These Are The Best Performances In Martin Scorsese’s Films

Cultural Critic
01.11.17 22 Comments

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With awards season upon us, it’s a little odd that the latest Martin Scorsese film, Silence, has been largely absent from the conversation, particularly in the acting categories. While it took Scorsese until 2007 to win his own Oscar, actors in Scorsese movie have routinely been up for hardware, starting with Ellen Burstyn in 1975 for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Just try to make a list of iconic film performances that doesn’t include any Scorsese movies. It’s basically impossible.

You know what else is basically impossible? Determining the best performance in a Scorsese film. But that didn’t stop me from making an attempt. After a deep investigation into Scorsese’s filmography, I determined that there were exactly 32 performances worthy of being ranked in a list on the internet. Here are those 32 performances.


Issey Ogata in Silence
Scorsese’s latest movie is undermined, for me, by Andrew Garfield, a guy who was great in The Social Network when he used the phrase “f*ck you flip-flops” but can’t quite pull off the endless amount of angry praying that Scorsese requires. (Quick fix for an alternate dimension: Have Garfield and Adam Driver trade roles.) But Silence does have many fine supporting performances, starting with Issey Ogata’s wily, borderline comic rendition as the merciless inquisitor.

Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street
The other great buck-toothed performance in the Scorsese canon.

Matt Damon in The Departed
Damon is a good actor when he plays heroes in movies like The Martian. He’s a great actor when he plays weasels in movies like The Departed.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator
Leo starts this movie like he’s in The Wolf of Wall Street and ends it like he’s in The Revenant.

Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out The Dead
One of the great “bonkers” Nic Cage performances, back when he was called on to act bonkers in prestige movies rather than straight-to-video B pictures.

Griffin Dunne in After Hours

Juliette Lewis in Cape Fear
She makes the list for starring in the most disturbing thumb-sucking scene in film history

Matthew McConaughey and Kyle Chandler in The Wolf of Wall Street
Both of them dropped into The Wolf of Wall Street for basically one scene each, but they’re the two best scenes in the movie.

Van Morrison in The Last Waltz
The purple suit is immortal.

Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver
Not just a great cameo, but a fine showcase for one of the classic ’70s beards of all time.

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