The Most Accurate Crime Movie Ever Made Finally Available on Netflix

The Most Accurate Crime Movie Ever Made Finally Available on Netflix
Image credit: Legion-Media

We can all agree that it's a great movie – but Goodfellas is also an authentic depiction of the lives of the gangsters it portrays.


  • Goodfellas is one of the greatest movies ever made.
  • While artistic license was used, the plot points behind the 1990 hit are real.
  • Henry Hill passed away in 2012, but his legacy lives on through the film.

Some movies transcend their genre and simply become cultural icons. Martin Scorsese 's Goodfellas is one such movie. Critically acclaimed upon its release, it has stood the test of time thanks to great casting, stellar performances from the likes of Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta, and its authentic portrayal of mob life.

The plot points came from the tell-all non-fiction book Wiseguy

It's not uncommon for screenwriters to research the worlds they're trying to bring to the big screen. But when it comes to mafia movies, this can be a little tricky due to the secretive nature of how the gangs operate. Most people know who the big Mafia dons are – but how much does anyone on the outside really know about how things work?

In Martin Scorsese's case, he based Goodfellas on the 1985 book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, a biography of real-life mobster Henry Hill by Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the film. Pileggi contacted Hill in 1985 while the mafioso-turned-FBI informant was still in the Witness Protection Program. Having testified and helped secure the imprisonment of dozens of Mafia members, Hill had nothing to lose and was happy to provide details to make the book (and later the movie) authentic.

The timeline was sped up, but the events were true

Major parts of the movie, such as the murder of Billy Batts and the Lufthansa robbery, were absolutely true. In the book, there is a more detailed description of the background of the robbery at John F. Kennedy Airport, which wouldn't necessarily have made for a great viewing experience. But all the key elements of the event were pretty accurate on screen.

Likewise, the murder of Made Man Batts, a pivotal moment in the movie, was true to what really happened, just with a slightly altered timeline of events.

The main trio did stop at Tommy's mother's house on their way to bury the body in upstate New York, yet Batts was killed a week after the incident in which he told Tommy to "go home and get (his) ****ing shine box." However, the timeline didn't need to be exact for the movie, and it made sense to move on from Billy's disrespect for Tommy to the consequences.

Henry Hill was expelled from the Witness Protection Program but lived to 69

In 1980, Henry Hill was arrested as a material witness in the Lufthansa robbery. He'd already served time for drug trafficking and was still running a drug business. He was also a heavy drug user and was now considered a liability by the Mafia.

The prospect of a long prison sentence on the inside or being murdered on the outside was enough to convince Hill that his best option was to testify against his former associates. As part of the deal, he entered the Witness Protection Program, but was kicked out in 1987 after a cocaine trafficking conviction.

Henry Hill became a well-known public figure. There is no known reason why the Mafia didn't go after him once his anonymity was lifted. Some possible reasons are that he was too much in the public eye, that his death or disappearance would have done more harm than good, that the new mob bosses had bigger fish to fry, or that allowing him to live in a constant state of fear was its own form of mental torture.

Whatever the reason, Henry Hill lived until 2012, when he died in hospital from complications related to a long-term heart condition.