Martin Scorsese is probably the greatest living filmmaker on the planet. At the age of 7,5 he should be sitting on an island somewhere with his feet up, smoking a huge cigar, and drinking the most expensive scotch he can fly in. Instead, he continues to make some of the boldest, grandest, and most popular movies, with his last two – the religious epic Silence and The Wolf of Wall Street – being the latest in a long career filled with classics. Of these two, The Wolf of Wall Street is the most Scorsese.
Starring his frequent leading man Leonardo DiCaprio as disgraced former Wall Street king Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street chronicle Belfort’s rise and fall with plenty of money, sex, and an overwhelming amount of drugs. If you’re a fan of this movie check out 10 others that prove that this wolf is part of a pack.
10. The Aviator
The Wolf of Wall Street is a spiritual successor to Scorsese’s and Leo’s first attempt at the story of a man consumed by success, The Aviator. Leo plays Howard Hughes, a billionaire who makes Jordan Belfort look like a pauper in comparison as he battles the old guard of Hollywood to make daring war films while also pioneering the next phase in air travel. Except it’s not quite as simple as that. Back in 2004, biopics were all the rage, mainly as a platform for cynical attempts at Oscar glory.
The Aviator, much like The Wolf of Wall Street, bypasses these pitfalls by showing the ugly truth at the heart of the extraordinary Howard Hughes. Leo is spectacular in the role, despite looking nothing like the real-life Hughes, selling the underlying symptoms of Hughes OCD until it burst through to the surface. If anything, The Aviator goes further into the cost of success than most movies like The Wolf
9. American Hustle
The Wolf of Wall Street is packed with colorful characters and a meticulously detailed period setting, much like David O’Russell’s American Hustle. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play a pair of con artists hired by Bradley Cooper’s FBI agent to aid a sting operation targeting corrupt politicians during the late 70s to the early 80s.
Like The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle is full of A-list actors giving brilliantly intense performances in a story that is stranger than fiction. Christian Bale transforms himself, once again, into the balding, pot-bellied Irving Rosenfeld while showcasing comedic chops that his previous roles barely hinted at. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence provide fantastic support as Irving’s new love and bitter ex-wife respectively. The real credit to American Hustles success is Bradley Cooper’s increasingly unhinged performance as FBI agent Richie DiMaso. As the film’s wildcard, Cooper lets loose in increasingly destructive ways much like Jordan Belfort.
Casino is the second and not even the last Martin Scorsese film on this list. As eclectic as the great director’s career has been since he made his name with Mean Streets, it’s stories like The Wolf of Wall Street that he always comes back to. Casino is the tale of Sam “Ace” Rothstein, played by Robert DeNiro, as he runs a number of casinos in Las Vegas while forming a relationship with Sharon Stone’s Ginger McKenna (a career-best performance), and then finds himself increasingly at odds with his oldest friend Nicholas “Nicky” Santoro, played by Joe Pesci in another terrifying tough guy role.
When Casino first came out it was dismissed in some circles as a lesser retread of Goodfellas, however it has been deservingly reappraised as one of Scorsese and DeNiro’s best films. Scorsese, De Niro, and Pesci are returning to the epic crime film well once again with added Al Pacino in The Irishman, which is due out next year.
7. Glengarry Glen Ross
Money is a powerful motivator, just ask Jordan Belfort, and the power that money brings is unquestionable. The Wolf of Wall Street shows what happens when money and power are the only things that matter. Glengarry Glen Ross, on the other hand, shows the exact opposite. Directed by James Foley (who is currently collecting paychecks by directing the last two Fifty Shades films) from a script from David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross shows what happens when survival is the only goal.
The employees at the titular real estate company are almost the other side of the coin compared to Belfort and co. Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, and the brilliant Jack Lemmon are forced to compete against each other to avoid getting fired, as Alec Baldwin’s sadistic boss (another polar opposite to Matthew McConaughey’s chest thumper) puts it: “Always be closing”. The highlight is Jack Lemmon in a desperate performance so good that The Simpsons created the perennially hapless salesman Gil as a result.
6. American Psycho
The Wolf of Wall Street’s stockbrokers come across as people who are one bad day from becoming Patrick Bateman. Directed by Mary Harron, American Psycho is based on the blisteringly satirical novel by Bret Easton Ells: a writer who knows a thing or two about the excessive 80s in which Belfort thrived.
American Psycho follows stockbroker Patrick Bateman as he does little to no actual work, compares business card watermarks, and, oh yeah, horribly murders people to the music of Huey Lewis and the News. Christian Bale is iconic as Bateman, selling the unreality of his actions as well as keeping up the fiction that calls itself Patrick Bateman with little hints of the monster inside breaking through. Perhaps the funniest part of American Psycho is the scene in which the future Batman caves in the future Joker’s face with an ax. Finally, Gotham is safe.
5. Fight Club
Martin Scorsese loves to bend the rules of cinematic language and The Wolf of Wall Street is no different. Mixed with Leo’s narration, Scorsese has Jordan Belfort breaking the fourth wall many times like a salesman trying to sell you his idea of success. David Fincher is another masterful director who likes to bend these rules and Fight Club just about breaks them for good. Edward Norton’s nameless narrator (his support groups are named after De Niro characters in Scorsese films) constantly breaks the fourth wall in the same way as Belfort as he tries to sell us the anarchic world of Tyler Durden.
As with most movies like The Wolf on Wall Street, Fight Club is a story about the toxic sense of masculinity and the corruption of power when free from societies rules. Tyler Durden’s basement proclamations to Project Mayhem are eerily similar to Belfort rallying his own army of wolves.
4. Boogie Nights
In a conversation about who could attain the crown of greatest American director once Scorsese’s career comes to a close Paul Thomas Anderson would be my first pick. Like Scorsese, Anderson creates epic, almost novelistic films that are character-driven narratives with singularly American industries as the backdrop. Tom Cruise’s pick-up artist (who rallies his customers as a symbol of pure masculinity (even though he is actually one of the worst versions of it) could have got Magnolia on to this list, but for me, Boogie Nights is the most similar to Scorsese and Leo’s latest film.
Instead of the stock market, Boogie Night’s backdrop is the burgeoning porn industry of the late 70s. Mark Wahlberg plays aspiring porn star Dirk Diggler as Boogie Nights charts his rise and fall and the surrogate family he becomes a part of. Boogie Nights’ 70s setting is just as vividly rendered as Scorsese’s 80s, which is just one of the reasons why Anderson should be next in line for the great man’s crown.
3. Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street feels like the drugged-up younger brother of Oliver Stone’s 1987 classic Wall Street. The benchmark for films about the stock market, Wall Street cleverly puts much of the nuts and bolts of the profession in the background where it functions as world building.
Instead Stone focuses on the human cost of such wheeling and dealing which is epitomized by Michael Douglas’ Oscar-winning turn as Gordon Gekko. The film’s immortal line, “Greed is Good” has become a mantra in the real Wall Street, as many stockbrokers pursued a career because of the film. Which is cool, but it makes me wonder if these people watched the film all the way to the end, when Gekko and his Charlie Sheen shaped protégée were carted off to jail. Still, Wall Street is a great film for which The Wolf on Wall Street is a worthy successor.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a film so manic and anarchic it’s on the same level of Brian De Palma’s Scarface, which is really saying something. The Wolf of Wall Street could almost be Scarface without the blood. Take away Tony Montana’s mile-wide homicidal streak and keep the drugs, the women, and the power, a mention should go to the metric tone of F-bombs, and they are almost the same movie. Ok, not the same movie, Jordan Belfort doesn’t have weird feelings for his sister, he may not even have one, but the rest of it stands. the only difference is that it takes longer for Belfort to fall from grace, while also avoiding getting gunned down by rivals: he went on tour instead. If there is a performance that equals the insanity of Pacino’s Tony Montana, it’s Leo, as both actors devour the scenery of every scene they’re in.
Goodfellas was a turning point in Martin Scorsese’s career. Despite being beaten by Dances with Wolves, Goodfellas is his most important film as it proved that he could make the epic stories of the American dream and its hypocrisies in the same way that Francis Ford Coppola had with The Godfather and Sergio Leone did with Once Upon a Time in America.
As great as all the films that Scorsese and Leo did together they never had their Goodfellas, until The Wolf of Wall Street. Both Henry Hill and Jordan Belfort have the same ambition: to be somebody, and will do anything to achieve this. Both achieve great power by breaking the rules, and breaking some laws, and both lose everything as a result of this. Arguably Belfort had the better experience as he didn’t rat on any gangsters, so he’s got that going for him, at least.