Throughout his long career of over 50 years, Martin Scorsese’s films have always been deeply personal. As the characters go soul-searching for redemption, many of their struggles correlate directly with Scorsese’s personal experiences. As his highly-anticipated gangster film The Irishman is set to debut on Netflix soon, take a look at Scorsese’s five best movies.
Casino, like many of Scorsese’s films, is mired in excess. Set in the mafia-infested casinos of Las Vegas, everything about it is ambitiously grandiose. From the brash, wild main characters to the glitz and glamor of the casino, it is impossible not to be absorbed into the dark lifestyle that a gangster lives. When it was first released, many people felt as though it was just rehashing characters and plot points from Goodfellas. While they are very similar, the characters in Casino are much more grounded and realistic, giving a more intimate look into the psyche of a gangster.
4. Shutter Island
Devastatingly suspenseful and thrilling, Shutter Island is dark, even for Scorsese’s standards. As Teddy, a U.S. Marshal, searches for a missing patient in an ominous mental hospital located on a remote island, he begins to lose his grip on reality. Haunted by his dead wife and children, Teddy comes to some dark revelations in a shocking twist ending. Filled with terrifying dream sequences and a vivid picture of extreme trauma, Shutter Island is depressingly captivating, as it begs the question: which would be worse, to live as a monster or to die as a good man?
A long-time passion project for Scorsese, Silence delves into the complex nature of faith and religion. As two Jesuit priests go on a quest to find their missing mentor, who went to Japan to spread the Gospel, viewers are taken on a philosophical journey of their own. Due to the subjective nature of faith, Silence is a completely different personal experience for each viewer. Everything is stripped-back and bare-boned, from the narrative to the cinematography to the violence. In the end, Silence is a powerful search for faith and purity, with far more questions to ponder than answers.
2. Raging Bull
Like the great Jake LaMotta, Raging Bull pulls no punches. There is an unabashed sense of brutal honesty that gives the film a certain sense of realness about it. As LaMotta, a middleweight boxer, attempts to fight through his obsessive and self-destructive tendencies, he can only find peace when he is giving or receiving a beating. Shot entirely in black-and-white, the violence has an extra sense of realism. Ironically enough, Scorsese was going through a similar crisis of his own prior to and during the making of the film, which only added to the raw brutality of this compelling story.
1. Taxi Driver
Few movies are as invigorating and stimulating as Taxi Driver. As Travis Bickle, an insomniac war veteran, drives a cab in The City That Never Sleeps, he is constantly reminded of the nightmarish hell he is living in. As Bickle is further isolated from society, he is driven into darkness, making the film increasingly more difficult to take in. While the city overflows with trash and filth, Bickle is like a saint attempting to cleanse his mind and body of any weaknesses. Along with an eerie score and an all-time gritty performance from Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver is painful to watch but impossible to look away from.