From left to right: Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway, Paul Sorvino as Paul Cicero, and Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito.Jimmy and Henry beat up a debt-ridden gambler

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Goodfellas is a 1990 film about the mafia directed by Martin Scorsese. It is based on the novel Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, which is itself based on a true story. more...

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The film stars Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway, Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, Lorraine Bracco as Hill's wife, Karen Hill, and Joe Pesci, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the irascible Tommy DeVito (based on Tommy DeSimone).


In the film, Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, becomes involved in the mafia at a young age: as he says in the film, "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster."

As a boy, Henry idolized the Lucchese crime family gangsters in his blue-collar New York City neighborhood, and in 1955 quit school and went to work for them at a local cab stand, much to the dismay of his working-class parents. The local Lucchese mob captain, Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino), (based on the actual Lucchese mobster Paul Vario) and Cicero's associate Jimmy Conway (De Niro), help cultivate the boy's developing criminal career. When Henry is arrested for selling stolen cigarettes, he wisely tells the police nothing and is lauded by his superiors for "being a standup guy."

As an adult, Henry and his friend Tommy DeVito (Pesci) conspire along with Conway to steal much of the billions of dollars in cargo passing through Idlewild Airport (later JFK). They help out in a key moneymaking heist, in 1967 stealing over half a million dollars from the Air France cargo terminal paying Cicero his percentage of the take as per the mafia's code of tribute.

Henry also meets and falls in love with Karen (Bracco), although there is conflict between families since Karen's parents are prosperous and Jewish and Hill is himself poor and half-Irish and half-Italian. (Because of his and Jimmy Conway's own Irish ancestry, they can never be actual "made men" – full members of an Italian crime family.) When Karen learns firsthand about what Henry actually does for a living, she is fascinated instead of repelled; it impresses her that Henry has the nerve to steal instead of just "sitting around, waiting for a handout."

As the years go by and Henry earns Cicero's trust, his compadres become more daring (and therefore dangerous)--Conway's excessive love of truck hijacking and grand theft is bad enough, but DeVito is nearly psychotic in his need to prove himself through violence. In one of the film's most controversial scenes, DeVito thoughtlessly shoots an innocent and unarmed young man (Michael Imperioli), first in the foot for not bringing him his drinks fast enough, and then fatally for talking back to him.

DeVito's violent streak reaches a crest in June 1970 when he bludgeons to death one Billy Batts (Frank Vincent), a "made man" in the competing Gambino crime family, a major offense that could get them all killed by the Gambinos if discovered. Henry, Conway and DeVito place Batts's bloody corpse in the trunk of their car, stop by DeVito's mother's house to pick up a shovel and a knife, finish killing Batts upstate, bury him in an abandoned plot of rural land – and then discover six months later that the land has been sold to a real estate developer and the (badly decomposed) body has to be re-excavated, moved and reburied. (This scene serves as an example of the movie's black humor; Tommy and Henry go to dig up the body, a scene shot in sillouette; while Henry reacts badly to the excavation of the corpse, eventually vomiting, both Jimmy and Tommy remain nonchalant, the exhumation is merely business to them). During this time, Henry's marriage deteriorates when Karen finds he has a mistress; Karen threatens the other woman so violently that even Cicero has to mediate.

After beating up a debt-ridden Florida gambler whose sister works as an FBI typist, Henry and Jimmy are caught and sent to prison for four years. There, Henry deals drugs to keep afloat, and by the time he returns to his family he has a lucrative drug connection in Pittsburgh, one which he had established while still in prison. Although Paul Cicero tolerated Henry's prison drug deals, he has sternly warned him not to deal drugs on the outside and to inform him of those who do, but Henry ignores Paul and gets Tommy and Jimmy (as well as his wife, and new mistress (Debi Mazar), and babysitter) involved in an elaborate smuggling operation. At the same time, in December 1978, Jimmy Conway and friends plan and carry out a record six million dollar heist from the Lufthansa cargo terminal at JFK airport, but Jimmy soon grows disgusted and paranoid when his associates foolishly flaunt their gains in plain sight, threatening to draw police attention, and begins having them gradually eliminated. Worse, after promising to welcome DeVito into the Lucchese family as a "made man," the elder members of the family instead kill him as retaliation for Batts's death. Henry reports that "DeVito is shot in the face so his mother couldn't have an open coffin funeral".


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