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Martin Scorsese: Ranking His Feature Films

Let’s get on with the Scorsese business in hand. The votes are in, the poll is now closed. Here we will now run down the 20 highest ranked films of Martin Scorsese as chosen by all of you. Before we kick into that spectacular 20, we have to shout out to those that did not quite make it. I guess many of you have not even seen Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967) or Boxcar Bertha (1972), which you should rectify as soon as you get the chance. Both are available to stream online. Also not making the cut was New York, New York (1977), and Kundun (1997) – the latter I am personally disappointed with its placing, although appreciate it is not one of Scorsese’s best, it does feature a masterly canvas of photography from Roger Deakins. Have a look before you head up the ranks:

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20) Bringing Out the Dead (1999)


There’s so much anxious and repressed rage inside the character of Frank Pierce, which Cage masterfully demonstrates by his deadpan expressions and constantly blinking eyes, we can practically see the internal struggle that he is experiencing to suppress his emotions. And when he’s not blinking, he’s staring intently into the distance, being haunted by ghosts that only he can see. It’s a performance that echoes the German Expressionism movement of the early 1920s, which of course took its inspiration from the shell shocked soldiers returning from the trenches, and Cage certainly appears to be channeling some form of post-traumatic stress disorder here for his performance.

Bee Garner

19) The Color of Money (1986)


Although Paul Newman was pretty great in The Color of Money, his Best Actor Oscar win felt a little career accumalative too. That said, his return as Eddie Felson is a snappy, slick affair, as Scorsese steers away from organized crime and delves into pool hustling. Featuring many of the Scorsese technical traits a la nifty camerawork, rapid editing, and pretty brilliant soundtrack, The Color of Money compelling carries the filmmakers trademark, even if somewhat outside of his usual remit.

Robin Write

18) Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)


To call Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore a “woman’s picture” is naive and rather insulting, because it’s a story which many can identify with regardless of their gender, and even Scorsese has declared that the film is more than just a picture for women. “Some people have said that Alice is a movie about women’s liberation, but I think that’s the wrong emphasis. It’s about human liberation.” The film’s inception from page to screen is an interesting story, originally the role of Alice was offered to Shirley MacLaine who turned it down, and the script fell into the hands of Ellen Burstyn who was still filming The Exorcist. The story interested Burstyn as she was keen to do a film “from a woman’s point of view, but a woman that I recognized, that I knew.” The actress sent the script on to Warner Brothers who agreed to do it and they also asked who Burstyn wanted to direct it. She was keen to have a director who was new and young and exciting.

Bee Garner

17) Cape Fear (1991)


This 1991 film is a remake of the classic 1964 crime thriller of the same name. When attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) knowingly withholds evidence that would acquit violent sex offender Max Cady (Robert De Niro) of rape charges, Max spends 14 years in prison. Bowden gets on with his life, but his world is turned upside down when Max is released from prison. Max devotes his life to stalking and destroying the Bowden family, hellbent and driven by rage. In the days that follow, their dog is poisoned, they are stalked, and Bowden’s lover (Illeana Douglas) is horrifically attacked by the hands of Cady. When practical attempts to stop Max fail, Sam realizes that he must act outside the law to protect his wife (Jessica Lange) and daughter (Juliette Lewis). Driven from their house, the family  flee to their houseboat, which is docked upstate along Cape Fear, but Cady isn’t far behind and will stop at nothing to get his revenge.

Cape Fear marks the seventh collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro, as well as other Scorsese regular, the editor Thelma Schoonmaker being onboard. This is the thriller that Hitchcock wished he could have made, dark, violent and disturbing.

Bee Garner

16) After Hours (1985)


Martin Scorsese’s 1985 film After Hours is one of the great Director’s lesser known films. But having just seen it for the first time, I can understand it’s impact among fans of the movie being a profound viewing experience and leaves a thrilling legacy. Paul (Griffin Dunne) is a bored word processor who seeks out some adventure in the night life scene of Manhattan and gets a night from hell he’ll never forget. This is Scorsese’s Odyssey, with Paul facing every worst case scenario with each person he comes across and meets. He is simply just trying to find his way home, and the entire film is sustained by the sure hand of Martin Scorsese who was really trying something new and fascinating with After Hours.

New York being the central character again in a Scorsese film, but this time there is a level of dark paranoia following Paul all the way through his perilous journey. It’s almost as if the city itself is trying to trip him up, wanting to see him fail and succumb to it’s nefarious corners and deep sewer drains. After Hours is a wild ride on the dark underbelly of society. It tells Paul to stick to the life he knows and be satisfied with his boredom.

Rob Motto

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