Forget The Godfather: This $47M Movie is the Most Accurate Crime Film Ever Made

Forget The Godfather: This $47M Movie is the Most Accurate Crime Film Ever Made
Image credit: Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros.

The movie where Robert De Niro had to eat Italian food with ketchup.


  • In 1990, a movie was released that is still considered one of the best in the history of cinema.
  • It was directed by none other than Martin Scorsese, and it was the filmmaker's approach to 'authenticity' that made the movie great.
  • The performances of the cast are a great example of how the actors literally tried to live into characters based on real personalities.

Which veteran of the Hollywood film industry best represents crime-related pop culture? Francis Ford Coppola, with his legendary adaptation of the Mario Puzo novel? Quentin Tarantino, with his everyday dialogue interspersed with bloody showdowns? Or should all the laurels go to Brian De Palma for his Scarface? Well, each of these filmmakers has undoubtedly delivered incredibly profound, stylish and intense crime dramas, but hardly any gangster movie can compare to Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas!

The movie has enough thrills, enough human drama and comedy, enough epic crime fights and heists, enough witty dialogue, and enough incomparable performances by the talented Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta.

Despite its modest box office at the time of its release in 1990, critics immediately declared Goodfellas to be one of the best films in the history of cinema per se, and Roger Ebert himself did not hesitate to say that it was even better than the already indirectly mentioned The Godfather.

What is the reason for such a high status of 'best gangster movie ever made'? At the very least, it lies in the fact that the movie is partly based on real events.

Movie Based on Infamous Mobsters' Lives

As you may know, Martin Scorsese's 1990 film was written in collaboration with Nicholas Pileggi, based on his non-fiction book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, which was published 5 years before the movie. The book followed the life of Henry Hill, who began his romantic journey as a renegade criminal at the age of 11. After decades of criminal activity and working for Paul Vario in collaboration with Jimmy Burke (the same person known as Jimmy Conway in the movie), he became an informant who entered the Witness Protection Program for fear of being assassinated by Vario and Burke.

Thus, virtually all of the events of Goodfellas are adapted by Scorsese and Pileggi from the book, although Scorsese himself has repeatedly noted that the final script used for principal photography was edited based on ad-libs and improvisation by the actors during auditions.

Forget The Godfather: This $47M Movie is the Most Accurate Crime Film Ever Made - image 1

Of course, certain moments were altered in the name of creative expression and drama, but almost everything the viewer sees on screen is an adaptation of events that actually happened.

For example, the script perfectly captures the moment of the murder of the made man Billy Batts, including the ridiculous details of the attempts to dispose of the body.

The famous Lufthansa heist, which was the largest heist in U.S. history at the time of its execution, is also believed to be a historically accurate portrayal of those events, from Jimmy's planning to the murder of all members of the heist except Thomas DeSimone (Joe Pesci's Tommy DeVito) and Henry Hill.

Robert de Niro Is a Method Acting Genius

Not only Scorsese and Pileggi, but also the actors themselves lent a great deal of authenticity to the film, inhabiting the roles of real people (and even some who were still alive at the time of filming). One of the most famous moments to prove this is when De Niro's character used ketchup on Italian food in a scene during dinner at Tommy's mother's house. Wait, what?

Yes, despite the actor's the quintessential Italian, he did so solely because the ketchup in his food favored the real-life Burke, which De Niro learned about personally from Henry Hill. Incidentally, Hill himself loved the movie, according to the New York Times. It would be interesting to know if Burke had a chance to see it and what he thought of it!

'It's that little moment of insane authenticity that makes Marty's movies work,' Pileggi told The Week. 'He just insists on it.'

Source: The New York Times, The Week.