What are common themes in Martin Scorsese films?

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Answered by: Mark, An Expert in the Hollywood Movies - General Category
Martin Scorsese is a director with a body of work spanning generations. His most common theme is that of a surrogate father. From "Mean Streets" all the way up to "The Departed," his protagonists search for a father never had. Henry Hill in "Goodfellas" finds it in the charismatic Jimmy Conway, while Amsterdam in "Gangs of New York" finds it in Bill "The Butcher." Generally, this father figures have negative impacts on each of the protagonists in some way, building the conflict in the film. In "The Departed," particularly, both DiCaprio and Damon's characters find a father in Nicholson's Frank Costello. With each one on the opposing side of the law, and their uniting aspect being Costello, the story ends in tragedy, with both of them shot dead because of their relationship with Costello. The same could also be said in "Goodfellas," where anyone associated with Conway finds themselves either dead or, in Henry Hill's case, in witness protection. In "Mean Streets," we are exposed to several levels of surrogate fathers. Harvey Keitel's Charlie plays that role to De Niro's Johnny Boy, but inevitably fails in helping him stay on a legit path. Charlie's uncle plays the same role to him, but also fails as a result of Charlie's continued association with the less honorable Johnny Boy. Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, "Taxi Driver," also has a surrogate father relationship. In this case, it's the relationship between Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) and the teen prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster). This is unusual for the usually male dominated Scorsese world, but the outcome is apparently a far better one. After Travis' bloody rampage, we are lead to believe that Iris has returned to her family and has begun attending school again, abandoning her life on the streets.

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