Academy Awards winner for The Departed, starring Jack Nicholson.
Martin Scorsese is a legendary film director, producer, and screenwriter with an impressive body of work spanning over five decades. His films are renowned for their technical excellence, cultural influence, and deep exploration of themes such as guilt, loyalty, and morality.
For those who want to explore the classics of Martin Scorsese, this guide provides a comprehensive breakdown of his most iconic works. We will look at his early period films like Mean Streets, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, all the way through to his critically acclaimed post-2000s releases such as The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street.
This guide dissects each film in detail. We’ll explore its production history as well as its meaning and message. Finally, we’ll examine why it is considered an important part of cinematic history and how it continues to inspire new generations of filmmakers today.
An Overview of Martin Scorsese’s Impact on Cinema
Martin Scorsese is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th and 21st century. His films have been celebrated by audiences and critics alike, earning numerous awards and accolades. He has been instrumental in redefining what a “Hollywood” movie can be, and his films have shaped the way movies are perceived today.
Scorsese has earned a reputation for being one of the most quintessential American filmmakers with popular films, such as Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995), The Departed (2006) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). He has achieved critical acclaim for his work in both commercial projects as well as more ambitious independent features like Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) and Mean Streets (1973). His works explore complex human emotions, from despair to redemption, with raw intensity that often cuts to the core of his audience’s humanity.
In addition to his numerous film projects, Scorsese is also an accomplished documentary filmmaker. His documentaries explore some of America’s greatest cultural moments, such as Bringing Out the Dead: Life on the Streets (1999), Shine a Light (2008) and George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011).
Thanks to his dedication to excellence in filmmaking, Martin Scorsese has left a lasting legacy on cinema that transcends time.
A Look at Scorsese’s Iconic Visuals
From Mean Streets to Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese’s films are marked by the director’s trademark visual style. His use of things like montage, close-up shots, steadicam shots, and stylized lighting make his work instantly recognizable to viewers.
For example, Scorsese often uses montage to quickly introduce characters or settings. In Mean Streets—and in many of his other films—Scorsese uses this technique to help establish the rough-and-tumble atmosphere of Little Italy in New York City.
The director is also famous for his use of over-the-shoulder shots. His close up and long take style draws viewers into the story and keeps them entrenched in the narrative as it unfolds. This is especially true when he uses POV shots that follow along with a character as they walk through scenes.
Additionally, Scorsese has mastered the art of realistic lighting. He favors natural light sources like lamps, streetlights, and indoor fixtures as opposed to using studio lighting that can be draining for actors and actresses. This makes his visuals look more authentic and gives them an edge that’s hard to replicate in other films.
All told, it’s clear that Martin Scorsese has a unique visual style that continues to inspire filmmakers today—and anyone looking for a comprehensive look at his work should definitely check out some of his classic films!
His Most Notable Films and What Makes Them Great
Martin Scorsese is lauded for his gripping films, which feature enthralling stories and dynamic characters that draw viewers in. His most notable films are masterpieces of the cinematic arts that have garnered awards and recognition worldwide. Let’s take a look at some of his most acclaimed works and examine why they have become classics of our time.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Taxi Driver follows the story of a Vietnam War veteran working as a cab driver in New York City who slowly unravels into a vigilante Mob enforcer. The use of urban settings and seedy characters add an extra layer to the sense of foreboding – it is no surprise that this film has been deemed an essential ’70s classic.
Raging Bull (1980)
This dark drama portrays the life story of Jake LaMotta, an unruly welterweight boxer from 1940s New York City, with raw emotion and intensity. Scorsese’s depiction of LaMotta’s inner struggles is captivating, underscored by haunting music and shot with crisp visuals to create intense scenes that draw viewers in every step of the way.
Goodfellas documents the meteoric rise and fall of rogue gangsters living in New York City during the 1950s. It’s fascinating to watch how one acquisition turns into another until it all comes tumbling down-and Scorsese directs it all with confidence and ease. From iconic set pieces to ace performances, it’s easy to see why this movie continues to draw new fans even after 30 years!
Music in Martin Scorsese’s Films
One of Martin Scorsese’s signature elements is the way he uses music throughout his films. From rock and roll to classical, Scorsese rarely fails to set the perfect tone for any given scene.
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones remain a fixture in many of Scorsese’s greatest films. In Mean Streets (1973), “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” sets the tone as we follow Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro through New York City streets. And in Goodfellas (1990), “Gimme Shelter” accompanies the Copacabana montage. There’s also plenty of blues music featured in The Color of Money (1986) and Casino (1995).
Jazz isn’t just background music in a Scorsese movie—it’s integral to the entire story. In Taxi Driver (1976), Bernard Herrmann’s saxophone solo is one of multiple musical cues that develop Travis Bickle’s character throughout the movie. Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” found its way into Raging Bull (1980) several times, helping to transition between one event and another. And saxophonist Gerry Mulligan appears briefly in After Hours (1985).
Scorsese also works with modern jazz artists like Wynton Marsalis and Sonny Rollins, who provided original pieces for Gangs of New York (2002). Music plays an important role in all of Scorsese productions, no matter what genre it may be!
Exploring the Themes of Morality, Redemption and Violence in His Work
Scorsese has earned the reputation of exploring mature and complex themes within his films, primarily focusing on themes of morality and redemption, as well as the power of violence.
In Scorsese’s work, morality is often a major focus, with characters struggling to come to terms with their decisions and choices. His films often point out the consequences of such decisions and choices, delving deep into the inner workings of his characters.
The topic of redemption is also explored in many of Scorsese’s works. His protagonists are often searching for a second chance or some kind of salvation from their troubles. They search for a sense of peace or resolution to their struggles that can only be found within themselves.
Finally, Scorsese’s films often explore the power of violence and how it can shape and control characters’ lives. In Taxi Driver (1976), for example, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) uses violence as a way to solve his problems, leading to shocking consequences. The same theme is explored in Goodfellas (1990), where Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) must reconcile his life choices when faced with the brutality he has inflicted on others.
Each of these powerful themes are consistently explored throughout his work, leaving no doubt that Martin Scorsese is one of cinema’s greatest filmmakers.
Martin Scorsese’s Place in Film History
As one of the most celebrated directors in film history, Martin Scorsese has had a profound impact on the medium and its recognition as an art form. His work has captivated audiences from all walks of life, from kids to seasoned cinephiles.
Scorsese’s place in film history is undeniable:
- He created classics like Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and The Wolf of Wall Street.
- He has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards (winning one for The Departed).
- He was awarded the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Film Festival in 2007.
- In 2010, he was selected to be a part of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival.
Scorsese’s influence extends beyond his own body of work; numerous filmmakers cite him as an influence on their artistic vision. From his trademark use of long takes and impressive camera movements to his exploration of criminality and moral struggles, Scorsese is often referenced when talking about modern filmmaking.
His legacy will continue to be felt long after his career is finished, as his unique style and approach remain an inspiration for generations to come.
With a career spanning more than five decades, Martin Scorsese has been the architect of some of the most iconic films within the genre of crime, thriller, and drama. For lovers of cinema, the classics of Scorsese provide an education in the nuances and complexities of this art form. As his work demonstrates, cinematic greatness involves so much more than just visual mastery – it involves a profound understanding of the human condition and a remarkable insight as to how elements of the ordinary can be made extraordinary. Take the time to explore the classics of Martin Scorcese, and you’ll discover a truly remarkable collection of mesmerizing stories, perspectives, and characters.
Martin Scorsese Quotes
Violence is not the answer, it doesn’t work any more. We are at the end of the worst century in which the greatest atrocities in the history of the world have occurred… The nature of human beings must change. We must cultivate love and compassion.Martin Scorsese
Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our life time, we need to keep them alive.Martin Scorsese