The latest entry into my coveted Film Masterclass list is the powerful gangster flick ‘Goodfellas’ directed by the master Martin Scorsese. The 1990 film went on to win Best Supporting Actor for the brilliant Joe Pesci and landed another five nominations in the Writing, Directing, Editing, Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Picture categories. And to think it only walked away with the one nomination is beyond scandalous, especially for newcomer Ray Liotta who wasn’t a big star at the time and commands the screen next to screen legends Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro. ‘Goodfellas’ is an integral part of film history for many reasons; For one, it has gone on to inspire many film makers and TV shows, notably one of the greatest TV shows of all time, ‘The Sopranos’. Many people talk about what film is the greatest gangster movie of all time; the majority always nod towards ‘The Godfather’ and they have a very good shout towards the 1970’s masterpiece, but for me, Martin Scorsese hit it out of the park with ‘Goodfellas’. Not only is it the greatest gangster film of all time, it’s one of the greatest movies of all time.
If it isn’t the outstanding soundtrack that was handpicked by Martin Scorsese himself, it’s the terrific direction by the veteran film maker. Notably, the scene when we follow Ray Liotta’s character Henry Hill takes his new girlfriend through the back entrance of the restaurant. For that short amount of time in the film, you feel like you’re the gangster, you are Henry Hill for a few minutes. You experience the power and respect this character has in the film. Freeze frames and voice overs are the directors trademark and since have been used in a few more of his flicks since including ‘The Departed’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ but never has it been more effective since ‘Goodfellas’. The films running time clocking nearly two and a half hours, ‘Goodfellas’ doesn’t skip a beat in its relentless tour-de-force throughout and never becomes tiring. For a film to get so many people engrossed in a film that long is an incredible achievement. But the biggest achievement by Martin Scorsese is the ability to get the audience to fall in love with these murderous, drug taking gangsters.
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster”. If it’s not the memorable quotes from the film, it’s the memorable scenes from ‘Goodfellas’ that everyone can remember. A personal favourite of mine is Joe Pesci’s character Tommy DeVito joining the bar with Henry Hill and Robert De Niro’s character James Conway and encountering an old mob boss who is ‘made’ that Tommy use to shine his shoes for back when he was a kid. “Now, go home and get your fucking shine box” Joe Pesci’s face clicks into action and we get to see more of the psychotic side of Tommy DeVito. The acting all round is a masterclass and it’s a damn shame that Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro missed out on nods at the Academy Awards.
‘Goodfellas’ isn’t defined by the amount of awards it’s won over the years; the 1990 flick will always be remembered to be a piece of cinematic history and truly deserved its entry into the National Film Registry. For me, it’s a close call to say that ‘Goodfellas’ is the best Scorsese film because ‘Taxi Driver’ comes very close, but the sheer power and emotion put into ‘Goodfellas’ is truly unforgettable. This is and always will be one of my favourite films of all time and we will sadly but in a good way, never see a better gangster film in our lifetime.