Ranking Martin Scorsese’s Best Movies

Martin Scorsese’s Best Movies

As usual, Martin Scorsese was right. The Oscar-winning director famously complained back in 2019 about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, telling Empire that it’s “not cinema,” but more like a theme park. People accused Scorsese, who just turned 81 last week, of being an old man shaking his fist at the clouds. Four years later, The Marvels is a box-office bomb that might spell the end of the MCU, while Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon is already scooping up awards at festivals across the globe.

Both films are deserving, but if history is any indication, Scorsese will come up second in this race. Despite being one of the most important and accomplished directors in the history of the big screen, Scorsese has never seen any of his films earn Best Picture honours from the Academy. And he only won Best Director once, in 2007 for The Departed.


This will not do. It’s only right that we correct this injustice here at Bodog by giving Scorsese the spotlight he richly deserves – and by giving you our top 10 list of Martin Scorsese’s best movies. Chances are you’ve seen at least one of these films, if not several; we especially recommend the three movies standing tall on our podium, each of them a fixture on the American Film Institute Top 100 of all time.

10. The Last Waltz (1978)

IMDb Rating: 8.1

Box Office: $340,687 (original release)

Major Awards for Scorsese: none

Given our ties to the music industry here at Bodog, we have to start with the best concert film the world has ever seen. The Last Waltz documented the “farewell” live performance by The Band on November 25, 1976 (which was Thanksgiving Day in the United States) at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Joining The Band was a star-studded lineup of giants including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters.

There’s nothing particularly shocking about The Last Waltz, aside from the encore being shown first. The quality of the music speaks largely for itself; Scorsese adds interview footage from all five original members, with Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Rich Manuel giving you the story of how they got together in the late ‘50s as The Hawks, backing up Canadian country rock legend Ronnie Hawkins before working with Dylan and eventually going platinum on their own.

Scorsese himself appears in The Last Waltz when he’s given a tour of the Shangri-La recording studio in Malibu by Danko, the pride of Blayney, Ontario (not far from Simcoe) and leader of The Band. This documentary may not be dripping with Oscar gold, but the US Library of Congress added it to their National Film Registry back in 2019, alongside Best Picture winners Amadeus (1984) and Platoon (1986).

9. After Hours (1985)

IMDb Rating: 7.6

Box Office: $10.6 million

Major Awards: Best Director, Cannes Film Festival

If we had to guess which of these 10 films you’re least likely to have seen, it would have to be After Hours – but that’s part of its charm. This cult classic, based on a screenplay by Joseph Minion, was a side hustle for Scorsese while he was working on The Last Temptation of Christ, which was about as demanding as a film can get. After Hours turned out to be one of Scorsese’s very best movies, and it only cost $4.5 million to make.

This black comedy is centred on hangdog Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), a data entry worker in New York who meets a woman at a local cafe, and then spends the rest of the night watching his life unspool. Keep your eyes peeled for an early big-screen appearance by SCTV alum Catherine O’Hara, plus another brief glimpse of Scorsese as the searchlight operator at Club Berlin.

People didn’t realise it at the time, but After Hours may have saved Scorsese’s movie career. The Last Temptation of Christ had been already been shelved once by Paramount in 1983, yet Universal suddenly became interested in 1986, and they cut a deal where Scorsese would finally get to complete his passion project – as long as he also provided the studio a mainstream hit, which he did in 1991 with Cape Fear.

8. The Irishman (2019)

IMDb Rating: 7.8

Box Office: $8 million

Major Awards: Best Director, Detroit Film Critics Society Awards

This was the film that Scorsese was promoting when he did that Empire interview we quoted above. Don’t be fooled by the tiny box office; The Irishman was a Netflix production and had a limited theatrical release in the US before pulling in some 64 million households in the first four weeks after it went digital.

Scorsese has carved out a healthy living with gangster flicks, most of them involving Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. Here, De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, the real-life American hitman, union leader and muscle for Jimmy Hoffa (as played by Al Pacino). Pesci came out of retirement to play mobster Russell Bufalino, and won several Best Supporting Actor awards for his efforts.

The Irishman was also nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for both Pesci and Pacino – but go figure, it didn’t win any. This was the year that Parasite won Best Picture, heralding the transfer of global cinematic power from Hollywood to Seoul. It’s no coincidence that South Korea’s latest crop of directors is taking many of its cues from Scorsese and the New Hollywood (aka “American New Wave”) movement that gave us the top two films on our list.

7. Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

IMDb Rating: 8.0

Box Office: $156.4 million

Major Awards: Best Director, National Board of Review

Before we get to those, we’ve got Scorsese’s latest venture to heap praise upon. American journalist David Grann wrote the original non-fiction Killers of the Flower Moon about the Osage murders in interwar Oklahoma; Scorsese co-wrote the screenplay adaptation with Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Insider), and drew upon his usual all-star ensemble cast, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role as Ernest Buckhart and De Niro riding shotgun as Buckhart’s uncle, William King Hale.


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Killers of the Flower Moon has only been in theatres for about a month, yet it’s still doing big box office as we go to press, much to the chagrin of those who predicted this would bomb because of its $200-million budget. You get what you pay for – we’re sure this will be one of the biggest award-winners of the year when all is said and done.

While we wait for those envelopes to open, there’s already one award on the mantle that we need to mention: Best Original Score – Feature Film. This was given posthumously to Robbie Robertson on November 15 as part of the annual Hollywood Music in Media Awards. Robertson and Scorsese continued to work together after The Last Waltz, and Killers of the Flower Moon was their 11th and final collaboration before Robertson left us this past August at age 80.

6. Casino (1995)

IMDb Rating: 8.2

Box Office: $116.1 million

Major Awards: none

Believe it or not, Casino didn’t win any hardware for Scorsese, although Sharon Stone did take home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Stone also earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Ginger McKenna, wife to Vegas casino operator Sam “Ace” Rothstein (De Niro), but it was Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) winning Best Actress that year.

Obviously we’re a bit biased about this film here at the home of Bodog Casino, but it genuinely is one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies. It’s a simplified re-telling of the events presented in Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by New York crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi, with McKenna and Rothstein filling in for Geri McGee and Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, and the Tangiers Casino taking over for the Stardust. It’s not quite historically accurate, but you’ll get a fairly good idea what Vegas was like back in the day.

Even better, you’ll get Pesci doing his thing as Rothstein’s childhood pal Nicky Santoro, and you’ll see just about everyone else, too, from Jayne Meadows to Dick Smothers. Critics offered mixed reviews when Casino first came out, complaining that Scorsese was re-hashing his greatest hits, but this movie has aged like a fine wine. It might even rank higher the next time we revisit this list.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

IMDb Rating: 8.2

Box Office: $406.9 million

Major Awards: none

The Wolf of Wall Street was a black comedy, so it wasn’t expected to take home any Oscars for Scorsese – and it didn’t, despite earning five nominations including Best Picture and Best Director. However, it seems like a crime in retrospect that DiCaprio was passed over for Best Actor in favour of Matthew McConaughey (who also has a supporting role in this film). We all know what Oscar bait looks like, and Dallas Buyers Club was it.

DiCaprio stars in The Wolf of Wall Street as Jordan Belfort, the real-life New York City stockbroker whose 2007 memoir of the same name offers a detached, aloof and perhaps not entirely true take on the pump-and-dump years of the late ‘90s. Terence Winter didn’t have to reach very far to come up with the screenplay; Scorsese’s had to make some minor cuts to avoid an NC-17 rating, but his theatrical release still set the Guinness World Record for most swearing in a film – and Pesci wasn’t even in it.

4. The Departed (2006)

IMDb Rating: 8.5

Box Office: $291.5 million

Major Awards: Best Director, Academy Awards/Golden Globes

Finally, Scorsese gets his due. Not that award ceremonies are the defining moments of someone’s career, but earning Best Director for The Departed (which also won Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing) ensured that Scorsese would forever be in the history books next to the likes of Bernardo Bertolucci, Elia Kazan and Frank Capra.

The Departed is actually the second highest-rated Scorsese film according to the Internet Movie Database, a bit higher than we’ve got it here, but we’re still big fans. The starpower is off the charts with DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson at the top of the marquee, the William Monahan screenplay (a mish-mash of Hong Kong and Boston police corruption stories) is on point, and Scorsese even got an Oscar-nominated performance out of Mark Wahlberg.

3. Goodfellas (1990)

IMDb Rating: 8.7

Box Office: $47.1 million

Major Awards: Best Director, British Academy Film Award/Venice Film Festival

Please don’t come after us for not putting Goodfellas in the top spot. This is the favourite movie ever for a lot of people, and the highest-ranking of the Scorsese flicks on IMDb; it’s probably his most famous movie, too. Blame the folks at American Film Institute instead. They had Goodfellas at No. 92 (up two places!) on their most recent AFI Top 100, although that was way back in 2007.

You’ve still got one of the truly greatest films ever made. Pesci had third billing on Goodfellas behind De Niro and Ray Liotta, but he stole the show as Tommy DeVito, one of three aspiring Mafia buddies in Brooklyn along with associates Jimmy Conway (De Niro) and Henry Hill (Liotta). Pesci’s work as DeVito earned him his first and only Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

If you’re wondering how Scorsese, De Niro and Pesci got so good at making gangster movies, let’s just say they know some people. Pesci, for example, was childhood friends with Robert Bisaccia, who became one of the top figures in the Gambino crime family. It’s believed that Pesci modelled his portrayal of DeVito on Bisaccia, although the character himself is based on Thomas DeSimone from the Lucchese family.

2. Taxi Driver (1976)

IMDb Rating: 8.2

Box Office: $28.6 million

Major Awards: Palme d’Or, Cannes

This is the most important film of the New Hollywood movement – or maybe it’s Easy Rider (1969), your choice. Taxi Driver regularly appears on the list not only for the best Scorsese films, but all films; it was No. 47 on the most recent AFI Top 100, sandwiched between Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975).

Scorsese was still struggling to gain a foothold in the business when he was hired to direct this Paul Schrader screenplay about life on the streets of New York following the Vietnam War. Dustin Hoffman was considered for the lead role of cabbie Travis Bickle, but Hoffman thought Scorsese was “crazy,” so the role went to De Niro instead.

The world has never been the same. De Niro’s Bickle was truly scary, earning him his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor; Peter Finch (Network) got the nod that time, but De Niro reached the top of the mountain in the next and last movie on our list. Meanwhile, Taxi Driver was so influential that John Hinckley Jr. cited it as inspiration for his attempted assassination of US President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

1. Raging Bull (1980)

IMDb Rating: 8.1

Box Office: $23.4 million

Major Awards: Best Director, National Society of Film Critics Awards

This is as close to a perfect movie as anyone has ever made – and it almost didn’t happen. Scorsese needed time to warm up to the story of Jake LaMotta, the American middleweight champion boxer between 1949 and 1951. Once he did, Schrader was brought in to rework Mardik Martin’s screenplay adaptation of LaMotta’s memoir Raging Bull: My Story, and both Scorsese and De Niro pitched in their own ideas as well.

While these three gentlemen were now proven commodities in Hollywood, Raging Bull was a breakthrough film for both Pesci and Cathy Moriarty, who played LaMotta’s younger brother Joey and wife Vickie. Pesci and Moriarty were unknowns at the time; they were nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Actress at the Academy Awards.

Scorsese was also nominated for Best Director, but you know how these things work by now. De Niro did win Best Actor, though, and if you see this film, you’ll understand why. Raging Bull made De Niro famous for his ability to change his look to reflect the development of the character, in this case bulking up from his then-natural 145 pounds to 165 to portray the younger LaMotta, then adding another 60 pounds of lard on top of that in just four months.

All that hard work made Raging Bull the best movie Martin Scorsese ever directed. It was No. 4 on the last AFI Top 100, and while there’s no point arguing whether it should be ranked ahead of Citizen Kane (1941), The Godfather (1972) or Casablanca (1942), you can probably guess which film most of us here at the former home of BodogFIGHT would rather see.



How about you? Have we made a mistake ranking Martin Scorsese’s best movies? Drop us a line if you think our top 10 list is wrong – maybe you think Gangs of New York (2003) or Hugo (2012) deserves more love. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the latest 2024 Oscar bets on our Entertainment odds board at Bodog Sportsbook, and we’ll see you at the movies.