Scorsese's GoodFellas Turns 20: Becomes an Official Classic
On September 19, 1990 GoodFellas, directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta, was released in limited distribution in the US. Scorsese's ode to the mafia is the true story of gangster Henry Hill and his life long relationship with known mob partners Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito in the Italian-American crime syndicate. With an unparalleled cast that includes Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, GoodFellas stands as a true classic among the greatest films ever made, period.
GoodFellas is an adaptation of the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the adaptation for the film with Scorsese. The story narrates the rise and fall of real-life mob associate Henry Hill and his friends and family from 1955 to 1980. Additionally, De Niro, Pesci, and Liotta often spoke with Pileggi directly in order to prepare for their roles. Apparently the writer had a lot of left over research material from writing the book that he was only to happy to share with the actors. Additionally, improvisation and ad-libbing came out of rehearsals where Scorsese gave the actors freedom to do whatever they wanted. Transcripts were then made of these sessions, so that Scorsese could listen to them and take the lines he liked best to put into a revised script. This polished script was the one the cast worked from during principal photography.
Made on a relatively small budget of just $25 million, GoodFellas grossed $46.8 million upon its initial release. It also received positive reviews from critics, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It was Joe Pesci who went home with the only award for the film, winning Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Additionally, Goodfellas was named the year's best film by multiple critics' groups, including the National Society of Film Critics.
GoodFellas has been called one of the greatest films in the crime genre. In 2000, it was deemed "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant" and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.