In Ireland to accept an honour, the Oscar-winning director said recent global developments remind him of the years leading into the Second World War.
“Being fascinated by history, I read as much as I can,” he told an audience at Trinity College Dublin.
“It just reminds me of the late 20s, the 30s .. reading about how these things could have happened at that time.
“It’s a scary time.”
Referring to the rise of global terrorism, Mr Scorsese said that the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq invasion “had created thousands and thousands of Travis Bickles.”
“They say they have nothing to lose,” he added.
Bickles is the depressed loner at the centre of his classic 1976 thriller Taxi Driver who is drawn to violence in his disgust against the decadence and sleaze he perceives around him.
Mr Scorcese was in Dublin to collect a gold medal from Trinity College’s Philosophical Society.
Arriving in a blacked out Mercedes car, he said it “was a great honour” and that he was “surprised and moved” by the award.
Former recipients include US Vice President Joe Biden, Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Al Pacino, Tim Cook and Dame Helen Mirren.
Later Mr Scorsese addressed hundreds of students in the college’s examinations hall, many of whom had queued for up to six hours to see the director behind some of the most celebrated films over the past five decades.
During his address, he attacked celebrity culture as a “monster that has to be fed”, adding that it is “the work that matters”.
Over the weekend, Mr Scorsese will also receive the Irish Film and Television Academy’s John Ford award during a special ceremony in Dublin.
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins will present the honour.
Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Scorsese said an award created in celebration of “John Ford’s artistry and prestige has great personal significance for me”.