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Martin Scorsese’s favourite films of the 1970s


In 1973 Martin Scorsese arrived with his wildly influential crime drama Mean Streets and announced himself as a new auteur to contend with. The uber-stylish wave of 1960s French new wave-inspired films made way for the cinematic equivalent of punk as flowery counterculture made way for gritty realism. Scorsese proved to be a master of this. The early part of his career was crammed with acerbic tales exploring the underbelly of society, emblematic of the changing cinematic climate. 

During the course of the 1970s, Scorsese directed the masterful Boxcar Bartha, Mean Streets, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Taxi Driver and New York, New York, as well as the documentaries Street Scenes, Italianamerican, The Last Waltz and American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince. It was a prolific run that established him as one of the greatest working actors. With truly visionary skill, in his work, he extolled the virtue that “your job is to get your audience to care about your obsessions.”

And Scorsese was nothing if not obsessed with cinema. In fact, it is remarkable that he managed to be so prolific in the seventies at all considering the amount of movies he was watching. However, just as a writer must read, a sportsperson must analyse and a teacher must learn, Scorsese knew that to make great movies you had to watch an awful lot of them. 

It is from the cinema screen, where ‘Marty’ draws a lot of his inspiration. As he once said: “Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetime, we need to keep them alive.”

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His love affair with the silver screen started when he was six years old when he experienced his “most impressive memory of a feature film”. He suffered from terrible asthma as a boy; thus, his parents often took him to the cinema “because he couldn’t play outside much.” When he was taken by his mother to see Duel in the Sun, he fell in love, and his devotion to the art form continued therein to this day. 

In more recent times, he has fallen head over heels in love with the work of Midsommar director, Ari Aster, eulogising the young director’s “formal control”. His jubilation continues to unspool like an endless reel of celluloid. Soon he’ll be adding another of his own love letters to the oeuvre as filming for Killers of the Flower Moon recently got underway.

Below we have compiled every movie that he recommended for the era that saw his dream come to fruition. As ever with Scorsese, it is an eclectic mix with picks from Werner Herzog down to Robert Altman and his hero Stanley Kubrick. Moreover, you can trust Scorsese to always deliver more than you ever thought you’d need. 

Martin Scorsese’s favourite films from the 1970s:

  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God – Werner Herzog, 1972.
  • AliEats the Soul – Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974.
  • All that Jazz – Bob Fosse, 1979.
  • The American Friend – Wim Wenders, 1970.
  • Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola, 1979.
  • The Asphyx — Peter Newbrook, 1972.
  • Barry Lyndon – Stanley Kubrick, 1975.
  • Le Boucher – Claude Cahrbol, 1970.
  • The Chess Player – Satyajit Ray, 1977.
  • The Conversation – Francis Ford Coppola, 1974.
  • Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde — Roy Ward Baker, 1971.
  • The Enigma of Kasper Hauser – Werner Herzog, 1974.
  • The Exorcist – William Friedkin, 1973.
  • The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola, 1972.
  • King of the Road – Wim Wenders, 1976.
  • Klute – Alan J. Pakula, 1971.
  • The Legend of Hell House — John Hough, 1973.
  • The Marriage of Maria Braun – Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1979.
  • M*A*S*H – Robert Altman, 1970.
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller – Robert Altman, 1971.
  • The Merchant of Four Seasons – Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1971.
  • The Messiah – Roberto Rossellini, 1975.
  • Nashville – Robert Altman, 1975.
  • Touki Bouki – Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1973.
  • Vampyres — José Ramón Larraz, 1974.