Top 10 Mad As Hell Scorsese Moments

If you read this site regularly you already know that Martin Scorsese is one of our favorite filmmakers. His work over the past 40 years both behind the camera as well as leading the film community in preservation of the artform has been incredibly influential and inspirational. He continues to provide viewers both young and old with excitement from the stories he’s created for the silver screen.

Most of the films we’ve picked out for this new list are graphically violent, but then, as we know, cinema was essentially created to show action and many of those actions are in fact of a violent nature. Mr. Scorsese has, at this point, mastered the art of visual storytelling and so we wanted to focus on some of his most “mad as hell” moments of cinematic expression.

Before you read on we would just like to make a point to say after recent events in the USA and elsewhere that we find real life violence deplorable. Also, if you are disturbed by scenes like these, please don’t watch the clips, Thank You.

1. “How’s Iris?” (1976, Taxi Driver)
The original cut of Taxi Driver had featured candy apple red blood and was met with an X rating by the censors. There’s a legendary story delivered HERE by Quentin Tarantino that Scorsese was actually ready to goto extremes if the film was altered by the studio in any way. In the end he came up with the idea to mute the red blood turning it to a more sepia tone thus finally getting an R rating. This sequence is one of Scorsese’s most famous and shocking. The main character Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) unleashes an attack on the scummy pimp Sport (Harvey Keitel), and another man who are keeping Iris (Jodie Foster) working as an underage prostitute in a grungy tenement in NYC. Following the carnage, in a surprising twist, Travis is actually considered a hero for saving Iris.

2. “Go Home And Get Your Shinebox” (1990, GoodFellas)
When a wiseguy named Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) gets home from prison he goes to Robert’s Lounge to celebrate with his friends. At the bar with Henry (Ray Liotta) and Jimmy (Robert DeNiro) looking on, Billy makes a mistake and insults Tommy (Joe Pesci) a fellow mobster with a very short fuse. Later on that night, a furious Tommy returns looking for revenge and he and Jimmy proceed to beat Batts to a bloody pulp. This scene was set to the song “Atlantis” by Donovan which was a beautiful sounding track that is a complete contrast to the brutal beating occurring yet when blended together it creates a very interesting effect. Second pick: Tommy shoots Spider.

3. “I’m Not An Animal” (1980, Raging Bull)
After being arrested for fooling around with an underage girl, ex-boxer turned nightclub owner Jake LaMotta (Robert DeNiro) is thrown in the Dade County Jail where he proceeds to have a breakdown and punches the walls in furious anger. Although we can hardly see anything, the sounds and darkness clue us into LaMotta’s mindset and it appears he has hit a personal rock bottom. A very violent and emotional scene. Runners up: Jake Vs. Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake Vs. His Wife and Brother.

4. “We Don’t Pay Mooks” (1973, Mean Streets)
An early example of Scorsese style action where Charlie (Harvey Keitel) and Johnny Boy (Robert DeNiro) get into a pool hall brawl with Joe (George Memmoli) and some punks after a bet is supposed to be collected and rude words are exchanged. You’ll hear some great classic R & B music playing on the jukebox here as well featuring the kinds of songs Scorsese grew up with. These kinds of spur of the moment punch em ups would become a regular part of Scorsese’s ouvre from then on.

5. “God’s Only Man, Spared by the Butcher” (2002, Gangs of New York)
Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) who has gained the trust of Five Points chieftain Bill “The Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day Lewis) the same man who killed his father, decides the time is right during a public ceremony to attack his enemy. What he doesn’t know is that Bill will be quicker and thwart his plans turning his revenge into a bloody and furious spectacle of betrayal.

6. “The People Call Samuel J. Bowden!” (1991, Cape Fear)
The Bowden family take off on their house boat thinking they’re safe from harm until ex-con psycho Max Cady (Robert DeNiro) shows up seething with revenge for his past imprisonment. What’s interesting about DeNiro’s take on Cady is that it seemed to be inspired more by Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter instead of his role as Cady in the original 1962 film. Scorsese and DeNiro also turned Cady into an almost supernatural villain. Watch as the badly burnt Cady holds his own mock trial and looks up into the camera as if God is his one true judge.

7. “Is That A Little Girl Ace?” (1995, Casino)
While Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert DeNiro) casually hangs out in a bar, he politely asks a man if a pen is his. When the guy rudely insults him, Nicky (Joe Pesci) his close friend goes ballistic and uses the pen as a shank, stabbing the man until he cries. An explosive scene that again shows the realities of gangster life and how at any moment you can end up dead or seriously hurt because of a wrong word or two. Second pick: Nicky puts Charlie Dogs’ head in a vice.

8. “You Guys Delivering Cannolis?” (2006, The Departed)
In Scorsese’s NY neighborhood growing up, the Italian mobsters were feared, but in Boston, you never mess with Irish gangsters because they will hurt you just as bad. Undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) must show he is as tough as they come to make sure his assignment to take down a local crime boss (Jack Nicholson) goes according to plan. To do this he attacks two Italian mafia thugs from Providence in a Southie diner. This is another classic Scorsese sequence that is both violent, funny and scored to upbeat pop music. This time Scorsese used the 60s garage rock/one hit wonder “Nobody But Me” by The Human Beinz, which coincidentally was also chosen by Quentin Tarantino a few years earlier for Kill Bill during the House of Blue Leaves battle.

9. “Dont Mess With The Scorpion!” (1974, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore)
Although this is one of Scorsese’s most non violent movies, it still features a shocking scene with Harvey Keitel as an abusive guy who goes crazy on his girlfriend. The story is about Alice (Ellen Burstyn) and her son who are trying to start their life over following the death of her husband. A very emotional, funny and beautifully acted story coming from a female point of view which was a departure for Scorsese who came from the world of urban street life. We highly recommend it to those fans who may have only seen gangster movies like GoodFellas, Casino and The Departed.

10. “We’re Gonna Have A lot of Fun” (1986, The Color of Money)
Our last pick on the list isn’t violent, but still is mad as hell in its coolness. Flake extraordinaire Vincent (Tom Cruise) who can’t put his new Balabushka pool cue down, shows off his expert skills to onlookers while Warren Zevon’s classic 70s rock anthem Werewolves of London plays. Yet another memorable piece of cinema mixed with music.

Do you have any favorite furious Scorsese sequences? Let us know!



Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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