Martin Scrosese isn’t known for the avant-garde. He certainly takes ideas from those directors and creatives and incorporates some into his films, but he works within the conventions of modern film and doesn’t deviate too far. That said, Scorsese is an unfettered weird person with a deeply contemplative disposition that sees past archetypes and explores people at their core. This idealistic view of humanity leads him to bizarre discoveries in his work
And that’s not to say Scorsese hasn’t made weird films. As you’re about to experience, Marty has made plenty of strange, alienating films. Mainly his lead characters are self-absorbed obsessed people that let their narcissism and disconnection from the world drive their plight, so far as to experience insanity. Marty also makes conventional stories feel like anything but with his incredible, fast-moving style.
So, let’s get to Honorable mentions
Shutter Island being excluded from the list might be heresy to some Scorsese fans. Many will point to this as his weirdest film, but it’s all captured in a traditional sense and has conventional mystery plotting that lends itself more to conventions rather than going outside the box. The plot is strange, but the film itself is traditional.
Hugo captures the world of early cinema and that inherently is weird. The automaton left for Hugo by his grandfather and the notebook lead down a strange path to one of the forefathers of cinema. The film isn’t outwardly weird, but does have moments that don’t fit into conventional storytelling.
5. Mean Streets
Mean Streets is Marty at his most independent, most uninhibited by structure or plot. He essentially lets the audience into the gritty, urban world of Charlie (Harvey Keitel) and Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro). It’s a ruptured world, defined by seedy basement bars with brazen lighting and an atmosphere of distrust. Spend time getting belligerently drunk and fighting with New York’s most unperturbed subjects. A bizarre, yet honest, look at New York streets.
4. The Last Temptation of Christ
Paul Schrader asks probing questions out of life expecting to receive the everlasting in return. In The Last Temptation of Christ, the question itself is strange enough to warrant a place on this list: what if Jesus never died for humanity on the cross? What if he succumbed to the satan? Marty and Schrader attempt to answer this question and the result is Scorsese’s most spiritual experience.
3. Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver is one of the most isolated, alienated, and urgently confused scripts and films in history. Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is truly one of the weirdest characters in film canon, as he’s got an outward desire to be different. He tries to fit into structured society but there’s absolutely no place for him. He attempts to assassinate politicians, frequents pornograpy theaters, and then attempts to assimilate by being a protector of child prostitution. Parts of him want to live within the confines of the world, the others are so apathetic to the idea of conformity.
2. After Hours
After Hours is arguably Marty’s most experimental film and nothing else in his filmography compares. The best way I can describe it is the universal experience of bar drinkers where you’re in a frenzied state and abnormal things start to take place around you, strictly between the hours of 2-6am. It’s that horrific feeling of being suspended in drunk, not able to sleep, but open to the strange elements of life. It’s a rabbit hole that is only opened to those willing to accept it. The existential nightmare of nightlife.
1. The King of Comedy
The plot, the characters, and the style are in tune with bringing out the strange in this story. A narrative formulated around a hyper obsessed man, living in a surreal fantasy land where he himself is the King of Comedy. Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) isn’t just a weird character within Scorsese’s filmography, but in the larger film canon. He’s a symbol of weird cinema and his plight relates to the idealist, seeking recognition above all else, even at the expense of indignity.