Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

GoodFellas (1990)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

GoodFellas (1990)

In Martin Scorsese's crime mob-underworld classic - a true mobster story - about three violent "wiseguys" [Mafia slang for 'gangsters'], one of whom ultimately broke the gangster's code of 'never ratting on your friends':

  • the early scene of young Henry Hill (Christopher Serrone as youngster) delivering a monologue as a teenaged boy in East New York (Brooklyn) 1955 he intensely watched his glamorous idols - the 'gangsters' who used the nearby taxi stand as their front, across the street from his family's tenement apartment: "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States. Even before I first wandered into the cabstand for an after-school job, I knew I wanted to be a part of them. It was there that I knew that I belonged. To me, it meant being somebody in a neighborhood that was full of nobodies"
  • the sequence of young Henry's grooming to become a 'goodfella' gangster - he loved the respect and notoriety the gang members received: ("People looked at me differently and they knew I was with somebody...At thirteen, I was making more money than most of the grown-ups in the neighborhood. I mean, I had more money than I could spend. I had it all"); he was advised by Jimmy 'the Gent' Conway (Robert De Niro) about two strict rules - "the two greatest things in life...Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut"
  • the tense/comical scene in Sonny Bunz' (Tony Darrow) restaurant - the Bamboo Lounge where criminals regularly congregated, in which the loud-mouthed, volatile gangster Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) pranked the laughing, wise-guy Henry Hill (Ray Liotta as adult), by pretending to take offense and menacingly asking: "What do you mean, I'm funny? Funny how? How'm I funny?"
Bamboo Lounge Scene:
"What do you mean, I'm funny? Funny how? How'm I funny?
  • the scene of Karen's (Lorraine Bracco) first date with Henry at the Villa Capri restaurant when she was stood up - she narrated, in voice-over, her impressions of her rude, insensitive date: "I couldn't stand him. I thought he was really obnoxious. He kept fidgeting around" - and then she confronted him face to face out on the street with feisty distaste: "You've got some nerve standing me up. Nobody does that to me. Who the hell do you think you are, Frankie Vallie or some kind of big shot?" - he became even more attracted to her: "I remember, she screaming on the street and I mean loud, but she looked good. She had these great eyes. Just like Liz Taylor's. At least that's what I thought"
  • the long, 3-minute, unedited, Steadicam tracking shot of an overwhelmed Karen and Henry entering the Copacabana nightclub through the back entrance
  • the scene of Henry beating a guy's face with the butt of his gun after an unwelcome attempted rape assault toward Karen by his neighbor Bruce (Mark Evan Jacobs) - and Karen's voice-over turned-on response to his chivalrous, violent defense of her ("I got to admit the truth. It turned me on") - as she also began to lose her moral perspective and innocence
  • the gory sequence (in the film's opening and later) set in 1970 when old-time Gambino mafioso Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) was held in the trunk of Henry's car for a trip to some Connecticut woods; during their trip, they stopped over at Tommy's house for a full pasta dinner at midnight - an opportunity for Tommy to request a long butcher knife and shovel (and his mother's acceptance of his ludicrous explanation for his bloody shirt); later, both Tommy and Jimmy sadistically stabbed and shot Batts (multiple times)
  • during a friendly card game in the basement of the Suite, Tommy's belligerent intimidation of bar-boy and apprentice hood Spider (Michael Imperioli) with his gun: "Ya f--kin' varmint, Dance! Yahoo, ya motherf--ker...Round up those f--king wagons!"; he accidentally hit Spider in the foot; during the next night of play, the short-fused wiseguy Tommy - without warning, fired six shots into Spider's chest and killed him
  • the scene in which crazed with hurt Karen, feeling unloved by Henry's infidelities, straddled the awakening Henry with a pistol pointed at his head - to scare him to come back to her
  • in a federal prison in Lewisburg, Mafia boss overlord Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino) "was doing a year for contempt" - and Henry was also serving time (ultimately four years), but both were given respect by bribed guards and received special privileges; the convicts prepared Italian pasta dinner meals with prime ingredients smuggled in (garlic, "veal, beef and pork," even lobsters, peppers, onions, salami, prosciutto, a lot of cheese, Scotch, red and white wine, and Italian bread) - they discussed their treatment: "See, you know when you think of prison, you get pictures in your mind of all those old movies with rows and rows of guys behind bars...But it wasn't like that for wiseguys. It really wasn't that bad"
  • the famous montage of the murderous elimination of other conspirators after the successful pre-dawn heist-raid at the Lufthansa cargo terminal at Kennedy Airport, netting millions - all accomplices involved in the heist were ordered killed to sever the links between Jimmy and the Lufthansa robbery
Johnny Roastbeef (John Williams) and wife (Fran McGee) in Pink Cadillac Convertible
Bodies of Air France Cargo worker Frenchy (Mike Starr) and Joe Buddha (Clem Caserta) in Dumpster
Frankie Carbone (Frank Sivero) Hanging on Meat Hook in Truck
  • the scene of Tommy's 'induction' into the Mafia when he dressed up to "look good" - however, he was suddenly whacked - revenge for his earlier unauthorized killing of Billy Batts; after being ushered into an empty room to take a blood oath into the upper echelons of the family, the camera took his point of view; he sensed his days were over - he was shot in the back of the head as he spoke his last words
  • the famous "drug bust" sequence (with frenetic jump-cuts) when Henry obsessively watched the clock and narrated a paranoid, hyperactive monologue while heavily intoxicated and coked-up with drugs; he had many things on his mind - he had to sell guns and ammunition, plan a drug courier trip with his kids' babysitter Lois (Welker White), and prepare a large Italian dinner for his family in the kitchen while being surveyed overhead by an FBI helicopter in the space of a caption-timed 16 frantic hours; the monologue ended when Henry was arrested by narcotics cops from the DEA when a gun was held to his head
DEA Drug Bust Sequence
  • the final image of Henry - now suburbanized after being inducted into the Witness Protection Program after testifying against his mobster family and breaking the code of honor - he had been placed in a suburban, midwestern town in a new tract home development, now suburbanized, homogenized, and normalized; he appeared at his front door in a blue bathrobe and bent down to pick up the morning paper; he realized that he would now have to live a normal, non-gangster life: "I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook"
  • the homage to The Great Train Robbery (1903) - Tommy took six shots directly into the camera (presumably at Henry); it was an image in Henry's mind and a rhetorical flashback to his criminal life

Henry: "I always wanted to be a gangster"

Jimmy's Advice to Young Henry Hill

Henry's First Date with Karen Who Told Him Off

Henry and Karen's Steadicam Entrance into Copacabana

Tommy Requesting a Knife at His Mother's House Before Brutally Killing Billy Batts

Tommy's Cold-Blooded Murder of Spider

Karen Pointing a Gun at Henry's Head for Being Unfaithful

Tommy's Execution

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

Tommy Taking Six Shots at the Camera (and at Henry)


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