Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas is considered to be one of the greats in the genre of gangster films. It is often compared with the likes of The Godfather and Bonnie and Clyde. Upon release in 1990 it was a critical and box office success and continues to be considered among the best films in cinema history. The film was nominated for six academy awards and won one for Best Supporting Actor (Joe Pesci). The cast includes a number of big names (Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci) and was the first in a string of crime movies Scorsese would do (Casino –1995- and The Departed –2006-). The question is, does this film deserve to stand among the greats and how does it compare to the likes of The Godfather.
Should this film be considered a classic? I get that this is considered one of the best of the gangster films. However, I don’t think that is enough to include it in the list. It is without a doubt a well acted, directed, and produced film. The performances are top notch and Joe Pesci is certainly deserving of his Oscar for his dangerously crazed performance as Tommy DeVito. The style of the film is also intriguing with the characters of Henry Hill and his wife Karen (Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco) providing a narrative overlay to much of the film. One of the things I really liked was how the film gave the perspective of the wife, Karen. It showed a different angle than a lot of gangster movies which are typically told through male eyes. The inclusion of Karen’s perspective added a lot of depth to the story.
So with all that praise, I still can’t find myself willing to place the film at the same level as a timeless classic. Maybe it’s because I got tired of the abundance of language. Look, I understand that rough people speak in a rough manner, but when the dialog is so dominated by four letter words that it seems like the writers just got lazy it becomes a problem. I also just did not find the story as meaningful or emotional as The Godfather or even Bonnie and Clyde. I really just did not care about any of the characters and that is ultimately what keeps this from being considered a classic for me personally.
Would I own this film? No. Once was enough. By the time the movie was over I felt like I needed to clean my ears out. The film just does not appeal to me and I think there are far better representations of the genre than this film.