Sometimes when you want a job done right, you’ve just got to do it yourself. That’s most likely not the thinking behind Martin Scorsese’s appearance in films, but it sounds good. Scorsese is one of Hollywood’s true living legends and his propensity for incredible cinema will be discussed for years to come. His acting resume? Surprisingly robust. With the amount of great movies he has put into the world, let him act if he wants to. Let him do anything, if he keeps making movies.
Luckily, he’s not bad as an actor either. For that reason, Scorsese’s cameos usually cause a great deal of glee among cinephiles. The legendary director isn’t in everything, but when he is, it’s special. For that reason, his seasons have been memorable and his roles, while never prominent, can usually leave a mark. These are 8 movies you probably didn’t know Martin Scorsese starred in.
8/8 Shark Tale
Imagining the director in a children’s cartoon might elicit upturned eyebrows from the likes of Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas. Yet, it was one of Scorsese’s most beloved and hilarious parts. Fans of Shark Tale still talk about his larger-than-life underwater alter-ego to this day.
In this scene-stealing showcase, Scorsese played a puffer fish loan shark named Sykes. Sporting Scorsese’s signature eyebrows, this middle management mob fish shakes down Will Smith’s Oscar. Insert the “sleeping with the fishes” joke here. It’s one of the most pleasantly surprising pieces of Scorsese’s movie resume.
7/8 Quiz Show
A 1994 deep dive docudrama about the crooked 1950 quiz show scandal, this film is one that many may have missed on their Scorsese bingo card. Differing from many other appearances, Quiz Show was neither a cartoon, nor directed by Scorsese himself.
Rather, the movie was directed by Robert Redford and cast Scorsese as Martin Rittenhome, a slick television executive. Perfectly cast for the role, Scorsese feigned surprise at the impending legal inquiry. Then, upon dismissing the other attorneys from the room, he unloaded on the opposing council as only he can. It’s classic Scorsese with a smile.
6/8 The Color of Money
Blink and you’ll miss Scorsese in the iconic 1980s The Color if Money from Tom Cruise and Paul Newman. Here, Scorsese appears in the most random places as pops in out and from the director’s chair. Neman is said to have personally asked Scorsese to direct the film.
Scorsese is seen walking his dog and breaking a racked set of pool balls in the billiard. Along with cameos from famous professional players like Steve Mizerak and Jimmy Mataya, the movie strives for an authentic feel with a tie-in to the world of professional pool. It delivers and remains a favorite for many today.
5/8 Bringing Out the Dead
One of Scorsese’s more experimental films, Bringing out the Dead follows Nicolas Cage and John Goodman as they drive their ambulance through the mean and haunted streets. Seeing ghosts and talking to the souls of those he has seen lost, Cage is at his cagiest in this dramatic thriller.
Scorsese’s cameo here is a voice-over, but in a different way than Shark Tale. He is the one communicating over the radio with Goodman as the dispatcher. It was a role that allowed him to appear in the film without taking too much time from his job behind the camera.
4/8 Gangs of New York
Scorsese looks like he was made for Gangs of New York. The director’s trademark look was accentuated with bushy sideburns à la Martin Van Buren for this period piece that examines the rough underbelly of classic New York.
Portraying a wealthy landowner, Scorsese’s role at the head of the table is unforgettable, if not remarkable. The gorgeous cinematography in this creates a scene that appears almost like a flowing renaissance painting.
3/8 The Wolf of Wall Street
As became the custom in later films, Scorsese realized he could play needed parts without spending the day in makeup. In The Wolf of Wall Street, he does another voice-over cameo — one of many, per Screen Rant — as he plays the voice of John, a client on the phone who is first talked into penny stocks by the slick-dealing Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s a pretty important scene in the overall story.
For those who have watched this movie repeatedly, learning of Scorsese’s part is surprising. His unassuming, matter-of-fact delivery doesn’t stand out for any reason good or bad. He plays his part to perfection and doesn’t take over his own scenes.
2/8 The King of Comedy
One of the most underrated roles in Robert De Niro’s career was in The King of Comedy. This piece of movie magic melds two distinct eras into one. Featuring the iconic Jerry Lewis, at the twilight of his acting career, with De Niro, just embarking on his legendary journey, The King of Comedy is one of Hollywood’s most emulated films.
Today, the eager fan kidnapping his TV idol is kind of overdone. In this 1982 comedy-drama, it was still a fairly new concept. It was here that Scorsese can be seen playing a familiar role: director. He preps Tony Randall for a guest hosting role in the film’s fictitious TV talk show.
1/8 Raging Bull
Prior to the era of Goodfellas and Casino, Raging Bull was Scorsese’s crowning tough-guy drama. The tale of a troubled boxer, Robert De Niro and his battles with his brother Joe “Joey” Pesci would set the groundwork for the work all these men would do in the future.
The movie is also famous for De Niro’s incredible waiting gain in the film’s final moments. In those moments, Scorsese can be seen in a mirror informing De Niro’s Jake LaMotta character that the auditorium is full, allowing the legendary director to be seen in one of his most iconic pieces of work.