#7- Goodfellas (1990)

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This post was written by guest writer Dan Bennett

Who's List Was This On
- Dan Bennett: #1
- Bryan Hernandez: #7
- David "MVP" Eckstein: #7

Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi
Starring: Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci
Based Upon: The book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi

The Plot

The movie is based off of the book Wiseguy which is about the real life of the gangster Henry Hill. Henry Hill was a mobster in New York in Vario's gang. He had several stints in jail for just about everything mobsters do to get them in trouble and eventually snitched on everyone to avoid ending up in prison for life. He joined the FBI's witness protection program until the movie was released. It was said that when the film was released, Henry couldn't stop telling people who he was and the FBI refused to protect him. The film itself covers two decades of life in the mob, following Henry Hill (Liotta), and his friends James Conway (DeNiro) and Tommy DeVito (Pesci). The film begins with the three of them and some other minor characters pulling off a huge heist, and then follows them in how they turn on one another to avoid being caught, while at the same time trying to work their way up the hierarchy of the mob.

Why This Movie Is Great

The best way to explain why this movie is great is this movie does not pretend to be something its not. In looking at what the AFI deems to be great, and what the Oscar's consider to be best pictures of the year, some of them tend to be abstract, commentaries with weak plots that only pretentious movie snobs like. (For proof watch a lot of Stanley Kurbrick's work in the 60's and 70's). This is not one of those movies. This movie is not some abstract commentary, it is a good story, done by high quality actors and that is what it is meant to be. Robert DeNiro and Ray Liotta spent a lot of their time with a lot of the gangsters involved in the actual events (the ones that were imprisoned obviously, not the ones killed), and were able to portray these mobsters to the point where it seemed like the actual mobsters themselves were on the screen. Joe Pesci (the only person to walk away from this movie with an Oscar), had one of the most remembered lines in film history... "Funny how, funny like a clown," and just as a side note, the word "fuck" is said 296 times in the movie- an average of 2.04 fucks per minute.

This movie has set the benchmark for how gangster movies are made today. Much like how Die Hard was compared to every action movie after its release (Speed was Die Hard on a bus, Speed II was Die Hard on a boat etc), mobster movies after Goodfellas, even Scorsese's mobster movies are compared to Goodfellas (Casino is Goodfellas in Las Vegas, The Departed is Goodfellas but with the Irish, etc.). This is truly the greatest film of its genre, and has earned a well deserved spot on this list.

Adam Kaplan's Two Cents

This was a great review by my friend Dan Bennett but I wanted to point out two other things that make Goodfellas so great: the music and the cinematography.

First, the music. Scorsese is great at coming up with music for his film and it just wouldn't be a Martin Scorsese film without some Rolling Stones- in particularly "Gimmie Shelter". True, Scorsese has used the song multiple times since Goodfellas, but it's great every single time. Scorsese also manages to use the shitty four plus minute ending to Eric Clapton's "Layla" in a beautiful and haunting scene over a montage of deaths.

Secondly, we have the cinematography- the camera work throughout the movie. Scorsese has always been a great storyteller and his use of the camera to help tell the story is at its best in this film. One scene in particular stands out to me. There's a scene where Henry Hill and his wife are walking into a comedy club. But Henry fucking Hill does not use the front door- he's able to enter through the kitchen. Once he exits the kitchen, the wait staff creates a table up in front for Henry and his wife right in front. What was amazing about this scene was that it was all one, continuous tracking shot and the scene lasted a good one to two minutes. This may seem trivial to you but trust me, that scene was a work of genius. That scene in particular was shot seven times and one of the takes was ruined because the comedian (Henry Youngman) who has the last line in the scene flubbed his line.

FUN FACT: Both of Scorsese's parents are featured in the movie. Scorsese's mother (Catherine) plays Joe Pesci's mother and his father (Charles) plays the prisoner who puts too much garlic in the tomato sauce.