Boxers, mafia thugs, deranged fans and vigilantes -Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese has created many of film's greatest characters. With nearly 60 directing credits to his name, many of them considered some of the most well-regarded movies of all time, it's not easy to pick 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 the clips and 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 through kitchen workers, and out on to the floor of the Copacabana, 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"
Few directors have used music as effectively as Scorsese. 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 how Jimmy (Robert De Niro) became paranoid after the legendary Lufthansa heist and decided to whack all of the people involved, most of his gangster friends, so he doesn't get ratted out. Up until this point, Jimmy had been depicted as an honest and loyal man. This scene exposes his true nature with a wild guitar soundtrack.
The Clown Scene In "Goodfellas"
One of the most memorable scenes in Scorsese's career was mostly improvised. 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. Pesci got the last laugh: The scene probably won him the Best Supporting Oscar at the 1991 Academy Awards.
"You Talkin' to Me?" From "Taxi Driver"
One of the most powerful -and quotable- scenes in Scorsese's filmography was entirely improvised. As Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) prepares to take on all the scum that New York City has to offer he has armed himself with a sliding gun that is covered underneath his coat, and practices in front of the mirror for a violent encounter.
Deniro -pale, gaunt and red-eyed- famously asks: "You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell are you talkin’ to? You’re talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the f*ck do you think you’re talkin’ to?" The scene is so memorable that DeNiro claims someone has said the lines to him every day day for 40 years.