A Scorsese Showdown

Martin Scorsese is undoubtedly one of the best directors of our time. He and his films have been nominated for more Oscars than can be boasted by anyone else. In total, his films have been nominated 14 times in different categories.

That might be because 1) he is good at what he does and 2) he has been working for such a long time.

To date, he has made 26 feature narrative films. Which is a god damn huge!

The first movie he made was, Who’s That Knocking At My Door, and premiered in 1967.

But he’s been working consistently ever since. His latest film, The Irishman, is set to take the 2020 Oscars by storm as it is nominated for both Best Picture and Best Director.

I myself just happened to watch The Irishman, and I did like it. But it got me thinking. Awards aside, what is the best Scorsese movie (that I’ve seen)?

It would be very difficult to discuss a director’s work such as that of Scorcese’s due to the sheer volume of films he has put out. So just for simplicity sake, I’m only going to discuss the films that he has directed that I have seen.

Going into it, I’ll just say that I have not yet decided which of his films I like best, but rather I like them all very much. So maybe I’ll learn something along the way!

The films that will be discussed.

  • Goodfellas
  • Casino
  • Gangs of New York
  • The Departed
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • The Irishman

Just to be clear going forward, there will be SPOILERS and if you haven’t yet seen these movies and plan on it in the future, than stop reading now!


Okay, so now that that is out of the way, let’s get started.

Goodfellas was the first Scorcese film I ever saw. Mostly because it used to be on television nearly every other day, but that isn’t some indication that it is not good, because it is very fucking good.

Goodfellas is based on the retelling of what it’s like to be affiliated with the Mob by Henry Hill, a former associate. Which is why it was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The film is so quintessential Scorcese it hurts (in a good way). He clearly hand selected different parts of Hill’s retelling to add in as narration and it creates the perfect wise guy atmosphere right from the start.

You’ve probably seen this film so I’m not going to go into its plot too much. But I’ll say that when things start to go bad for Hill (Ray Liotta) he wants out and name’s names, taking him and his family into witness protection.

If you just happen to be a fan of mafia films, documentaries, and shows, there are a lot of Easter Eggs planted throughout this movie that act as the cherry on top.

First off Henry Hill’s wife is played by none other than Lorraine Bracco. You might be like, “Yo who the hell is that?” Well, I’ll tell you who!

She is the actress who played Tony Soprano’s therapist on the Sopranos (Favourite all-time show, get the fuck out if you don’t agree).

In fact, Goodfellas and The Sopranos share roughly 25 of the same actors. Including a small cameo from Tony Sirico. Who is that you say? He is god damn Paulie Gualtieri.

Anyway, when watching any mafia themed film you might discover that all these actors seem to work on the same projects continuously.

Because Scorcese seems to like a core group of actors for his films the same people pop up here and there and it’s kind of fun for the viewer.

In Goodfellas, there’s Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, and a myriad of characters we only get for a second or two as their purpose is to help paint a wide picture of what Henry Hill’s world is like.

Oh here’s a juicy nugget!

You know that scene in Goodfellas where they just come back from killing Joey Bats and are borrowing a knife from the Joe Pesci’s mother? Guess who the mother is…

Scorcese’s own mother!

She’s in many of his films, and I think it’s a nice personal touch that comes off as super authentic. She does a great job of playing that little old lady, well because she is one.

Unfortunately, she recently passed away so her days of featuring in some of the world’s biggest films are over.

While watching a Scorcese film, I used to really enjoy playing spot da Mama. Oh well, all good things must come to an end.

Even though Goodfellas is about Henry Hill, one would be hard-pressed to say that the show was not totally stolen by Joe Pesci’s character, Tommy.

All I have to say is that that scene where Tommy is pulling Henry’s leg, “What do you mean I’m funny?” Is one of the most iconic across all of Scorcese’s work. Nuff said.


Scorsese’s crew of regulars is back again but this time they are telling the story of how the mob got into the casino’s in Vegas.

The film is largely about a top gambler (handicapper) for the mob known as Ace (real name is Sam) and is played by none other than Scorsese’s favourite go to actor, Robert De Niro.

However, the cast is made up of some pretty hard hitting mega stars. First off, Joe Pesci is back and this time he is playing mafia enforcer and heist man Nicky Santoro.

Pesci’s character is sent to Las Vegas to keep an eye on Ace and make sure everything at the Tangiers casino runs smoothly. In the process of doing this Nicky Santoro starts doing unsanctioned heists of all kinds, turning Las Vegas into a nightmare.

There is one scene, which is often cut out if this movie runs on television, where Nicky actually puts a man’s head in a vice until his eyes bulge out of his face.

I would say that this film was totally stolen by Pesci’s performance, if it weren’t also for the fact that Sharon Stone (who play’s Ace’s drunk and drugged wife) also fucking kills it. In fact, her character even tries to have Ace killed.

Her performance was so good, so unreasonable, so unbalanced that she was nominated for Best Actress is a Leading Role at the Academy Awards.

If you’ve watched this movie then you know you definitely don’t want to know a Ginger Mckenna (Stone).

Stone did win a Golden Globe for her role, it’s not the Oscars, but it’s still a big deal.

Anyway, the way the movie plays out, everyone gets in trouble with the mob who sent them there and things come to an unceremonious end.

Nicky Santoro is eventually beaten to death with baseball bats after having been forced to watch the same treatment on his brother. They are buried in a field and that is that.

Ace narrowly escapes his car exploding and decides to go back to his regular life before he got involved in the casino’s.

Ginger ends up dead in a hotel with some bikers. What a train wreck.

I can’t emphasize enough how much this is nearly a perfect movie. The music chosen to accompany certain scenes really drives home the atmosphere and I’m really surprised it wasn’t nominated for more awards.

In the grand scheme of Scorsese, I wouldn’t say it’s his best but it’s still really good. Watch it if you haven’t.

Gangs of New York

Because I like Scorsese’s films so much I have a hard time playing favourites and saying ‘this one is better than all the rest.’ But Gangs of New York is a fucking amazing film (I’m not the only one who thinks this!).

Let me set the ambiance. The year is 1846 and racial tension and poverty run amok in the five points, a slum in Manhattan. Two gangs square off for control of the neighbourhood and many MANY are killed.

During this fight there’s even a shot of a guy getting fish hooked right through his cheek (Holy cow!).

The two leaders of the gangs are Bill the Butcher (God damn Daniel Day-Lewis) and Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson).

Bill and Vallon square off in the middle of the five points and Vallon ends up dead. It’s sad that Neeson could not have been in more of this movie but his inclusion was appreciated anyway.

The result is that a Vallon’s son is orphaned and is sent away. However, he vows revenge.

Years go by and it’s now the civil war era. With Bull the Butcher clearly having a strong hold over the five points their lives filled with strife go on.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Amsterdam, but this whole movie is clearly about Bill the Butcher. Maybe not intentionally but if you’ve seen this film you know what I mean.

Day-Lewis spends the whole movie fornicating, swearing, and killing. He steals the show with his performance and that was recognized at the Oscars as he was nominated for Best Actor for the playing the role of Bill the Butcher.

Unfortunately, if we’re trying to quantify which of Scorsese’s films is best, it’s hard to say it’s this one because though it was nominated for many awards at the Oscars including, Best Picture, Director, Actor, Original Screenplay, and Original Song, it didn’t win a single one.

Major snub in my opinion.

The Departed

Some people will say this movie is obviously Scorsese’s finest. They aren’t exactly wrong for saying it because I really like this movie, but I have to say that Gangs of New York was flatly denied the accolades it deserves. Anyway, It won Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars so people clearly loved it.

The setting is the Irish mob in Boston and everyone is playing someone for something.

This film is loaded with stars. Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Mark Wahlberg all join forces for one of Scorsese’s finest.

Matt Damon plays a cop who is actually working for the Mob and reciprocally Leonardo is playing a mob associate who is actually a cop. But the show is stolen by Jack Nicholson as he plays Frank Costello the boss.

You might know about the iconic song that opens the movie as it was written and performed by the Drop Kick Murphy’s and lends itself to the Irish Boston scenery.

Music included, this movie is masterfully written. It explores the concept of race and loyalty in a world where everyone is a crook.

Pretty much everyone ends up dead. SPOILER ALERT – In the end the only one who comes out on top is Mark Wahlberg.

I really appreciate this film because it doesn’t give you what you want. It gives you what you need!

I really like stories where the heroes and the bad guys are all equally fair game as far as dying goes and this story definitely doesn’t shy away from any of that.

There were talks that there would even be a sequel. Sadly, Scorsese had no interest in joining in on the project and for me that’s fine. The story ended pretty conclusively.

There remains one unanswered question however. In the movie they elude to the fact that the boss, Frank Costello, might actually be a FBI informant and that is why is he able to keep on keeping on. We as viewers never get an answer to that question. The sequel could have answered it for us, but now we’ll never know.

The man that Frank Costello is based on actually ended up alive and in prison, and also floated the idea he was an information for the FBI to get out of prison time. Neither confirming or denying this statement the FBI let die in prison.

The only thing I don’t like about this movie is in the final scene, and I’m not alone. The whole theme of cops and robbers, rats and soldiers, is constant throughout the film. So for some reason at the very end we are treated to a rat crossing some telephone wires right before credits and after the last murder.

It was a bit silly and didn’t fit with the entirety of the film but what is done is done.

Given that Scorsese has made so many great movies and he was only fully recognized for this one really say’s something about the Academy.

The Wolf of Wall Street

This is one of the few movies that Scorsese has done that doesn’t really address organized crime. But many crimes are perpetrated throughout the film, it’s just that they aren’t wise guy mob crimes with murder etc.

If you are unfamiliar with he movie I’ll give a short run down.

Jordan Belfort is a drug addicted, money crazed hedge fund manager and he is ripping off everyone.

The crimes involved are actually quite complicated so I’ll just leave it at that.

I did like this movie, but not as much as everyone else (usually sales bros). In fact, watching this movie he shoves so many drugs and drinks into his system that it kind of make me feel sick.

Belfort is played by Leonardo DiCaprio and in total the film was nominated for 5 Academy Awards.

Remember earlier when I said Gangs of New York was snubbed at the Oscars. Well, Leonardo DiCaprio himself thinks that too. Additionally, he has been nominated many times for best actor and has only won it once (not for this movie).

A pleasant surprise is that our favourite Superbad Star, Jonah Hill, also received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Donnie Azoff (Belfort’s bad influence friend and co-worker).

His performance was so good because I don’t think anyone was expecting it. Not only that, but he goes full bore into it wearing big white fake teeth throughout the entire film.

Looking at all of Scorsese’s films this one stands out as ‘kind of doesn’t belong’ because it’s the only one that doesn’t tackle race/religion/murder as overlaying issues.

Still a good movie but not my fave.

The Irishman

Because this movie is so new and it’s likely you might not have seen it I won’t go into the specifics of the plot. I’ll just say that I thought this movie was overrated.

It was very long, like very god damn long. And there’s all this effort spent building tension around the very obvious coming demise of Jimmy Hoffa. So because I knew he was going to die somehow I wanted it to be good, really good.

SPOILER. It just fucking happens so fast. like BAM no more Hoffa. And they aren’t exactly clear with the viewers about how it all came about. De Niro’s character goes into it at some length after the fact when the movie is winding up but I was still left with a “BUT why?”

However, once again Joe Pesci kills it in a Scorsese movie. He does a really good aging mobster and I loved it.

This movie is nominated for 10 Academy Awards so there is a good chance it will win some.

Sorry I have less to say about the most recent Scorsese film it’s just it’s still so brand new to me. Given time I might have more thoughts about it, but for now that is all.

Final Thoughts

I really like Scorsese’s films and I get excited when I hear a new one is coming out. That probably won’t change. In regards to all the movies discussed, I know Gangs of New York won less awards than some of the others but I still think it’s my favourite.

The Departed is a really close second, and Casino and Goodfellas are tied at third. Maintaining my fourth spot is The Wolf of Wall Street with The Irishman being last.

However, they are all good movies so go out and watch or rewatch any of them.

2 thoughts on “A Scorsese Showdown

  1. Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

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