Goodfellas is one of the films that I’ve studied the most without ever having watched all the way through. Goodfellas and the Godfather are referenced a great deal in pop culture – to the point that I spend a great deal of the time watching both saying “oh that’s where that’s from.”
The movie’s cinematography was somewhat groundbreaking. Many scenes take advantage of Steadicam motion for at least a portion of the scene and a few scenes are comprised entirely of one long shot. While this wasn’t the first time these techniques had been used it was the first time they had been used this well and to this extent.
The interesting thing about this being on the AFI top 100 is that the movie relies heavily on narration throughout the film, which is a big no-no in screenwriting. Narration is seen as a shortcut wherein the person is often telling instead of showing, but in this case it’s totally necessary for the expediency of the plot which covers a lot of ground, and they do a good job of showing and telling whenever possible.
Like many critically acclaimed movies, this movie’s plot is not terribly straightforward. Most popular, blockbuster movies have a clear objective, a singular clear conflict which, once resolved, resolves the plot. Many of the AFI top 100 have multiple smaller conflicts that resolve far before the movie is over. It’s less about a singular conflict and more about the events that shape the characters. Goodfellas is about the characters, who are played masterfully by the top-notch cast which is why it’s held in such high regard.
The story is odd because at it’s core it’s about a guy who seems to enjoy the perks of being a gangster, and oddly his wife is attracted to him because of the lifestyle, yet it comes at high costs with threats to his life and jail time. When he’s forced to leave the “Goodfellas” he still misses the adrenaline rush of organized crime. While not as laborious as others this film isn’t exactly what I would call it entertaining, though for those with a taste for a great deal of yelling, cursing, violence this might be more up your alley. I was shocked to find out at the end that this is true story about a real man who really went into witness protection. Like all movies on this list it’s well acted and well written, but like many movies on this list I could live without ever seeing it again.