The 10 best Martin Scorsese movies, ranked

Shutter Island
(Image credit: Paramount)

With the release of Killers of the Flower Moon, the catalogue of best Martin Scorsese movies just got a little larger. The legendary director is closing in on six decades of captivating and challenging his audiences throughout a variety of genres. From decade-spanning crime epics to personal, reflective treatises on religion, Scorsese's filmography not only stands as a testament to his boundless talents, but has inspired generation after generation of filmmakers – and will continue to do so for decades to come. There is no one working today that is more influential, and more masterful, than Martin Scorsese. As the oft-used meme goes: this is cinema.

Whittling down that considerable body of work to the top 10 best Martin Scorsese movies, then, feels almost sacrilegious. How do you choose between some of the greatest films of all time? And how do you leave off features that, if helmed by any other director, would stand out as some of their finest achievements? 

It's something we’ve had to wrestle with here at GamesRadar+. We've polled the team, tallied the votes, and argued long into the night. Now we have our definitive answer: here are the best Martin Scorsese movies ever made.

10. Cape Fear

Cape Fear - one of the best Martin Scorsese movies

(Image credit: Universal)

Let's kick off with some psycho-horror spice thanks to one of Scorsese’s most heart-pounding productions. Cape Fear follows a robust Robert De Niro as a deranged degenerate fresh out of jail after serving a 14-year prison sentence for viciously assaulting a young woman. 

In a whirlwind of raving revenge, he makes it his life's mission to destroy the life of the man responsible for putting him behind bars – his defense lawyer. Cape Fear preys upon every family man's worst nightmare and reminds us of how truly powerless we are in the face of true evil; if De Niro’s nightmare-creating character isn't enough to make you squirm in your set then that fateful boat scene will.

9. Shutter Island

Shutter Island - one of the best Martin Scorsese movies

(Image credit: Paramount)

On Rotten Tomatoes, Shutter Island is one of Scorsese's lowest rated movies. Some of them have to be – and it still bagged a respectable 69% – but we think the melancholy mystery thriller deserves more respect. Perhaps the filmmaker's boldest flick visually, it sees Leonardo DiCaprio's grieving U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) investigate the disappearance of a patient at Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane. The missing woman is said to have drowned her three children, but Teddy gradually learns there's more to the story than those around him are suggesting – and some dark truths about himself, as well.

While Shutter Island explores themes present in many of Scorsese's works, from violence and morality to mental health, it's disorientating, devastating, and twisty too; quite unlike anything Scorsese made before or has done since, and remains one of the best thrillers in his filmography. 

8. The Irishman

Robert De Niro in The Irishman - one of the best Martin Scorsese movies

(Image credit: Netflix)

Scorsese's epic The Irishman drew the internet's attention for three reasons: the lengthy 209 minute runtime, the reunion of iconic actors from the filmmaker's past movies (Joe Pesci, De Niro, Harvey Keitel), and the de-aging technology. However, what people really should have been talking about is how it's a triumphant display of a master at work, and remains one of the best movies on Netflix. Rather than being the gangster movie you were expecting, Scorsese instead melancholically muses on death, guilt, and humanity, looking at the harsh toll a life in crime takes. It's a poignant farewell to the riotous days of the likes of GoodFellas, and one that certainly leaves an emotional impact. 

7. Gangs of New York

Gangs of New York - one of the best Martin Scorsese movies

(Image credit: Miramax)

New York has been ripe for unpacking, not only in Scorsese’s work but throughout the history of cinema. Gangs of New York dives back further than most, telling the story of the construction of modern-day America by clawing its way through the blood-splattered history of the Five Points neighborhood. Above it all is William Cutting, AKA Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis, in chilling form).

Scorsese charges 19th-Century New York with a gritty, depraved energy and, anchored by Day-Lewis, delivers a brutal period piece that revels in revenge as DiCaprio’s Amsterdam sets out for retribution after the death of his father at Bill’s hand. DiCaprio may be a little overawed by the occasion, in truth, but this was a daring Scorsese epic at a moment where the the industry could have left him behind post-Kundun.

6. Raging Bull

Raging Bull - one of the best Martin Scorsese movies

(Image credit: MGM)

If Rocky is the plucky underdog, Raging Bull is the master of the sweet science: a bruising, brutal display of De Niro’s talents as middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta, both at the peak of his powers and when he’s looking up at the lights from the canvas.

For those of a certain vintage, Raging Bull is Scorsese’s finest work and one of the best sports movies around. It marries his eye for action, casting – Pesci and Cathy Moriarty are plucked from relative obscurity – and character work in scintillating fashion. The end result? An American classic that cemented Scorsese’s place as the essential living director in Hollywood.

5. Killers of the Flower Moon

Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon - one of the best Martin Scorsese movies

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures/Apple TV+)

Scorsese may now be in his sixth decade of filmmaking, but he’s showing no sign of slowing down. His latest, Killers of the Flower Moon, is arguably his most poignant yet, landing itself an immediate spot in our top five. The three-and-a-half-hour epic tells the rarely told story of the Osage murders that tore apart a community in the 1920s and had far-reaching consequences on American history.

It also marks a reunion for the filmmaker with his close collaborators DiCaprio and De Niro, who play Ernest Burkhart and William Hale. However, as the tragedies unfold, audiences will be in no doubt that this story really belongs to Mollie Burkhart. Played unforgettably here by Lily Gladstone, her performance stands among the best of any Scorsese film. 

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RELATED: Martin Scorsese opens up to GamesRadar+, explaining that the "love story" is why he wanted to make Killers Of The Flower Moon.

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4. The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street - one of the best Martin Scorsese movies

(Image credit: Paramount)

Scorsese has always carefully walked the fine line between romanticizing his movie’s subject matters and holding up a mirror to their most twisted morals. The Wolf of Wall Street excels at that tightrope act, painting a masterpiece from the glitz, glamor, and drug-fuelled rampages of corrupt stockbroker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) before piercing the artifice in shattering fashion during the movie’s final act.

A commentary on greed and the excesses of an America where money is power, but power is true power, The Wolf of Wall Street is Scorsese as his most playfully lavish. Needle drops, instantly-iconic cameos – such as Matthew McConaughey’s chest-beating arrival – and a relentless kinetic energy marks this out as the best Scorsese movie of the past decade.

3. The Departed

The Departed - one of the best Martin Scorsese movies

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Two sides of '80s Boston collide in The Departed, which sees DiCaprio play an undercover cop infiltrating the mob, and Matt Damon as the mob's spy in the police force. Released in 2006, this was DiCaprio's third collaboration with Scorsese, and his performance as troubled state trooper Billy Costigan almost earned him an Oscar nomination (he earned a nod for Blood Diamond, instead). Scorsese, meanwhile, won his first and only Best Director Academy Award for The Departed, and the film also won Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay (it's a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs). Almost two decades later, The Departed remains one of the best crime movies ever made. 

2. Taxi Driver

Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver - one of the best Martin Scorsese movies

(Image credit: Columbia Tristar)

Taxi Driver is, hands down, one of cinema’s greatest achievements. The 1976 film, set in a morally bankrupt post-Vietnam War New York City, follows the downward spiral of former U.S. Marine Travis Bickle (De Niro) as he attempts to combat his depression by working the night shift. Travis is suffering, but there’s beauty in the suffering. Beyond the violence and the rage is a desire for purpose – and he finds that in Jodi Foster’s Iris, destined to save her from a filthy adult world and return her to her childhood. It’s a neo-noir psychological thriller that delves into corruption, loneliness, desperation, and the underlying evils of humanity – and one that would go on to shape cinema as we know it.

1.  GoodFellas

Goodfellas - one of the best Martin Scorsese movies

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Could there be any other choice for the top spot? Scorsese's masterful film is so iconic and beloved for a reason – it's simply the best gangster movie ever made. Chronicling the rise and fall of Henry Hill (the late Ray Liotta in his most famous role), GoodFellas – based on real events – is a mobster classic that's packed full of moments that have made their indelible mark on pop culture history: that oner through the Copacabana, Pesci's hold-your-breath intense "funny how?" riff, and, of course, that opening line ("as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster"), to name just a few. Stylish, sleek, and so very quotable, GoodFellas is the jewel in the crown of Scorsese's immense oeuvre.

We also spoke to Scorsese ahead of Killers of the Flower Moon's release. For more from Hollywood's greatest auteurs, here's our rankings of the best Christopher Nolan movies and best Quentin Tarantino movies.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.

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