Top 10 Films Directed By Martin Scorsese, Ranked

One of the greatest and most influential filmmakers, and probably the greatest living filmmaker right now, is Martin Scorsese. On the 17th of November, 2022, we celebrated his 80th birthday. His body of work transcends time and genres, and his contribution is immense in the world of cinema. He established his filmmaking skills during the late 1960s and early 1970s when the New Hollywood Era began with independent filmmakers coming up with their personal passion projects and changing the landscape of American Cinema. Many of his contemporaries have lost a lot of their early magic with time, but Scorsese remains one of the most prolific filmmakers, even in contemporary times, at the age of 80. While we look forward to his next feature, “The Killers of the Flower Moon,” starring Leo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, releasing next year, here is a list of the top 10 films (excluding shorts and documentaries) directed by him, ranked from good to best:


10. The Departed (2006)

After decades of making path-breaking films, this crime thriller led to the first Oscar win of Martin Scorsese’s career as a director in 2007. This film is a remake of an equally breath-taking Hong Kong action thriller, “Infernal Affairs” (2002), but Scorsese adapts it perfectly with his own directorial flair. The film consists of a star-studded ensemble that includes Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Mark Wahlberg. However, it ranks lower in comparison with some of his other works. The plot revolves around a highly intense cat-and-mouse chase between a mole in the police department and an undercover cop inside a mob and their race to track each other down. “The Departed,” even though it is not the best Scorsese film, is definitely among the most intense and high-tension English films of the decade.

9. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The kind of madness, energy, and exhilarating thrill possessed by the film makes it difficult to understand that it actually came from the hand of a septuagenarian. This is definitely the craziest film of the director, encapsulating perfectly the even crazier life of Jordan Belfort, a real-life stockbroker who went to jail in charge of forgery, which was portrayed brilliantly by Leonardo DiCaprio. “The Wolf of Wall Street” focuses on the nature of capitalistic greed and excess and is a journey from rags to riches and back to rags.


8. After Hours (1985)

Probably the most underrated and overlooked Scorsese masterpiece, which seems to just pass under the radar of his auspicious body of work. It is a relatively small film that falls under the “black comedy” genre and takes place within a single night. The film is basically Scorsese meets David Lynch. It revolves around a white-collar guy, Paul Hackett, who gets trapped in a hellish and nightmarish situation spanning over a night where he is more of a caged parrot. “After Hours” also garnered the Best Director award for Scorsese at the Cannes Film Festival.

7. Silence (2016)

This is the second venture of Scorsese dealing with the subject of Christianity after “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988). It was a long-time passion project based on the novel of Shūsaku Endō that he had developed for over 25 years, and it is nothing short of a meditative masterpiece. The film is brutal and offers a very personal take on faith through the characters and journey of two Jesuit priests, Rodrigues and Garupe, who travel to Japan in search of their mentor, Fereira. “Silence “is a monumental work of art consisting of vast, detailed visuals complemented by a minimalist soundscape that leaves one with more questions than answers.


6. The Irishman (2019)

It is the reunion party of a film where the old gang of the Scorsese universe (Scorsese, De Niro, and Pesci) is back with a new addition, veteran actor Al Pacino. This is also the most expensive and longest Scorsese film to date and the first of his works to be a Netflix Original. This film, with a runtime of 209 minutes, manages to capture the audience’s attention from the get-go and is written by the Oscar-winning Steve Zaillian [“Schindler’s List” (1993)]. This epic gangster saga revolves around the real-life disappearance of American labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa, and it is told from the perspective of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who confessed to murdering him. It is a film that spans decades and is focused on the iconic Scorsese themes of crime, violence, and the religious concept of guilt and redemption.

5. Casino (1995)

This time the collaboration of Scorsese, De Niro, and Joe Pesci in a grand scale, almost operatic masterpiece that perfectly manages to showcase the excess of greed and violence behind the luminous city of Las Vegas. “Casino” contradicts the grandeur and glimmer of the Las Vegas casinos with the barren and lifeless deserts on the outskirts and also digs into the violence that goes on under what is nicknamed the “Sin City.” Scorsese also manages to bring out a career breakthrough perforce from the actress Sharon Stone, who was previously stereotyped as a sex symbol during the 1990s. Her character of Ginger McKenna can be considered one of the best female characters seen in films of Scorsese.


4. The King of Comedy (1982)

Because Scorsese is bracketed into the genre of crime and gangster films, one tends to overlook his wide range in tackling different genres. This film is a prime example of how he uses the tool of dark-comedy and satire to explore various themes through the character of Rupert Pupkin (portrayed by Robert De Niro), who is a delusional stand-up comic trying to make it big in the industry. Along with that, the interesting casting choice of actor Jerry Lewis, who was a real-life comedian portraying the role of a veteran in his own field, plays a vital role in capturing this iconography. “The King of Comedy” reflects upon the concepts of the media culture and celeb-worshiping and kind of acts like a sibling to his 1976 film “Taxi Driver.”

3. Goodfellas (1990)

The film is definitely among the greatest Hollywood crime and gangster films, along with “The Godfather” (1972) and “Once Upon a Time in America” (1984). This is also another biopic based on the real-life story of American mobster Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, and featuring an iconic performance by Joe Pesci. The film revolves around how a child in a Brooklyn borough gets inspired by the lives of the Mafioso in his neighborhood and wants to become a Gangster, and follows his journey as mafia personnel. The film is a much more internalized and intimate look at the Mafia way of life and can be called the perfect antithesis to the lifestyle of the Mafia shown in “The Godfather” (1972). This film is filled with iconic scenes and sequences, from its beginning—the famous Copacabana club one-take scene—to the climax, where a quintessential homage is given to “The Great Train Robbery” (1903).


2. Raging Bull (1980)

This is the film Scorsese thought would be his last, so he poured his entire cinematic abilities and knowledge into making this. The film is a biopic based on the life of American boxer Jake LaMotta. Here, Scorsese manages to showcase a layered story exposing the vulnerabilities of the protagonist and exemplarily showcasing how the violence inside the ring affects the internal lives of the character. The best part of any Scorsese biopic is how he does not judge and rather humanizes the protagonist and exposes them through an objective lens, showcasing both their flaws and strengths. “Raging Bull” also contains one of the greatest ever acting performances in cinema’s history by Robert De Niro, coupled with Thelma Schoonmaker’s incredible editing that makes it rank among one of the best films. Due to the cinematic prowess it possesses, it is a film school in itself.

1. Taxi Driver (1976)

This film won Scorsese the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It can be called “the American” film of the century. It revolves around Travis Bickle, a disillusioned insomniac Vietnam war veteran now working his days and nights as a Taxi Driver alienated from the cityscapes of New York, who decides to take matters into his own hand, sliding into this urban capitalistic madness. It is among the finest character studies and scripts written in the history of film. Scorsese’s directorial prowess perfectly captures the nightmarish setting of the city, from its gloomy streets to the hellish smoke, along with the madness of the character. Through a mesmerizing performance by Robert De Niro, “Taxi Driver” manages to impeccably showcase the psyche of Travis. It is further supported by a seductively haunting score by the legendary Bernard Herrmann and a brilliantly layered storyline by Paul Schrader.


This list cannot do justice to the wide array of works directed by Martin Scorsese, both as a filmmaking practitioner and also as an archivist and restorer. It is to be mentioned that the films are incomplete without some of his frequent collaborators that, include actors Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and more recently, Leonardo DiCaprio, along with his all-time editor collaborator on almost all of his projects, Thelma Schoonmaker. 

Other than the films mentioned on the list, one may not miss the following films: The Special Mentions include “Mean Streets” (1973), “The Age of Innocence” (1993), “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988), “The Aviator” (2004), “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (1974), “Cape Fear” (1991), and “Gangs of New York” (2002).


See more: 10 Must Watch Thriller Films Of The Year 2022

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Riddhadev Bandyopadhyay
Riddhadev Bandyopadhyay
Riddhadev has a major interest in watching various kinds of films, knowing about history, playing varied video games, and having a knack for politics. He is also a football fanatic. He is very opinionated but sometimes finds it difficult to express himself. Moreover, he has a piece of paper that people refer to as a degree in journalism and mass communication. At present, he is pursuing a Master's in Media Science while also trying out different activities to figure out which he does best.

Latest articles