For decades, movies like “The Godfather” have captivated the imaginations of moviegoers around the world. With larger than life characters like Vito Corleone, Tommy DeVito, and Sonny LoSpecchio, these films offer viewers a glimpse into the often violent world of organized crime from the safety and comfort of a living room or packed theater. Hollywood’s love affair with the Mafia has produced some of the greatest films in cinematic history, with films like “Goodfellas" and “The Godfather" placed on the National Film Registry for preservation by the Library of Congress.
Probably one of the most memorable characters in the history of film, Tony Montana, the political refugee from Cuba who lands in Florida in 1980 and rises to the top of a criminal empire. The polar opposite of Vito Corleone, Al Pacino’s performance of Montana embodies the soul of a real cold-blooded killer. Ruthless and power hungry, Montana is the type of mobster who doesn’t even blink when putting a bullet in the head of a rival in the middle of a crowded Miami street. Montana barely breaks a sweat when delivering one of the movie’s most famous quotes, “Say hello to my little friend!”
“As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.” With those words, the world is introduced to Henry Hill, a kid from the streets of Brooklyn, growing up in the 1950s, idolizing the men in his neighborhood who seemed to be above the law. Directed by Martin Scorsese, “Goodfellas” is based on the book “Wiseguy,” written by Nicholas Pileggi. The film follows Hill as he and his associates set their sights on making a name for themselves in the Lucchese crime family. Boasting an A-list cast led by Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Paul Sorvino and Robert De Niro, “Goodfellas” is one mob film that has no fear of sleeping with fishes.
“A Bronx Tale”
Robert De Niro’s directorial debut is a mob story told from a different perspective. Set in a 1960s Bronx neighborhood, the film revolves around a young boy who witnesses a shooting by a mob boss on the street in front of his building. The boy plays dumb when questioned by police and is quickly befriended by the gangster, played to perfection by the film’s writer Chaz Palminteri. The boy’s father, portrayed by De Niro, disapproves of any communication between the two. “A Bronx Tale” weaves a nostalgic account of a young man growing up in the streets of the New York City borough, dealing with love, friendships and the tempting lure of the Mafia lifestyle.
Based on the true story of FBI agent Joseph Pistone’s daring six-year undercover assignment to infiltrate the Mafia, “Donnie Brasco” is at once a timeless mob film that captures a specific era in the history of organized crime. Under the guise of jewel thief Donnie Brasco, Pistone, played by Johnny Depp, gains the trust of Bonnano crime family hit-man Lefty Ruggiero, played by Al Pacino. The film follows Pistone as he struggles to maintain the cold, indifferent façade of a gangster while finding the time to sneak away and visit his family in secret. The longer Pistone continues to act as Donnie Brasco, the more he starts to think and feel like the bogus jewel thief. With stunning performances by Depp and Pacino, “Donnie Brasco” combines the suspenseful drama of fact and fiction with an authentic backdrop of 1970s New York City.