2. “Raging Bull” (1980)
It’s difficult to say anything that hasn’t already been raved about for “Raging Bull.” Scorsese’s fascination with the drive that drove Jack LaMotta (Robert De Niro) to madness shines in every frame. The tale of an amateur boxer who reaches the pinnacle of his career by dismantling everything in his life is awe-inspiring and engrossing. The self-destructive ambition of LaMotta is perfectly conjured by De Niro in his seminal performance. That’s not to say anything about the actual sports scenes. Scorsese crafts the most exhilarating boxing sequences to grace the silver screen. Still, the biggest fights are between LaMotta and his brother, Joey (Joe Pesci), and young wife, Vickie (Cathy Moriarty). It’s a difficult and hard to watch film. The drama and tension cuts through the beautifully shot black and white exterior of the film. This is the calling card to establish Scorsese as one of the greats.