So it’s clear that the AFI appreciates Robert De Niro, since he’s the star of at least 3 of the films on the list. This one was quite the puzzle since I had a hard time figuring out what the central conflict was for quite some time. Near as I can tell, it’s really about the flaws of the boxer Jake La Motta, and about the pitiful realities behind someone who achieves fame and fortune. I think the reason this film is on the list, apart from the impressive lengths De Niro went to portray La Motta at both his peak health and his declined, overweight, washed-up state, was Scorsese’s decision to show his fame run its course. The default decision when making a sports movies is to tell the rags-to-riches story and end at the moment the riches show up. Here, we get to see La Motta’s life after his peak, and we can understand that it’s possible to get everything you ever wanted and still come out unhappy. Kind of a sobering message, but maybe one worth seeing.