Features and Columns · Movies

From Sinful to Sacred: Religious Themes in the Films of Martin Scorsese

The son, the father, and the holy GOAT.
The Wolf Of Wall Street Martin Scorsese Religion
Paramount Pictures
By  · Published on September 27th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the theme of religion in the films of Martin Scorsese.


If you throw a dart at Martin Scorsese‘s filmography, there is an incredibly good chance that you will land on a movie about a bad man doing bad things.

This is a common complaint levied by wrist-wringing squares: that Scorsese movies revel and even idealize crime, violence, and degeneracy. Whether it’s Goodfellas‘ Henry Hill lapping up the glamor and gore of the gangster lifestyle or The Wolf of Wall Street‘s riotous portrait of modern-day monster Jordan Belfort, the eternal critical refrain persists: “Scorsese glorifies the actions of terrible men.”

There is much hemming and hawing about Scorsese’s career-long interest in the magnetic draw of the profane. But the director’s obsession with vice comes into clearer and deeper focus when it is transposed from a secular space. Before Scorsese became a filmmaker, he wanted to become a priest and even went so far as to attend a predatory seminary. Anyone with a broader familiarity with Scorsese’s work is keenly aware of the importance of faith in his oeuvre.

But even outside of sincerely faith-focused films (The Last Temptation of Christ, Silence), central themes of vice, virtue, judgment, and forgiveness permeate the vast majority of the director’s work.

The video essay below untangles the thorny, sincere, and knowingly imperfect religious themes within Scorsese’s movies. The essay compellingly frames his sleazier stories as confessional portraits into the allure of sin. It ultimately makes the case that the auteur’s filmography can be viewed as one long meditation on the limits of forgiveness: do even the worst of us deserve mercy, and if so, what is required for redemption?

Watch “The Side of Scorsese We Don’t Talk About”:


Who made this?

This video essay on religion in the films of Martin Scorsese is by Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor Thomas Flight. He runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Thomas Flight and check out his back catalog of video essays on YouTube here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).