And 5 Why It's Goodfellas
The Corleones are not a real family, and they’re essentially royalty in the criminal underworld, so The Godfather was free to make their lifestyle look glamorous. The occasional scene like Sonny getting shot dead at a toll booth might not seem very glitzy, but they’re few and far between.
With romantic ideas about going to lavish parties and the Don giving out favors on the day of his daughter’s wedding, the movie does make being a mobster look awfully fun.
The characters of Goodfellas are often shown doing the dirty work that the Corleones rarely have to get involved in, and while the Corleone family has more money than they know what to do with, the characters of Goodfellas don’t get very rich.
Where Henry will loudly yell what he’s feeling, Michael will tell us everything in a single facial expression.
Add to that the subtle performances of supporting players like Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Talia Shire, John Cazale, and Diane Keaton.
Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci provide riveting support in Goodfellas, but it can’t compare to the ensemble of The Godfather.
One of the main criticisms of The Godfather from people who are willing to admit it’s not perfect is that it’s too slow.
The pacing in Goodfellas, on the other hand, is much quicker.
The plot moves by at breakneck speed, jumping back and forth along the timeline of the narrative to make sure you’re only getting the information you need at any given moment.
Cinematographer Gordon Willis, whose work has been called a “milestone in visual storytelling” that “defined the cinematic look of the 1970s,” composed some gorgeous shots that could stand on their own as works of art.
The shot of a murder with the Statue of Liberty way off in the background, poking out from behind the long grass, says everything this movie has to say about the American dream in one frame.
Goodfellas is a hilarious movie, mostly thanks to the actors’ improvisation. From Joe Pesci’s “How am I funny?” monologue to the introduction of Jimmy Two Times, there are plenty of funny moments in Scorsese’s masterwork.
And not only that, the humor is often used to dramatic effect with striking juxtaposition, such as the central trio’s discussion of Tommy’s mothers painting (“One dog goes one way, the other dog goes the other way, and this guy’s sayin’, ‘Whadda ya want from me?’”) while they have a guy bleeding out in the trunk.
The Godfather’s script is a masterclass in screenwriting.
We meet our protagonist, the tragic hero Michael Corleone, and watch for three hours as he is slowly corrupted by his family’s lifestyle.
His transformation is marked by murdering the crooked cop at the midpoint, exactly when a character’s viewpoint is supposed to turn in a screenplay.
From Tony Bennett to Aretha Franklin to Muddy Waters to the Rolling Stones to Eric Clapton’s bands Cream and Derek and the Dominos, the Goodfellas soundtrack contains tracks by some of the greatest artists of all time, and they all suit the scenes they’re assigned to perfectly.
While Goodfellas has a real place in history, being based on a true story, The Godfather has a better hold on its historical context.
It’s about fictional characters, but it’s rooted in very real history.
It takes place between 1945 and 1955, and this post-war setting forms a lot of the plot.
You have to be in a certain mood to watch The Godfather. It’s long, it’s heavy, there’s a lot to take in – you have to really strap in if you’re going to sit through it.
Goodfellas, however, is endlessly rewatchable. It doesn’t matter what mood you’re in or what kind of movie you want to watch – it’s never a challenge to get into Goodfellas.