Are Martin Scorsese’s Longer Movies Better Than His Shorter Ones? An Expert Analysis

It makes sense that Martin Scorsese would demand and receive final cut. That’s the perk of directing some of the most iconic films in Hollywood history. But even the most exhaustively realized lowlife saga could use a snip here and there. And as Scorsese’s stature has grown, his movies have gotten longer and longer, making one wonder if he needs to be more merciless in the editing bay. It’s gotten so bad that ahead of the Cannes premiere of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the maestro’s team had to deny reports that his latest movie was nearly 4 hours. Turns out it’s a fleet 3 hours, 20 minutes and change. In honor of that film’s debut, we break down some selections from Scorsese’s canon — with an emphasis on the clock to see if length correlates to quality.

After Hours
1985
Run time: 1h 37m
Brilliant or bloated? Hallelujah! A Scorsese joint that doesn’t burst your bladder. This briskly paced tour of SoHo nightlife barely has an ounce of fat on it.

Mean Streets
1977
Run time: 1h 52m
Brilliant or bloated? Nothing to cut here. This look at two smalltime hoods whose friendship is tested announced Scorsese as a filmmaker to watch, his rock ’n’ roll swagger coming with a whole lot of Catholic guilt.

Raging Bull
1980
Run time: 2h 9m
Brilliant or bloated? Yes, this is “the greatest movie ever made,” but Robert De Niro’s waistline isn’t the only thing that sags a little as the film nears the 2-hour mark. Still, this study in masculinity remains a masterpiece, and you don’t want to mess around with one of those.

The Age of Innocence
1993
Run time: 2h 16m
Brilliant or bloated? Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer are unforgettable as doomed lovers separated by societal strictures. Still, there’s an awful lot of pregnant stares and Joanne Woodward reading long, long passages of Edith Wharton. Show, don’t tell, Marty.

Goodfellas
1990
Run time: 2h 26m
Brilliant or bloated? It’s not a short movie, but everything about “Goodfellas” is so propulsive — from its use of rock music to its shocking violence to the hyperkinetic editing of the final sequence with a drugged-out Ray Liotta — that the film flies by. We defy you to check your watch.

The Departed
2006
Run time: 2h 31m
Brilliant or bloated? Moving back toward fighting trim, Scorsese’s criminally good tale of double-crossing cops and robbers finally won him his long-overdue Oscar. It also ranks as one of his biggest hits. Jack Nicholson may have been allowed to gnaw at the scenery too long, but you forgive a master his indulgences.

Gangs of New York
2002
Run time: 2h 47m
Brilliant or bloated? And here’s where the wheels come off. Scorsese wants to look back at his native city’s chaotic Civil War era, but the movie’s epic length can’t make up for thinly drawn characters and Cameron Diaz, who seems to have appeared in lower Manhattan by way of the Valley.

The Wolf of Wall Street
2013
Run time: 3h
Brilliant or bloated? Why watch Leo zonked off his Gord on ‘ludes once, when you can watch it 10 times? “The Wolf of Wall Street” is all about excess, and that includes its lumbering running time. On the plus side: Despite being a 3-hour movie, it feels like a 2-hour, 45-minute one.

Killers of the Flower Moon
2023
Run time: 3h 24m
Brilliant or bloated? To be determined in Cannes.

The Irishman
2019
Run time: 3h 29m
Brilliant or bloated? Thanks to the magic of CGI, De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino are de-aged and made to look like Ringwraith versions of their former selves. That’s the fun part. Watching De Niro live out his last days in a dreary retirement home leaves one longing for hospice’s arrival.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *