Goodfellas (stylized as GoodFellas) is a 1990 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is an adaptation of the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese. The film narrates the rise and fall of mob associate Henry Hill and his friends and family over a period from 1955 to 1980.
Scorsese initially titled the film Wise Guy and postponed making it; later, he and Pileggi changed the title to Goodfellas. To prepare for their roles in the film, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta often spoke with Pileggi, who shared research material left over from writing the book. According to Pesci, improvisation and ad-libbing came out of rehearsals wherein Scorsese gave the actors freedom to do whatever they wanted. The director made transcripts of these sessions, took the lines he liked best and put them into a revised script, which the cast worked from during principal photography.
Made on a budget of $25 million, Goodfellas grossed $46.8 million. It received positive reviews from critics and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, with Pesci winning for Best Supporting Actor. The film won five awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, including Best Film and Best Director. Additionally, Goodfellas was named the year's best film by various critics' groups.
Goodfellas has been called one of the greatest films in the crime genre. In 2000, it was deemed "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant" and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress. Its content and style have been emulated in numerous other films and television shows.
In 1955, Henry Hill, a high school student, becomes enamored with the criminal life in his neighborhood, and begins working for Paul "Paulie" Cicero and his associates: James "Jimmy the Gent" Conway, a truck hijacker; and Tommy DeVito, a fellow juvenile delinquent. Henry begins as fence for Jimmy, gradually working his way up to more serious crimes. In the early to mid 1960s, enjoying the perks of their criminal life, the three associates spend most of their nights at the Copacabana nightclub, carousing with women. Henry meets his future wife Karen Friedman, a Jewish woman from the Five Towns area of Long Island. Karen is initially troubled by Henry's criminal activities, but is soon seduced by his glamorous lifestyle, and soon, they are happily married.
In 1970, Billy Batts, a mobster in the Gambino crime family, repeatedly insults Tommy at a nightclub owned by Henry. Enraged, Tommy and Jimmy attack and kill him. Knowing their murder of a made man would mean retribution from the Gambinos, which could possibly include Paulie being ordered to kill them, Jimmy, Henry, and Tommy cover up the murder. They transport the body in the trunk of Henry's car, and bury it in upstate New York. Six months later, Jimmy learns that the burial site is slated for development, forcing them to exhume the decomposing corpse and move it.
Henry sets up his mistress, Janice Rossi, in an apartment. When Karen finds out about their relationship, she tries to confront Janice, and then threatens Henry at gunpoint. Henry moves out to live with Janice, but Paulie directs him to return to Karen after completing a job for him. Henry and Jimmy are sent to collect a debt from a gambler in Tampa, where they threaten to feed him to the lions at a zoo, but they are arrested after being turned in by the gambler's sister, a typist for the FBI. Jimmy and Henry receive ten-year prison sentences.
In prison, Henry sells drugs smuggled in by Karen to support his family on the outside. In 1978, Henry is paroled, and expands his cocaine trade against Paulie's orders, soon involving Jimmy and Tommy, whose behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. Jimmy organizes a crew to steal money from the Lufthansa vault at John F. Kennedy International Airport, coming away with $6 million. After a few members of the crew buy expensive items and the getaway car is found by police, Jimmy has most of the crew killed. Tommy is spared Jimmy's wrath, but is eventually killed by the Gambinos in retribution for Batts' murder, having been fooled into thinking he would become a made man.
In 1980, Henry has now become a nervous wreck from cocaine use and insomnia. He tries to organize a drug deal with his associates in Pittsburgh, but he is arrested by narcotics agents, and jailed. After he is bailed out, Karen explains that she flushed $60,000 worth of cocaine down the toilet to prevent FBI agents from finding it during their raid, leaving the family virtually penniless. Feeling betrayed by Henry's drug dealing, Paulie gives him $3,200, and ends their association. Facing federal charges and realizing Jimmy has plans to have him killed, Henry decides to enroll in the Witness Protection Program. He gives sufficient testimony to have Paulie and Jimmy arrested and convicted. Forced out of his gangster life, Henry now has to face living in the real world. He narrates: "I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook".
The end title cards explain the remaining real life events of the story. Paul Cicero died in 1988 in Fort Worth Federal Prison at the age of 73 due to respiratory illness. Jimmy Conway is serving a 20 years to life sentence for murder in a New York prison and that he will not be eligible for parole until 2004 when he will be 78 years old. Henry is still in the Witness Protection Program and in 1987, he was arrested in Seattle, Washington for narcotics conspiracy and he received five years probation. Since 1987, Henry has been clean. Henry and Karen Hill separated in 1989 after 25 years of marriage.
- Ray Liotta as Henry Hill
- Robert De Niro as James "Jimmy the Gent" Conway
- Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito
- Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill
- Paul Sorvino as Paul "Paulie" Cicero
- Frank Sivero as Frankie Carbone
- Frank Vincent as Billy Batts
- Tony Darrow as Sonny Bunz
- Mike Starr as Frenchy
- Chuck Low as Morrie Kessler
- Frank DiLeo as Tuddy Cicero
- Samuel L. Jackson as Parnell "Stacks" Edwards
- Catherine Scorsese as Tommy DeVito's mother
- Debi Mazar as Sandy
- Michael Imperioli as Spider
Release and reception
Differences between Wiseguy and the film
- Goodfellas at AllMovie
- Goodfellas at the TCM Movie Database
- Goodfellas at Box Office Mojo
- Goodfellas at Rotten Tomatoes
- Goodfellas at Metacritic
- "Reel Faces: Fact vs. Fiction". Chasingthefrog.com.
- "Getting Made The Scorsese Way". (October 2010).