Roundup of Scorsese’s Best Films in Honor of New Movie’s Weekend Release

CASINO, director Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro on set, 1995,
Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

The new Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moonstarring Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone — is out this week and, judging from early reviews and the stellar cast, it’s likely to be a major hit. Based on David Grann’s true crime thriller of the same name, this historical drama is set in the 1920s during the birth of the FBI, when a series of mysterious deaths involving members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma spark a national investigation.

I don’t know what is more appealing seeing DiCaprio again on the big screen, or seeing Robert De Niro and Scorsese back together. Probably all of the above.

This is the 11th collaboration between De Niro and Scorsese and the 7th with DiCaprio. It is the first time, however, all three Hollywood icons are working together. Here’s a list of some of the most compelling and successful collaborations between these three talented men.

Taxi Driver (1976)

TAXI DRIVER, Robert De Niro, 1976

Courtesy Everett Collection

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?”

You probably know this famous scene where Robert De Niro, who plays an unstable taxi driver named Travis Bickle, starts an imagined confrontation in front of his mirror. Interestingly, De Niro ad-libbed this entire scene, which was originally without dialogue. Bickle is a Vietnam vet who gets so fed up with the world he sets out on a violent spree to rid society of scum, and the film got two Oscar nods.

Raging Bull (1980)

RAGING BULL, Robert DeNiro, 1980,

United Artists/Courtesy Everett Collection.

This biographical drama about hotheaded boxing champion Jake LaMotta won two Oscars, one of which was for Robert De Niro’s portrayal of the main character. When the real Jake LaMotta saw the movie, he said it made him realize for the first time how poorly he had acted during his life. He asked the real Vicki LaMotta, his second wife, “Was I really like that?” and Vicki replied, “You were worse.”

Goodfellas (1990)

GOODFELLAS, Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, 1990,

Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

Rated one of the best movies of all time and known to anyone who likes mobster films, Goodfellas was another De Niro-Scorsese collaboration that drew a lot of success (and an Oscar win for Joe Pesci). The story follows Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), who grew up idolizing gangsters, but when his own rise through the ranks of organized crime becomes stalled, he finds himself the target of both the mob and the FBI.

Gangs of New York (2002)

GANGS OF NEW YORK, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, 2002

Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

It’s hard to believe that there are now college-aged adults who were born after Gangs of New York was released. This film, about a long-running religious feud in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City, was so epic. The still fresh-faced DiCaprio shines as the conflicted orphan Amsterdam, who returns to the Five Points to avenge his dead father, just as the Civil War has started and there is unrest in the streets. Daniel Day-Lewis playing Five Points gang leader Bill the Butcher has to be some of the best acting of all time.

This movie has all the makings of a classic. Not only is the acting on a level of its own, the story is as captivating as it is timeless; Amsterdam is basically the New York slum version of the Count of Monte Cristo, the titular character of the French novel that came out in 1846 which is, probably not coincidentally, the same time frame of the first scene in Gangs of New York — who is wrongly imprisoned for much of his life and upon his return into Parisian culture, seeks vengeance.

GANGS OF NEW YORK, Leonardo Di Caprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, 2002,

Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

Vengeance in general is a great movie trope, as it keeps the stakes high and the characters sympathetic. And in this case, the villain is so well-drawn it’s hard not to like him too. One of the most poignant scenes in the movie is when Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis), using an American Flag as a blanket, finds Amsterdam in bed with Jenny (Cameron Diaz) and tells him about how he lost his eye. Amsterdam’s plan for vengeance has hit a bit of a snag by this point, because even though he spent his entire life plotting to avenge his father’s death by killing the Butcher, he has now become part of the man’s inner circle and is secretly enjoying it, while hating it simultaneously. Watching Amsterdam’s face when the Butcher, the man who murdered his father, tells him he never had a son (implying he sees Amsterdam as a son) is really acting and writing at its best. Eliciting empathy for both protagonist and antagonist is likely one of many reasons this film garnered so many Oscar nominations (10 in total).

The Departed (2006)

THE DEPARTED, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Sheen, 2006,

Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

An undercover cop and a mole try to identify each other while infiltrating a Boston gang and falling for the same girl in this high-stakes thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg. When I watched it for a second time years after it first premiered, some of the plot became a little bit questionable, I’ll be honest. However, I still love it. In addition to the Hollywood hunks listed above, Martin Sheen and Jack Nicholson play significant roles too, making it a real all-star cast.

Shutter Island (2010)

Based on a Dennis Lehane novel, this psychological thriller set on an island-based psychiatric facility was one of the biggest hits of the year when it first came out, due to its legendary twist ending and great acting (DiCaprio costars with Mark Ruffalo). There’s also a scene between Leonardo DiCaprio and Michelle Williams that will make even the most cold-hearted viewer tear up.

SHUTTER ISLAND, front, from left: Mark Ruffalo, Leonardo DiCaprio, 2010.

Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Combining Martin Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio or Robert De Niro is a recipe for gold, so it will be interesting to see how the three of them share the screen in Flowers of the Killer Moon, which is out in theaters October 20, and will also be released on Apple TV+ after its initial theater run.