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Film / GoodFellas

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"Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut."
"As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster."
Henry Hill

Goodfellas (stylized GoodFellas) is a 1990 American biographical crime film co-written and directed by Martin Scorsese, adapted from the book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi (who also co-wrote), which follows the story of New York City gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) from his induction into the Lucchese crime family in the 1950s to his downfall and entry into the Witness Protection Program in the 1980s.

Along with Henry, the film additionally follows Henry's boss Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), his best friend Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), and his wife Karen Friedman (Lorraine Bracco). The film details Henry's moving up the ranks, his eventual imprisonment, his role in (at the time) the largest heist in American history, and his involvement with the cocaine trade (which eventually gets him arrested by narcotics officers and shunned by the Mob). As the ground crumbles around him, he turns to the Feds for protection, eventually having to "live the rest of [his] life like a schnook".

Paul Sorvino plays Paul Cicero, boss of Henry's outfit. Samuel L. Jackson, then just hitting the big time, has a small part as a crook named Stacks Edwards. Debi Mazar is Sandy, Henry's moll. Tobin Bell can be seen for about two seconds as Jimmy's parole officer. Isaiah Whitlock, Jr. (Clay Davis on The Wire) briefly appears as Henry's doctor.

The film became famous for several reasons, including a long tracking shot through the kitchen of the Copacabana; the montage near the end showing Henry's increasing drug-induced paranoia as he tries to run some guns, get a drug shipment off to Pittsburgh, and make dinner for his family; and Tommy's profanity-laden dialogue and Hair-Trigger Temper, which threatened to make Joe Pesci typecast for some time — and won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The film was nominated for an additional five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and was selected for the National Film Registry in 2000.

GoodFellas was followed by Casino, based on the book of the same name (also by Nicholas Pileggi), which also featured De Niro (who "phagocytated" Liotta's role in becoming the centre of the movie's romantic subplot), Pesci (still the same sort of vicious character — though with more sophisticated and sympathetic qualities; it should also be noted that both guys he played really existed), and Frank Vincent (famously playing a very different role from this film's Billy Batts).

The film is also considered rather notable for being a major influence on The Sopranos (widely viewed as its Spiritual Successor), which went on to become one of the most acclaimed and influential television series of all time. Multiple cast members in The Sopranos (including Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, Frank Vincent, Vincent Pastore, and Tony Sirico) previously appeared here, and the show's gritty and unglamorous portrayal of the Mafia was pretty clearly influenced by the film. The parallels between the two were originally going to be even more blatant — HBO originally wanted Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco to play Tony and Carmella Soprano, effectively reprising their roles as Henry and Karen Hill; Liotta turned down the rolenote , and Bracco requested the role of Dr. Melfi because she felt that Carmella was too similar to her role in GoodFellas.

See also My Blue Heaven, written by Pileggi's wife, Nora Ephron and starring Steve Martin as Vincent "Vinnie" Antonelli, based on Hill's time in witness protection. The research was done at the same time as Wiseguy in the same sessions with Hill. Functions as a loose sequel to GoodFellas.

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  • Abled in the Adaptation: In real life, Henry Hill had learning disabilities so severe that he didn't learn the alphabet until he was twenty. The movie doesn't really touch on this fact, aside from him having a difficult time in school, and even then a viewer could easily get the impression that he did poorly simply because he was already uninterested in an honest living.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Henry's father beat him after he started spending too much time at the cab stand. Ostensibly it was because he was there instead of at school, but Henry's narration makes it clear that it was really just his father's way of lashing out at somebody weaker because of all the rage he felt at the world.
    • Karen finds the Mob Wives at the Hostess Party distasteful due to their lack of fashion sense, bad skin, bad makeup application, and their complaints about how the children (whom they beat with brooms and lock in closets) don't listen to them.
  • Actor Allusion: Tommy DeSimone's name is changed to Tommy DeVito in the film. One of Joe Pesci's best friends is the R&B musician Tommy DeVito.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: As much as Tommy's volatile antics terrify the other gangsters, he also floors them with his hilarious storytelling. At one point, Tommy's poker game anecdotes put everybody in such a high spirits that Jimmy discreetly calls off a planned hit on one of the other players, now in too good a mood to feel like murdering them.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: In the aftermath of the Lufthansa heist, Jimmy turns almost overnight from being an Affably Evil guy who tips generously and even shoves a twenty-dollar bill into the pocket of a truck driver he's robbing, to a murderous Faux Affably Evil paranoid asshole who seems to not want to pay any of the guys who did the heist. This is not explained in the film. The explanation is that, in real life, Jimmy Burke (Jimmy's real life counterpart) thought that the heist would yield about $2 million, and was stunned to find that it actually yielded around $6 million. Jimmy was very reluctant to give the guys who'd carried out the heist any of the surplus money over the amount they'd agreed; it wasn't that he didn't want to give anyone their share, he just didn't want to spread any of the good luck. Rather than deal with their demands for extra money, he had them killed. In addition, the much higher than expected haul meant the heist picked up far more heat than anticipated and every cop in the city knew their crew was responsible and all they needed was the smallest bit of evidence to round the whole crew up. This is explained a little differently in the film, where Jimmy is shown to be on edge because his crew does the stupid thing and draws attention to themselves by buying expensive items right after the heist, which next to his extreme greed, is alluded by Henry as a big reason why he has them all whacked in the end.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Every major character but Henry had at least their last name changed.
    • Tommy, as noted above, since he's a composite of two real people.
    • Jimmy Conway was Jimmy Burke in real life. The filmmakers decided to use his mother's maiden name, which he used as an alias, after his sister threatened to sue them.
    • Paul Vario became Paul Cicero.
    • Frankie Carbone is a composite of Angelo Sepe, a mobster who took part in the Lufthansa heist who was present in Stack's murder, and Richard Eaton, a con-man who swindled Conway and was later discovered hogtied and hanging in a meat freezer truck.
  • Adaptation Title Change: GoodFellas was based on Wiseguy: Life In A Mafia Family. The film's title was changed to avoid confusion with the NBC series of the same name.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Henry Hill was fairly average looking in reality - real-life mobster Michael Franzese mentioned in his Reddit AMA that Hill "never looked so good in real life" as Liotta does in the movie.
    • Even Paul Sorvino is significantly better-looking than the real Paul Vario.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: The real Tommy DeSimone was 6'2", had long hair and a moustache, was built like a boxer and was described as very good looking. In the film, he is played by the short and portly Joe Pesci.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Tommy DeVito. Despite being an Ax-Crazy Psycho for Hire, he acts like this to his comrades and his mother, showing a lot of respect to them. It helps that, for all his faults, Tommy genuinely cares about his friends ("I didn't want to get blood on your floor") and is emphatically loyal to them in a life where loyalty and covering for each other is everything.
    • Jimmy can be very civil and is a caring father. Towards the end, Henry and Karen perceive the Faux Affably Evil vibes from Jimmy, who is up to no good with the Hills by then.
      Henry: Your murderers come with smiles. They come as your friends. People who cared for you all your life.
  • Age Lift: Joe Pesci was 46 at the time of filming, and plays Tommy as being roughly the same age as Henry (21 when first shown, through to 35 at the time of his death). Tommy DeSimone, who Tommy DeVito is based on, was actually six years younger than Hill, and was in his teens and twenties throughout the real-world events in the movie, being murdered in 1979 at age 28.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • Billy Batts. At least he gets one of the most famous mob deaths in history.
    • Tommy, when he realizes too late he's gotta answer for what he did to Billy Batts...
  • Alliterative Name: Henry Hill. Jimmy "the Gent". Billy Batts.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Henry pistol-whips the guy who gropes Karen, then gives her the gun to hide, and she confesses in voiceover, "I gotta admit — It turned me on." This is probably the only example where he wasn't this bad considering how much his victim deserved it.
  • Amazon Chaser: Henry expresses absolutely zero interest in Karen until he stands her up and she forces Tommy to track him down for her so she can tear into him in front of his crew. You can literally see the moment when he realizes she turns him on, and he immediately and genuinely begs her to give him another chance.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Several times, the film gives Karen narration duties for a few minutes.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Former mobster Michael Franzese, who was active at the time of the movie, gives a lot of insights into the artistic liberties taken by the film.
      • One of the mobsters introduced in the bar scene is Michael Franzese himself. However, the real Franzese was a member of the Colombo family, not the Lucchese family that Henry belongs to, and thus shouldn't be introduced as part of Henry's crew. When asked about this by Franzese, the real Henry Hill and the writer of the book just admitted that they name-dropped him because he was famous at the time.
      • Henry's glamorous life is highly exaggerated. According to Franzese, a mere associate like Henry wouldn't be able to just waltz into the restaurant without a boss accompanying him.
      • The prison scene where mafia members are shown living luxuriously is fabricated. Franzese, who knows plenty of high-ranking mobsters in prison (including his father, an underboss, and Carmine Persico, the head of the Colombo crime family itself), says that he never saw made guys live that well in federal prisons. However, Scorsese notes that he did hear anecdotal accounts from prison guards that incarcerated mafia members certainly enjoyed privileges that regular inmates did not.
      • Paul Vario/Cicero is portrayed as a father figure to Henry in the movie. In reality, Vario was a rough man that Franzese doubts was ever particularly close to Henry.
    • Tommy did not murder Billy Batts over a verbal slight. What had happened is that while Batts had been in prison, Jimmy had taken over his numbers rackets for him, and when Batts was released, Jimmy refused to return control of the rackets to him.
    • In the famous "Layla" montage, some neighborhood kids discover the dead bodies of Johnny Roastbeef and his wife, who have been shot execution style in the neon pink Cadillac he had bought for her. In reality, the bodies of Louis and Joanne Cafora (the real people who were the inspiration for these characters, down to the infamous pink Caddy) were never found, though they were presumed murdered as a result of Louis' indiscretions, gaudy spending habits and tendency to tell his wife everything that was going on. The depiction of their murder appears to have been borrowed from the details of the murders of Joe "Buddha" Manri and Robert McMahon, who were shot dead in a car.
    • The real Henry Hill didn't actually enjoy being in the mafia and grew increasingly uncomfortable with the tasks they assigned him. He also constantly lived in fear that his fellow mafia members would kill him on a whim. He made several attempts to leave the mafia lifestyle during his life, but kept getting pulled back in due to his criminal habits. The point of no return came when he became an accomplice to Billy Batts' murder, meaning there was no way Jimmy and Tommy would let him leave alive.
  • As Himself:
    • Attorney Ed McDonald plays himself when Karen and Henry look to the witness protection program; he handled the Hills' case in real life. The Hills' dialogue was taken verbatim from the transcript of their conversation while McDonald ad-libbed his dialogue.
    • Legendary comedian Henny Youngman, "The King of the One-Liner", plays his 25-years-younger self at the end of the famous Copacabana tracking shot.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: The three main characters. A semi-expository scene has Henry suiting up, which is warily received by his mother: "You look like a gangster!" (though that's exactly what Henry would've wanted to hear)
  • Badass Boast: After killing Spider, Tommy tries to use the line, "I'm a good shot," as one. It doesn't fly, as there is nothing badass to brag about. Another mobster even says: "How could you miss at this distance?"
  • Bad Boss: Jimmy kills all of those who were involved in the Lufthansa heist. This is ultimately his Fatal Flaw. Jimmy's inclination to whack any liability the second they stop being useful becomes pretty well spotted. As such, Henry and even Karen can tell they're being set up to be murdered, driving them both to forsake any loyalty to him and run to the FBI to rat.
  • Bad Guy Bar:
    • The Bella Vista Pizzeria, ran by Tuddy Cicero, brother of the big man.
    • The wiseguys hang around Henry's restaurant, The Suite Lounge. It's reputable enough in the underworld to hold the homecoming party of Billy Batts, a veteran made man.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: According to Henry, his parents were initially happy about his job at the cabstand with his father in particular happy that his son was taking initiative and working for a day's pay unlike most spoiled American kids. They changed their minds when they realized Henry was being influenced by the gangsters who associated with the place and learned he had begun skipping school to work for them full time.
  • Being Good Sucks: The gangsters more or less see regular people as "losers" who work honestly in a system that offers no reward for hard work and agency, while they can live like kings by breaking the law. Henry Hill notes that at the age of 11 he was making more money as a crook than most honest people in his neighborhood. This is the main reason why Henry Hill resents his final fate as a "schnook", where he has to wait in line like all the others he felt contempt towards for most of his life.
  • Being Evil Sucks: A complex example as the film delivers mixed messages despite showing the misery of a criminal life; notably in-universe Henry argues for the opposite in his final lines, an inviting gateway to misaimed fandom, he implies that getting caught is the only thing he regrets about being a gangster. See Do Not Do This Cool Thing below.
  • Big Applesauce: Downplayed. While practically all of the movie was shot in New York City and environs, most of the action takes place in suburban Queens near JFK Airport, far from Manhattan and its usual landmarks.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Jimmy and Paulie are personally responsible for much of the conflict here. Paulie is an intelligent, cunning, feared, and respected captain within the Lucchese family, providing direction and leadership to lower-ranking members and associates; whereas Jimmy is a more active and violent associate, carrying out many of the more direct actions. The actions of both characters influence the development of the story and lead to significant consequences for Henry.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Tommy. Despite all his violence and bravado, he's still an unintelligent thug who will inevitably be killed for his irrationality, making him less of a threat and more of a violent bully.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On the one hand, most of the main characters end up dead or in prison. On the other hand, they were almost all murderers. Henry and Karen successfully escape into witness-protection, but are cut off from their extended families, have lost the circles of criminals that formed their closest bonds for decades, and are relegated to an average middle-class existence after knowing only the highs and lows of the mob lifestyle for all their adult lives. The post-script also reveals they separated in 1989.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Parnell "Stacks" Edwards (played by Samuel L. Jackson) participates in the Lufthansa heist as a designated driver. Instead of ditching the getaway van as was the plan, he screws up by parking it in front of a fire hydrant at his girlfriend's apartment, causing the police to impound it and find his fingerprints all over it. He ends up being the first of many to be whacked in order to keep the matter safe and quiet (though there are two other on-screen deaths before him). The film even gives him a slightly more dignified death — in real life, he was still in bed and out of it, and got shot in the head six times.
  • Black Comedy: A lot. The guys throw Billy Batts into the trunk of the car. They stop off at Tommy's mom's house to get a shovel to bury the body—and they're greeted by Tommy's mother. The next scene is the four of them having a nice family sit down with Tommy's mom bringing them food and urging Tommy to get married, all the while with a body in the trunk outside. And the thumping from the trunk reveals that Billy isn't even dead.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • When Karen asks Henry what he does for a living, he replies, "I'm in construction." Karen feels his soft hands and points out that they don't look like the hands of a construction worker, so he elaborates and tells her that he's "a union delegate". Karen, obviously enchanted by the lavish lifestyle, doesn't press the matter.
    • Tommy tells his mother that he, Jimmy and Henry hit a deer with his car, and that as its hoof became lodged in the car's grill, Tommy needs to borrow his mother's butcher knife to cut it out. In reality, Tommy uses the knife to stab Billy Batts, still locked in the trunk of Tommy's car, to death.
    • When Henry is washing out his car's trunk, which smells horrible because it has had Billy Batts' festering corpse in it, he tells Karen he hit a skunk.
  • Blood Knight: To Jimmy and Tommy, a risky and bloody criminal life is not a hazard but quite the opposite.
  • Boom, Headshot!:
    • Tommy, to Stacks: "Yeah, you were always fuckin' late, you were late for your own fuckin' funeral."
    • Then, later, when Tommy gets whacked.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the end during the trial, Henry Hill begins speaking to the camera, lamenting not only betraying his mentors but lamenting the end of his mafia lifestyle.
    Henry: (voiceover narration) Anything I wanted was a phone call away. Free cars. The keys to a dozen hideout flats all over the city. I bet twenty, thirty grand over a weekend and then I'd either blow the winnings in a week or go to the sharks to pay back the bookies. (to the audience) Didn't matter. It didn't mean anything. (gets up from the witness stand) When I was broke, I'd go out and rob some more. We ran everything. We paid off cops. We paid off lawyers. We paid off judges. Everybody had their hands out. Everything was for the taking. (beat) And now it's all over...
  • Broken Pedestal: While Henry doesn't expect much help from Paulie, he still bitterly laments the meager 'severance pay' he is given after a lifetime of service and tutelage.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Especially Tommy.
  • Bullet Dancing: Subverted when Tommy shoots Spider in the foot despite his attempts to dodge it.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • Jimmy knows well that antagonizing Billy Batts — a made man in the Gambino family who is protected by default — isn't a brilliant idea and tries to defuse the situation. The guy is killed anyway, but the gang is very aware that his death should remain a secret.
    • Morrie spends the entire movie pestering Jimmy and getting away with it. His luck runs out after fifteen years or so.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Spider gets casually mistreated by Tommy in his two brief scenes.
    • Frankie Carbone is bossed around by Tommy and Jimmy and treated with little respect. On top of it, after he's finally murdered, his corpse is found frozen inside a truck hanging from a hook, like some dead livestock.
    • Morrie. Hardly anyone has patience for his motor-mouthed antics, especially his demands to get his cut in the Lufthansa heist.
  • The Cameo: Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed McDonald, As Himself; the prosecutor who handled Henry Hill and sponsored him into witness protection.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: Sonny Bunz indirectly asks Paulie to have Tommy whacked over his debts to the Bamboo Lounge. Paulie's anger and offense to this is quite clear. Fortunately for Sonny, Henry steps in and suggests Paulie take over the Lounge management. Paulie likes the idea so much he forgets the major(and potentially fatal) faux pas Sonny just made.
  • *Click* Hello: Happens to Henry inside of his car. He immediately realizes he's been halted by the police instead of being dealt with by the wiseguys because the latter don't do this kind of courtesy and kill quietly on the spot. "If they'd been wiseguys, I wouldn't have heard a thing."
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Karen is steadily driven to this after years of Henry's bullshit. At one point pointing a cocked and loaded gun in Henry's face when she found out he's been cheating on her during their marriage (which is still almost minor in the context of the film, given the relatively trivial matters other people around Henry will kill over).
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    • Tommy, in what became a career-defining role (to some people) for Joe Pesci. Henry's narration is also filled with plenty of F-bombs; this is Truth in Television as the real Henry Hill swears casually and frequently in the documentary The Real Goodfella. The film has a total "fuck" count of 300, outdoing (at the time) previous record holder Do the Right Thing by 60 uses. (Menace II Society would go on to tie GoodFellas.)
    • Also how Henry realizes the plainclothes cops are actually cops. Mafia goons wouldn't say a word if they were ordered to do a hit, he states.
  • Comedic Sociopathy:
    • In-universe, Henry laughs loudly while Tommy or Jimmy are mistreating other guys. Debatably out-universe, Henry's narration sets the mood and the Played for Drama angle only shows up in the last segment of the movie.
    • Tommy DeVito is, at least In-Universe, a Comedic Sociopath.
  • Contract on the Hitman: With a dash of karma. Frankie Carbone, who on Jimmy's orders helped murder Stacks on the grounds of incompetence during the Lufthansa heist, is among the loose ends tied up when Jimmy offs the remainder of his unreliable conspirators.
  • Conveniently Cellmates: Henry shares the same prison accommodations in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary as his gangster pals. They and many other organized crime figures at the time obtained such privileges thanks to corrupt prison staff, who demanded $2,000 or more a month to keep the privileges in place. Averted with Jimmy, who serves his sentence in Atlanta.
  • Cool Car: Henry buys one every few years, starting with a 1966 Chrysler Newport convertible, then a 1968 Pontiac Grand Prix, and finally a 1979 Cadillac Coupe DeVille Phaeton Special Edition in saddle red. The guy that gropes his girlfriend owned a 1966 Corvette as well.
  • Cover Version: The film ends on the Sex Pistols cover of "My Way".
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Tommy is seen telling his girlfriend not to talk to any men while he goes to the other side of the room, and she comments that he gets so jealous he would kill her for looking at anyone else.
    • Creates a bit of mood whiplash when the friend she was proudly telling this to sarcastically tells her how lucky she is.
  • Criminal Found Family: The first act of the film centers around this, with a young Henry Hill becoming disillusioned with regular life and finding life with the Lucchese family preferable to his own Abusive Parents. As the film progresses, he integrates himself further and further into their ranks, until by the 1960's he's practically family.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Billy Batts is on the receiving end when Tommy and Jimmy blindside attack him after a party at the Suite Lounge. Tommy and Conway savagely beat Batts into a bloody mess, before shooting him in the mouth. As they are transporting his body to a burial site and realize he is still alive, they continue their assault, shooting and stabbing Batts repeatedly until he finally dies.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: The film pulls no punches at showing the dizzying highs as well as the horrible lows of the gangster lifestyle.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tommy.
    • One of the arresting detectives enjoys taunting Henry with some snarking about his drug paraphernalia.
      Detective: What, were you guys grocery shopping? What, are we going to make a cake? Gonna make a fucking cake?
  • Deal with the Devil: A restaurant owner partners up with Paulie in order to get protection from Tommy, who attacks him after refusing to pay his bar tab. The wiseguys rob the man blind, then, when he's no longer of any use to them, they burn the restaurant down for the insurance money. This is known as a "bustout scam".
  • Deconstruction/Genre Deconstruction: Of the Mafia film genre, specifically as showing mobsters not as urban lowlifes in ghettos, but living middle-class lives in Stepford Suburbia, which in turn inspired The Sopranos years later. Much of the action takes place in broad daylight with gangster activity more or less an everyday affair.
    • Henry Hill is a deconstruction of a mob soldier in pretty much every way. He's handsome, well dressed and quite wealthy like his contemporaries, but he's not smart, eloquent, honorable, or sophisticated, being from a poor immigrant family who didn't even finish high school. Much of Henry's life in the mob is spent on him desperately trying to placate his "friends", either by defusing Tommy before he kills people or helping Jimmy with various scams to keep them both afloat. He's an Abusive Parent, a drug addict, an adulterer, a murderer, a thief, a racist, and a thug, and by the end of the film, he's a rat.
    • Numerous mob practices are explored and illuminated in such a way that makes them come across less as Friendly Neighborhood Gangster or intelligent criminals, and more as egotistical and pigheaded buffoons who constantly stir up trouble during big important moments or jobs. Tommy continually pushes people's buttons and starts more trouble than he fixes, eventually getting to the point where he carries out the unsanctioned killing of a made man (a huge no-no in mob culture) and is marked for death because of it. Henry also initially comes across as suave and intelligent, but later demonstrates that his lack of education and formal learning are a huge problem for him when he starts getting into the drug trade and begins making dozens of mistakes, like sampling his own supply and involving his wife.
    • People turn to the mob because of superficial appearance and status, not because of anything like "loyalty" or "needing a family". Henry becomes a mobster due to taking numerous small jobs from Paulie, eventually working his way up to a big earner, and he states numerous times that the power and wealth that came from that position was the best part of being in the mafia. However, it's also shown that this power and wealth also put Henry in numerous bad positions, such as having to bury the body of a made man and dig it up later, or get into the drug trade to survive in prison.
    • Henry Hill's final narration was intended by Scorsese as a Take That! to the idea of Do Not Do This Cool Thing or at least the idea that Hill squealing on his buddies to get out of prison implies that he's The Atoner when all he regrets is getting caught. Indeed the song that plays over the end, the Sid Vicious cover of My Way implies that for him the entire life was Worth It.
    • The mafia's practice of liquidating those they have no further use for becomes a serious problem during the last third of the film. After Tommy gets fooled into thinking he's getting made, when he's instead whacked at his supposed induction ceremony, Henry devolves into a nervous wreck and his relationship with Jimmy becomes increasingly strained, both of them coming to believe the other is plotting their downfall for different reasons- Jimmy for his involvement in the Lufthansa heist, and Henry for his recent run-in with the narcs. The majority of the Lufthansa guys end up spending copious amounts of money right after one of the biggest heists in American history, which ends up causing all of them to get whacked by Jimmy, and only increases Henry's paranoia about remaining in the mob. As a matter of fact, its heavily implied that Jimmy tried to get Henry killed by putting him up for phony hit, while later seemingly attempting to get Karen assassinated as well. This proves to be the last straw, and Henry gladly walks in to witness protection to rat on Paulie and Jimmy in order to save his own skin.
    • GoodFellas presents the Mafia as a dark parody of the American Dream. They believe that they are pursuing success, wealth, fame and influence by their own brand of criminal enterprise, when legitimate enterprise generally fails to reward hard work. The main reason why Henry Hill wants to be a gangster is that to him, Paulie and the neighborhood tough guys were more real and open to them then the legitimate authority:
      Henry Hill: No more letters from truant officers. No more letters from school. In fact, no more letters from anybody. How could I go back to school after that and pledge allegiance to the flag and sit through good government bullshit? Hundreds of guys depended on Paulie and he got a piece of everything they made. It was tribute, just like the old country, except they were doing it in America. All they got from Paulie was protection from other guys looking to rip them off. That’s what it's all about. That's what the FBI can never understand, that what Paulie and the organization does is offer protection for people who can't go to the cops. They're like the police department for wiseguys.
  • Death Glare: Paulie is great at these, as if the man wasn't scary enough.
    • Naturally, Jimmy gives Henry a withering one at the federal trial.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: To be expected, given the events of the film take place between 1955 to 1980. Characters casually use ethnic slurs like "nigger" and "guinea" in conversation. At one point, Tommy's girlfriend says that she could understand how a white woman could get romantically involved with Sammy Davis Jr., to which Tommy reacts with anger and disgust.
  • Dirty Cop: The regular police are casually bribed to look the other way.
  • Dismembering the Body: After Jimmy has Morrie Kessler murdered for nagging him over his share of the Lufthansa Heist money, he leaves Tommy and Frankie stuck with the job of chopping up the body and disposing of the car where the murder took place. In a darkly comedic twist, Frankie then gets out of the car with the intent of chopping up Morrie in the middle of a public parking lot, only to be yelled at by Tommy, who irritably clarifies that they're supposed to do the actual dismemberment at Charlie's place.
  • Disposing of a Body:
    • Straight hole in the ground and lime method. Billy Batts is disposed twice, the original burial site is going to be constructed upon so the package has to be moved.
    • One of the main issues after a gratuitous murder is having to dig a hole and do the whole thing.
    • One victim is left hanging on a hook inside a refrigerator truck.
    • Tommy DeVito even Lamp Shades how common this event is after murdering Spider:
      "It ain't the first hole I ever dug! Where are the shovels?"
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Tommy has a knack for answering any sign of disrespect with deadly force.
  • The Ditz: Lois Byrd, the babysitter. And Frankie Carbone, who seems to take every word literally and is stupid enough to buy a fur coat with the money he had stolen right after the Lufthansa heist.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Young Henry is praised by Jimmy after getting pinched because he handled it the right way. Namely, keeping his mouth shut and not ratting.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Morrie sells wigs for a living and praises their reliability in a commercial shown on TV. Seconds later, his own wig can't endure the beating delivered by Jimmy.
  • The Don: Paul Cicero is the top-ranking mafioso of the movie, so powerful that he's a Don in all but name, with hundreds of people depending on him. Despite the perspective and scope, technically he's just the capo for the Lucchese family.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: Henry's father when he finds out the young Henry has been playing hooky to do mob errands. Dad is only seen again in the movie — and with a long face — during his son's wedding, as Henry basically places himself in a new "family".
  • Door-Closes Ending: The film fades to black after Henry Hill closes the door of his new witness protection house.
  • Double Standard: Or triple... Tommy, who is disgusted by the notion that a white woman could be attracted to a black man — Sammy Davis Jr. — laments that a Jewish girl he's got the hots for rejects him because he is Italian.
    Tommy: In this day and age, what the fuck is this world coming to? I can't believe this, prejudiced against — a Jew broad — prejudiced against Italians!
    Girl: Unbelievable. You could see how a white girl could fall for him.
    Tommy: So you condone that stuff? I don't want to be kissing Nat King Cole over here.
  • The Dreaded: Tommy, even to his friends. Just look at how silent Henry and company went when they thought he got angry with Henry.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Henry would probably still be rolling in cash and in the good graces of Paulie and Jimmy had he stuck to theft and stayed out of the drug trade... or at least not gotten high on his own supply. Paulie warns Jimmy and Henry not to get involved with drugs because of the increased attention it brings from the feds — it does, and all three end up facing prison (except Hill, who ends up in witness protection, fearful of the mob, and bored out of his mind).
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Averted. Despite being almost entirely set in New York City, there are no sightings of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Most of the action is set in Brooklyn and Queens, and the remoteness and closed nature of their community is part of the general theme of the story. Indeed, Billy Batts is referred to by Paul Cicero as "the man from Downtown".
  • Epic Tracking Shot: When Henry takes Karen to the Copacabana about half an hour into the film. This continuous, three-minute shot makes up the entire scene, beginning when their arrival, where they drop off the car, cross the street and go down the back stairs (cutting the line). They meander through the hallways and kitchen, out onto the dining room floor (cutting the line again), where the maitre 'd spots them and promptly ignores everyone else who has been waiting. His army of waiters literally produce a table from out of nowhere and set it up right in front of the stage near all of Henry's mob buddies (who have already ordered him a bottle of champagne), all the while Henry peels 20-dollar bills off his cash loaf for every employee he comes across. The shot ends as the scene does, cutting from Henny Youngman standing on stage to Henry and Tommy walking on the airport tarmac to the Air France terminal.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Three guys are on the road in the middle of the night, there seems to be a problem with the car so they pull up. It turns out they have a live package in the trunk. When Henry opens it, Tommy stabs a man eight times and Jimmy shoots him four times. They are annoyed by the package's resilience, but at the same time, they enjoy finishing the task. Henry doesn't join in and just watches them doing their thing with a slightly concerned look before locking his trunk. He's an accomplice, but he is not as hardened as they are. Cue the title screen. Doubles as establishing movie moment.
  • Establishing Character Music:
    • As Henry narrates that he'd always wanted to be a gangster, we go back to his childhood, set to Tony Bennett's "Rags to Riches".
    • Jimmy is introduced to "Speedo" by The Cadillacs.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Tommy shows at least a trace of humanity thanks to his relationship with his mother.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Jimmy cries when his best friend Tommy is murdered.
    • Tommy, clearly a homicidal maniac, also clearly loves and dotes on his mother.
    • Despite cheating on her Henry does love Karen and their kids.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Henry's a jerk and lifelong criminal, but draws the line at murder. He is visibly disturbed when Tommy and Jimmy brutally beat up Billy Batts, and even more so when Tommy shoots Spider dead in response to a petty insult. As he says in narration, the unwritten rules of the mob were what kept you from getting whacked.
    • Jimmy gives Tommy a serious rebuke after the gratuitous shooting of Spider. Played with in that Jimmy provokes Tommy by busting his balls and then one of the main objections raised by Jimmy is having to bury the body, a burdensome task.
      Jimmy: Are you fucking stupid or something? I'm not kidding, what is the fucking matter with you? What are you, some kind of sick maniac?
    • Paulie has shades of a Family-Values Villain and puts an end to Henry's semi-bigamous life, although it's implied that Paulie makes Henry return to Karen because a Woman Scorned is bad for business. Subverted, however, by his dictum to Henry not to deal drugs once he's out of prison. Some viewers took that as Paulie having moral objections to drug dealing, as indeed some Mafia bosses did. However, the book makes it pretty clear that those objections are purely pragmatic — first, it was too easy to get convicted (a friend of Vario's had gone down on a major trafficking rap just because he nodded to someone across a room) and more importantly, once violators were convicted the long sentences they faced put a great deal of pressure on them to cooperate with authorities in bringing down their associates (as indeed the Hills did).
    • In her narration, Karen contrasts her own politeness to the police whenever they come and search the house with Jimmy's wife Mickey, who spits and swears at them.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Young Henry breaks the rear windows of some parked cars, pours in some gasoline and adds a match. All of the cars go KABOOM at once.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Henry and his fellows have no idea why anyone would want to make an honest living.
    Henry: For us to live any other way was nuts. Uh, to us, those goody-good people who worked shitty jobs for bum paychecks and took the subway to work every day and worried about their bills were dead. I mean they were suckers. They had no balls.
    • Henry points out that by working with the Mob, it was possible for guys like him to attain a level of status and achievement far beyond that of his working class father. He also notes that at the age of 11, he was making more money than many working families in the neighborhood. From his point of view, Being Good Sucks i.e. working a day job honestly for low pay.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Tommy's Establishing Character Moment is exploiting his fame as a psychopath with a homicidal Hair-Trigger Temper to scare the living hell out of one of his closest friends for a lark (the "how am I 'funny'?" rant).
  • Evil Will Fail: Unarguably. Nearly every character winds up either arrested or dead, many through their own poor choices. See Fatal Flaw below.
  • Exact Words: After the mob kills Tommy, note what they say to Jimmy over the phone. They avoid any mention of what actually happened, merely indicating that things didn't work out and that there was "Nothing (they) could do," playing it off as more of a simple dispute than Tommy's planned execution. Makes a lot of sense for a group concerned about being wiretapped.
  • Fatal Flaw: Something all three characters share.
    • Tommy's Hair-Trigger Temper. Killing a made man without permission is the chief reason he gets whacked.
    • Henry is greedy and set up his own operation that gets him arrested. Worse is that he clearly hasn't learned anything by the end.
    • Jimmy's solution to everything is to kill everyone. Henry turned against him as a result.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Henry Hill himself, who has to live the rest of his life as both "a rat" and "a schnook".
  • Faux Affably Evil: After the Lufthansa heist, Jimmy becomes a remorseless sociopath who kills anyone who gets in his way while acting polite to lull them into a false sense of security. One of the biggest signs of the change is that he stops being generous.
  • Fed to the Beast: One of the creative threats the wiseguys use to enforce their demands. When Jimmy and Henry go down to Florida to collect the debt from a gambler, they're rather shocked that the guy caves to them when they invoke this trope.
    Henry: They must really feed each other to the lions down there because the guy gave the money right up.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Tommy is getting made! It's a nice morning, and he is joking with everyone. Tommy goes to the house with a couple of wiseguys who take him inside. He enters a room... to find it's empty and is killed a few seconds later, once it hits him what's about to happen.
  • Flush the Evidence: Henry's wife flushes $60k worth of drugs down the toilet when the police raid his house with a search warrant.
  • Food Porn: Well-cooked, glamorous food is a recurring motif in the movie, as a symbol of the perks of Mafia lifestyle. It gets to the point where Henry's narration stops discussing what's going on in the scene in a few places to instead focus on what meal is being currently prepared. Everywhere he goes, Henry is well-fed as a gangster, and even when he's in prison eats like a king with well-cooked gourmet meals. When Paulie turns his back on him, Paulie is cooking sausages on a grill while Henry looks on hungrily. Then, once in the witness protection program, Henry laments how he no longer has access to good food; to him the most definite symbol of his fall from grace.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Nigger stick up men get caught because they fall asleep in the getaway car," which should give you a hint about Stacks' murder.
    • Paulie's educated concerns about drug traffic and his reluctance to use telephones and his related fears about surveillance, wiretaps and RICO conspiracy charges. All become important in the final act of the film.
    • Tommy teases Henry with the line "You may fold under questioning!". Henry ends up collaborating with the FBI.
    • Paulie:
      "Tommy's a bad seed, what do you want me to do, shoot him?" Paulie later arranges Tommy's murder.
    • Henry, assuaging his wife Karen's concerns about him going to jail:
      "Do you know why Jeannie's husband went to the can? Because of Jeannie! Because he wanted to get away from her, that's why!"
      • His efforts to get away from his wife (read: his affair with Janice) later on causes a chain of events that ultimately lands him his first stint in jail.
    • Henry knows Jimmy is going to whack Morrie the moment Jimmy asks him, "Think he tells his wife anything?" after Morrie keeps badgering Jimmy for his cut of the Lufthansa money. Later, after Henry gets busted for drug trafficking, Jimmy asks Karen "Know what kind of questions they've (the cops) been asking him? Did he tell you?" It's not shown that Karen knows as well as Henry what that kind of questioning means, but the audience is clued in to exactly what Jimmy has decided to do.
    • After Henry gets out of jail, Paulie warns him to put some distance between himself and Jimmy and Tommy. By now it's 1978, and Paulie has likely already agreed to get rid of Tommy; he just needs to find the right time to have it done. He probably knows that without Tommy, Jimmy will be completely unfettered and will end up even more dangerous than Tommy ever was.
  • For the Evulz: Jimmy is into crime not out of greed but for the mere thrill of it all. Henry says Jimmy is the kind of person who roots for bad guys in the movies.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Henry is phlegmatic/sanguine, Tommy is sanguine/choleric, Jimmy is choleric/melancholic, and Paulie is melancholic/phlegmatic.
  • Freudian Trio: Tommy is the Id, Henry is the Ego, and Jimmy is the Superego.
  • Funny Background Event: When Tommy drives Karen to the cab stand to confront Henry a few of the wiseguys look pissed off at this asshole who nearly ran them over. As Karen starts yelling at Henry the wiseguys look into the car, see who's driving, realize what the situation is and start pointing and laughing at Henry.
  • Gallows Humor: Quite a bit, most notably the grave digging scene.
  • Gender Flip: In real life, Henry had a son and a daughter. In the film, this was changed to him having two daughters.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • This one, during one of Karen's monologues:
      Karen Hill: After awhile, it got to be all normal. None of it seemed like crime. It was more like Henry was enterprising, and that he and the guys were making a few bucks hustling, while all the other guys were sitting on their asses, waiting for handouts. Our husbands weren't brain surgeons, they were blue-collar guys. The only way they could make extra money - real extra money - was to go out and cut a few corners.
      [Cuts to Henry and Tommy hijacking a truck]
    • After Henry assures Paulie that he'll stay away from drugs after getting out of jail, the film cuts to Henry and Sandy lording over a pile of cocaine.
    • Jimmy instructs Henry to be discreet with the Lufthansa heist money. Cut to Henry entering his house with a huge aluminum Christmas tree and shouting to his family, "I got the most expensive tree they had!"
  • Glory Days: How Henry looks at his old life.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Don and the other important members of the Lucchese crime family don't appear at all even if they are indirectly responsible for recruiting the protagonists into their gang. The highest-ranked Lucchese member seen in the movie is the capo Paulie Cicero, who plays a supporting role to the titular goodfellas.
  • Guns Akimbo: Tommy "Two Guns" DeVito/DeSimone.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Tommy has a vicious temper borne from a need to prove he's the world's biggest badass, and can snap at the slightest provocation. His usual recourse against an insult to his person is to murder the offender, regardless of whether they are a lowly busboy or a mob captain. His instability ultimately causes problems for him later in his career. Interestingly, DeVito is very aware of his reputation, in one scene, he feigns offense at a harmless compliment to toy with his friends. The hardened gangsters not only believe that his rage is real, they're also terrified of him.
  • Hate Sink: An infamous example, as this film was well-known for portraying mobsters as massive Hate Sinks. The movie actually manages to portray the monstrosity of most of the mobsters, especially Tommy and Jimmy.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Henry recognizes immediately that Jimmy has decided to kill Morrie instead of paying him off for helping out in a heist when Jimmy asks him: "Think Morrie tells his wife everything?". It comes back later when Jimmy asks Henry's wife Karen an innocent question about Henry and the cops: "Do you know what kind of questions they've been asking him?"
    Jimmy: (to Henry) You think Morrie tells his wife everything?
    Henry: (Narrating) That's when I know Jimmy was gonna whack Morrie.
  • Hero Antagonist: The police and the law.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Inverted. Tommy DeVito's real life counterpart, Tommy DeSimone, was far more attractive than Joe Pesci.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade:
    • Paulie Cicero is depicted as Affably Evil and a likable capo. Henry Hill explains him away as "protection for wiseguys among themselves". Paul Vario - his Real Life counterpart - had more direct involvement in the nastier (and bloodier) crimes committed by his crew. In Wiseguy (the book the film was based on), Hill recalled seeing Vario attack a barmaid with a baseball bat after she informed his wife they were having an affair. Wiseguy author Nicholas Pileggi writes, "He abhorred unnecessary violence (the kind he hadn't ordered), mainly because it was bad for business."
    • DeVito's real life counterpart, Tommy DeSimone, was even nastier than he's portrayed. According to Hill, he killed random strangers just to try out new guns. Allegedly, the final straw that led to his murder was when he tried to rape Karen Hill while her husband was in prison. Karen was having a sexual affair with Paul Vario at the time, and when she told Vario, he informed the Gambinos (the crime family to whom Billy Batts was a made member of) of Tommy's role in Billy Batts' death.
    • The movie leaves out the tiny fact that in real life Jimmy Burke liked to shake down people by locking their kids in the fridge, or other stuff like cutting his wife's annoying ex-boyfriend into pieces, as well as numerous other murders. He and Paulie also ripped off the robbers and other guys involved in the Lufthansa heist- nobody got more than a $50,000 cut and most got less (out of a $6 million robbery). They still got murdered for the connection.
    • In the film, Hill says that Jimmy had never asked him to kill anybody. Though Hill is an accomplice after the fact on several murders, he never personally killed anyone. In Real Life, Henry Hill did personally kill at least three people, so this crosses over with Unreliable Narrator.
    • The film also relegates Henry and Jimmy's involvement in the Boston College point shaving scandal to one throwaway line. Likewise it completely leaves out Henry's pioneering role in credit card theft and fraud, the source of most of his earnings prior to his federal prison time (and what eventually got him kicked out of the Witness Protection Program in real life).
    • According to Hill's son and daughter, he was far worse than his portrayal in Goodfellas. They recounted how on one occasion a drug-addled Hill gave his teenage daughter a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Their life in Witness Protection was hellish. He continued to commit crimes and kept endangering them by telling people who he really was and making calls back home.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Henry Hill had actually attempted to leave the Mafia several times as he got increasingly uncomfortable with their more unsavory practices, only to get sucked back in when he was unable to break away from his criminal habits. In addition, he spent much of his time in the mob in mortal fear of his fellow gangsters, who could have murdered him at any time for the pettiest of reasons. Finally, in interviews, the real Hill considered his criminal past as something of a curse, and did not consider it Worth It like his film counterpart does.
  • Honorary Uncle: 'Uncle' Paulie and the offspring of the wiseguys have a very avuncular relationship.
  • Hookers and Blow: Henry started to deal in prison just to make some extra cash. Paulie tells him straight up, don't deal that stuff once he was out of prison, or else he would be pissed. It leads to Henry's downfall because he was dealing too much cocaine, getting hooked on it in the process (along with his goomar and his drug mule), and most of everyone's behavior was affected by the cocaine they were doing.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Jimmy has Henry bring Morrie to a poker game with the intention of whacking him, but ends up in too good a mood to feel like going through with it, and Henry marvels at how Morrie is sitting there with them not knowing how close he was to being killed. Unfortunately, Morrie continues to press the issue of when he'll receive his cut after they leave the bar, prompting Tommy to stab him through the back of the neck at Jimmy's unspoken behest.note 
    • Another example, during the notorious Billy Batts bar scene - Billy makes a few seemingly good-natured jabs at an increasingly angry Tommy, who curtly tells him off. An affronted Batts insists he didn't mean anything serious and was just "breakin' your balls a little bit" out of affection and familiarity, and outright apologizes to Tommy, who actually cools off and returns the apology. Things appear to have blown over... then Batts venomously tells Tommy to "go home and get [his] fuckin' shine box".
  • How We Got Here: The film starts with Jimmy, Henry and Tommy driving on a dark country road in the middle of the night. They hear a noise coming from the trunk, so they stop and take a look. Turns out their package in the trunk is the bloodied Billy Batts, who is still alive. Henry pops the trunk. Tommy stabs the man eight times and Jimmy shoots him four times. Then we flash back to Henry's childhood and the first half of the movie documents the events leading up to Batts' death.
  • Hypocrite: Jimmy and Henry eagerly anticipate Tommy being made, knowing that being in his inner circle would mean "it was like we were all being made" and being able to enjoy the perks that came with it. When Tommy is killed in part for killing a made man in Billy Batts, which meant Batts was virtually untouchable without a don's say-so, Henry bitterly laments the consequence as "real greaseball shit''.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Played straight by Tommy, when he first shoots Spider's foot via a careless accident, then subverted when he intentionally kills Spider.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Henry's iconic narration:
    Henry: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me being a gangster was better than being President of the United States.
  • I'll Kill You!: Henry swears on his mother that he will kill Karen's neighbor if he ever touches her again.
  • The Irish Mob: Although the actual organization doesn't appear in the film, one of the protagonists Jimmy "The Gent" Conway is an Irish mobster working for the Mafia.
  • In Medias Res: The story starts in the middle of the Billy Batts situation, then it jumps to Henry's origins and continues chronologically from there.
  • Ignored Epiphany: At the end, Henry misses the life that put him in witness protection, saying he misses having the good life, and now it's all gone, and he has to have egg noodles with ketchup instead of linguine with marinara sauce.
  • Jerkass: Tommy DeVito to the point of being a sociopath. Jimmy and Henry (although less so) are not far behind either. Zigzagged with Jimmy "the Gent", who is polite and tries to talk down Tommy's impulsive tendencies several times, notably with Billy Batts (at first).
  • Jewish Mother: Karen's mother. When she first meet Henry, the first thing she says to him is "Karen tells me you're only half-Jewish." Henry is half-Sicilian, half-Irish, and was wearing a cross before Karen hurriedly makes him cover it up so she won't see it. She later berates Henry quite justifiably for staying out too late, but her daughter is an enabler and gets angry for it.
  • Jump Cut: Used prominently during the last part of the movie to emphasize Henry's agitated state.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: It's mentioned in passing that Paulie was sent to jail on a charge of contempt, even though he's only serving a year.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted- Henry Hill avoids prosecution and mob retribution, but he absolutely hates his mundane suburban life in Witness Protection and will spend the rest of his life Brought Down to Normal, forever pining for the Glory Days. In real life, Hill's life was a mess for many years before going into rehab.
  • Kick the Dog: Tommy's treatment of Spider.
    • Purposely shooting Tommy in the face so his mother couldn’t have an open casket at the funeral. While she did raise a monster in Tommy, what we see of her is a sweet old lady who Tommy and his friends love dearly so this is really more of a rotten thing to do to her than to him since he’s already dead.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence:
    • Morrie. Unavoidable; "I thought he'd never shut the fuck up. What a pain in the ass."
    • Also Tommy: "Oh n--"
  • Kitschy Local Commercial: Morrie's wig commercial.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Tommy's death.
    • Henry's fate. He always wanted to be a big man - he moans he's a nobody, a schnook at the end who can't even get good pasta anymore.
  • Laughably Evil: Tommy really is a funny guy, just don't say it to his face or he'll feign his murderous rage very convincingly.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: In a movie about hardcore gangsters, Henry is the least callous and abominable of the lot.
  • Little "No": Tommy, as he realizes he's about to get whacked. He doesn't even finish saying it. Spoken with the volume of a Little "No" but with the emotion of a Big "NO!".
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The whole movie, really. While they are all important and connected, ultimately none of the main characters are high ranking among La Cosa Notra. Paulie is nominally "the boss" but even he is only a Capo (a mid-level rank). And neither Jimmy nor Henry are full blooded Sicilian so they are ineligible to advance in the ranks.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Wiseguys live a privileged existence even in prison, using their money and influence to get themselves housed separately from other prisoners and having more or less free run of the place without interference from the guards. They even continue to eat gourmet food while inside, maintaining an extravagantly luxurious pantry packed with steaks, lobsters, and the like, as well as contraband liquor and wine (red and white).
  • The Mafia: The movie focuses specifically on the "working-class" side of La Cosa Nostra as opposed to the bosses. It's also somewhat of a subversion since despite being one of the most famous and iconic mob movies of all time, it's specifically a story about mob associates - the titular "goodfellas" or "wiseguys" - and none of the main trio ever get "made" and become official members of the Mafia. Moreover, Henry and Jimmy both have non-Italian/Sicilian heritage (they're half-Irish), so they know they're never even eligible. Only Tommy, who has Sicilian/Italian parents, is told he's about to be made (after over twenty years as an associate and good earner) but is whacked for his murder of Billy Batts instead.
  • Manly Tears: Jimmy after he finds out that Tommy was killed.
  • The Millstone:
    • Most of the trouble the main characters get into is because Tommy would shoot anybody for so much as looking at him funny.
    • Lois the babysitter. Henry repeatedly tells her to make a drug call outside of the house. She ignores him, and singlehandedly ends up getting his drug operation busted.
    • It's implied Henry himself becomes this as he gets more and more strung out and the others start to get frustrated with him.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The film starts showing how Henry Hill enters the wiseguy's world during his childhood. After a few minutes it Age Cuts to Ray Liotta.
  • The Mistress: Janice Rossi and later Sandy hook up with Henry. The other main characters don't seem to have one -Tommy is unmarried- but a goomah apparently comes with the job description.
    Henry: Saturday night was for wives... but Friday night at the Copa was for the girlfriends.
  • Montage: The whole film is basically this, to the point there is no incidental score for the film at all, but rather wall-to-wall licensed music. Scorsese said he was trying to make, "The first film ever made that was a long trailer."
  • Mood Whiplash: Things can go crazy violent at the drop of a pin.
    • One second you're joking with your pals, next second you're bleeding from having Tommy smash a bottle over your head.
    • One second you're riding high on a great score, the next you're getting pinched by the feds.
    • One second you're thinking your marriage is great, the next you're screaming at the door of your cheating husband's mistress and threatening him with his own gun when he wakes up from a drug-fueled hangover.
    • One second you're teasing Tommy because Spider (justifiably) told him to go fuck himself, next second Tommy's shooting him full of holes.
    • Topped by what happens to Tommy. Becoming a Made Man is set to be the greatest honor of Tommy's life, and the day of the ceremony is all triumphal and celebratory, with both Jimmy and Henry gleefully excited for him, and for the implicit raised standing they'll have by being best friends with an official member. Tommy himself is uncharacteristically respectful and soft-spoken, and even awestruck at the mafia bigwigs who are bringing him in... until it turns out Tommy is being led to his execution. The entire mood of the movie from that point on is all tragedy.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • Karen is assaulted by her neighbor, prompting a violent retaliation from Henry.
    • An inversion is alluded at the wedding; Karen is concerned about a bag of money-gifts but Henry is amused and confident that nobody is going to rob a mob party.
    • The wiseguys get thrown in jail when they attempt to extort a man whose sister happens to work as a typist for the FBI.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Jimmy gives up all pretensions and decides the best way to make sure conspirators don't attract law enforcement is to simply murder them all (save his best buds Henry and Tommy).
  • Mythology Gag: Joe Pesci beating Frank Vincent like in Raging Bull (Vincent's character surname was Batts too). Scorsese would deliver the punchline to the joke in Casino... somehow.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Tommy DeVito was named in honor of the band member from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons by band friend Joe Pesci.
  • The Napoleon: Tommy, by default due to Pesci's actual stature. The real-life inspiration was a large, beefy guy.
  • Narrators: Henry. Karen occasionally.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: The gangsters in the beginning who nurture the young Henry are portrayed in a positive light (which makes sense once you think of the point of view it is from), but they are definitely not good guys, as they beat a mailman because he delivered a report card to Henry's house, and have Henry destroy a few cars for them.
  • Nice to the Waiter:
    • Subverted with Jimmy, who is shown handing out $100 bills like confetti to waiters, bartenders, and doormen, but he's still a completely ruthless psychopath who kills people at the drop of a hat.
    • Henry provides a straight example at the Copacabana, handing out $20 bills and being friendly with the service.
    • The evil side of the trope is played straight by Tommy, who physically assaults them and boasts about it. Eventually deadly with Spider, a young bartender with an entry-level job echoing Henry's and Tommy's own adolescence.
    • One instance depicts Tommy's reputation with waiters as so bad that one guy is too afraid to approach Tommy with a bill. The waiter's fear is justified by Tommy flying into a rage, breaking a glass over the club owner's head, and throwing another glass at the waiter.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: All the gangsters were based on Real Life gangsters:
    • Henry Hill was based on the gangster of the same name.
    • Paul Cicero was based on Paul Vario.
    • Jimmy Conway was based on James Burke, while Tommy DeVito was based on Thomas DeSimone. The disturbing part comes when you realize that these people, Burke and DeSimone, were even more Ax-Crazy than their film counterparts.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Besides their conspicuous profligacy with the proceeds, Jimmy has almost everyone else involved in the Lufthansa heist killed because it netted more money than they expected and he doesn't want to share the extra cash.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The beating of Billy Batts. So intense that Jimmy dents his shoes.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The reaction of the Florida man by threatening to toss him to the lions for a midnight snack makes Henry ponder if that hasn't happened a few times before. Made funnier by the lions seeming to have a look of "Ooh, dinner time again."
    • Morrie mentions the Boston College point-shaving scandal right before he's killed; this is actually a big part of the Henry Hill story to the point it was a subject of an 2014 ESPN documentary, but this is the only time it's mentioned in the movie.
    • Pete The Killer, during the original oner casually assuring (Henry? The Viewer?) that "I took care of that thing for you."
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: A la The Godfather, the word "Mafia" is rarely, if at all used.
  • Offing the Mouth: Tommy beats Billy Batts to death because Billy "breaks his balls" over being a former shoeshine boy.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The execution of the Air France and Lufthansa huge heists is not explicitly shown. There's some planning and location shots, but most of the information is given via exposition. (This is probably because both of these heists could easily take up an entire movie by themselves, and there's a lot of other material this movie has to cover beside the heists.)
  • Offscreen Villainy: Morrie mentions the Boston college basketball point shaving scandal. This was a major part of Hill's career, along with the Lufthansa heist, but this is the only time it's mentioned. He also pioneered credit fraud, but it's never referenced once.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • After Henry, Tommy, and Jimmy supposedly kill Billy Batts and shove his body in the trunk to dispose of it, they begin to hear strange banging sounds as they drive. Then they all collectively realize that Billy Batts is still alive and trying to escape the trunk.
    • Tommy gets just enough time for one as he is led into the room where he is to be "made" and finds no one there, right before he is shot in the back of the head.
    • If you pay attention during the scene what Billy is taunting Tommy, you can see the members of his crew have this reaction. While they are smiling and relaxed when Billy is just kidding around, once he starts really laying into Tommy they are seriously worried. It's clear they know Tommy's reputation and that pissing him off is a very bad idea. Odd how they left him alone in a bar owned by a man who is good friends with Tommy...
  • The Oner:
    • The famous Epic Tracking Shot that starts as Henry leaves his car with the valet and follows he and Karen as they enter the Copacabana through a rear entrance, down a corridor, through the kitchen and into the nightclub as their table is set up and comedian Henny Youngman starts his act. It lasts three minutes. Watch it here.
    • A lesser one of seventy seconds happens when the secondary wiseguys are introduced at the Bamboo Lounge.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Henry knows he has to go on the lam when Jimmy asks Henry to go to Florida to do a hit, something Henry was never asked to lead before. Henry knows he wouldn't come back alive and turns himself into the feds for protection.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: When the police are breaking down the door at Henry's house, we briefly see Lorraine Bracco's belly, as she hides a gun in her panties.
  • Parking Problems: Henry cites being able to double park in front of fire hydrants as one of the cool things gangsters could do. Also, after he begins working with the gang, he mentions that neighbors no longer parked in their driveway, even though they didn't have a car.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • During his teenage segment, Henry helps a random guy who shows up with a bullet wound. He provides some aprons for the bandages and tellingly, he's called out by his boss: "You wasted eight fucking aprons on this guy."
    • Tommy shows at least a trace of humanity thanks to his relationship with his mother.
    • Henry is genuinely worried about Morrie and does his best to calm him down, because Henry knows that Jimmy -at the very least- is going to beat the guy senseless if he keeps complaining. Played with in that Henry enjoys watching Jimmy kicking the shit out of Morrie afterwards.
    • As a young man, Jimmy tips generously and when he steals a truck and warns the driver that he knows where the driver lives, he slips a few bucks into the guy's wallet before handing it back.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Done by Henry on the guy who assaults his wife.
  • Planet of Steves: During the wedding scene.
    Karen: Seems like all of them were named Peter or Paul, and they were all married to a Marie.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • Henry explains that the bosses were basically the police for people who couldn't go to the police.
    • The mob bosses frown on drug dealing, but mainly because it'll bring the full wrath of the federal government on them.
    • After Tommy murders Billy Batts and the trio begin getting ready to dispose of the body, he turns to Henry and says, sincerely, "I didn't mean to get blood on your floor."
    • While neither were above violence, both Jimmy and Henry preferred to steal and smuggle simply by bringing in truckers, officers, etc. on the take, since they had more than enough to afford it and it kept the heat off.
    • Henry boasts of stealing over $400,000 in the Air France without needing a gun. This is because they already a man of their own as the graveyard-shift security, so it was as simple as Frenchy just giving a key to Henry and Tommy so they can walk in and out with the cash as if they were picking up luggage.
    • Tommy gets whacked because his violent outbursts become too much of a liability, especially after he kills a made man.
  • Precision F-Strike: Too many straightforward examples to count, but Billy Batts' "Now go home and get your fuckin' shine box." is the precise moment when his conversation with Tommy drops its air of camaraderie and becomes openly insulting and hostile. This leads to Tommy having a meltdown on the spot and later savagely murdering Batts.
    • Teenage bartender Spider gets fed up with Tommy's verbal and physical abuse and calmly tells him to go fuck himself. The wiseguys are shocked into silence and then applaud the youth for standing up for himself, but then try and goad an uncharacteristically-silent Tommy into one of his trademark explosions of profanity. Tommy instead unloads his .45 into the kid, making the Precision F-Strike Spider's actual last words.
    • Later famously averted in the scene where Tommy himself gets whacked. Despite being one of the most foul-mouthed characters in cinema history, he utters only a sincerely sad "Oh no-" when he realizes what's about to happen, and even that gets cut off by the bullet.
  • Pretty in Mink:
    • Some of the wives wear fur, although the fact that they were either stolen or bought with stolen money makes this overlap with Fur and Loathing
    • One of the gangsters buys his girl a fur coat with his cut of the Lufthansa cash. Jimmy flips out over it because he told everybody not to buy anything big that attracts attention. This is implied to be one of the reasons why Jimmy becomes paranoid and starts killing the accomplices.
  • Pretty Little Headshots:
    • Averted with Tommy's murder. Henry even notes that they shot him in the head so that his mother couldn't give him an open casket at the funeral. Overlaps with Not in the Face!.
    • Also averted with Stacks, who is shot in the head from behind and the room is immediately splattered with brain matter and blood.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • While being hooked on drugs makes him overly manic, a lot of Henry's paranoia towards Jimmy and the Cops turns out to be valid.
    • Jimmy overplaying his hand in friendliness towards Karen in the storefront and Henry in the diner spooks them enough to rat out everyone to save themselves.
    • Paulie never speaks on the phone. According to Henry, he won't even have one in his house. His reasoning is sound, as phone taps are eventually what get Henry caught (and he then testifies against Paulie).
  • R-Rated Opening: Within the first minute of the film, several F-bombs are dropped, and a gruesome murder occurs.
  • Rage Breaking Point: After watching Morrie's wigs commercial, Jimmy feels like he's been patient long enough and viciously demands his money from Morrie.
  • Rags to Riches: Henry and Tommy, former shoe shiner. The actual Tony Bennett song of the same name is the soundtrack during the initial narration.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Martin Scorsese refused to believe that wiseguy prisoners were as well treated as they were in the book and later depicted in the film, but the prison guards assured him it was quite real and not exaggerated. Not mentioned in the film, however, was that the prisoners had to pay the guards $3,000 a month for the privileges, which is why Henry started dealing drugs in prison — to pay for it.
  • Real Men Cook: The wise guys take cooking very seriously during their incarceration. The real Henry Hill published a cookbook in 2002, The Wiseguy Cookbook detailing the recipes for all the meals seen in the film and many more, including recipes he picked up in Witness Protection and the healthy diet he adopted later in life.
  • "Rise and Fall" Gangster Arc: One of the most iconic examples in cinema, which provides the page quote for the trope itself. The film depicts Henry's rise up the ranks of the Lucchese crime family, followed by a long descent into cocaine addiction, paranoia, and backstabbing. By the end of the film, all of Hill's former partners-in-crime are in prison or dead, and Hill has been placed in witness protection and has to live a dreary, monotonous life, completely unlike the luxurious and decadent lifestyle he'd become accustomed to.
  • Rite of Passage: Getting pinched for the first time is a cornerstone for any mafioso. When Henry "pops his cherry" (gets arrested and judged) he's greeted with joy by the wiseguys in the aftermath, as he has kept his mouth shut, proved to be reliable, and thus entered a new level.
  • Roman à Clef: Somewhere between this and Very Loosely Based on a True Story.
  • Rooting for the Empire: In-universe: "Jimmy was the kind of guy who rooted for the bad guys in the movies."
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Spider's murder at the hands of Tommy doesn't add any foreshadowing or any symbolism. Apparently, his death only serves as another highlight or reminder of Tommy's murderous rage and poor temper control and just adds another And This Is for... justification for his execution.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Jimmy takes a level of sociopathy. This is what leads him to eliminate any links between Lufthansa and himself.
    • Henry's coke-fueled paranoia later in the film.
  • Sarcastic Title: From the viewer's perspective, the film GoodFellas is about murderous criminals, not good people. The name is a common term that mobsters had for each other.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You:
    • In a Shout-Out to The Great Train Robbery, the film ends with Tommy repeatedly firing his revolver at the camera as Henry contemplates his downfall.
    • When his philandering is exposed, Henry (and the audience) find themselves looking down the barrel of a gun held by Karen.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Henry and Tommy engage in one while making sure no one puts out the fire they've set in the Bamboo Lounge. It goes on until Henry realizes how close they are to get caught.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: When Henry is busted for drug dealing, his mob friends begin to cut ties with him in fear that he's going to rat them out to the police. Feeling cornered and fearing that his former friends will try to have him killed, Henry has no choice but to join the federal Witness Protection Program.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: This happens between Henry and Linda after driving her home to her apartment. We then see the still shot of the apartment building minutes until the scenery changes to morning light.
  • Shoe Shine, Mister?: The film features a scene in which Tommy brutally beats and knifes Billy Batts to death for insulting him about being a shoeshine boy in Tommy's younger days.
  • Shoot the Messenger: The wiseguys are about to lose the young Henry as an associate due to his truancy issues, so they solve the problem by roughing up the mailman who delivers the troublesome non-attendance school letters to Henry's house and father.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Almost every gangster in the film, especially Henry, Jimmy, and moreso Tommy. You can't find almost one scene where they don't casually drop F-bombs like it was as common as a comma.
  • Smug Snake: Billy Batts is a made guy and you can tell he acts as though it means he can do or say anything. He goes well out of his way to push Tommy's buttons, thinking that his status will scare Tommy and Jimmy enough not to retaliate. He's wrong.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Justified. The regular police are easily bribed to look the other way, but when drug traffic comes into play, the Narcotics detectives, wiretapping, and helicopter surveillance cannot be shaken off.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A number of songs, including "Frosty the Snowman", as Jimmy angrily scolds his men for spending their heist money way too early.
    • A particularly notable example is Donovan's dreamy-sounding "Atlantis" underscoring the brutal death of Billy Batts.
  • Stealth Insult: Billy Batts tells everyone about Tommy's past as a shoe shiner (already a sore spot of his), complimenting his skills and saying that he "made a lot of money", implying the latter was dirt poor and working for a pittance.invoked
  • A Storm Is Coming: The fact that Henry becomes a drug dealer and an addict is the spiral that eventually makes him fall from grace, flip and collapse the main Paulie's organization is very subtly hinted via the usage of the song ''Gimme Shelter'' when his new activities are being introduced.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Tommy and Jimmy discuss Bullet Dancing, and decide to try it on their waiter to amuse themselves. Of course, the poor guy doesn't actually have the reflexes to dodge it, so he is shot in the foot and needs to go to the hospital.
    • Henry comments, in narration, that no mobster would threaten to kill somebody like in the movies. They'd like to leave a person in a false sense of security before he gets whacked.
    • Tommy's hotheaded trigger happy nature ended up making him a liability to the mafia. Which resulted in him getting a bullet to the face.
  • Surrounded by Idiots:
    • Paulie's organization goes down because Henry disregards his explicit and learned command about ignoring drugs, and in turn, Henry is caught because his incredibly dumb mule drops the ball by making a drug-related call from inside Henry's house, after being repeatedly instructed against this. In addition, Henry's drug supplier doesn't clean up after herself, so even though the cops don't find any drugs in Henry's house, they find plenty when they raid the supplier's apartment, giving them an airtight case against Henry. Scorsese discussed that this series of mistakes is seen as unlikely by a portion of viewers, hurting the "crime does not pay" aesop of the story.
      Henry: Now if anybody was listening they'd know everything. They'd know that a package was leaving from my house, and they'd even have the time and the flight number thanks to her.
    • Played with after the heist. Jimmy is appalled by the Suspicious Spending of his gang and realizes that idiocy runs rampant below him, so he begins to sever his links, for reassurance. But it's also made clear Jimmy is pretty paranoid and was likely to kill his subordinates anyway.
    • Stacks Edwards was the first to be whacked because instead of getting rid of the getaway truck, he went to his girlfriend's place and got high.
    • It's implied this is a major reason Tommy is such a problem in the organization; even for a group of murderers and hard-core criminals, Tommy is such a trigger-happy sociopath he ultimately causes more problems than he solves. Unlike most examples, Paulie recognizes that Tommy is a danger to the operation, and after Tommy goes too far and kills the wrong man, Paulie has him executed.
  • Suspicious Spending: Days after the $6 million Lufthansa heist, members of Jimmy's crew, who are all being watched by the FBI, show up with Cadillacs and mink coats, even though he had warned them to avoid big purchases for a while. It convinces Jimmy that they're a liability and he starts killing them.
  • Taught by Experience:
    • Paulie is very aware that drugs can bring the whole thing down because he knows of a fellow old wise guy who was arrested just for greeting some drug dealer, or so Paulie says. He also has an aversion to telephones and personal meetings, hinting he knows about wiretapping and criminal conspiracy cases.
    • Henry's knowledge of the underworld allows him to navigate it safely for decades. He's particularly good at reading Jimmy and anticipates his actions often, having seen him in action so many times. This is the reason why Henry outlives most of his fellows.
  • Tension-Cutting Laughter: Done famously after a prolonged scene where Tommy appears to be offended at being called "funny" by Henry. Finally, Henry realizes that it's a joke and bursts into laughter, breaking all the tension.
  • Tempting Fate: Spider, tired of being teased and bullied, tells Tommy to go fuck himself.
  • Terrible Trio: Henry Hill, Tommy DeVito, and Jimmy "the Gent" Conway are unrepentant, brutal mobsters who work for the Lucchese crime family in New York for two decades with Henry being the least terrible of the trio.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Billy Batts is bleeding in the trunk, the victim of a savage Pearl Harbor-style attack, but he's still alive. So Tommy stabs him eight times. Then Jimmy goes ahead and shoots him four times. And then the title screen comes in.
    • Also, Tommy shoots Stacks in the head, then proceeds to shoot him three more times. As if the headshot wasn't enough...
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: In a movie about gangsters, the main character Henry does not kill anyone. Not a soul. He buries bodies, steals things, and beats people to a pulp, but he doesn't kill anyone. Justified in that, not being Italian on his father's side, he had no chance of becoming a "made man," and thus was more useful without having committed murders. In reality, Henry did commit three murders for the mob.
  • Title Drop: Henry explains that "good fella" is code for mobsters referring to fellow members. The title of the original book, Wiseguy, is also dropped.
  • Together in Death: Johnny Roastbeef a.k.a. Cafora was found sitting up alongside his wife after both getting whacked in their car.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Sonny Bunz tries to get Tommy whacked early in the movie over a bar tab. He barely gets away with his life, but in exchange, he's forced to partner his lounge with the mobsters, who drain his credit line dry and then torch the joint for insurance money.
    • No, Tommy, you don't kill a made man from another family without the go-ahead from that made man's boss. Sorry.
      • In real life, Tommy was allegedly even dumber. While Henry was in jail, Tommy allegedly made advances on Karen Hill and tried to rape her when she turned him down. Paul Vario, who was having an affair with Karen at the time, was furious when he found out, and spilled the beans on Billy Batts' murder to the Gambinos so they'd kill Tommy as retaliation.
    • Maybe more understandable in Billy's case, since he probably thought being a made man made him untouchable. He still really should have known better than to antagonize and humiliate Tommy, someone with a well-deserved reputation as a violent sociopath who will murder people without blinking.
    • Antagonizing Jimmy and keep pestering him because he owes you more money? Bad idea Morrie.
    • Spider tells Tommy DeVito, the man who shot him in the foot, to "go fuck [him]self", in front of all his friends.
    • Jimmy's crew who pulled off the Lufthansa heist. He specifically orders them to lay low and avoid spending money until the heat dies down, and what do they do? They immediately start buying expensive coats and cars which are instant red flags to the police that they're the robbers. This is partly what motivates Jimmy to have the entire crew murdered.
    • Stacks makes Henry's somewhat racist prophecy come true by falling asleep in the getaway van from the Lufthansa job (rather than disposing of it like he was supposed to), endangering everyone involved. No wonder he gets whacked.
    • After Henry is paroled in mid-1978, Paulie warns him, correctly, to stop dealing drugs, and to distance himself from Jimmy and Tommy, who are getting out of control. Henry turns around and ramps up his drug trade and brings in Jimmy and Tommy to help. About six months later, Tommy gets whacked, and Jimmy is now showing his true colors as a complete psychopath. Less than two years after his parole, Henry is busted; even before he's busted, he's on a drug-fueled downward spiral that likely would have killed him before long.
    • To make it even better, Henry could have sold off the stash he still had, left the drug trade, would never have to worry about getting busted, and Paulie would never have found out. Instead, he becomes a full-time dealer, gets hooked on the coke he's dealing, and all but guarantees his days in the Mob are numbered.
    • Subverted with Karen, who gets justifiably paranoid about Jimmy's attempt to have her enter a shady enclosed space and makes a hasty exit.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Henry starts doing petty errands for the Mafia as a teenager. Some time afterward, he's setting cars on fire. A criminal escalation which doubles as Took a Level in Jerkass.
  • Tranquil Fury: When Spider makes the tragic mistake of telling Tommy to "go fuck himself", Tommy doesn't react right away. At first, when Jimmy praises the kid, Tommy seems to simmer in his own psychopathic juices for several seconds, but when Jimmy goads Tommy, he finally explodes in a .45 caliber onslaught.
  • Troll: Tommy's iconic "Funny how?" rant where everybody fears for Hill's life is really him just screwing around with Henry. Tommy would be The Gadfly if only he wasn't a reputed sociopath who enjoys terrorizing people.
  • True Companions: Who have no problem killing each other to save their hides. What else do you expect from mobsters?
  • Trunk Shot: When Henry, Tommy and Jimmy realize that Batts is still alive in the trunk and they pop it open.
  • Truth in Television:
    • The dialogue of Henry and Karen Hill to Ed McDonald is directly lifted from their real-life conversation; McDonald improvised his dialogue.
    • Henry and his buddies being treated like kings in prison, having their own private, spacious cell and being able to ship in quality food for themselves. Scorsese himself at first thought it was all an exaggeration until he heard the firsthand accounts of former prison guards who witnessed it themselves.
  • Übermensch: The wiseguys are above the local laws and look down on the average Joe, who is viewed as a chump, what with having to do honest hard work for a living.
  • Unperson: The virtual effect of Henry's going into witness protection.
    "It was easy for all of us to disappear. My house was in my mother-in-law's name. My cars were registered to my wife. My Social Security cards and driver's licenses were phonies. I've never voted. I never paid taxes. My birth certificate and my arrest sheet, that's all you'd ever have to know I was alive."
  • Verbal Tic: "And then there was Jimmy Two-Times, who got that nickname because he said everything twice, like 'I'm gonna go get the papers, get the papers'."
  • Verbal Salt in the Wound: Spider is shot in the foot by Tommy over a minor misunderstanding, and at their next card game, the unfortunate bartender turns up with his foot in a cast; Tommy immediately starts trolling him over the foot - eventually leading to Spider telling Tommy to go fuck himself and Tommy gunning down the poor bastard in a fit of rage.
  • Vertigo Effect: During the last, tense meeting between Jimmy and Henry in the diner. Notably, this particular example of the dolly zoom is slower than most, emphasizing the fear on Henry's part as he realizes that Jimmy has decided to whack him.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The film is based on Henry Hill's memoir Wiseguy. However, Scorsese takes a lot of liberties to tell a good story. Henry Hill still said it's 95-99% accurate at almost any given time. It's more like Roman à Clef. Particular deviations include:
    • Angelo Sepe (renamed Frankie Carbone) is portrayed as murdered and found hanging in a meat truck freezer for his involvement in the Lufthansa Heist. In Real Life, this is how Richard Eaton was murdered (after being personally tortured by Jimmy) for stealing $250,000 and skimming even more being laundered (he had no involvement with the heist), while Angelo Sepe was both not a victim of the Lufthansa Heist and was actually the one carrying out all the murders (he was murdered later on by a hit squad for robbing a Lucchese-affiliated drug trafficker).
    • Louis Cafora (renamed Johnny Roastbeef) and his wife are shown to be found dead in the Pepto Bismol-pink 1979 Cadillac Coupe DeVille by kids playing in a parking lot. In actuality, their bodies were never found, and the the car was a Fleetwood (it really was pink, though, and he actually drove it to a meeting near an FBI investigation). It was Joe "Buddha" Manri and Tom McMahon ("Frenchy") who were instead found in a car.
    • Hill himself has mentioned that he at several points attempted to leave the mob after realizing how psychotic his partners in crime were, but was always dragged back in. Also, in contrast to his film version, the real Hill doesn't look back fondly on his life of crime.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The scene after he gets busted when Henry finds out that Karen flushed cocaine worth $60,000 down the toilet so the cops wouldn't find it. This breakdown in particular happened in 2 stages: he was first angry at her for throwing it away, then he breaks down crying realizing that his life as a mobster is over.
  • Villain Protagonist: Henry Hill, a criminal, gangster, drug dealer, and faithless husband.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Henry vomits while digging up Billy Batts's corpse in order to move it to another location. He would have held it in better if Jimmy and Tommy didn't make jokes about pork and chicken organs.
  • Wannabe Line: The film illustrates the benefits of Mafia life when Henry and Karen are whisked past the line to enter the club through the back entrance.
  • Wham Shot: Tommy enters the room for his induction ceremony to see nobody is in the room. He knows what's up a split-second before it happens. He's right.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Morrie's wife panics because Morrie is missing, and then she's never seen again in the film. The woman she's based on, Fran Krugman, simply sold the wig store and left New York.
    • We never find out what happened to Henry's father and other than a throwaway line on the day Henry gets busted there's no mention of his mother either. This is likely deliberate as other than a quick photo at their wedding his parents are not seen again and the wedding serves as a somewhat symbolic transition to his new "family". However it is clearly shown that he remains close to his younger brother Michael (the one in a wheelchair).
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The end titles relate the fate of the characters as of 1990. It's accompanied by the half-ironic, half-unapologetic Sid Vicious' version of "My Way".
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: Frenchy, the brains behind the Air France robbery, is amused when he's asked about the security of the airport. He is the security, the midnight-to-eight man.
  • Witness Protection: Where Henry ends up. The real Henry Hill left witness protection some time after the film was released, saying at the time that everyone who would want him dead is long gone. Hill died in June 2012 from heart-related health issues.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Jimmy does this to everyone involved in the Lufthansa heist except Henry and Tommy.
  • You Remind Me of X: When the three protagonists stop at Tommy's mother's place intending to get a shovel, only to end up staying for dinner, a painting there joyfully reminds them of Billy Batts, who at that moment is lying in the trunk of their car, half-dead.

"Everybody had their hands out. Everything was for the taking. And now it's all over. That's the hardest part. Today, everything is different."


Video Example(s):


Frankie Carbone

Frankie helps Tommy kill Stacks after he slept in for getting the truck left behind when he should've gotten it to New Jersey for compacting. Then, Frankie helps Tommy and Jimmy kill Morrie, the same guy who came up with the Lufthansa heist, just because he talked too much and kept pestering Jimmy about money. Later, Frankie himself ends up on the receiving end of the loose end eliminations that could connect Jimmy to the Lufthansa heist, with the authorities finding his body in the meat truck...all set to Layla by Eric Clapton.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / KarmicDeath

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