Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese has almost 60 directing credits to his name. He is often considered one of the greatest and skilled directors in the history of cinema. Chances are, you've seen at least one of his films - Scorsese helmed some of the most well-regarded movies of all time, including Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and The Departed. It's not easy to pick just 17, but here are the best scenes in Martin Scorsese's career.
Some of Scorsese’s best scenes make the list because of their technical excellence. The notorious three minute Steadicam long take from Goodfellas is considered one of the most intricately choreographed shots ever filmed. Other scenes make this list because their dialogue has become apart of the American lexicon: “You talkin’ to me?”
Martin Scorsese's best scenes are also filled with memorable performances. There’s Robert De Niro’s Oscar-winning portrayal of boxer Jake La Motta in Raging Bull and Leonardo DiCaprio’s OCD-crazed rendition of Howard Hughes in The Aviator. And don’t forget about Scorsese’s ability to pair sound and image. His use of “Layla” in Goodfellas and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in Mean Streets forever changed the way that movie audiences viewed those songs.
Watch these clips, and be sure to vote up your favorite scenes in Martin Scorsese's filmography. Be warned: many of these clips contain strong language, and this list includes some spoilers.
The One-Take Copacabana Scene From "Goodfellas"
It's Henry (Ray Liotta) and Karen's (Lorraine Bracco) first date, and Henry is set to impress. As The Crystals sing "Then He Kissed Me," Henry takes his new girl from the street through the back kitchen of the club, weaving around kitchen workers, and then finally onto the floor of the Copa, where a table is brought out especially for the couple.
What makes this three minute Steadicam shot so impressive is that it is done in one take. That means that there are no cuts, not even the invisible kind. In his book Martin Scorsese In 10 Scenes, Scorsese calls the Copa shot his greatest scene and says it had to be "choreographed like a ballet." If one person missed their mark or slipped up, everything had to be done again.
"Layla" In "Goodfellas"
Music is often a notable feature in Scorsese's movies. In this scene towards the end of Goodfellas, Scorsese puts a morbid twist on the popular Derek and the Dominos song "Layla." The dreamy strains of the tune are played over violent images of dead bodies popping up all over town.
Henry's (Ray Loitta) voiceover explains that Jimmy (Robert De Niro) has become paranoid after the legendary Lufthansa heist. He chooses to whack all the people involved, most of his gangster friends, so he doesn't get ratted out. Up until this point, Jimmy had been been depicted as an honest and loyal man. This scene exposes his true nature.
The Lemmon Quaalade Scene In "The Wolf Of Wall Street"
A lot of drugs are consumed during The Wolf of Wall Street, but none of those drugs come close to the potency of the Lemmon Quaaludes. It all begins with Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) suddenly losing the ability to talk. He drops to the ground and begins crawling. He drools, he rolls down a set of brick steps, and opens his car door with his foot while lying on the street.
The scene is played for pure comedy. Scorsese is able to bring the spectator directly into Jordan's state of mind with the use of voiceover. Although Jordan's body is completely useless, his brain works perfectly fine. The audience is encouraged to laugh as his predicament becomes worse and worse.
The Clown Scene In "Goodfellas"
This scene probably won Joe Pesci the Best Supporting Oscar at the 1991 Academy Awards. After Henry (Ray Liotta) tells Tommy (Joe Pesci) that he's funny, Tommy famously replies, "Am I clown? Do I amuse you?"
The story goes that the scene was mostly improvised and based off a story that Pesci told during the film's rehearsals. Apparently, when Pesci was working as a waiter, he once told a mobster patron that he was funny. The gangster did not take the young Pesci's statement as a compliment and got offended.