Scorsese Defined His Career With Goodfellas 25 Years Ago

Film makers tend to do their best work early in their career. It comes from a mindset of being too young to understand how things work and their talent being at it’s most raw. As their careers move on and their names get bigger, they almost try too hard to make brilliant movies like when they were broke and had nothing to lose. This may have appeared to be the case with Martin Scorsese at first glance of the first 15 years of his career.

In 1973 he made a truly terrifying look at life on the streets of New York that hadn’t been seen before with Mean Streets which began a brilliant longtime working relationship with Robert De Niro, which will go down as one of the greatest teams in Hollywood history. He then took the cinematic world by storm with movies like Taxi Driver and brought De Niro a second Oscar with Raging Bull.

The 80’s would not prove to be the greatest decade for Scorsese despite a few bright spots like teaming up with Paul Newman to revive the character of Fast Eddie Felson in the still under appreciated The Color Of Money and he also made what might be the most controversial movie of the decade with The Last Temptation Of Christ.

Despite having established himself as one of the most original and raw directors in Hollywood it wasn’t until 1990 that he reached his pinnacle, 17 years after he blew the doors off with Mean Streets. Goodfellas attacked the movie going public and turned the entire mafia/gangster genre on it’s ear. Never before had there been a movie about mid-level wiseguys within the mafia and certainly there had never been a more real and honest telling of the life inside.

Scorsese masterfully crafted the true story of wiseguy and eventual wittness protection informant Henry Hill. Based on the book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi it was the account of his time inside the life and his love of being a wiseguy. Marty instantly had a classic masterpiece on his hands and it was widely recognized as such immediately upon release.

With a script that flowed perfectly, Scorsese trusted every film making instinct he had. He set shots exactly as he wanted and his use of the soundtrack helped the film flow over the decades of time it covered with flawless seams. Scenes and camera angles took on iconic status instantly. The stedi-cam shot through the Copacabana is still considered one of the finest in film history.

The mafia genre of movies would never be the same and most films that followed have tried to live up to Goodfellas and at the least have attempted to pay tribute in some way to Goodfellas.

With brilliant performances from every main principle in the picture and most notably, Joe Pesci who would be awarded with that years Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Goodfellas,  every character was perfectly cast to point that they almost all had career defining roles.

It turned out to be a generations perfect movie and the film that got movie making in the 90’s off to a roaring start and would make an indelible impression on movie fans and define a career of one of America’s finest film makers who continues to dazzle audiences.

14 thoughts on “Scorsese Defined His Career With Goodfellas 25 Years Ago”

  1. I have to agree with what’s written here, my favorite scenec is when De niro makes his entrance as Jimmy, that was just incrdible and never bettered, I felt that Pesci was comparable only to “Cagney in White Heat” in terms of madness and his killing without mercy or concsicence.

    Paul Sorvino masterful Ray Liotta has only made two or three good films since but in this, he captured the mood and the romance if you like about bein indoctrinated into the Mafia.

    Directed with style, and the dialogue authentic.

    You mentioned “The Colour Of Money” think Paul Newman is the only actor to play the same character twice be nominated and get the Oscar the second time around, though the Hustler is fabulous the scene in which Minnesota Fats prepares before a game was genius,

  2. I think this is also true for certain actors. I think that as they mature in their careers, they develop their own personal “voices” if you will, understanding what works for them and using it often. The flip side to that is that they sometimes close themselves off from exploring other options, too.

  3. I absolutely agree that this is Scorsese’s finest film. I even think it’s the greatest mafia film made, which I’m sure will enrage enthusiasts behind The Godfather series. My favorite scene from the film is without a doubt the Copacabana long take. The fluidity of the camera as it follows Henry through the club is awe inspiring.

  4. I Do Love Goodfellas, But It’s Only In My Top 3.
    Raging Bull and Taxi Driver are The Other 2.
    I Can Mix And Match Them In Any Order, As They’ve All Got Elements That Make Them Favorites.
    Nifty Posting, Fo SHO!
    Very Cool.

  5. Martin Scorsese is the most genius director of our time. He has such attention to even the smallest detail and making you to notice it. Goodfellas is such a great example of this. Scorsese at his best!

  6. Great post. GoodFellas was the film the cemented Scorsese’s legacy. He had shown obvious brilliance in films like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, but to be a legend, one of the criteria (at least in my book) is to continue to make great films over vast periods of time. 10 years after Raging Bull, he comes out with GoodFellas, and that’s what made him a legend. Then he has The Departed in 2006, only adding to his legacy.

  7. One of my all-time favorite movies. Great post. I definitely agree Martin Scorsese, even till this day, still doesn’t get nearly enough credit from the film industry.

      1. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I think early Scorsese is so innovative and he has a way of visually showing things that leave you captivated. Curious who you are fan of?

      2. Wow are you serious? Just for reminders: “The Departed,” “The Aviator,” “Gangs of New York.” Those are just a few that I remember off the top of my head that were Oscar-calibre films – I’m sure there are more. You say that’s overrated?

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