TMS 30 Greatest Movies: #14 Goodfellas

April 24, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

Title: Goodfellas
Year: 1990
Genre: Organized Crime
Main Actors: Ray Liotta, Bob DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco
Ranked: The Hundley #4, Chip Wesley #8

Synopsis (via
Based on Nicholas Pileggi's book WISEGUY, Martin Scorsese's GOODFELLAS is a wry, violent, and exhilarating film about the life of Henry Hill, an aspiring criminal who ends up in the FBI's witness protection program after testifying against his former partners. As a poor Irish-Italian growing up in 1950s New York City, Hill (Ray Liotta) rises through the ranks of his Brooklyn neighborhood's organized crime branch, and with money from the mob he begins living the good life, complete with a beautiful bride, Karen (Lorraine Bracco), a fancy house, and the best seats at the most exclusive restaurants. A botched robbery lands Henry in prison for a brief period of time, and when he gets released, his reckless infidelities and drug abuse damage his association with his adopted family. Scorsese's film is a visual and sonic onslaught, featuring a brilliant pop-music soundtrack and stunning camera work--including the infamous Steadicam one-take that introduces the audience to the Copacabana's patrons. He uses the songs to infuse a breathtaking, invigorating rhythm into every scene. As the psychopathic Tommy DeVito, Joe Pesci delivers an unforgettable performance that is alarming in its cold-blooded callousness, helping to cement GOODFELLAS' place as a classic portrait of life in the mob.

Reasons This Movie Kicks Ass
It's tough to go wrong with a Mafia movie when you have heavyweights acting and directing the feature. Sure, much of it is cliche, but Scorsese works some magic in this one, and tells Henry Hill's story with great detail and amazing cinematography. You could make the argument that Scorsese deserved some hardware for directing and co-writing the script. Maybe the Academy just figured that a cast like that could make any movie great.

The fact that the movie is based on a true story is great as well. The movies spans through a period of 20 years or so, and seeing the characters philosophies and physical characteristics change is key. You get to see the good old days period in Brooklyn, when people looked out for one another in a much simpler time. You get to see that grow into a period of decadence, where a wiseguy did what he wanted, like in the now famous shot of Liotta taking Bracco to a show, not having to wait in line, having doors opened for them, and getting a table front and center. We're also treated to the decadent life of mobsters in PRISON of all places. Steaks, pasta, fine wines and cheeses, you name it. All at their beckoning. And of course, we get to see all of them fall.

Monster Role
Goodfellas features two actors who turn in career performances - Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci. Sorry if I offended fans of Unlawful Entry and Home Alone, but them's the facts. Few guys in Hollywood can play a neurotic, coked-up gangster like Ray Liotta did here. And kudos to the makeup department for giving him a constant cocaine enduced sweat glaze for the entire second half of the film. In the other monster role, Pesci gives us classic Pesci - a hyperactive goon that suffers from Little Man Syndrome and is prone to vulgar and offensive language. Sure, it's the same role as he had in Casino and to an extent, My Cousin Vinny, but this film features him doing better than ever before. Pesci is also the most quotable character of the film.

Knock Your Dick in the Dirt Moment
Liotta, DeNiro, and Pesci all enter their favorite neighborhood bar to have a few drinks. Upon entering, they see Pesci's cousin, Billy Batts, who was recently released from prison. Billy Batts is on a roll, busting Pesci's balls about how he used to shine everyone's shoes when he was a boy. Pesci wants to hear none of this, and voices his anger toward his cousin, spouting that he's a big deal now. Batts feigns an apology, buys Pesci and company a drink, before ultimate saying, "Now go get your fucking shine box." Batts ends up shot and stabbed about 50 times before being buried in the woods.

Watch This Movie if You Like
Cussing, Drugs, La Cosa Nostra, Quotable Lines, slicing garlic with a razor blade.