Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas (1990)
  • Time: 146 min
  • Genre: Biography | Crime | Drama
  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Cast: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci


Henry Hill is a small time gangster, who takes part in a robbery with Jimmy Conway and Tommy De Vito, two other gangsters who have set their sights a bit higher. His two partners kill off everyone else involved in the robbery, and slowly start to climb up through the hierarchy of the Mob. Henry, however, is badly affected by his partners success, but will he stoop low enough to bring about the downfall of Jimmy and Tommy?


  • “Goodfellas” is one of those films where every choice is perfect. The directing, the writing, the acting, the music, all brilliant and completely immerses you in the violent yet alluring world Martin Scorsese has created. A lot of mob movies show the glamorous side of being a mobster, but ‘Goodfellas’ also shows the darker sides of these men and their activities. The script is well written and the cast is perfect. Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro who play the main characters give so good performances, that I could not think of any other actor to play any of those roles and the rest of the cast is equally good. The way Joe Pesci’s character portrayed is worth a special mention. All in all, this is simply a masterpiece, one of the best movies of all time!

  • Four men drive down a highway road at night, and suddenly a sound comes from the trunk of the car. “Did we hit something?” one of the men asks, and the driver pauses. They knew what they hit, but it wasn’t an animal, and it wasn’t with the car. They have mortally injured a “made” man in the Mafia, and they know what that means.
    Ever since he was a kid, Henry Hill had admired gangsters. Every night, Mafioso men would roll up in nice cars, wearing nice suits, and with beautiful women on their arms. Seeking to get closer to the culture, Henry gets a job working for a restaurant owner named Paul Cicero, a well-known crime boss in the area. After realizing the social and financial benefits of being a member of the mob, Henry becomes a full-fledged gangster; pulling heists, executing scams, and walking away with bagfuls of cash.
    Soon he meets a Jewish girl named Karen on essentially a blind date, and his wealth and power become an instant turn-on for the young lady. Not long after, Karen becomes Mrs. Henry Hill, and Henry is now a big-time mobster.
    Henry becomes friends with two main Mafia men: Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito. Jimmy is a total pro, and he has every heist or scam planned out to the second. On the other end, Tommy is reckless and short-tempered, which can be attributed to his smaller size.
    Constantly seeming to get into trouble with the other men, Tommy is a loyal yet brash partner to Henry. But the three men made on quick mistake, and that is where it all falls apart. After getting unnecessarily angry after a mobster named Billy Batts makes fun of him, Tommy’s temper cracks like a whip, and (skipping the bloody details) Batts, a “made man”, ends up dead. In the Mafioso culture, a “made” man is not to be touched, and Tommy is the one man who was foolish enough to touch him.
    With the Billy Batts affair like a piece of toilet paper stuck to their shoes, the three men try to continue on with their lives, but the FBI seems to be right on their tail.

    For director Martin Scorsese, this movie was truly his masterpiece. As a young kid in Little Italy, Scorsese was in Henry’s place; watching the classy mobsters from his bedroom window. When Wiseguy, the book on which this is based, came across the director’s table, he knew immediately that he had to be the man to direct it. The plot of both Wiseguy and Goodfellas tells the story of a real-life mobster named Henry Hill, and Hill told his story to journalist Nicholas Pileggi over a period of time while in the witness protection program.
    The element that sets this apart from other Mob-based films is that it doesn’t just tell the story of a man in the Mafia, but it also conveys what it feels like to be a mobster. Aside from the typical Italian ascent with the nice suits and the guns, it also incorporates the complexities of the Mob life; such as the effect that Henry’s career has on his wife Karen’s sanity, the widespread need for loyalty among each gangster, and the way that when the boss says to do something, you better do it right.
    The acting in this film is quite good, yet not as good as other Scorsese pictures like Raging Bull, Gangs of New York, and the Aviator. Ray Liotta plays Henry reasonably well, but something about his performance didn’t quite click. Frequent Scorsese collaborator Robert De Niro plays a no-nonsense man in Jimmy Conway with success, but it’s nothing outstanding. The two performances that are noteworthy in this film are Joe Pesci’s work as the unpredictable Tommy, and Lorraine Bracco as the unstable Karen. Joe Pesci has always been great at playing the little guy with a big temper, and this role is not different. Pesci captures perfectly the mercurial nature of Tommy, who could kiss you on the cheek just as easily as he could shoot you in the foot. The character of Karen involves playing a developing marital situation with Henry, and Lorraine Bracco does it well.
    The other major positive note to this film in my opinion is the editing. Thelma Schoonmaker has been Scorsese’s editor ever since the days at the NYU film school, and she does a fantastic job each time. What sticks out about her work in this film in particular is one of the last parts in the movie. At this point in the film, Henry is a cocaine addict, and he is losing everything that he worked so hard to make in his past. He’s paranoid that a helicopter is following him, he thinks irrationally about how to deal with trying to sell guns to Jimmy, and he is trying to cook dinner for his brother’s birthday. Using her editing, Schoonmaker makes it visually obvious that he Henry is frantic by using many quick cuts and rapid movement.

    The language was not needed at some points (a popular theme in many Scorsese films I’m afraid), but still a great film. Though the first parts make like as a gangster seem like a dream, it is in the final act that we see that the nice suits and piles of cash don’t do you much good when you’re in jail or in a ditch.

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