Goodfellas (1990) one sheet poster
Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy
Goodfellas is based on the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy by noted crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi. Martin Scorsese and Pileggi collaborated on the screenplay for Warner Bros., with Scorsese also directing.
Robert De Niro (Jimmy “The Gent” Conway), Ray Liotta (Henry Hill) and Joe Pesci (Tommy DeVito) head the strong cast. Other players include Paul Sorvino (Paul “Paulie” Cicero), Lorraine Bracco (Karen Hill), Frank Sivero (Frankie Carbone), Tony Darrow (Sonny Bunz), Frank Vincent (Billy Batts), Chuck Low (Morris “Morrie” Kessler), Frank DiLeo (Tuddy Cicero), Gina Mastrogiacoma (Janice Rossi), Henny Youngman (Himself), Catherine Scorsese (Tommy’s Mother), Charles Scorsese (Vinny), Suzanne Shepherd (Karen’s Mother), Debi Mazar (Sandy), Jerry Vale (Himself), Christopher Serrone (Young Henry Hill), Kevin Corrigan (Michael Hill), Michael Imperioli (Spider) and Robbie Vinton (Bobby Vinton).
Goodfellas Filmed in New York, New Jersey, Florida and Illinois
Budgeted at $25 million, Goodfellas was shot primarily in New York City, with Astoria Studios on Long Island serving as the film’s in-house production facility. Some familiar landmarks used were the Spartan Diner (Queens), Salerno’s Restaurant (Queens), Hawaii Kai Restaurant (Manhattan), JFK International Airport (Queens) and the Catalina Beach Club (Manhattan).
Other locations used were New Jersey (Palisades Interstate Parkway, Fort Lee, Marlboro, Florida (Tampa) and Illinois (Chicago).
Goodfellas: A Life of Crime Inside the Mob
Goodfellas opens in 1955, with Henry Hill narrating the story: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Young Henry begins his initiation into organized crime, serving as a runner at a cab stand used by wiseguy capo Paulie Cicero and his crew. While still a youth, Henry takes his first “pinch” (arrest), where a corrupt judge lets him off.
Henry eventually works his way up the criminal ladder, participating in truck heists with Jimmy “The Gent” Conway and the hot-headed Tommy DeVito. They later pull a major job at Idlewood Airport, scoring big in a daring robbery at an Air France terminal.
Henry, Jimmy, Paulie and some of the other crew land in prison after the FBI nails them for assaulting a gambler in Tampa, Florida. Inside, the gang live in semi-luxury, with the best food, scotch, wine and other amenities smuggled in via well-placed bribes.
Following a major heist at JFK International Airport, Henry turns to drug dealing via his connections in Pittsburgh. Warned against such activities, Henry’s involvement with cocaine sours his relationship with Paulie and brings the DEA down on him and his family. Now virtually penniless and fearing for his life, Henry agrees to testify against his former cronies and enter the government’s Witness Protection Program.
L-r: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, Joe Pesci in Goodfellas (1990)
Goodfellas Release, Reviews
Goodfellas, first seen at the Venice Film Festival, premiered in New York City on September 18, 1990.
“No finer film has ever been made about organized crime – not even The Godfather, although the two works are not really comparable,” reported Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times (9/2/90).
“Simultaneously fascinating and repellent, Goodfellas is Martin Scorsese’s colorful but dramatically unsatisfying inside look at Mafia life in 1955-80 New York City,” observed Variety (9/10/90).
Goodfellas Film Analysis: Now Youse Guys Listen Up
For those fans who enjoy mob films, Goodfellas is more than worth the price of a DVD. It’s an extremely violent look at life in the New York Mafia as seen through the eyes of one Henry Hill, whose big goal in life was always to become a wiseguy.
Get ready for the f-bomb in this movie, which is uttered 296 times to numbing effect. Also prepare for a lot of drinking, Italian cooking, men kissing each other on the cheek, period music and a flash flood of mob hits and heat-of-the moment shootings and beatings.
The most fascinating, repugnant character in the entire film is Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito, a pint-sized hood with a giant propensity for violence. In one scene, Tommy (with help from Jimmy) returns to a bar where they kick to death Mafia made man Billy Batts because the former had made prominent mention of Tommy’s days as a shoeshine boy. Tommy also callously shoots a young gofer named Spider and sinks an ice pick into an unsuspecting Morrie Kessler. When Tommy, all decked out in his best duds with a fresh kiss from his mother lingering on his lips, is later whacked by Batts’ associates while reporting to his alleged made man ceremony, one almost wants to cheer.
Robert De Niro is at his usual best, with Ray Liotta, Paul Sorvino and Lorraine Bracco all turning in standout performances as well. The movie’s soundtrack is used to great effect, beginning with Tony Bennett’s “Rags to Riches,” morphing into 1950s Do Wop and ending with punk rocker Sid Vicious’ “My Way.”
The term “bustin’ my/your balls” (wiseguy teasing or delaying tactics) is used throughout the film. Goodfellas does that to some extent with the viewer, but dammit, when is little Tommy going to go home and get that shine box?
Joe Pesci guns down the hapless Spider in Goodfellas (1990)
Goodfellas Box Office, Academy Awards, DVD
- Goodfellas grossed $46.836 million at the American box office, earning the #26 position on the list of the top moneymaking films of 1990.
- Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Pesci, won), Best Supporting Actress (Bracco), Best Film Editing
- On DVD: Goodfellas (Warner, 2007)
Robert De Niro as Jimmy “The Gent” Conway in Goodfellas (1990)
“Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies,” Henry Hill says of his colleague Jimmy Conway.
Don’t root for the bad guys in Goodfellas…