GoodFellas (1990)

goodfellas poster 1990 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

One of Scorsese best


Movie Info

Movie Name: GoodFellas

Studio: Warner Bros.

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  September 9, 1990 (Venice Film Festival)/September 21, 1990 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

goodfellas ray liotta joe pesci robert de niro

We got this…it’s our world now…no problems!

Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) has big dreams.  Starting working for the neighborhood Brooklyn crimeboss Paul “Paulie” Cicero (Paul Sorvino), Henry moves up the ranks gaining fame and stature in the crime world with his friends and coworkers Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) and James “Jimmy” Conway (Robert De Niro).  Henry finds himself married to Karen Friedman (Lorraine Bracco) while having an affair with Janice Rossi (Gina Mastrogiacomo) and running a successful drug operation…but in the crime world, success can come crashing down and “family” only runs so deep.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, GoodFellas is a mafia true-crime drama.  The film is adapted from Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy about Henry Hill (June 11, 1943-June 12, 2012) and premiered at the Venice Film Festival.  The film received critical acclaim and a cult following.  It won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Pesci) with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Bracco), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.  It was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2000.

GoodFellas was kind of the be-all-end-all mob movie when it was released in 1990, and though it felt like the culmination of mafia films, the movie really ushered in a new type of mafia movie while borrowing from films of the past like The Godfather.  Though many of the events are based on a real person, the film takes a lot of liberties to craft a real story out of the lives of the characters involved.

goodfellas ray liotta laughing funny guy joe pesci

I’m funny? I make you laugh? Why am I funny guy?

The movie circles around the classic “rise and fall” story.  Like A Clockwork Orange or later Boogie Nights, it shows Henry Hill get into the business, live the high life, and fall, fall, fall until he restarts his life.  While the rise is always the “fun” part of these type of movies, they have to get to the actions-have-consequences segment.  GoodFellas does a great job still making that part of the movie “fun” and it isn’t as jarring or a downer as some movies do in similar stories.  It is a wild and smart rollercoaster with great dialogue throughout.

The film is largely bolstered by a great cast.  I’m not the biggest Ray Liotta fan, but he works in this movie due to Henry Hill’s character and a rather forced smarminess to his demeanor.  Pesci fits his character to a T.  He’s boisterous, obnoxious, and the type of guy you’d only be friends with if you knew your whole life or you were related to.  De Niro is always strong but his role feels rather small when compared to Liotta or Pesci. Lorraine Bracco gets the unfavorable role of the mob wife, but she gives a lot of dimension to a character who often feels she is along for the ride.  The movie is filled with tons of supporting actors like Paul Sorvino, Frank Sivero, Mike Starr, Frank Vincent, Debi Mazar, Illeana Douglas, Tony Sirico, Vinnie Pastore, Tobin Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Imperioli.  Scorcese’s parents Catherine and Charles Scorsese appear with Henny Youngman and Jerry Vale playing themselves (Robbie Vinton plays his father Bobby Vinton in a scene).

goodfellas ray liotta lorraine bracco

You’re in the family now!

Scorsese’s directing and visuals are at top notch here.  The movie is slick and fast.  It soaks in the time periods in which the film is set and really uses the scenery, make-up, and costumes to explain the characters and the world they live in.  The scene in which Lorraine Bracco meets “the wives” is a great example of how the visuals combine with acting to develop the characters, the plot, and ultimately the movie.

GoodFellas is a classic and one of the best of the crime movies.  The film feels like a perfect set-up for The Sopranos which appeared almost ten years later (with many of the same actors in roles).  The ideas of family were obviously a dominate part of The Godfather trilogy, but GoodFellas takes that idea in a different direction…work, family, and a microcosm of a world all blend into one “thing”…but it is all fake.  While Henry Hill bemoans his life at the end of GoodFellas, he’s still living larger than the average guy…often crimes (in the bigger picture) go unpunished.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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