Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino
It's a bold statement, but one that's easily justified by the movie itself: Goodfellas is Martin Scorsese's best movie. And, yes, that's weighed against films like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Just try not to watch Goodfellas every time it's on television, or try not to act like Henry Hill's (played by Ray Liotta) first piece of dialogue ("As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster") isn't one of cinema's best opening lines.
Or attempt to call anything else the greatest gangster movie ever made. Quickly paced, deeply characterized, and exceptionally acted, Goodfellas accomplishes the ballsy and admirable balancing act of portraying organized crime as both desirable and devious. Like Hill, you're mesmerized by its dangerous allure, and just as he descends into a world of shit, you, too, feel the mafia world's oppressive, no-way-out stranglehold.
One last challenge: Twenty-three years after the fact, try to not yelling "Bullshit!" about Dances with Wolves beating Goodfellas out for both Best Picture and Best director at the Academy Awards. Notice how Kevin Costner's Civil War drama is nowhere to be found within this countdown. Not that we're bitter. —MB