Goodfellas is the story of a man named Henry Hill who aspires to become a gangster from a young age. Based on a true story, the movie focuses on Henry’s aspiring career as he grows up and fulfills his dream. As he advances through the mob, we see how damaging his lifestyle becomes for himself and those around him. Martin Scorsese directs this story in a riveting way that paces the movie appropriately. Alongside Scorsese, actors such as Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci also contribute to making this film an astonishing work. Scorsese, some of the actors, and the film itself have each won numerous awards for their talents. The direction, actors, and editing done made Goodfellas an intriguing movie that continues to entertain audiences today.
Although Goodfellas is an exceptional film for various reasons, the first factor that makes it great is the director. Martin Scorsese has won best screenplay, best film, best direction, and more for his work in Goodfellas. Scorsese interestingly uses freeze frames throughout the movie to emphasize what Henry believes are essential moments in his life. These freeze frames are often used to pause a crucial action, creating an emphasis on what’s important. While Scorsese’s use of freeze frames is intelligently used, it’s also his tracking shots that are well worth talking about. The long tracking shots used within the film serve the vital purpose of allowing the audience to experience Henry’s point of view. As the tracking shot pans across various faces, each person looks directly into the camera allowing us to experience what Henry is experiencing. Scorsese also uses voice-overs throughout the film. The different voice-overs are used to narrate the story in a way that allows audiences to focus their attention on a specific perspective. Scorsese’s style of freeze frames, tracking shots, and voice-overs benefit the film in numerous ways.
While Martin Scorsese’s style of directing is a component as to why Goodfellas is good, the cast is a factor as well. Three of the leading actors, Liotta, De Niro, and Pesci, were each nominated for best actor or best supporting actor. Ray Liotta, who portrayed the main character Henry, does a fantastic job at playing the antihero that feels very little remorse. In fact, all three of these men play roles in which they are cold hearted killers. They each feel no guilt as they murder and steal through the duration of the story. Joe Pesci plays Tommy DeVito who is an erratic, hot-head. Pesci had an outstanding performance to which he was nominated for 11 different awards in the early 90’s. Robert De Niro also had a remarkable performance alongside his comrades. De Niro played the role of Jimmy Conway, the main antagonist, to which he was nominated 4 awards for his performance. Other cast members such as Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, and others were nominated for awards for their phenomenal performances as well.
Lastly, an important aspect that contributes to the quality of the movie is editing. The editing technique used helps convey the directors message to the audience. There are a few instances that exemplify how editing helps tell the story. The rhythm of editing determines how the audience will feel. Some scenes displayed quick cuts to create anticipation or anxiousness, while other times the editing may appear slower. Slowing the rhythm of editing allows suspense to build which Scorsese uses this ability before some pivotal moments in the film. Scorsese and his editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, worked together to create the rhythm of the story this movie needed. Another example of superb editing is his use of sequence shots. Sequence shots are used here to show Henry’s power in the mob early on, and how his power will eventually deteriorate. The use of sequence shots helps tell the story in a unique way for the audience.
In conclusion, Goodfellas is an extraordinary film worth watching for numerous reasons. The films use of direction, cast, and editing contribute to not only what makes this movie satisfactory, but also the audiences experience. The audience is able to experience different perspectives as well as form a strong connection with the characters. As we watch Henry Hill’s journey through the mob, each member of the audience then decides the fate they hope unravels. Will Henry make it out of this lifestyle or will he face an inevitable doom? Do you root for Henry or is he supposed to be the bad guy? Whether audiences think of Henry as the hero or the villain, I can say the story ends on a great note. The best part is that the film is based on a true story. The good guys, the bad guys, and everything in between is real.
Check out this clip to understand the making of Goodfellas!