For the uninitiated, GoodFellas explores the criminal life like no other movie before or since. Following the rise and fall of a trio of gangsters over 30 years, it’s an electrifying, fact-inspired tale of living—and dying. Based on the true-life bestseller Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi (who, in collaboration with Scorsese, received an Oscar nomination for the script), GoodFellas follows the true story of Henry Hill, a half-Irish, half-Sicilian Brooklyn kid who is adopted by neighborhood gangsters at an early age and climbs the ranks of a Mafia family that includes stellar performances from Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino.

In one of the more memorable and humorous scenes, Liotta and De Niro's characters sit down for a meal with Pesci's volatile
Tommy DeVito and Tommy's mother (trivia time: played by Scorsese's actual mother, Catherine).

The film earned six Academy Award nominations in all, including “Best Picture” and “Best Director,” along with “Best Supporting Actress” (for Bracco) and a “Best Supporting Actor” win for Pesci. At the time of its release in 1990, it was also named “Best Film” by the New York, Los Angeles and National Society of Film Critics. In 2000, GoodFellas was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the US Library of Congress

Pesci as Tommy DeVito and De Niro as James Conway launch an assault on Frank Vincent (as Billy Batts). Note to self: Don't ever
insult Tommy DeVito. 

There’s not a whole lot of downtime in GoodFellas. From the opening voiceover, when Liotta, as Henry Hill, says, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster,” Scorsese puts his foot on the gas and doesn’t feel the need to stop for many red lights. The violence is unbridled and matter-of-fact, the humor is darkly contagious, and the language is coarse (the f-word ringing out an estimated 300 times in 146 minutes, mostly from the lips of Pesci’s psycho-killer character), but chances are that you’ll not be able to turn away from the screen or bother to cover your ears in horror. 

What could go wrong at a diner? When two of the patrons are mobsters James Conway and Henry Hill, it's not a strange question.

That’s what makes GoodFellas the classic that it is. Despite everything that may be abhorrent to you personally about these characters and their lifestyle, you go along for the ride anyway. And therein lies the fascination behind great filmmaking, where a movie like GoodFellas can somehow take you into a world—in this case a very dark one—that you’d never walk into on your own, but when it’s all over you will feel that you have. It’s little wonder that David Chase, the creator of the massively successful and landmark HBO series The Sopranos, has stated that “GoodFellas is the Koran for me.”

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