put Goodfellas or Taxi Driver or Raging Bull (spoiler alert: at the top) but what to do with films as diverse as After Hours, The Age Of Innocence or even Shutter Island.

It is in debating the merits of the other films in his vast filmography that things get interesting and the arguments start to fly. Nonetheless, for those who are new to the films of Scorsese, a ranked list also lets them know where to start. So without much further ado, here are his films ranked from worst to best.

Please note that this list only ranks Scorsese’s fictional feature movies, all the documentaries he made are excluded here.

 

24. Kundun (1997)

Kundun (1997)

The film at the bottom of this list was always going to be Kundun. Scorsese’s movies are known for being alive — yet this film is one of the most inert and boring ever made. Filmed in location in Tibet itself, it is filled with brilliant production design, yet it moves at such a snail’s pace, only true Scorsese devotees are going to even make it to the finish line.

Nonetheless, only Scorsese would have the chutzpah to make a film such as this, with only Tibetan actors, and despite it not working on nearly every level, his ambition should remain highly respected. When thinking of its asceticism as a dry run for the great Silence, Kundun feels like a bad first draft that somehow became an actual movie in and of itself.

 

23. Boxcar Bertha (1972)

Boxcar Bertha

Made as a favor to the legendary producer Roger Corman, Boxcar Bertha contains little to none of the personal signatures of Martin Scorsese’s best movies. A 1930s depression picture, in which the gang act like Bonne and Clyde and rob trains in order to make their money, the film was a for-hire gig that Scorsese engaged in before he was able to make the infinitely better Mean Streets.

Another rare film of his anchored by a female performance, Boxcar Bertha features Barbara Hershey in the role that put her on the map. If there is any reason to see the movie, it is for her scenery-chewing performance.

All in all, the film remains a relatively boring B-movie that could have been made by anybody else. Famously John Cassavetes told him after a screening of the movie: “Marty, you’ve just spent a whole year of your life making a piece of shit. It’s a good picture, but you’re better than the people who make this kind of movie. Don’t get hooked into the exploitation market, just try and do something different.” Thankfully for us, Scorsese got out of the genre trap and became the great director we recognise today.

 

22. The Color of Money (1986)

The Color of Money (1986)

On paper this film should have been great. A sequel to The Hustler starring both Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, it had the potential to mark a key moment in the history of Hollywood. Nonetheless, it falls rather flat and feels rather vapid, making it more like Tom Cruise’s Cocktail and Top Gun instead of Tom Cruise’s Rain Man and Born On The Fourth Of July.

Set in the world of pool hustling, Tom Cruise’s character is Paul Newman’s protégé, as we are taken across America in a story of how to make money from winning games. Unlike its prequel, The Hustler, The Color Of Money never has anything to say, apart from teaching the viewer the best way to sink an eight-ball.

Scorsese movies are usually much more than their ostensible subject. Yet, sadly for The Color Of Money the best thing that can be said about the film is that the pool games themselves look pretty cool.

 

21. Hugo (2011)

2011_hugo

Martin Scorsese making a children’s picture? Unsurprisingly it doesn’t really work; making for a film about the magic of filmmaking that in itself doesn’t contain any magic.

There is plenty of visual wizardry, from the luscious production design of the train station to the movies within the movie, but Hugo ultimately falls flat due to Scorsese making this a film for kids that will entertain only adult movie buffs and possibly send the kids themselves to sleep. It is beautiful to look at, but it really just feels like a two hour museum piece.

There is no real drama in this film, meaning that it never takes off as an effective entertainment. Additionally, what little excitement there is to be had is diluted by the anemic performances of Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz. Total film nerds may appreciate the technical aspects of the movie; for everyone else, it remains a bore.

 

20. Who’s That Knocking On My Door (1967)

Who’s That Knocking at My Door

Marking the first time that the independent, improvised shot-on-the-fly world of Cassavetes’ met the grand American moral tradition of films such as On The Waterfront, Who’s That Knocking On My Door was a quiet revolution in New Wave cinema. Starring Harvey Keital as a conflicted Catholic with a madonna/whore complex, this small movie sees him meet a young girl (Zina Bethune) and fall in love with her. This romance is severely complicated however, when he finds out that she has been raped.

Scorsese would return to these themes of complicated masculinity later in his career with much more subtlety — most notably in Raging Bull and Taxi Driver — but Who’s That Knocking On My Door is as fine a debut as many filmmakers can hope to make. Already imbued with his predilection for pop songs of the time — such as The Door’s “The End,” during a bizarre sexual fantasy — the film already sees Scorsese as a highly excitable director, full of energy, ready to make his mark on the world.

 

19. The Last Temptation of Christ (1989)

the_last_temptation_of_christ

Perhaps more famous for the controversy surrounding the film than the film itself, it caused quite a stir in its suggestion that Jesus may have been engaged in a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene. Yet, once all that controversy died down, it can be seen as one of Martin Scorsese’s most personal statements about religious belief and dying for a noble cause. It shows Jesus having to make a choice, between doing what is right and living a normal life, giving the film a fascinating moral dimension.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the film has somewhat dated since its 1989 release. What it does show is how Scorsese remained one of the few American directors with the clout to make a big-budget spectacle about religion and still be respected in the process. This makes him a true rarity indeed.

 

18. Cape Fear (1991)

Max Cady (Cape Fear)

After pulling out every stop in Goodfellas, Scorsese made one of his smartest moves in scaling back and remaking the noir Cape Fear from 1962. Instead of trying to again match arguably his best movie, the opportunity of playing around with genre expectations proved too much of a strong draw.

This is what makes Cape Fear an exciting movie, but never on the level of greatness of his previous film and his subsequent masterpiece The Age Of Innocence. In that respect it seemed to function as a much needed stop-gap for Scorsese to rediscover his creative energy.

At times it is hard to see exactly what Cape Fear is trying to do; either honor the noir genre or provide a thinly-veiled parody. This tonal inconsistency is what makes it a deeply weird and arguably unsuccessful film. Nonetheless, DeNiro makes for a truly frightening villain, always smiling, but always with another trick up his sleeve.

Nick Nolte, likewise, plays the so-called good guy with brilliant ease, and Juliette Lewis is pitch-perfect as the terrified daughter. It is in the film’s climax that it threatens to become one of the greats; its legacy forever captured when it was parodied in perhaps the greatest Simpsons episode, “Cape Feare”.

 

17. New York, New York (1977)

New York, New York (1977)

Released in the year that punk became mainstream, New York, New York is Scorsese’s throwback to a completely different era. Depicting the big band boom that came after the Second World War, it stars Robert DeNiro and Liza Minelli as two star-crossed lovers and musicians who try to navigate this brave new world, constantly arguing with each other in the process. It is admittedly a film that never coalesces into a proper whole, yet from scene to scene it never fails to be entertaining.

Nevertheless, perhaps the greatest film’s legacy is the eponymous song that was conceived as the final showstopper. Although expertly covered by Frank Sinatra in 1980, Liza Minnelli’s version of the song remains one of the most heartfelt musical performances in all film history; something that redeems the more meandering parts of the rest of the film.

 

 

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  • Karttikeya Bihani

    I can respect these rankings but with a track record of Scorsese , it’s almost unfair to have his movies ranked.. they’re all great in their own way as they’re all different (albeit some movies have similar themes, but still..)

  • Chris Saunders

    Wolf Of Wall Street at number one? You really have to be kidding. It’s a good film but it’s overlong and almost borders on self parody at times.

  • Zwei

    The Wolf of wall street is a hollow and shallow film

  • Tim O’Hare

    You didn’t get the Goodfellas quote right. It’s ‘As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.’ I can only assume that you haven’t seen Goodfellas in quite some time so I suggest you rewatch it and you will see how it stands above all his movies.

  • bitches brew

    i always thought of “The King of Comedy” is Scorsese/De niro best collaboration .

    • Abhishek

      I second that!

    • Mortimer

      In top 3 for me, surely.

  • Siniša Stajić

    Very bad ranking in my opinion.

  • Dave

    You couldn’t be more wrong about numbers 1 & 24. While Kundun is not his best work, it’s a visually stunning film that puts you in a meditative mood very much like Buddhist philosophy. Wolf of Wall Street is far too long a film and starts to become a struggle about half way through. To say it’s better than Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets or Raging Bull has me scratching my head

  • Mortimer

    Anyone who thinks that Wolf of Wall Street is better movie than Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas needs his head to be examined. Seriously.

    WOWS is just a poor man’s Goodfellas. Bloated, overlong and yes – boring at times.

  • Ted Wolf

    I always felt that The Passion was second only to Passolini’s Gospel According to St. Matthew in really telling the Christ story with conviction.

  • Wow, all this negativity towards The Wolf of Wall Street. Personally, I love the film as it’s definitely my favorite Scorsese film so far. It’s just it’s fucking bonkers through and through. Plus, I will never forget the fact that when I went to the theaters on Xmas morning to see this. There weren’t a lot of people who went to see that film but everyone in that theater laughed their fucking asses off during the Qualuudes scene. The laughter was fucking loud as it was truly the funniest thing I saw in that entire year. I think someone did wet himself during that moment but was like “fuck it”. I strutted my way out of that theater with a smile in my face and told the people to fucking see this shit.

    • Mortimer

      Blah, I’m going to watch Heaven’s Gate again instead 🙂 Better movie.

      • I like Heaven’s Gate. It’s flawed but a damn good movie.

        • Mortimer

          I know. Prologue and epilogue are brilliant but the central part is a bit bloated and messy. Many flaws but still like it. Have you seen documentary The making of Heaven’s Gate ? It’s terrific (funny and sad at the same time).

          • I have seen Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate. It’s a flawed doc but certainly an engaging one.

    • Damn, for people who seem to be Scorsese advocates they sure hate a lot of his films. Wolf takes many of the same devices (and themes) from previous films and improves upon them.
      Now, I don’t agree it’s #1, but do see a strong argument for it. As for me, I’m a fan, but find most of Scorsese’s “masterpieces” are overrated in the canon of great American cinema.

    • Jonathan Espinoza

      I always hate when people have to shit on something to lift another related thing up. Like you can just say Wolf of Wall Street is not your favorite but people here are talking about WOWS like its the worst movie they have ever seen.

      • screaminjay

        It’s the fact it’s a new film and people believe the movie that been praised as masterpieces for decades are by default greater than the more recent ones. I mean, if the list was made four years after Goodfellas and the guy said that was one of his best, people would argue it’s in no way better than Taxi Driver or Raging Bull.

        “Best” films take a time to get a hold of their greatness. It just happen overtime. Newer movies are rarely considered as good as all the classics that have been noteworthy “best” for decades. But it’s all subjective. Goodfellas was an amazing entertaining movie. Great music, characters, story, perfect voice-over narration, super fun to watch over and over. I think a lot of people will find a lot of the same thing with WoWS. It’s a movie that can be rewatched over and over, it has great characters, music, story, etc. All the things that made Goodfellas what it is WoWS have.

        So, beyond that, it’s a test of time to see how people view it as years go by.

  • Ravi S

    A few things I’d like to address (my opinion, so feel free to leave your thoughts) :

    1. So glad that After Hours is ranked highly in this list. One of Scorsese’s most underrated films and my 2nd favourite of his, right behind Taxi Driver.

    2. The Wolf Of Wall Street felt more ambitious than his other work but the payoff came too little, too late. Nonetheless, a good and enjoyable film but I wouldn’t put at the top.

    3. Widely regarded​ as his passion project, Silence won audience over and I can’t argue with the majority. However, for me personally, it’s my least favourite Scorsese film and was my least favourite of 2016.

    And in true Porky Pig fashion, “that’s all folks!”

  • shane scott-travis

    The Departed shouldn’t be in Scorsese’s top 10 at all.

  • ttt

    Casino in top 5

  • kabb

    wolf of wall street!!? you r just being ridiculous!

  • It may be flawed, and be derivative of a foreign flick, but goddamn if The Departed isn’t awesome and still very good a decade later.

  • Emre Çıkınoğlu

    The Wolf of Wall Street at no. 1? You probably think the Dark Knight is the greatest crime movie ever. This list is not the work of a serious cinephile but a wannabe critic. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas not “should be” but “are” 1-2-3. And before TWOWS, Mean Streets, the Age of Innocence, Casino, the King of Comedy, the The Last Temptation of Christ and the Departed are definitely better movies. And maybe, Hugo, After Hours, Shutter Island, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore as well.

  • Zbigniew Klima

    Taxi Driver must be at first place.

  • Aleksandar Šurbatović

    Probably the worst list I saw here and I saw them all. Scandalous.

  • Hanz Offman.

    Wow, that’s a response from everyone else.

  • Dimitri Poenaru

    I am glad that someone appreciates Shutter Island, whereas most of the other critics seem to hate it. But, i can’t agree with Hugo and Cape Fear being so low. They are A LOT better than this author says, in my opinion. Lastly, i really respect the fact that he stated his PERSONAL OPINION here, without fear of being judged. I can’t stand when people keep bashing him in the comments saying things like “any real critic would rank Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver as the top 3”. No, it’s all about your taste in movies. And also older movies are not always better than the newer ones. He liked WOWS more than his other masterpieces, so what? It’s his opinion, deal with it.

  • x x

    Don’t like Goodfellas, it’s edited like a music video. The voice over steers you quite heavy-handed into a morality dead end. (is that proper english?)

    Taxi Driver is by far my number 1. (not seen Wolf, Shutter Island was really bad)

    • Mortimer

      If you don’t like Goodfellas because of editing you’ll hate WoWS even more.

  • father_dougal

    the #1 pick is way out of reality.

  • Caseman

    “Wolf of Wall Street”??!! Come on man!

  • Fernand Ramat

    There is the good way, there is the bad way and there’s my way; and putting Casino in the 11 place was definitely the wrong one !

  • Abhishek

    Who has used this ranking system. You find WOWS bettere than Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. Are you fuckin high? Entire list seems out of place. The most important is The king of comedy is too down the ranks.

  • anowak

    c’mon. in my opinion the list goes: 01. taxi driver, 02.-06. a. goodfellas, b. casino, c. raging bull, d.king of comedy, e. last temptation of Christ 07.-11. a. mean streets, b. cape fear, c. after hours, d. the wolf of wall street, 12. gangs of new york, 13. the departed, 14. shutter island, 15. aviator…….. I haven’t seen: 01. age of innocence, 02.alice doesn’t live here anymore, 03. bring out the dead, 04. kundun, 05. silence. 06, boxcar bretha, 07. new york, new york, 08. who’s that knocking on my door, 09. hugo, 09. the color of money……so I dounno where those should go…numbers 02.-06. and 07.-11. are different and uncomparable movies, so they have ex aequo those places.

  • PBear92

    I have to echo just about everyone else here. I wouldn’t even put WOWS in my top 10!!!

  • Spencer Coriaty

    Man, everybody needs to chill about WoWS as #1. I applaud this writer for going against the norm and putting something you didn’t expect at the top. I might not agree with it, but at least they give reasons why they feel it worthy.

  • Bub the Hoohah! loving Zombie

    Somebody’s trolling…

  • frank mango

    need to know the age of this writer. must of been born after goodfellas

  • Steve Dodds

    Dumb idea for a list.

    Dumb list.

    Dumb.

  • Steve Dodds

    Are you out of your mind?

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    The departed was lame.

  • Panos Mantas

    This list just can’t be taken seriously.

  • How the top 6 should have gone imo

    1. Taxi Driver
    2. Raging Bull
    3. Goodfellas
    4. After Hours
    5. The Wolf of Wall Street
    6. The Departed

  • Marian David

    Kundun was NOT filmed in Tibet. China and India have not given the permission to film.

  • filthy concertgoer

    I love the Wolf of Wall Street, but it’s not in the same league as the other films in the top 5. Not a bad ranking otherwise, but that’s just unconscionable choice for #1.

  • Bob Jennings

    WOWS isn’t even the in the top three of Scorsese/Leo movies.