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From Coppola to Capra: Martin Scorsese lists 85 films every filmmaker needs to see

I’ve seen many, many movies over the years, and there are only a few that suddenly inspire you so much that you want to continue to make films.”—Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese, the acclaimed filmmaker whose career spans more than 50 years, has offered some advice to all budding creatives looking to get into the industry of cinema. While some wise words may be applicable, Scorsese took a more practical route and devised an essential watch list for any budding filmmaker. It’s not the first time Scorsese has shared a list of foundational films but it certainly is the most comprehensive collection.

A little while ago, we brought you the story of how Scorsese suggested 39 essential foreign films to young filmmaker Colin Levy in the salad days of his career and, now, the director of cinematic classics such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and more, has decided to take things a step further with an extensive list of must-see films. It counts the great and the good of cinema as its entrants.

In a wide-ranging and extensive four hour interview with Fast Company, Scorsese detailed a huge number of films that he considers invaluable to cinephiles and those looking to break into the film industry, dolling out some top advice along the way. The list of 85 films cited by Scorsese are films he discussed alongside “others he just mentioned.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, cinema’s foundational stones are mentioned throughout the interview as either inspiration and leaders of innovation. It means there are spots for Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola and Roberto Rossellini, who appear in his selection with numerous films. When speaking about The Flowers of St. Francis, Scorsese said: “This Rossellini movie and Europa ’51 are two of the best films about the part of being human that yearns for something beyond the material. Rossellini used real monks for this movie. It’s very simple and beautiful.”

When discussing Orson Welles’ iconic picture Citizen Kane, Scorsese previously said: “This was a force of nature that came in, a creation that wiped the slate clean from the type of films that preceded him. There was never any grey with him.”

It’s a tone which Scorsese sees as invaluable, and Welles’ creative spark is an equally staunch lesson for filmmakers everywhere, “He told ‘Kane’ cinematographer Gregg Toland, ‘Let’s do everything they told us never to do.’ The low angles and deep focal-length lenses, the structure of the story, the flashbacks, the overlapping images–no one had ever seen anything like it.” 

With the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and his epic Apocalypse Now to Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole. Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder is also on the list, as is Frank Capra’s Arsenic and Old Lace, plus many more. If you’re looking for an inspirational list of films, then you’ve found it.

See the full list below.

Martin Scorsese’s 85 films every filmmaker needs to see

  • Ace in the Hole – Billy Wilder, 1951.
  • All that Heaven Allows – Douglas Sirk, 1955.
  • America, America – Elia Kazan, 1963.
  • An American in Paris – Vincente Minnelli, 1951.
  • Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola, 1979.
  • Arsenic and Old Lace – Frank Capra, 1944.
  • The Bad and the Beautiful – Vincente Minnelli, 1952.
  • The Band Wagon – Vincente Minnelli, 1953.
  • Born on the Fourth of July – Oliver Stone, 1989.
  • Cape Fear – J. Lee Thompson, 1962.
  • Cat People – Val Lewton, 1942.
  • CaughtMax Ophüls, 1949.
  • Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941.
  • The Conversation – Francis Ford Coppola, 1974.
  • Dial M for Murder – Alfred Hitchcock, 1954.
  • Do the Right ThingSpike Lee, 1989.
  • Duel in the Sun – King Vidor, 1946.
  • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Rex Ingram, 1921.
  • Europa ’51 – Roberto Rossellini, 1952.
  • Faces – John Cassavetes, 1968.
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire – Anthony Mann, 1963.
  • The Flowers of St. Francis Roberto Rossellini, 1950.
  • Force of Evil – Abraham Polonsky, 1948.
  • Forty Guns – Samuel Fuller, 1957.
  • Germany Year Zero – Roberto Rossellini, 1948.
  • Gilda – Charles Vidor, 1946.
  • The Godfather Francis Ford Coppola, 1972.
  • Gun Crazy – Joseph H. Lewis, 1950
  • Health – Robert Altman, 1980.
  • Heaven’s Gate – Michael Cimino, 1980.
  • House of Wax – André De Toth, 1953.
  • How Green Was My Valley – John Ford, 1941.
  • The Hustler – Robert Rossen, 1961.
  • I Walk Alone – Byron Haskin, 1947.
  • The Infernal Cakewalk – Georges Méliès, 1903.
  • It Happened One Night – Frank Capra, 1934.
  • Jason and the Argonauts – Don Chaffey, 1963.
  • Journey to Italy – Roberto Rossellini, 1954.
  • Julius Caesar – Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1953.
  • Kansas City – Robert Altman, 1996.
  • Kiss Me Deadly – Robert Aldrich, 1955.
  • Klute – Alan J. Pakula, 1971.
  • La Terra Trema – Luchino Visconti, 1948.
  • The Lady From ShanghaiOrson Welles, 1947.
  • The Leopard – Luchino Visconti, 1963.
  • Macbeth – Orson Welles, 1948.
  • The Magic Box – John Boulting and Roy Boulting, 1951
  • M*A*S*H – Robert Altman, 1970.
  • A Matter of Life and Death – Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946.
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller – Robert Altman, 1971.
  • The Messiah – Roberto Rossellini, 1975.
  • Midnight Cowboy – John Schlesinger, 1969.
  • Mishima – Paul Schrader, 1985.
  • Deeds Goes to Town – Frank Capra, 1936.
  • Smith Goes to Washington – Frank Capra, 1939.
  • Nashville – Robert Altman, 1975.
  • Night and the City – Jules Dassin, 1950.
  • One, Two, Three – Billy Wilder, 1961.
  • Othello – Orson Welles, 1951.
  • Paisa – Roberto Rossellini, 1946.
  • Peeping Tom – Michael Powell, 1960.
  • Pickup on South Street – Samuel Fuller, 1953.
  • The Player – Robert Altman, 1992.
  • The Power and the Glory – William K. Howard, 1933.
  • Stagecoach – John Ford, 1939.
  • Raw Deal – Anthony Mann and John Alton, 1948.
  • The Red Shoes – Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1948.
  • The Rise of Louis XIV – Roberto Rossellini, 1966.
  • The Roaring Twenties – Raoul Walsh, 1939.
  • Rocco and his Brothers – Luchino Visconti, 1960.
  • Rome, Open City – Roberto Rossellini, 1945.
  • Secrets of the Soul – G. W. Pabst, 1926.
  • Senso – Luchino Visconti, 1954.
  • Shadows – John Cassavetes, 1958.
  • Shock Corridor – Samuel Fuller, 1963.
  • Some Came Running – Vincente Minnelli, 1958.
  • Stromboli – Roberto Rossellini, 1950.
  • Sullivan’s Travels – Preston Sturges, 1941.
  • Sweet Smell of Success – Alexander Mackendrick, 1957.
  • Tales of Hoffmann – Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1951.
  • The Third Man – Carol Reed, 1941.
  • T-Men – Anthony Mann, 1947.
  • Touch of Evil – Orson Welles, 1958.
  • The Trial – Orson Welles, 1962.
  • Two Weeks in Another Town Vincente Minnelli, 1962.