Martin Scorsese Reveals His 12 Favorite Movies (and Writes a New Essay on Film Preservation)

kubrick listCinema as we’ve almost always known it — “Edison, the Lumière brothers, Méliès, Porter, all the way through Griffith and on to Kubrick”  — has “really almost gone.” So writes Martin Scorsese in his recent essay for the New York Review of Books, “The Persisting Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema.” He argues that traditional film forms have “been overwhelmed by moving images coming at us all the time and absolutely everywhere, even faster than the visions coming at the astronaut” in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “We have no choice but to treat all these moving images coming at us as a language. We need to be able to understand what we’re seeing and find the tools to sort it all out.” Only natural that Scorsese, as one of the best-known, highest-profile auteurs alive, would reference Kubrick, his generational predecessor in the untiring furtherance of cinematic vision and craft.

We just yesterday featured a post about Kubrick’s 1963 list of ten favorite films. Scorsese, for his part, has impressed many as one of the most enthusiastically cinephilic directors working in America today: his essays about and appearances on the DVDs of his favorite movies stand as evidence for the surprising breadth of his appreciation. Today, why not have a look at Scorsese’s list, which he put together for Sight and Sound magazine, and which begins with the Kubrick selection you might expect:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Stanley Kubrick
 (1963) – Federico Fellini
Ashes and Diamonds (1958) – Andrzej Wajda
Citizen Kane (1941) – Orson Welles
The Leopard (1963) – Luchino Visconti
Paisan (1946) – Roberto Rossellini
The Red Shoes (1948) – Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger
The River (1951) – Jean Renoir
Salvatore Giuliano (1962) – Francesco Rosi
The Searchers (1956) – John Ford
Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) – Mizoguchi Kenji
Vertigo (1958) – Alfred Hitchcock

In “The Persisting Vision,” he champions comprehensive film preservation, citing the case of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the final entry on his list, now named the greatest film of all time by Sight and Sound‘s critics poll. “When the film came out some people liked it, some didn’t, and then it just went away.” When, after decades of obscurity, Vertigo came back into circulation,  the color was completely wrong,” and “the elements — the original picture and sound negatives — needed serious attention.” A restoration of the “decaying and severely damaged” film eventually happened, and “more and more people saw Vertigo and came to appreciate its hypnotic beauty and very strange, obsessive focus.” I, personally, couldn’t imagine the world of cinema without it — nor without any of the other pictures Scorsese calls his favorites.

Related Content:

Revisit Martin Scorsese’s Hand-Drawn Storyboards for Taxi Driver

Martin Scorsese’s Very First Films: Three Imaginative Short Works

Martin Scorsese Brings “Lost” Hitchcock Film to Screen in Short Faux Documentary

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.



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  1. Fred says . . . | July 31, 2013 / 5:50 am

    nice to see the John Wayne movie on his list.

  2. Tango-Hannes says . . . | July 31, 2013 / 9:01 am

    Now I’ll be damned but this “list of 10 favorite movies” really looks like a “list of 12 favorite movies”.

  3. Nacho says . . . | July 31, 2013 / 10:09 am

    It’s a bit disappointing that his last selected movie is dated in 1968. So film language and the fact of making top brilliant movies has stopped in 1968, 45 years ago…

  4. Dan Colman says . . . | July 31, 2013 / 11:21 am

    I will be damned, you’re right! That’s reflected now in the post :)

  5. Richard Block says . . . | July 31, 2013 / 12:07 pm

    Amazing list. Nothing modern. No Bergman. Seems very arbitrary list for such an intellect. No comedy. Happy guy!

  6. David Campos says . . . | July 31, 2013 / 1:07 pm

    12, right?

  7. Magdalena Lenczowska says . . . | July 31, 2013 / 1:15 pm

    “Ashes and Diamonds” are legally available at Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3ys_NeM6wA , among 30 other significant Polish movies at the chanel of its producer Studio Filmowe KADR. Some of the movies already have English subs, Ashes are unluckily only in Polish, but the channel is quite new, so I hope that an English version is a question of a near future!

  8. Bunny Lavander says . . . | August 7, 2013 / 10:48 pm

    nothing beyond 1970. this is sad .

  9. unknown1 says . . . | December 2, 2013 / 9:41 am

    Lives of Others, Godfather 2, Man on the Flying Trapeze. Thin Red Line, trasure of Sierra Madre.n

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