The Best Martin Scorsese Quotes

This famous director has given us some of the most memorable crime dramas, engaging biopic,s and a mohawked De Niro. And a boxer De Niro; oh, and a fat, ex-boxer De Niro, a mafia De Niro, a psycho De Niro, and a Las Vegas mafia enforcer De Niro. Scorsese has given us a lot of versions of De Niro but, honestly, it’s still not enough. We can never get enough De Niro.

If you hadn’t figured out that that was for comedic effect, I have the upmost respect for him, and Scorsese is one of the most prolific, influential and visionary directors of his generation. His movies have become the point of reference for gritty crime-driven movies, and his cinematic style is extremely kinetic and instantly recognizable. Here are some amusing and inspiring quotes by the cinematic Godfather (I know he didn’t direct it, but do you think “cinematic raging bull” or “cinematic Boxcar Bertha” would’ve been better?)

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[on Robert De Nero] And even now, I still know of nobody who can surprise me on the screen the way he does – and did then. No actor comes to mind who can provide such power and excitement.

OK, now I’m officially done with the De Niro jokes.

Black and white is never really black and white. It’s shades of grey.

Granted, the director said this about black and white films, but this I something that can be said of life, too. Yeah, I know it’s old and tired trope, but what do you want? This is an article about quotes from a great director – I have to put at least a little bit of nauseatingly positive spin on them. If you want cynicism, try one of my other articles.

I’m not a Hollywood director. I’m an in-spite-of-Hollywood director.

One of the testaments of Scorsese’s directorial talents is the fact that he is immensely influential and well-respected even after years of not receiving official accolades. Do what you know and you’ll do it well, because your project will be imbibed with passion and personal experience. Don’t look to what others do; do your own thing and you will eventually be rewarded – even if you’re not, at least you created something that you can be proud of. I hope you created something you can be proud of.

I happen to like vampires more than zombies.

I do, too. Moving on.

There are two kinds of power you have to fight. The first is the money, and that’s just our system. The other is the people close around you, knowing when to accept their criticism, knowing when to say no.

This is a great quote for anyone creative because first, creative endeavors usually do not come with immense financial compensation, so you must constantly teeter on the line of making work with integrity and work that will be monetarily rewarded. Secondly, creation often (if not always) comes with criticism; being able to filter criticism even from the people that are closest to us, or that is not constructive, is the only way to avoid becoming demotivated.

There’s no such thing as simple. Simple is hard.

Discarding non-essentials is immensely difficult, and a masterful exercise in balance. Take too much away and your project seems too naked, or even unfinished; leave too much in, and it seems like the omission was an afterthought. This is the measure of someone who has perfected their craft, though, knowing when to stop and knowing how much to remove, so the result seems effortless.

It’s hard to let new stuff in. And whether that admits a weakness, I don’t know.

It is hard to allow new things into your life – it’s almost as if humans are hardcoded for comfort through habit and routine. The director though almost questions himself, asking if it’s a weakness because he can’t quite quantify it. It’s probably because it’s not quantifiable. Doing what you know is beneficial and innovating, while learning and evolving are all “new” yet colossally beneficial, also.

You never know how much time you have left.

I know, I know, this is about as cliché as “just hang in there” but nonetheless an invaluable lesson. Be prolific, create whenever you can and for as long as you can, because a human’s life is finite.

Part of making any endeavor is that each one has its own special problems. It’s the nature of the process.

When approaching a new task, keep in mind that there will be obstacles and many of those obstacles will not be the same as those that you have previously overcome. Embrace that, because nothing can be learned from something that you already know, right?

If we just sit and exist, and understand that, I think it will be helpful in a world that seems like a record that’s going faster and faster, we’re spinning off the edge of the universe.

This is actually quite ironic coming from a filmmaker that is well-known for the fast pace of his films and the kinetic nature of his camera work, but maybe it’s because he’s tries to sit and exist that his movies are so motile. Our contemporary lifestyle is also characterized by ceaseless mobility, both online and physically, but it’s often beneficial to take a few deep breaths and to try to be mindful of what you are doing and where you are going.

It’s very good for me to remember what actors go through.

You always need to be sympathetic of your collaborators and subordinates because that is the only way you can effectively lead. This will also assist you in approaching and solving the inherent problems at each tier and position of the process, helping not only you but the project in general. The last, and most significant, benefit I’d argue is that this will help you communicate more effectively with the people you work with.

Are there any other Scorsese quotes that you would like added to this list? Let me know in the comments section below.