Critics Consensus

Hard-hitting and stylish, GoodFellas is a gangster classic -- and arguably the high point of Martin Scorsese's career.



Total Count: 95


Audience Score

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Movie Info

Martin Scorsese explores the life of organized crime with his gritty, kinetic adaptation of Nicolas Pileggi's best-selling Wiseguy, the true-life account of mobster and FBI informant Henry Hill. Set to a true-to-period rock soundtrack, the story details the rise and fall of Hill, a half-Irish, half-Sicilian New York kid who grows up idolizing the "wise guys" in his impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood. He begins hanging around the mobsters, running errands and doing odd jobs until he gains the notice of local chieftain Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino), who takes him in as a surrogate son. As he reaches his teens, Hill (Ray Liotta) is inducted into the world of petty crime, where he distinguishes himself as a "stand-up guy" by choosing jail time over ratting on his accomplices. From that moment on, he is a part of the family. Along with his psychotic partner Tommy (Joe Pesci), he rises through the ranks to become Paulie's lieutenant; however, he quickly learns that, like his mentor Jimmy (Robert DeNiro), his ethnicity prevents him from ever becoming a "made guy," an actual member of the crime family. Soon he finds himself the target of both the feds and the mobsters, who feel that he has become a threat to their security with his reckless dealings. Goodfellas was rewarded with six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture; Pesci would walk away with Best Supporting Actor for his work. ~ Jeremy Beday, Rovi


Ray Liotta
as Henry Hill
Robert De Niro
as James Conway
Joe Pesci
as Tommy DeVito
Lorraine Bracco
as Karen Hill
Paul Sorvino
as Paul Cicero
Frank Sivero
as Frankie Carbone
Tony Darrow
as Sonny Bunz
Mike Starr
as Frenchy
Frank Vincent
as Billy Batts
Chuck Low
as Morris Kessler
Frank DiLeo
as Tuddy Cicero
Gina Mastrogiacomo
as Janice Rossi
Margo Winkler
as Belle Kessler
Welker White
as Lois Byrd
Jerry Vale
as Himself
Catherine Scorsese
as Tommy's Mother
Julie Garfield
as Mickey Conway
Suzanne Shepherd
as Karen's Mother
Spencer Bradley
as Bruce's Brother
Elaine Kagan
as Henry's Mother
Beau Starr
as Henry's Father
Kevin Corrigan
as Michael Hill
Robbie Vinton
as Bobby Vinton
Johnny Williams
as Johnny Roastbeef
Frank Pellegrino
as Johnny Dio
Victor Colicchio
as Henry's 60s Crew
Tony Sirico
as Tony Stacks
Joseph D'Onofrio
as Young Tommy
Frank Adonis
as Anthony Stabile
Joseph Bono
as Mikey Franzese
John Manca
as Nickey Eyes
Angela Pietropinto
as Cicero's Wife
John Di Benedetto
as Bleeding Man
Marianne Leone
as Tuddy's Wife
Richard "Bo" Dietl
as Arresting Narc
Marie Michaels
as Mrs. Carbone
Richard Dioguardi
as City Detective
Lo Nardo
as Frenchy's Wife
Lou Eppolito
as Fat Andy
Paula Gallo
as Janice's Girlfriend #1
Vincent Gallo
as Henry's 70's Crew
Elizabeth Whitcraft
as Tommy's Girl Friend at Copa
Clem Caserta
as Joe Buddha
Samuel L. Jackson
as Stacks Edwards
Fran McGee
as Johnny Roastbeef's Wife
Dallas Edward Hayes
as Defense Attorney
Joel Calendrillo
as Young Henry's Older Brother
Anthony E. Valentin
as Young Michael
Peter Hock
as Mailman
Erasmus C. Alfano
as Barbeque Wiseguy
John DiBenedetto
as Bleeding Man
Manny Alfaro
as Gambling Doorman
Thomas Lowry
as Hijacked Driver
Nadine Kay
as Janice's Girl Friend
Margaret Smith
as School Guard
Frank Albanese
as Mob Lawyer
Paul McIssac
as Judge, 1956
Tony Lip
as Frankie the Wop
Bob Golub
as Truck Driver at Diner
Mikey Black
as Freddy No Nose
Peter Cicale
as Pete the Killer
Anthony Powers
as Jimmy Two Times
Vincent Pastore
as Man with Coatrack
Paul Mougey
as Terrorized Waiter
Gina Mattia
as Young Henry's Sister
Anthony Polemeni
as Copa Captain
Irving Welzer
as Copa Announcer
Jesse Kirtzman
as Beach Club Waiter
Bob Altman
as Karen's Dad
Joanna Bennett
as Marie No. 1
Gayle Lewis
as Marie No. 2
Gaetano Lisi
as Paul No. 3
Luke Walter
as Truck Driver
Ed Deacy
as Detective Deacy
Larry Silvestri
as Detective Silvestri
Johnny "Cha-Cha" Ciarcia
as Batt's Crew No. 1
Janis Corsair
as Vito's Girl Friend
Frank Aquilino
as Batt's Crew No. 2
Michael Calandrino
as Godfather at Table
Vito Antuofermo
as Prizefighter
Nicole Burdette
as Carbone's Girl Friend
Stella Kietel
as Henry's Older Child, Judy
Dominque DeVito
as Henry's Baby, Ruth
Tony Ellis
as Bridal Shop Owner
Peter Onorati
as Florida Bookie
Stella Keitel
as Judy Hill
Jamie DeRoy
as Bookie's Sister
Joel Blake
as Judge, 1971
H. Clay Dear
as Security Guard with Lobsters
Daniela Barbosa
as Young Henry's Sister #1
Thomas Hewson
as Drug Buyer
Gene Canfield
as Prison Guard in Booth
Margaux Guerard
as Judy Hill (age 10)
Violet Gaynor
as Ruth Hill (age 8)
Tobin Bell
as Parole Officer
Berlinda Tolbert
as Stacks' Girl Friend
Nancy Ellen Cassaro
as Joe Buddha's Wife
Joseph P. Gioco
as Garbage Man
Alyson Jones
as Judy Hill (age 13)
Ruby Gaynor
as Ruth Hill (age 11)
Bo Dietl
as Arresting Narc
Vito Balsamo
as Henry's 70's Crew
James Quattrochi
as Henry Greeter #1
Peter Fain
as Henry's 70's Crew
Russell Halley
as Bruce's Brother #1
Anthony Alessandro
as Henry's 60's crew
Thomas E. Camuti
as Mr. Tony Hood #1
Garry Blackwood
as Henry's 70's Crew
Philip Suriano
as Cicero's 60's Crew
Andrew Scudiero
as Mr. Tony Hood #2
Steve Forleo
as City Detective #1
Mike Contessa
as Cicero's 60's Crew
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News & Interviews for GoodFellas

Critic Reviews for GoodFellas

All Critics (95) | Top Critics (25) | Fresh (91) | Rotten (4)

  • Complex, volatile, ironic and disquieting, Scorsese's Goodfellas is a masterly achievement in intense observation.

    Sep 19, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Is it a great movie? I don't think so. But it's a triumphant piece of filmmaking-journalism presented with the brio of drama.

    Sep 6, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Anti-romantic, it nevertheless sweeps us into the allure of mob glamour -- then slams us with its cost of admission.

    Apr 26, 2018 | Full Review…

    Jay Carr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • Goodfellas is a terrifying film because, like much of Scorsese's best work, it is about the lives of avuncular psychopaths, and pretty-boy Liotta brilliantly encapsulates that fetid contradiction.

    Jan 20, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Brash and brilliant ...

    Jan 19, 2017 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Sure, it's a rush - but is that enough?

    Jan 16, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for GoodFellas

  • Feb 13, 2017
    In my review of The Untouchables, I argued that Hollywood has struggled to do justice to Al Capone because he had effectively "become the cliché of the Hollywood gangster". By extension, American cinema has all too often succumbed to the dangers of 'big man history'; it get so easily seduced by the often exciting mythology of famous individuals that its depiction of said people loses all semblance of reality or believability. Even in cases where truth is stranger than fiction, Hollywood often presents it in a way which makes us suspect that we are not being told the truth at all. When Nicholas Pileggi wrote Wiseguy, he said that he wanted to "get hold of a soldier in Napoleon's army". He wanted, in other words, the observations of an ordinary player in the drama, stripped of all the spin and legend-making that surrounds the leading men. Martin Scorsese as a director has often excelled in finding the remarkable, striking or shocking in ordinary surroundings, and of using subtle changes in storytelling (including his patented use of music) to wrong-foot his audience. The combination of these two talents is thereby a match made in heaven, and when you marry it to three cracking central performances, Goodfellas becomes a truly great film. There is a very fine line in cinema between depicting something in painstaking detail and glamourising it. Films as varied as Green Street and Death Wish have fallen into the trap of praising something utterly wretched and despicable in their (alleged) desire to be as accurate and realistic as possible about the people involved. So often criminals in crime dramas or thrillers are set up in the beginning as the people whom we should revile, but their exciting exploits and rebellious attitudes (as written by Hollywood) can often make them more exciting than the law-abiding citizens (especially when Kevin Costner is involved). Goodfellas, like Killing Them Softly more than two decades after it, succeeds because it rejects any rose-tinted picture of a life on the wrong side of the law - and does it without it feeling like a moral lesson being hammered into our heads. But where Andrew Dominik's film set its criminals up as lowlifes and then made them sink lower, Scorsese pulls us in slowly, offering us the romantic or stylish side to Italian-American crime and then pulling the rug from under our feet when it's too late to run away. Starting the film in media res with the death of Billy Batts is not just a way of avoiding it being a run-of-the-mill 'rise and fall' story: by starting at the point at which things turn, we know from the outset that however good it seems, it won't last and it won't pay. Any romance that remains within Scorsese's film is very much ironic, with his attention to detail and knowledge of his own heritage being used to make the more violent and graphic aspects ring all the more true. With The Godfather and its sequels, there was always an element of nostalgia for 'the old country', for the traditional structures of Sicilian life and the Mafia's role in preserving that order. Goodfellas acknowledges this heritage (and, through De Niro's presence, the influence of Francis Ford Coppola's work), but the families it presents are dysfunctional and undesirable; the man are aggressive, unfaithful and two-faced, while the women are either downtrodden, air-headed or too drugged up to care. One of the most common themes of crime films is the idea of people turning to crime because living a conventional, law-abiding life doesn't bring the comfort or level of luxury which people crave or covet. Films about con artists, such as Catch Me If You Can or The Sting, often set up straight-ahead characters as being fundamentally feeble, poor and undesirable in a bid to make the lifestyle of their leading characters seem more attractive. Goodfellas cuts straight to the chase in this regard: Henry Hill becomes a gangster because he likes the riches it brings, and because making a lot of money by robbing or scamming people is easier than working an honest, badly-paid job. The film tricks us into rationalising Henry's actions, so that we berate ourselves when things go south, cursing that we should have seen it coming. In a further comparison with The Godfather, Goodfellas is very interested in the way that criminals operate like dysfunctional families. There are the same concerns about blood and race (Italian vs Irish), the same rivalries and jockeying for position, and the same mix of respect and dread which surrounds the paternal figure. But where Michael Corleone is an insider desperate to get out of the family business, only to be pulled back in repeatedly through his loyalty, Henry is an outsider for whom Paulie serves as a surrogate father. In both cases the leading men feel pressured to act a certain way or fulfil certain roles based on the expectations of the father figure, backed up by tradition and their shared values. So much of what makes Goodfellas great lies in the manner of its storytelling. In the excellent making-of documentary Getting Made, Pileggi and Scorsese discussed the importance of Ray Liotta's voiceover, with the emphasis being on the language used rather than its use to move the plot along. Rather than being used to "patch a little crack in the script", as Pileggi put it, the voiceover gives us a detailed insight into Henry's thought process; by giving us the little details and observations about daily life, he feels more like a real person. As his reactions grow more believable, he becomes more relatable and we get pulled further in, going along with his decisions even as the fear eats away in the background. This approach is further reinforced by the use of music. In the post-Quentin Tarantino world, where using unusual, sometimes incongruous pop songs to accompany a scene is practically normal, it's easy to forget just how skilfully Scorsese marries music and moving images. His seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge means that he very rarely goes for the obvious or mediocre choice, and his taste is excellent. No-one else would have chosen to put Cream's 'Sunshine Of Your Love' as the backing to the sequence where Robert De Niro decides in his head to do away with those involved in the Lufthansa heist. Watching it back several times, it makes the scene all the more complete, to the point where it doesn't work without it. In his review of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Mark Kermode said that all of Tim Burton's films were "attempting to burst into song." Scorsese may not have made a bona fide musical since New York, New York, but he has retained his intuitive understanding of how music can convey a character's innermost thoughts. Even when he's cantering through a lot of plot to move things forward in a montage, it feels deft and personal rather than being padding. There is no better example of this than the sequence designed around 'Layla' by Derek and the Dominos: it flows perfectly, possessing the spot-on timing and choreography that Stanley Kubrick achieved with his SteadyCam shots, but without being clinical or drawing attention to the artifice of the situation. The whole film looks excellent, thanks in part to the cinematography of Michael Ballhaus, who had previously worked with Scorsese on After Hours, The Colour of Money and The Last Temptation of Christ. He captures the period feel to a tee, bringing out just enough of the colours and styles of the setting without it feeling like a pastiche. His understanding of Scorsese's visual style was so precise that very often little coverage of a given scene was needed; shots like the long track through the restaurant were shot multiple times from the same position, rather than shooting with multiple cameras at once and then stitching the best bits together in the edit. The central performances in Goodfellas are first-class, with each of the three leading men being given a chance to shine. Ray Liotta is terrific as Henry: you can see and appreciate the amount of research and preparation which he put in, and yet it's not mannered or restrained - he lets loose when he can and is just guarded enough when he needs to be. Robert De Niro is great as Jimmy Conway, bringing all his familiar skills to the party but working hard in every scene to be true to the character rather than just leaning on past successes. And Joe Pesci, who won an Oscar for his performance, is a firecracker, managing to be impulsive and dangerous without seeming over-the-top. The supporting cast is also excellent, particularly Paul Sorvino as Paulie and the smashing Lorraine Bracco, who beautifully balances Karen's desperation, jealousy and feeling of being in slightly over her head. Goodfellas is a great crime film and one of the highest peaks in Scorsese's illustrious career. While it does lose a little momentum in the last 15 minutes, everything up to that point is nigh-on perfect, with great performances being matched by a tight script and highly proficient direction, creating a compelling cinematic experience which more than holds up to repeat viewing. It remains one of the greatest films of the early-1990s and one of the benchmarks against which all subsequent crime films must be measured.
    Daniel M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 16, 2016
    Amazing film that stands the test of time. Mobster films don't get much better than this one. Outstanding performances from every leading man and woman. The long shots are spectacular and are almost so amazing that they pull you out of the movie. This movie is a classic for a reason.
    Hayden B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 08, 2016
    Definitely one of the best of Scorsese's filmography. Goodfellas is a very perfectly directed gangster drama filled with excellent performances, intelligently written script and great direction. Goodfellas is almost as good as the Godfather!
    Mr N Super Reviewer
  • Feb 01, 2016
    A great story of gangsters, and all the baggage that comes with being one
    Kameron W Super Reviewer

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