Notable Jewish Moment: When assembling his criminal crew, Noodles kept things strictly Yiddish, teaming with guys named Patrick Goldberg, Philip Stein, and Max Bercovicz.
Classic Quote: "I like the stink of the streets. It makes me feel good. And I like the smell of it, it opens up my lungs. And it gives me a hard-on."
At a robust 256 minutes long, Sergio Leone's sprawling, generations-spanning mobster epic Once Upon a Time in America follows the quick-witted, resilient David "Noodles" Aaronson (Robert De Niro, an Italian who's great at playing Jewish ruffians) from his youthful 1920s days through 1968, who watches numerous friends and lovers die as a result of the Lower East Side native's forays into bootlegging, murder, robbery, and treachery.
How great of a character is Noodles, a protagonist taken from author Harry Grey's original novel The Hoods? He actually rapes two women throughout the course of the film, and yet we still can't help but feel for the guy. Which must have something to do with how he first won us over by stabbing his pushy neighborhood crime boss to death as a youngster. You might not like Noodles as a human being, but you've got to respect his gangster.
Besides, Wu-Tang Clan's own Masta Killa wouldn't use the character's name as his Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... alias if Noodles wasn't legitimately badass.