Mean Streets (1973)
His galvanizing autobiographical drama about mob hangers-on in Little Italy.
”I can’t watch it, because it’s so close to the soul. I think the film came together out of an incredibly energetic anger. My energy, then of course Harvey Keitel’s and Bob De Niro’s. It was like some crazy mission. I always loved the way the music and images attacked the audience. I wish I’d been able to shoot the San Gennaro Festival a little better. But Mean Streets is simply my favorite, because it’s something that came out of myself and my friends, for years.”
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
A wonderfully brash and clear-eyed portrait of a single mother (Ellen Burstyn) on the road with her smart-aleck son.
”I like the energy, the incredible quality of the performances, and the sense of humor Ellen Burstyn had about herself and the characters and the whole situation.”
Taxi Driver (1976)
Robert De Niro as a haunted hack whom no one is talking to.
”I’d always wanted to do a movie of Dostoyevski’s Notes From the Underground, and that’s what Taxi Driver is. It’s always amazing to me how much I identified with the feeling of Paul Schrader’s script. The atmosphere comes through great, because that was a very heavy summer here in the ’70s. In some ways, though, I think it’s less a movie of mine than any other picture I’ve made.”
New York, New York (1977)
A rare misfire: De Niro and Liza Minnelli in a neo-’40s conceptual musical.
”That’s certainly a picture I can’t look at now. I think if I’d had the discipline I have now, I could have shaped it better. We were discovering, step by step, that the movie was really about the relationship between two creative people. Then we started to realize that these people will never get together, and it became very depressing.”
The Last Waltz (1978)
A musical documentary of The Band’s marathon farewell concert.
”One of my favorites. I can’t tell you how exciting it was for me to do that picture. It was like a tapestry of the origins of rock. I designed all the lighting gels. For ‘The Weight,’ I had yellow and violet, and (cinematographer) Mike Chapman said, ‘Those are Catholic Easter colors! This is a Protestant song! You will not have those colors!”’
Raging Bull (1980)
The brutally cathartic story of prizefighter Jake LaMotta (De Niro).
”I made it thinking it was probably my last picture in Hollywood. I saw a lot of myself in the character. It’s about self-destructiveness, about Jake saving himself and coming out of it alive. Most of all, though, I like the fight scenes.”
The King of Comedy (1983)
An eerie satire about a nerd (De Niro) who kidnaps his Johnny Carson-style idol (Jerry Lewis).
”De Niro, I think, gives his best performance. It was almost like an analysis of how far you could go with this character, how over-the-top.”
After Hours (1985)
Scorsese Lite: entertaining piffle about a New York office drone (Griffin Dunne) whose downtown date becomes an escalating nightmare.
”The thing I liked most was the comic timing — the moments where characters would ask (Dunne) a question, and he’d wait, because he had no idea where the question came from. And he’s terrified.”
The Color of Money (1986)
The popular sequel to The Hustler.
”It was Paul Newman as the American icon, and Tom Cruise as the new American icon. Combine it with those elaborate camera angles and moves on the pool games, and that was the most enjoyable thing for me — putting the actors within those frames.”
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Scorsese’s flawed but majestic recasting of the Gospels.
”A film about Jesus was in my mind for many, many years. And given the budget, which was really nothing, I think it came out, especially the Crucifixion and the Passion. After Last Temptation, I feel that I finished something I’d been aiming towards and that everything else is, you know, extra.”
”Life Lessons” in New York Stories(1989)
Scorsese’s short movie about a famous artist (Nick Nolte) whose mistress leaves him.
”Although it’s a small film, I’m as pleased with it as with any of the others. I used Procol Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ because, for me, it captured the whole feeling of loss — the sense of a relationship ending and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
What it’s really like to be a gangster.
”There’s a point where you’re editing a film and you really get tired of it. But GoodFellas I never got tired of. It was the entertaining drive of the narrative. To me it was a kind of art home movie, made with my family and friends, and I was happily surprised when it did well at the box office.”