Director: Sergio Leone
Leading Actors: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern
NYC Neighborhoods Featured: Dumbo, Brooklyn; Vinegar Hill, the Bronx; East Village

Sergio Leone's epic final film may contain some of the themes that ran through his entire career, but mostly Once Upon a Time in America is one of the bravest departures of any directorial career on the books. His 229-minute film, trimmed from the original six-hour feature he wanted to release in two parts, marks his attempt to move from the politics of the old west into a career-spanning exploration of organized crime. Robert De Niro is remarkably subdued in his role, making it an even more interesting character study than his turn as Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, a movie from which OUaTiA borrows heavily. But aside from time-hopping editing, OUaTiA is a very different film. The mind boggles at the amount of time and money that must've gone into recreating historic Brooklyn, which is portrayed as an old-world villa separated from the faster, sleeker Manhattan. The film, though long and harsh, is endlessly rewarding and warm. A true magnum opus. —GT