Martin Scorsese Makes a List of 85 Films Every Aspiring Filmmaker Needs to See


Image by “Sieb­bi,” Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Before the rise of insti­tu­tion­al film schools—ensconced in uni­ver­si­ty walls with all the for­mal­i­ty that entails—those seek­ing to learn the craft did so by appren­tic­ing them­selves to stu­dios and mas­ter direc­tors, and by watch­ing lots and lots of movies. If we take the exam­ple of some of the most inter­est­ing film­mak­ers work­ing today, this still may be the best way to become a film­mak­er. Wern­er Herzog’s Rogue Film School, for exam­ple, for­goes the trap­pings of class­rooms for a much more rough-and-tum­ble approach—and a direct con­fronta­tion with the medi­um. Kevin Smith dropped out of film school, as did Paul Thomas Ander­son, spurred on part­ly by a love of Ter­mi­na­tor 2. “My film­mak­ing edu­ca­tion,” revealed Ander­son, “con­sist­ed of find­ing out what film­mak­ers I liked were watch­ing, then see­ing those films.” It’s more or less how Quentin Taran­ti­no learned to make movies too.

You could hard­ly do better—if you’ve decid­ed to take this inde­pen­dent route toward a cin­e­mat­ic education—than appren­tice your­self under Mar­tin Scors­ese. Or at least find out what films he loves, and watch them all your­self.

Last year, we fea­tured a list of 39 for­eign films the estimable direc­tor of Taxi Dri­ver, Rag­ing Bull, Hugo, Good­fel­las (etc., etc., etc.) rec­om­mend­ed to a young film­mak­er. Today, we bring you a list of 85 films Scors­ese ref­er­enced in the course of a four-hour inter­view he gave to Fast Com­pa­ny. “Some of the movies he dis­cussed,” writes Fast­Co, “Oth­ers he just men­tioned. But the cumu­la­tive total reflects a life lived entire­ly with­in the con­fines of movie mak­ing.” Shoot on over to Fast Com­pa­ny to read Scorsese’s com­men­tary on each of the films below, and see an aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing ver­sion of his list over at MUBI as well.

Like I said, you could hard­ly do bet­ter.

  • Ace in the Hole
  • All that Heav­en Allows
  • Amer­i­ca, Amer­i­ca
  • An Amer­i­can in Paris
  • Apoc­a­lypse Now
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • The Bad and the Beau­ti­ful
  • The Band Wag­on
  • Born on the Fourth of July
  • Cape Fear
  • Cat Peo­ple
  • Caught
  • Cit­i­zen Kane
  • The Con­ver­sa­tion
  • Dial M for Mur­der
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Duel in the Sun
  • The Four Horse­men of the Apoc­a­lypse
  • Europa ’51
  • Faces
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire
  • The Flow­ers of St. Fran­cis
  • Force of Evil
  • Forty Guns
  • Ger­many Year Zero
  • Gil­da
  • The God­fa­ther
  • Gun Crazy
  • Health
  • Heaven’s Gate
  • House of Wax
  • How Green Was My Val­ley
  • The Hus­tler
  • I Walk Alone
  • The Infer­nal Cake­walk
  • It Hap­pened One Nght
  • Jason and the Arg­onauts
  • Jour­ney to Italy
  • Julius Cae­sar
  • Kansas City
  • Kiss Me Dead­ly
  • Klute
  • La Ter­ra Trema
  • The Lady From Shang­hai
  • The Leop­ard
  • Mac­beth
  • The Mag­ic Box
  • M*A*S*H
  • A Mat­ter of Life and Death
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  • The Mes­si­ah
  • Mid­night Cow­boy
  • Mishi­ma
  • Deeds Goes to Town
  • Smith Goes to Wash­ing­ton
  • Nashville
  • Night and the City
  • One, Two, Three
  • Oth­el­lo
  • Paisa
  • Peep­ing Tom
  • Pick­up on South Street
  • The Play­er
  • The Pow­er and the Glo­ry
  • Stage­coach
  • Raw Deal
  • The Red Shoes
  • The Rise of Louis XIV
  • The Roar­ing Twen­ties
  • Roc­co and his Broth­ers
  • Rome, Open City
  • Secrets of the Soul
  • Sen­so
  • Shad­ows
  • Shock Cor­ri­dor
  • Some Came Run­ning
  • Strom­boli
  • Sullivan’s Trav­els
  • Sweet Smell of Suc­cess
  • Tales of Hoff­man
  • The Third Man
  • T‑Men
  • Touch of Evil
  • The Tri­al
  • Two Weeks in Anoth­er Town

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­tin Scors­ese Cre­ates a List of 39 Essen­tial For­eign Films for a Young Film­mak­er

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

Wes Anderson’s Favorite Films: Moon­struck, Rosemary’s Baby, and Luis Buñuel’s The Exter­mi­nat­ing Angel

Quentin Taran­ti­no Lists His Favorite Films Since 1992

Aki­ra Kurosawa’s List of His 100 Favorite Movies

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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