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Scorsese/De Niro: 50 years/10 films

Martin Scorsese made his first feature film with Harvey Keitel in 1967. Who’s That Knocking At My Door? He immediately made a name for himself in the industry, making influential friends such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Zemeckis and Brian De Palma, who were recognised by Hollywood as the influential “film brats” of the 1970s. De Palma was the one who introduced Scorsese to the young actor Robert De Niro. At 20, De Niro had known De Palma for years and his first film role in collaboration with De Palma was in 1963, when he appeared in the film The Wedding Party at the age of 20. However, the film was not released until 1969. The two teamed up again in the 1968 film Greetings, which would eventually become De Niro’s official film debut.

His first collaboration with Scorsese came five years later. In Mean Streets (1973), De Niro gave one of his best performances of his youth. The film tells the story of Charlie (Harvey Keitel) and Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), two young men trying to make it in 1970s New York City in the local Italian mafia. The aesthetics, soundtrack and costumes all perfectly recreate the grimness of the city at the time. A great film.

In Taxi Driver (1976), Robert De Niro plays Travis Bickle, a young Midwestern man, formerly a Marine, who now works as a night-time taxi driver in New York. Confronted with the vices of New York nightlife, he buys a gun on the black market and is trained to use it. After he kills a petty thief, Travis sets out to rescue Iris (Jodie Foster), a twelve-year-old prostitute he takes under his wing. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1976, Taxi Driver was the film that launched young Jodie Foster’s career.

Less than a year after Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese tried his hand at musical theatre with New York, New York (1977), where he also had success. He cast his favourite actor, Robert de Niro, as a demobilised soldier who became a saxophonist in his spare time. Alongside him, Liza Minnelli – by then already a star of the genre thanks to Cabaret – plays a talented singer who takes him to a Brooklyn nightclub to launch his musical career. The pair worked perfectly on screen!


Raging Bull (1980) tells the story of middleweight boxing champion Jack La Motta, from his iconic victories over Robinson and Cerdan to a long period of self-destruction. Robert De Niro dazzles audiences with an unforgettable performance and deservedly wins the Academy Award for Best Actor. (De Niro’s other Oscar win was for The Godfather Part 2 in 1975.)

Those who have seen Todds Phillips’ Joker will recognise the similarities in this little-known Martin Scorsese film with the character played by Joaquin Phoenix, the comic figure who is first discovered and then vilified on television by star TV presenter Murray Franklin (Robert de Niro). Martin Scorsese’s 1983 film The King of Comedy, in which Rupert Pupkin, played by De Niro, dreams of appearing on Jerry Langford’s show and finally showing the world his comic talents, so in desperation he kidnaps the host.

Scorsese and De Niro’s films together by the numbers

  1. Cape Fear (182.3 million)
  2. Casino (116.1 million)
  3. Goodfellas (47.1 million)
  4. Killers of the Flower Moon (44 million)*
  5. Taxi Driver (28.6 million)
  6. Raging Bull (23.4 million)
  7. New York, New York (16 million)
  8. The Irishman (8 million)
  9. Mean Streets (3 million)
  10. The King of Comedy (2.5 million)

The location is New York, New York again… Henry Hill in Goodfellas (1990) has had only one ambition since childhood: to be a gangster! The 13-year-old adolescent wistfully observes the glamorous life of Jimmy, the mobster who lives across the street and is the most respected man in the world. The half-Irish, half-Sicilian boy, who has always wanted to be one of them, is easily seduced by the gangster world and one day finds himself in the service of the local godfather’s family. The film was an incredible success, winning five BAFTA awards, beaten in most categories at the Oscars by Dances with Wolves, but it was universally acclaimed by critics and is still regarded as one of the best films of all time.


Cape Fear (1991) is an excellent thriller! Max Cady (Robert de Niro) is released from prison 14 years after being convicted of raping a minor. His only thought is to get revenge on Sam Bowden, his former lawyer, who suppressed a report that revealed a close relationship between Cady and the young girl that could have kept him out of jail. The film is a remake of the 1962 film of the same name. Scorsese’s adaptation has received generally favourable reviews, being nominated for two Academy Awards and two BAFTA Awards.

Casino (1995) is set in 1970s Las Vegas and stars Sam Ace Rothstein (De Niro) as the owner of the thriving Tangiers casino hotel, a big shot in town who is aided by his childhood friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci). But one day, he falls under the spell of a professional con artist, Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone), and his life is turned upside down in one fell swoop… Sharon Stone’s sultry performance in Basic Instinct is a masterstroke that earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and Scorsese’s film was hailed as one of the year’s most important films by the prestigious French magazine Cahiers De Cinema.

Scorsese is clearly perhaps the greatest master of the gangster film, and his return to the genre has been eagerly awaited. The crime film, written by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List), is based on Charles Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses. Starring such luminaries as Robert De Niro (Frank Sheeran, union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family), Al Pacino (Jimmy Hoffa), and Joe Pesci (Russell Bufalino), The Irishman (2019) does not disappoint: Scorsese’s film was nominated for 10 Bafta and 10 Oscar awards, none of which it went on to win.

In Scorsese’s latest film, Killers of the Flower Moon, which opens in October, two of his favourite actors, Robert de Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, are reunited for the first time. De Niro plays William Hale, a notorious killer, while DiCaprio stars as John Edgar Hoover, the future director of the FBI, who investigates the murders of Oklahoma Indians after oil is discovered on their land in the 1920s. The film is sure to be a headliner at awards ceremonies for years to come.