Good Fellas

5 min readNov 26, 2023

This is one of the most iconic films that was ever made on gangsters. Martin Scorsese took this genre to even beyond ‘The Godfather’. It tracks the journey of Henry Hill, the American gangster who was associated with the Lucchese crime family of New York City from 1955 until 1980, when he was arrested on narcotics charges and became an FBI informant. Henry testified against his former associates, resulting in 50 convictions, including those of Paul Verio (Paulie in the film) and fellow associate Jimmy Burke (Jimmy Conway in the film) on multiple charges. He subsequently entered the Witness protection program, but was removed from the program in 1987.

Ray Liotta played Henry Hill, Robert De Niro as Jimmy, Joe Pesci as Tommy and Paul Sorvino as Paulie. The film tracks the evolution of Ray as a mobster in such a nuanced and realistic manner starting from his childhood. One has to write a book to explain the greatness of this film. I am going to share a few things that I found truly unique.

The narration through Henry’s perspective from his part time job at the cab stand in his formative years to evolving into a mobster. He learns some lessons on the way.

Everybody takes a beating for sometime and so when his father hit him for missing school and spending too much time at the cab stand, he was okay with it.

He gets pinched by the police guys and he faces it without ‘ratting’ on his friends and keeping his mouth shut which gets big appreciation from the big fellas.

As a kid, he understands where the ‘power’ lies. Instead of fighting with the parents, he learns that hitting the postman ensures that the letter from school doesnt get delivered at home. Bribing the policeman and making them partners in crime was giving the power. Being friendly with a lot of people and throwing money at everyone was giving him the power.

Slowly, he learns the tricks of the trade and starts climbing up the food chain. Money comes in bulk and goes in bulk. He is now firmly believing that the law can always be broken and everything can be bought.

There is a long line of people waiting to get a seat at the restaurant. He takes his girlfriend through the backdoor past the security guards and the off-duty waiters, down a narrow corridor, through the kitchen, through the service area and out into the front of the club, where a table is literally lifted into the air and placed in front of all the others so that the young couple can be in the first row for the floor show. People are waiting for a table outside and a table is getting created for him. This is power.

In one of the iconic scene at the bar, Tommy (Joe Pesci) shares a joke in his own characteristic and sarcastic way. All the tough boys in the table burst into laughter especially Henry Hill (Ray Liotta)

Henry: you’re a funny

Tommy starts the iconic dialogue, ‘Funny how?’ with an overdose of endless F words.

Tommy: funny how?

Henry: you know you’re you’re funny you mean so

Tommy: let me understand this because i don’t know maybe it’s me a little [ __ ] up maybe but i’m funny how i mean funny

Tommy: like i’m a clown i am use you, I make you laugh i’m here to [ __ ], amuse you what do you mean funny funny, how how am i funny

Henry: i’m not just you know how you tell the story what

Tommy: no no i don’t know you said it how do I know, you said i’m funny how the [ __ ] am i funny what the [ __ ] is so funny about me tell me tell me what’s funny

Henry: get the [ __ ] out of here to tommy

Tommy: [ __ ] it i almost had him i almost had him stuttering, frankie was he shaking


Then, a waiter type of guy comes and tells something to Tommy. He lashes at him in his trademark funny way and everybody laughs around. Suddenly, he picks up the gun and shoots him on the foot. Again, everyone laughs but with fear. They were laughing over the top because there is a fear underneath. Tommy again comes and puts the gun on Henry’s head but everyone laughs. The unpredictability is power. That power makes him a wise guy, a dreaded mafioso.

Later, when things close in around Henry, there was a scene that shows a day in the life of Henry. There is no better way to show the complexity in his life than moving him through the endless list of things that he does in a day — stirring pasta to help the cooking in a family get together, pick up the kid brother, spend a quick time with the mistress, make the drug deal. We can imagine how many different directions his life was pulled in and he is slowly losing control and his power.

The fantasies of big money and the power when he was a young boy slowly starts to wane as life progresses. There is ratting, there is fear, there is hiding, there is back stabbing and he gives in. He becomes a witness.

The film closes with Henry living a normal lifestyle, the life style that he hated as a kid. The character goes through a bell curve taking the viewer through all the romantic notions to ride up the curve and all the complexities that pushes him down the curve.

Martin Scorsese, Masterpiece how?




Father, Entrepreneur & Writer; Edison award winning innovation; Daytime Emmy nominated animation; Author of two books; WEF Davos, Cannes Lions, TEDx