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From Spike Lee to Stanley Kubrick: Martin Scorsese's favourite films of the 1990s


One of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Martin Scorsese, just so happens to be one of the biggest film buffs you’ll ever meet. Paving the way for other auteurs such as Quentin Tarantino, Scorsese has always operated as a fan working within the industry he adores. It has meant that as his fame and notoriety has grown across the years, Scorsese has often been asked for his list of favourite films. Most curious of all, unlike many egotistical artists, the director usually shares them and a couple extra to boot.

Scour the internet, and you will find a plethora of lists the Goodfellas director has parcelled out to his pals and fans. Whether it is his favourite foreign language films, sharing a list of 39 incredible titles that every filmmaker must watch before they can truly feel accomplished or, indeed, just recently when Edgar Wright revealed the esteemed filmmaker’s 50 favourite British films — the latter proving what a font of knowledge Scorsese truly is, providing an education for the self-confessed film nerd Wright. But this may be one of the most interesting of all, Martin Scorsese’s 10 favourite films of the 1990s. Well, almost.

Scorsese has been achieving monumental success for decades now but arguably hit his gangster peak in the ’90s, including the aforementioned epic Goodfellas as well as the stylistically perfect Casino to a rapturous reception. Like any good director, Scorsese gave himself fully to his projects whenever he was working on them but, when he wasn’t, he was watching movies like the rest of us.

The list came up when Scorsese sat down with the iconic film critic Roger Ebert in 1999 and discussed the decade of film that had just passed them. It’s a rich moment in cinematic history as the newfound Indiewood began to usurp blockbuster productions as the new hottest ticket. Hollywood was arguably in one of its most illustrious periods and, judging by Scorsese’s list of favourite films from the era; it’s hard to think of a denser showing of impeccable talent.

The director sits down and begins his list of ten favourite films of the 1990s with a few notable exceptions. Firstly, he ties tenth spot, effectively giving himself eleven choices, noting both Michael Mann’s imperious heist film Heat, starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro and 1992’s searing reflection of a legend Malcolm X from Spike Lee. It’s a seriously good opening and things only get better from there.

Then there’s the wonderful choice of the Coen Brothers masterpiece Fargo which bears all the hallmarks of a Marty extravaganza. Down the list there are plenty more impressive inclusions too, including David Cronenberg’s Crash, Wes Anderson’s debut film Bottle Rocket and Stanley Kubrick’s vampiric big hitter Eyes Wide Shut. But perhaps the most unusual inclusion is the top spot, which Scorsese gives to Tian Zhuangzhuang’s majestic Horse Thief.

The confusion isn’t because it’s a bad film; of course, it is widely regarded as one of the finest, but that it actually came out in the eighties, something, in the clip below, Scorsese points out to Ebert. For the acclaimed director, because the film only reached prominence in America in the ’90s, it had found its way on to the list and into the top spot.

Find the full list of Martin Scorsese’s faovurite films form the 1990s below and see how many you have seen.

Martin Scorsese’s favourite films of the 1990s:

  • Malcolm X (Spike Lee) and Heat (Michael Mann)
  • Fargo (Coen Brothers)
  • Crash (David Cronenberg)
  • Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson)
  • Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier)
  • Bad Lieutenant (Abel Ferrara)
  • Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick)
  • A Borrowed Life (Wu Nien-jen)
  • The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick)
  • Horse Thief (Tian Zhuangzhuang).