Martin Scorsese lists his 12 favourite films of all time
(Credit: Siebbi / Wikimedia)

From Stanley Kubrick to Spike Lee: A list of Martin Scorsese’s 35 favourite films

“Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.”—Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese, the critically acclaimed filmmaker whose career spans more than 50 years, has been responsible for some of the modern cinema’s most celebrated big screen pictures.

One of the significant figures of the New Hollywood era, Scorsese remains one of the most influential and pioneering directors in cinematic history. With his most recent effort, The Irishman, seeing the 77-year-old return to the major stage with numerous Academy Award nominations, Scorsese sits on a glittering CV which boasts past projects such as Mean StreetsTaxi Driver, Raging BullGoodfellas Casino and many more.

“I prefer the escapism of fantasy, rather than the escapism of incredible sentimentality,” Scorsese once said of his storytelling ability. “What I’m afraid of is pandering to tastes that are superficial. There’s no depth anymore. What appears to be depth is often a facile character study…but they’re making a product, and a product’s gotta sell.

“Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things,” he added. “They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetime, we need to keep them alive.”

At a time when the film industry is on its knees, as all major cinemas across the world are forced to close their doors amid strict social distancing rules to combat the current coronavirus pandemic, the importance of film and the discussion of movies remains essential. As millions around the world remain locked in their homes amid self-isolated quarantine measures, we’re turning to Scorsese, arguably the most passionate cinephile of them all, to offer some guidance.

As part of a past feature appearing in IndieWire, the publication managed to collect 35 of the filmmaker’s favourite pictures ranging from Stanley Kubrick to Jean-Luc Godard. When discussing iconic Federico Fellini film, 8½’, Scorsese said the project “has always been a touchstone for me,” in an interview with Criterion. Scorsese goes on to praise “the freedom, the sense of invention, the underlying rigour and the deep core of longing, the bewitching, physical pull of the camera movements and the compositions” of the film. 

With the likes of John Ford, Robert Wise, Spike Lee, Marlon Brando and more, see the full list below.

Martin Scorsese’s 35 favourite films:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey – Stanley Kubrick, 1968.
  • 8½ – Federico Fellini, 1963.
  • Ashes and Diamonds – Andrzej Wajda, 1958.
  • BlacKkKlansman – Spike Lee, 2018.
  • The Changeling – Peter Medak, 1980.
  • The Chess Players – Satyajit Ray, 1977.
  • Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941.
  • Contempt – Jean-Luc Godard, 1963.
  • Dead of Night – Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer, 1945.
  • The Entity – Sidney J. Furie, 1982.
  • The Exorcist – William Friedkin, 1973.
  • The Haunting – Robert Wise, 1963.
  • The Innocents – Jack Clayton, 1961.
  • Isle of the Dead – Mark Robson, 1945.
  • Johnny Guitar – Nicholas Ray, 1954.
  • L’Atalante – Jean Vigo, 1934.
  • L’Avventura – Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960.
  • The Leopard – Luchino Visconti, 1963.
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1943.
  • Moonrise – Frank Borzage, 1948.
  • Night of the Demon – Jacques Tourneur, 1957.
  • One Eyed Jacks – Marlon Brando, 1961.
  • Paisan – Roberto Rossellini, 1946.
  • Psycho – Alfred Hitchcock, 1960.
  • Rebel Without a Cause – Nicholas Ray, 1955.
  • The Red Shoes – Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell, 1948.
  • The River – Jean Renoir, 1951.
  • Salvatore Giuliano – Francesco Rosi, 1962.
  • The Searchers – John Ford, 1956.
  • The Shining – Stanley Kubrick, 1980.
  • Touki Bouki – Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1973.
  • Ugetsu – Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953.
  • The Uninvited – Lewis Allen, 1944.
  • Vertigo – Alfred Hitchcock, 1958.
  • Woman Is the Future of Man – Hong Sang-soo, 2003.

When discussing Jean-Luc Godard classic film Contempt, Scorsese describes the work as “one of the most moving films of its era.”

He added: “Over the years it has grown increasingly, almost unbearably, moving to me,” in an interview with Criterion. “It’s a shattering portrait of a marriage going wrong, and it cuts very deep, especially during the lengthy and justifiably famous scene between Piccoli and Bardot in their apartment: even if you don’t know that Godard’s own marriage to Anna Karina was coming apart at the time, you can feel it in the action, the movement of the scenes, the interactions that stretch out so painfully but majestically, like a piece of tragic music.”

“‘Contempt’ is also a lament for a kind of cinema that was disappearing at the time…and it is a profound cinematic encounter with eternity, in which both the lost marriage and the cinema seem to dissolve. It’s one of the most frightening great films ever made.”

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