Follow TV Tropes


YMMV / GoodFellas

Go To

  • Adaptation Displacement: Partly because the movie's title was changed to avoid confusion with the TV series of the same name, a lot of people don't realize it's based on a book.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Was Henry's drug mule just that stupid to make a phone call from within the house, despite repeated instructions not to? Did she really need to get her lucky hat right at the last minute? Or was she an informant?
    • Was Jimmy sending Karen to her death or were there really some stolen Dior dresses for her to choose from? Or was Jimmy going through a Sanity Slippage and genuinely thought there were dresses there?
  • Award Snub: GoodFellas, Martin Scorsese, and Lorraine Bracco lost to Dances with Wolves, Kevin Costner, and Whoopi Goldberg for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress, respectively. In hindsight, GoodFellas is considered Scorsese's greatest film. On the other hand, Joe Pesci not only got a fully deserved Oscar for Best Supporting, he didn't even expect to win and gave one of the shortest and most modest speeches in Academy history ("It's my privilege. Thank you.")
    • Ray Liotta wasn't even nominated. Even Scorsese was disappointed.
    • Advertisement:
    • Also nominated but failing to win was Thelma Schoonmaker for Best Editing. The fast-pace editing of GoodFellas was controversial at the time but in hindsight it's considered one of the most expertly edited films of the last 30 years.
    • For some (most notably, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel), the loss for Best Director was particularly galling. Kevin Costner was already listed as a co-producer for Dances With Wolves (the heavy frontrunner for Best Picture), so it seemed redundant for the Academy to honor him again as a Director over Marty, especially given how much the latter's direction was specifically praised and analyzed. To make matters worse, Wolves was Costner's film debut, and many already thought Scorsese was due for recognition after losing out for Raging Bull against Robert Redford and Ordinary People (coincidently enough, Redford had beaten Marty for a directorial debut, also).
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Notoriously averted, and one of the most controversial things about the film. It's been praised as one of the more accurate mob movies ever made because, unlike The Godfather, which was rather sentimental about the Mafia (or at least, Vito) as a force for order and honour in a corrupt world, there's very little honour in Goodfellas: the highest-ranking gangster in the film, Paulie, is only a middle-ranking caporegime who doesn't hesitate to cut his ties with Henry when it looks like Henry may be a liability, rewarding him for a lifetime's service with a measly few hundred bucks. One of the main characters is a violent, sadistic maniac, another is a violent, greedy and increasingly paranoid scumbag, and the main POV character is an arsonist thug who cheats on his wife and deals hard drugs behind his boss's back. In a way, it should be a hellish, hard-to-watch story about violence, secrecy and betrayal. But people love the film, because it makes this life seem like great least, up to a point. And Henry never expresses regret for all the harm he's caused; at the end of the film, the only thing he regrets is that he couldn't go on living like he used to, able to take whatever he wanted, live however he wanted, and above all, get away with it.
  • Advertisement:
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Despite the fact that the movie deconstructs many standard gangster film tropes and has something of a Downer Ending, it's still considered one of the coolest depictions of the Mafia ever put on film - by members of the Mafia themselves, even. The gangster that DeNiro's character was based on was reportedly thrilled such a great actor was portraying him, and kept trying to get in touch with DeNiro from prison to give him pointers. Similarly, the real Henry Hill wrecked his witness protection because he couldn't resist bragging about the movie. (Not that anyone cared to kill him at that point.) Yet by the end of the movie almost the entire extended cast is either in prison, witness protection, or dead- almost universally via brutal murder, to say nothing of all the domestic abuse, paranoia, treachery, drug addiction, police investigations and violence that the characters end up going through. It is still loved by gangsters and wannabe gangsters.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Tommy, of all people, gets a lot of this, generally from young men. He's an utterly unrepentant, racist Jerkass who casually kills people just because they annoy him and delights in making his friends live in fear of his bad temper, but some people like him nevertheless, possibly because of the extent to which he enjoys being who he is. When people say that this film makes them want to be a gangster, it's often because they want to be somebody like Tommy, conveniently forgetting that his own assholish behaviour turns him into a liability to the mob and gets him killed in a deliberately humiliating manner (shot in the face so his mother couldn't give him an open casket funeral.)
  • Fandom Rivalry:
    • Many fans of the movie still cannot get over it losing Best Picture to Dances with Wolves, along with Martin Scorsese losing Best Director to Kevin Costner, despite both movies standing the test of time and being great in their respective genres.
    • It also has a major rivalry with The Godfather over which is the better gangster film. Both are made by Italian-American film-makers and have achieved Pop-Cultural Osmosis with much iconic catch-phrases. Supporters argue that Goodfellas is more realistic gritty and far less romantic than The Godfather since its gangsters weren't romanticized with Delusions of Eloquence, while others argue that The Godfather on account of being stylized, especially with Part II, can have an epic historical sweep over the immigration experience.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: During the parts focusing on Henry's childhood, it's easy to think that Henry was destined to be a troublemaker when he was young. However, in real life, Henry suffered from a number of learning disabilities that had remained undiagnosed at the time. Since his teachers had no concept of conditions such as Dyslexia in the 1950s, they just assumed Henry wasn't interested in school and labelled him a failure. In fact, Henry himself stated that he never learned the alphabet until he was 20. Henry's inability to fit in at school was one of the primary factors leading him into joining the mob.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: And to think, this won't be the last time Ray Liotta gets involved with a mob...
    • Henry Hill, a short form of which is Hank Hill.
    • When Paulie is being arrested, one of his guys yells, "Why don't you go to Wall Street, get some real criminals. Cut to 20 years later and Scorsese makes The Wolf of Wall Street, the Spiritual Successor to both this movie and Casino and is pretty up front about how Wall Street brokers are just as corrupt as gangsters.
    • Michael Imperioli, best known as Christopher from The Sopranos, has one of his first roles as the waiter who runs afoul of Tommy. Plus, Lorraine Bracco. Plus plus, Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico as one of Paulie Cicero's henchmen in the 1955 scenes. Plus plus plus, Tony "Larry Boy Barese" Darrow as the hangout owner who complains to Paulie about Tommy.
    • Henry's moan at the end of the film that he can no longer get decent food was belied in 2002, when he wrote his own cookbook (The Wiseguy Cookbook, published by New American Library, no less), detailing how you can make decent Italian-American food when you don't have access to the best and freshest ingredients like he once did. It includes recipes for the entire meal he made the night he gets arrested (veal cutlets, ziti with meat sauce and green beans with garlic and olive oil) as well as many others, including the healthier diet he adopted later in life. Yes, now you too can eat like a mobster.note 
    • Tommy ends up being murdered by someone named Vinnie. Fast forward two years later and Joe Pesci plays a character named Vinny who is called to investigate a murder.
  • Love to Hate:
    • Interestingly, Tommy DeVito was incredibly memorable in this film. Of course, Joe Pesci's great performance earned him a well-deserved Oscar.
    • Jimmy Conway as well, but rather is to be played by Robert De Niro, who always wears a growing fanbase that appears as a villain.
  • Memetic Mutation: Tons, with the "Do I amuse you?" scene topping the list.
    • From the same scene, the shot of Henry uproariously laughing to "You might fold under questioning" has gained traction as a reaction image to a ridiculous notion (ex: "When Californians complain about their cold weather").
    • "I'mma go get the papers, get the papers."
    • "As far back as I can remember... I always wanted to be a X"
    • Go to the comment section on any YouTube video with either Joe Pesci, or Frank Vincent, (including clips from 'Raging Bull', 'Home Alone', 'Casino' and 'The Sopranos', and even 'Donnie Brasco' which features neither actor but somewhat similar scenes) or the songs 'The Boy I Love' and 'Atlantis' and there's a good chance it'll be filled with 'shinebox' jokes.
    • DeNiro's "lil' bit" line during the Billy Batts scene.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Just like with most Gangster Movies, there are those who share Henry Hill's warped views of the perks of being a Gangster, namely that it's better "to be a gangster than a schnook" who waits in line.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Tommy crosses it when he kills Spider.
    • Jimmy crosses it when he has his conspirators in the heist murdered, rather than share money with them.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Jimmy Two-Times. He only had one line, but everyone remembers it.
    Jimmy Two-Times: I'm gonna go get the papers, get the papers.
    • To a lesser extent, Pete the Killer from the same scene, who makes one of the best Noodle Incident lines in all of film.
      Pete the Killer: Hey, I took care of that thing for ya.
    • Tommy's mother. Helps that she's played by Martin Scorsese's mother.
  • Periphery Demographic: Considered one of the quintessential mob films, reportedly by gangsters themselves.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Signature Scene: One of several depending on who you ask.
    • The opening scene, with one of the movie's Signature Lines ("as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster") seguing into a Flashback to The '50s.
    • Tommy's reaction to Henry calling him "funny".
    • The Epic Tracking Shot of Henry and Karen breaking the line at a restaurant and entering through the kitchen, scored to "And Then He Kissed Me".
    • Tommy beating up Billy Batts to the tune of Donovan's "Atlantis".
    • The scene where Tommy, Jimmy, Henry, stop over at Tommy's House and have dinner with his kindly mother (played by Martin Scorsese's mom Catherine, in a scene-stealing turn), and simply shoot the breeze in the middle of their hit of Batts (who is trapped in the trunk during the entire detour).
    • The bodies from the Lufthansa heist being found, to the tune of "Layla" by Derek and the Dominoes.
    • The final shot showing Henry Hill spending the rest of his life as a schnook, and having no real remorse for his crimes.
  • Wangst: Having watched Henry become a major player in the Mafia, act as an accomplice in several major crimes (including murder and a major armed robbery), become a drug dealer, abuse his wife and eventually rat out all his friends and colleagues, it's hard to feel too sorry for him at the end when he whines about the fact that, now that he's in Witness Protection having escaped any prosecution and even mob retribution for his crimes, he's no longer a bigshot.
    • The delivery of his final speech, more angry than sad, indicates that the lightness of his punishment was intentional to an extent.
    • This might be to keep him from being too much of a Karma Houdini — the punishment seems light to everyone else, but it's torture for him. Compare his "Egg noodles and ketchup" complaint about the misery of living life as an "average nobody" to when he was in prison as a wiseguy and eating like a king every night.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Jimmy wants to put a hit on Henry at the end because he is worried Henry'll squeal to the cops. It's the realization that he has a hit on him that makes Henry squeal in the first place. Note that despite the What an Idiot! aspect, this really happened on several occasions.
    • Henry's exposition about his drug mule/babysitter Lois; she is insistently told to leave the house in order to make a drug related phone call. And what does she do? She phones from the house. The narcs of course are wiretapping everything. Bitterly lampshaded in-universe by Henry.
      Henry: So, what does she do after she hangs up with me? After everything I had told her? After all her yeah, yeah, yeah, bullshit? She picks up the phone and calls from the house. 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.
    • Tommy killing Billy Batts, despite him of all people knowing that Batts was a Made Man and therefore under official protection. This eventually leads to Tommy's death as revenge.
    • Johnny Roastbeef and Frankie Carbone deserve a mention due to their stupidity of immidiately buying themselves expensive shit with their share of the Lufthansa loot, despite Jimmy explicitly telling them not to do so since it would draw attention from the cops. This is one of the reasons why he decides to get rid of them, so they essentially dug their own graves.
  • The Woobie: She may be a stereotypical overbearing Jewish Mother but Karen's mother is completely right about Henry, and in the end she loses her daughter to the Witness Protection Program with no promises of ever seeing her again.


Example of: