Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci
In the pantheon of great mob movies, GoodFellas is as good as it gets. And realistic. Which is exactly what attracted Martin Scorsese to the project in the first place. Legend has it that after reading Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy, the story of Lucchese crime family associate Henry Hill’s life as a gangster-turned-rat, the director immediately picked up the phone, called Pileggi and told him, “I’ve been waiting for this book my entire life.” Pileggi’s reply? “I’ve been waiting for this phone call my entire life.”
Having grown up in New York City’s Little Italy at the height of the city’s mafia influx, Scorsese’s fascination with the book was in the authenticity of the everyday life of a mobster. Whereas over-the-top interpretations of gangsterdom, like Scarface, portray a sort of “party all the time” atmosphere, Pileggi’s book got the minutiae right—the scams (big and small) and how they worked, the challenges facing middle-management mobsters and their lack of upward mobility and the delicate balance between family life and “family” life. And Scorsese utilizes every trick in his moviemaking toolkit to pull it off, which earned the film six Oscar nominations (with one win for Joe Pesci) and the most famous tracking shot in cinema history.