Good Fellas - Three decades in the Mafia

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German title GoodFellas - Three decades in the Mafia
Original title Goodfellas
GoodFellas Logo.png
Country of production United States
original language English , Italian
Publishing year 1990
length 146 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Martin Scorsese
script Nicholas Pileggi
Martin Scorsese
production Irwin Winkler
music Various composers,
Eric Clapton
camera Michael Ballhaus
cut Thelma Schoonmaker

Goodfellas - Three decades in the Mafia is a multiple award-winning Mafia - Drama of US director Martin Scorsese from the year 1990 . It is based on Nicholas Pileggi's book Wise Guy - The Mob Inside , which is based on a true story and tells of the ruthless rise of a gangster in the 1960s / 1970s. The title Goodfellas (dt .: Good Guys ) refers to the close-knit community of Mobster in (and around) the US Cosa Nostra .


Brooklyn , New York , mid-1950s: 11-year-old half-Italian Henry Hill is fascinated by the lifestyle of the local Mafiosi and dreams of a life as a gangster (“I've always wanted to be a gangster for as long as I can remember”). When he finally breaks the school and the first messenger jobs for Capo Regime of the Lucchese crime family accepts Paul "Paulie" Cicero, his ascent begins in the hierarchy of the Cosa Nostra . Henry gets a lot of money as an adolescent and escapes control by his parents. He gets to know the legendary gangster James “Jimmy The Gent” Conway, who becomes his friend and mentor , and earns his spurs, for example, with arson attacks against competitors and the sale of stolen goods. When he was caught selling cigarette cartons on one of these occasions, he adhered to one of the most important rules of the Mafia, the silence in front of state institutions ( omertà ).

Ten years later, Henry is a respected associate mobster among the Five Families of the New York Mafia, who enjoys Paulie's full trust and has to pay this financial toll . In addition to Conway, his closest allies include Tommy DeVito, who repeatedly attracts attention with unpredictable outbursts of anger. DeVito kills several people inside the Mafia. The three earn their living by stealing millions of euros and extorting protection money .

At the end of the 1960s, Henry met the pretty Karen and fell in love with her. She is impressed by his lavish and carefree lifestyle, but because of her Jewish ancestry, she always remains an outsider within Henry's Irish-Italian circle of friends. The two get married and have two children. However, arguments soon arise because Henry has a lover. However, Karen is still drawn to him.

When Henry and Jimmy brutally collect money from a debtor whose sister works for the FBI , they are arrested and sentenced to several years in prison. In prison, Henry first came into contact with the illegal drug trade and earned well from it. After his release, Paulie forbids him to continue dealing in drugs. Henry does not adhere to it, however, and trades behind Paulie's back in large quantities of cocaine , which his liaisons from Pittsburgh procure for him. Jimmy and Tommy join the business as partners.

Together with the two and several henchmen, he also plans to steal around 6 million US dollars from the Lufthansa cargo hall in JFK Airport in 1978 . The company succeeds and turns everyone involved into rich men. However, many of them are spending large amounts of their stake on luxury goods shortly after the raid, which threatens to attract the attention of the authorities. Numerous people who knew about the robbery are then cleared out of the way by Jimmy and Tommy.

At the end of the 1970s, Tommy received the news that he should finally be accepted as a full member of the Cosa Nostra. That would mean a significant upgrade of their status for the three friends, because Hill and Conway, being half- Irish, are excluded from membership. The solemn “acceptance ceremony” turns out to be an ambush; Tommy is shot. As it turns out, this is revenge for the murder of gangster Billy Batts , a full member of the Gambino family and whose murder Tommy had not obtained boss approval years earlier.

In the following years, Henry increasingly loses control of his life. His excessive cocaine consumption affects his cognition and he also suffers from insomnia . In 1980 he was arrested by the police, under whose surveillance he had been for a month, for drug trafficking and possession. Although he is released on bail , nothing remains of the former prosperity and the accumulated wealth.

Desperate, he turns to Paulie, whom he had previously betrayed. This gives him $ 3,200 ("3,200 beeps for a lifetime".) And then drops him. The relationship with Jimmy is also becoming increasingly tense. Henry knows his former friends consider him a risk . As it becomes more and more obvious that Jimmy wants to kill him, Henry agrees to become a Pentito and testify in court as a key witness against Jimmy and Paulie. His statements ultimately lead to both of them being sentenced to long prison terms.

Henry is accepted into the witness protection program and spends the rest of his life in the anonymity of an American suburb. Resigned, he takes stock in the last scene of the film:

“I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook. "

"I'm an average nobody, I'll spend the rest of my life like some fool."

In the credits it is revealed that Henry was arrested again in Seattle for drug trafficking and has been clean since 1987. He and Karen separated two years later. Paul died of respiratory disease in Fort Worth Federal Prison in 1988 at the age of 73. Jimmy was sentenced to at least 20 years in prison.


The film is largely based on the book Wise Guy by New York author Nicholas Pileggi , which was published in 1986. Pileggi also wrote the script together with director Martin Scorsese .

The film was originally scheduled to be shot in 1986, but Scorsese decided to move on to another project, The Last Temptation of Christ . When filming finally began in 1989, there was already a television series entitled Wiseguy , which is why the film was renamed Good Fellas .

When choosing actors, Scorsese relied on the one hand on well-known greats such as his "regular actors" Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, on the other hand on relatively unknown newcomers such as the television actors Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco. Scorsese's mother Catherine Scorsese (as Tommy's mother) and his father Charles (as gangster Vinnie) also have smaller appearances.

There was a lot of improvisation during the shooting. This resulted in one of the most famous scenes in the film, in which Henry is confronted by Tommy over a remark about his wit. The conversation in Tommy's mother's kitchen was also improvised.

The Warner Bros. -Studio was initially skeptical about the film because of its relentless depictions of violence and the numerous expletives (in the English original the word fuck is said 246 times). Consistently negative test displays seemed to confirm these fears. Nevertheless, Good Fellas was eventually released in its original cut.

When Oscar -Verleihung 1991 he was nominated for six Academy Awards ( Best Picture , Best Director , Best Adapted Screenplay , Best Supporting Actor , Best Supporting Actress , Best Editing ), Joe Pesci won the award for Best Supporting Actor.

Today, Good Fellas is one of the best depictions of the Italian-American mafia alongside The Godfather . In contrast to Francis Ford Coppola's films, however, he paints a far less romanticizing picture. The characters are sadistic, unpredictable and sometimes unsympathetic people, whose lives no longer have much in common with the contemplative and aristocratic "family business" of the Corleones.

Stylistic devices

The entire plot is told from Henry Hill's point of view and commented by him from the off , with the exception of a few remarks, which are told from his wife's point of view.

As in Scorsese's earlier works Hexenkessel and Wie ein Wilder Stier , music plays a central role in Good Fellas . The use of well-known contemporary pop songs contributes significantly to the mood and authenticity of the film and at the same time serves as a temporal orientation. Sometimes Scorsese creates a conscious contrast to what is happening on the screen by using a piece of music. This is most evident in the scene where Billy Batts is brutally beaten up to the sunny sounds of Donovan's Atlantis . Another scene that made it very popular is a longer sequence in which several gangsters are found dead in various locations while the piano solo from Layla by Derek & The Dominos is played in the background .

The pieces that appear in the film include:

Another important part of the film is the portrayal of violence. The first scene, which anticipates the further action, is exemplary: the blood-soaked mafioso Billy Batts lies in the trunk and is killed by Tommy and Jimmy with several knife stabs and gunshots. In the further course of the movie, there are always excessive outbreaks of violence, for example when Henry beats a pushy neighbor with the handle of his revolver, Tommy shoots a waiter and is finally killed himself.

In the visual area, too, Scorsese, his cameraman Michael Ballhaus and the film editor Thelma Schoonmaker provided some memorable images. A scene is known in which Henry and Karen visit the Copacabana Club. This was shot in a single three-minute take and was one of the longest steadicam trips in film history at the time.

Later in the film, a "typical" day in Henry Hill's life is portrayed in a sequence entitled Sunday May 11, 1980 . With the help of numerous cuts and jump cuts as well as unusual camera positions, Scorsese tries to visualize his paranoia and the effects of cocaine consumption on his perception.

Another interesting detail is the last shot of the film. It shows Tommy shooting a pistol straight into the camera several times. This pays homage to the 1903 film The Great Train Heist, which ends with a similar scene. According to tradition, some moviegoers at the time were so frightened by the sight of a weapon fired at them that they threw themselves on the floor or fled the hall.

The true story

Nicholas Pileggi's descriptions in his book Wise Guy are based on real events. In some cases, however, the names of those involved have been changed:

During the filming there were consultants on set who knew the protagonists personally. The real Henry Hill makes a brief appearance as a chef on the Copacabana scene mentioned above . Edward McDonald, his former lawyer, plays himself in the film.

Almost all of the events shown in the film actually happened. The Air France heist in 1967 and the Lufthansa heist in 1978, which is considered one of the most spectacular criminal cases in American history. At the beginning of the film, Hill refers to Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo , a New York mafioso who unleashed a Mafia war ( Profaci Gallo war ) in the late 1950s , and the Apalachin meeting . Carmine Tramunti , head of the Lucchese family, was sentenced to 15 years in prison only for a handshake with a drug dealer observed by an investigator. In the film, Paul Cicero refers to it in a conversation with Henry Hill.

Using several text panels at the end of the film, the viewer learns what became of the main characters. Paul Vario / Cicero died in prison in 1988, Jimmy Burkes / Conway's sentence could have been suspended from 2004 onwards, but he died in 1996 at the age of 64.

One of the biggest differences between what actually happened and Scorsese's interpretation was the portrayal of Jimmy and Paulie. In reality, they are said to have been much more ruthless and brutal in carrying out their work. Paulie in particular makes a rather meek, considered and calm impression in the film, which does not correspond to the character of his real role model. Joe Pesci's portrayal of gangster Tommy DeVito, on the other hand, is very accurate according to a statement by Henry Hill.


  • Good Fellas is considered Scorsese's answer to Francis Ford Coppola's mafia trilogy The Godfather .
  • The opening credits of the film was of Saul Bass designed.
  • In 1995, Martin Scorsese's Casino was the "unofficial" sequel to the cinemas. Although the actions of Good Fellas and Casino are different, there are great stylistic similarities.
  • Good Fellas served as inspiration for the successful television series The Sopranos , which is thematically and stylistically similar. In addition, numerous actors from Good Fellas can be seen in supporting roles and guest appearances. The series screenwriter David Chase referred to Good Fellas as his Koran .
  • Al Pacino was Scorsese's first choice for the role of Jimmy Conway. He declined to counteract his image as a gangster performer.
  • Good Fellas is the sixth of a total of eight collaborations between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro (after Hexenkessel , Taxi Driver , New York, New York , Like a Wild Bull and King of Comedy ).
  • Robert De Niro, a staunch advocate of method acting , telephoned Henry Hill several times a day during the shoot to find out every detail about his character Jimmy Burke.
  • After filming was over, Robert De Niro and Jimmy Burke met in prison. Burke only saw parts of the film.
  • On January 10, 2012 it was announced that the American broadcaster AMC had secured the rights to a prequel TV series. Nicholas Pileggi is to deliver the script together with TV writer Jorge Zamacona .
  • The then New York police officer Louis Eppolito played in a supporting role "Fat Andy". In addition to his work as a police officer for the Mafia, he worked as a contract killer and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006 for eight murders.
  • Comedian Henny Youngman plays himself in a short scene.
  • In the video game Grand Theft Auto III there is an Easter Egg for the film, under the name BadFellas .
  • In the scene where the police raid Henry's house, Karen watches the movie The Jazz Singer on TV . This is considered the first sound film in history. Scorsese also shows excerpts from this film in Aviator , where Leonardo DiCaprio sees it in the cinema.
  • Good Fellas is mentioned in the series Lilyhammer (Season 2, Episode 4) after Frank Tagliano (played by Steven Van Zandt ) imitates a scene from the film role Tommy DeVito.
  • Good Fellas is mentioned in the film Malavita - The Family , in which Robert De Niro also plays a leading role. In one scene he participates in a film screening where Good Fellas is played and discussed.
  • The mafioso Louie from the animated series The Simpsons is a parody of the gangster character Frank Carbone from Good Fellas , played by Frank Sivero . In 2014 he sued the makers of the cult series with a claim of $ 250 million. However, Fox Television Studios won the lawsuit.
  • In a Simpsons episode (season 18, episode 8) Good Fellas is parodied when Nelson Muntz leads Bart into the cafeteria, just as Henry Hill led his girlfriend Karen to Copacabana.
  • Good Fellas becomes Mafia! In the mafia comedy ! - A noodle doesn't make spaghetti! parodies.


Martin Scorsese 2007

“A description of a 'career' in the mafia, developed from the perspective of a former gangster, which analyzes the rules of the crime in many episodes in a detailed and milieu-precise manner. The precise use of the cinematic means results in a consistent examination of the topic, both emotionally gripping and distantly reflective; sometimes drastic in the realistic representation. "


Good Fellas won several major film awards in 1991. However, the two most important, the Oscar and Golden Globe Awards , he was unable to win. He defeated each Kevin Costner's Western - epic Dances with Wolves . With six Oscar nominations, only Joe Pesci was able to take home the award for best supporting actor. Lorraine Bracco, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, came away empty-handed. The nominations in the categories of Best Film, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing were also unsuccessful . At the previously awarded Golden Globes , Scorsese's mafia drama won no awards at all.

  • Venice Film Festival: Silver Lion for Best Director
  • 1998: Good Fellas ranks 94th on the list of the 100 Best Movies of All Time compiled by the prestigious American Film Institute. In 2007, the work made it to number 92 on the list of the same name.
  • 2000: The film is included in the National Film Registry .
  • 2008: The American Film Institute voted the film # 2 in the Top 10 Gangster Movies of All Time.
  • 2011: The film has been number 16 of the best films of all time in the Internet Movie Database since December 25, 2011 (previously even number 15).
Overview of awards / nominations
price category Nominees result
Academy Awards 1991 Best movie Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Nominated
Best director Martin Scorsese Nominated
Best cut Thelma Schoonmaker Nominated
Best script Martin Scorsese , Nicholas Pileggi Nominated
Best supporting actor Joe Pesci Won
The best supporting actress Lorraine Bracco Nominated
Golden Globe Awards 1991 Best film - drama Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Nominated
Best director Martin Scorsese Nominated
Best supporting actor Joe Pesci Nominated
The best supporting actress Lorraine Bracco Nominated
Best script Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi Nominated
44th British Academy Film Awards Best movie Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Won
Best director Martin Scorsese Won
Best script Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi Won
Best Actor Robert De Niro Nominated
Best cut Thelma Schoonmaker Won
Best camera Michael Ballhaus Nominated
Best wardrobe Richard Bruno Won
1990 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best movie Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Won
Best director Martin Scorsese Won
Best Actor Robert De Niro Won
1990 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best movie Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Won
Best director Martin Scorsese Won
Best supporting actor Joe Pesci Won
The best supporting actress Lorraine Bracco Won
Best camera Michael Ballhaus Won
1990 National Board of Review Awards Best supporting actor Joe Pesci Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Best movie Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Won
Best director Martin Scorsese Won
Best supporting actor Joe Pesci Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards 1990 Best movie Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Won
Best director Martin Scorsese Won
Best supporting actor Joe Pesci Won
The best supporting actress Lorraine Bracco Won
Best script Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards 1990 Best movie Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Won
Best director Martin Scorsese Won
Best supporting actor Joe Pesci Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards 1990 Best movie Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Won
Best director Martin Scorsese Won
Silver Lion 1990 Best director Martin Scorsese Won
Bodil Award 1991 For the best non-European film Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Won
Directors Guild of America Award 1990 Best director Martin Scorsese Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best adapted script Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi Nominated
César 1991 Best foreign film Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Nominated
Fotogramas de Plata Best Foreign Film 1990 Best foreign film Martin Scorsese and Irwin Winkler Won

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  2. Article in the Independent about Thelma Schoonmaker ( Memento from April 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Review of Chiranjit Goswami
  5. Howard Hughs: Crime Wave - The Filmgoers' Guide to Great Crime Movies, 2006, ISBN 978-1845112196
  6. Interview with Chase
  7. Good Fellas TV series lands on AMC .
  8. Article in the New York Times about Eppolito (Eng.)
  9. Good Fellas - Three Decades in the Mafia. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  10. In 16th place in the IMDb (as of December 27, 2011)
  11. a b c d e f The 63rd Academy Awards (1991) . 
  12. a b c d e Golden Globe Awards 1991 . Archived from the original on September 29, 2006.