Scorsese/De Niro | Programme Notes

Learn more about our reDiscover season celebrating the definitive actor-director duo as we prepare for Killers of the Flower Moon this October.

The Picturehouse Team

08 Sep 23

At a party in the early 1970s, two men were reunited for the first time since adolescence by none other than Brian De Palma. After a night of reminiscing about friends-of-friends shared across New York's neighbourhoods, their reconnection energised their then-burgeoning careers, culminating in the film that gave them both their big break. The film was Mean Streets – and the pair was Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. 

This year's Killers of the Flower Moon pushes the actor-director duo into double digits after half a century of working together. Their union has been responsible for some of the greatest, most galvanising American films ever made, and for our latest reDiscover season, Picturehouse will cherry-pick from their collaborations for an unmissable retrospective. It's a selection that proves the pair are never better than when they're together: as Scorsese himself told Deadline this year, "[De Niro] is the only one around who knows where I came from and who I am. It's all instinct between us."

Lara Peters, Content Editor

The line-up

Taxi Driver

From 25 Aug

You have to love something to look at it with a critical eye. Scorsese and De Niro (not to mention screenwriter Paul Schrader) bring grungy realism to a city they love dearly in Taxi Driver, and in doing so, made iconic the gritty look that still defines the city for many today. At its centre is Travis Bickle: a traumatised taxi driver and a deluded one-man army against so-called degenerates in the city he roams over long sleepless nights. 'You talking to me?' is his often quoted, infamous line – a perfect portrait of a man on the edge long before 'the lone gunman' gained widespread media attention. Bickle's monologue in the mirror would go on to define the discontented lonely man, being paid homage to well beyond the borders of the USA, such as in 1995's La Haine.

Issy Macleod, Film Programmer


From 01 Sep

If there's one thing Scorsese is best known for, besides his incredible eye for direction, it's his needledrops – and no film of his that illustrates this better than Goodfellas. Scorsese's love of contemporary music weaves its way through this decade-spanning mafia film: no one can forget how, in a word, cool De Niro looks in the bar when 'Sunshine of Your Love' by Cream drops, helped also by Thelma Schoonmaker's pitch-perfect editing. As we watch Ray Liotta's Henry Hill devolve into a life of excessive crime, the soundtrack devolves too, travelling from pop to psychedelic rock. Scorsese may often be reduced to a maker of mafia movies, but the skill with which he approaches the topic, under a sheen of violence and music and fashion, is often imitated and rarely surpassed. 

Issy Macleod, Film Programmer

Raging Bull

From 08 Sep  |  Book now

Four short years after Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader, Martin Scorsese, and Robert De Niro would come together as a creative powerhouse again for Raging Bull. Another character study on the nature of loneliness and anger in men, Jake LaMotta, has – for many reasons – not become the figure of film-obsessed teen boys in the same way as Travis Bickle. Despite the small amount of time between the two films, the waning of New Hollywood has stripped away all punchy aesthetics, Scorsese opting for a stark black-and-white palette paired with Thelma Schoonmaker's intensely subjective editing. It's a portrait of a man who must balance acceptable versus unacceptable violence in a world that eagerly blurs the two. 

Issy Macleod, Film Programmer

The King of Comedy

From 18 Sep  |  Book now

Misunderstood upon release but now considered a cult classic, The King of Comedy is often cited by Scorsese as his favourite collaboration with De Niro. It's a wildly different follow-up to Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, with De Niro playing Rupert Pupkin, an aspiring – and delusional – stand-up comedian, desperate "to be a King for a night [rather] than a schmuck for a lifetime." Increasingly overlooked, Pupkin kidnaps his idol (a brilliant Jerry Lewis) and blackmails a major TV network into allowing him on air to finally broadcast his routine to the masses. A strikingly prescient commentary on celebrity worship and media-obsessed culture, The King of Comedy subverts the lovable underdog story to craft a wounded, scathing masterpiece, providing one of De Niro's finest performances.

Rose Butler, Film Programmer

The Irishman

From 22 Sep  |  Book now

Living fast and dying young may be the modus operandi for the gangster anti-heroes of Goodfellas, but in The Irishman, Scorsese asks us to look beyond the adrenaline rush, portraying the lives of men like Henry Hill decades past their criminal prime to ruminate on age, mortality, betrayal and regret. Based on 'I Heard You Paint Houses', Charles Brandt's portrait of truck driver-turned-Mob hit man Frank Sheeran (the name of which gives the film its title card), Robert De Niro plays Sheeran at every stage of a criminal's life, from misspent youth all the way to an incongruous, devastating old age. It's a daunting task but De Niro's up to the challenge, alongside his Raging Bull co-star Joe Pesci and first-time Scorsese collaborator Al Pacino.

Lara Peters, Content Editor


From 29 Sep  |  Book now

A bravura second collaboration between Scorsese and crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi, Casino delves into the true story of the Mob's multimillion-dollar casino operation through the lens of a complicated trio of characters. De Niro is Sam Rothstein, tapped by his higher-ups to handle the running of the Tangiers Casino in the early 1970s – but as the decade spirals on, the greed and excess that he and his best friend, loose-cannon enforcer Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) indulge in puts them on the road to 24-karat ruin. De Niro and Pesci remain the stellar on-screen sparring partners of Raging Bull, but, not unlike Goodfellas' Lorraine Bracco, it's Sharon Stone who steals the show as Rothstein's wife Ginger: a revelatory, Oscar-nominated turn for the actress that thoroughly disproves any notion that Scorsese's a director uninterested in a female perspective.

Lara Peters, Content Editor

Cape Fear

From 06 Oct  |  Book now

The seventh collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro, Cape Fear is a remake of the 1962 film of the same name, starring Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, both of whom return for cameo appearances here. But it's De Niro who steals the show as Max Cady, a recently released violent convict, who – having studied law and its numerous loopholes during his incarceration – seeks vengeance against the public defender who he blames for his sentence. Cape Fear was first developed by Steven Spielberg, who traded the film to Scorsese for Schindler's List after feeling like it was too violent for him to pursue. Scorsese's version is much bleaker than the original – there are no heroes here; everyone is weak, everyone is flawed, and everyone is guilty in one way or another. 

Rose Butler, Film Programmer

From beloved classics to unearthed gems, reintroduce yourself to the best films of yesterday with reDiscover  be that last decade, or last century. reDiscover is free for Picturehouse Members, and all tickets are just £8.