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Goodfellas is essentially a perfect gangster movie, and the only bad thing about it is that after 146 minutes, it ends. Thankfully, it’s a movie that was both influenced by other gangster movies and has gone on to inspire others that were released after 1990, meaning it’s possible to find other titles to scratch the same itch. One of the best options isn’t even a movie; it’s the iconic HBO crime/drama/dark comedy series, The Sopranos.
Of course, that’s 86 episodes long and is naturally a bit of a time commitment. For those wanting to see something similar to Goodfellas but are pressed for time, the following movies are all worth diving into. Some feature cast members from Goodfellas, several have the same director (Martin Scorsese), and some have similar narratives, themes, or an overall sense of style, making them easy to watch for fans of Scorsese’s 1990 crime masterpiece.
10 ‘Casino’ (1995)
Martin Scorsese has a reputation for making gangster movies, and while he’s done a decent number of them, his filmography is more diverse than many people give it credit for. That being said, of all his gangster movies, Casino is the only one that does sometimes feel a little too reminiscent of what came before — in this case, it’s Goodfellas, and it’s to the point where it almost feels like a sequel.
As well as Scorsese directing both movies, they also shared a writer, Nicholas Pileggi, and share cast members like Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Frank Vincent (all playing different characters). It takes the style, ferocity, and pacing of Goodfellas and changes the setting to Las Vegas, bumps up the runtime by half an hour, and goes to some even darker places. It’s a solid (and similar) movie to Goodfellas, but not quite on the same level.
9 ‘A Bronx Tale’ (1993)
Robert De Niro will always be best known for his acting, but he’s also tried his hand at directing on two occasions. His first feature film, A Bronx Tale, is the highest regarded of these, and it’s essentially a hybrid of a crime movie and a coming-of-age story, focusing on a boy being torn between his father and a father figure who happens to be a crime boss.
De Niro also stars as the boy’s father and makes an impression both behind and in front of the camera. It’s a pretty good movie overall, and while watching it, you get the sense that some of Scorsese’s sensibilities as a director rubbed off on De Niro during their numerous collaborations.
8 ‘Donnie Brasco’ (1997)
Standing as one of the best American crime movies of the 1990s, Donnie Brasco is a compelling and engaging watch. It’s loosely based on a real-life story and follows an FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate the mob, only to find himself won over in unexpected ways by the lifestyle, leading to internal conflict when it comes time to arrest the various criminals he’s gotten to know.
It’s an easy movie to recommend based on the strength of the performances alone, given it features Johnny Depp (as the FBI agent) and Al Pacino (as a mafia hitman) at the top of their respective games. It covers some familiar ground for a crime movie but covers it well and has aged gracefully in the years since its 1997 release.
7 ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013)
Goodfellas and the aforementioned Casino are both filled with profanity, but none have quite as many F-bombs as The Wolf of Wall Street. This 2013 dark comedy/crime movie is also Scorsese’s raciest and arguably most extreme movie, following the wild lifestyle of Jordan Belfort, who scams people on Wall Street by day and partakes in hedonistic activities and parties by night.
It’s even more flashy and fast-paced than Goodfellas, but they’re overall stylistically similar and have comparable editing. It utilizes frequent narration like Goodfellas, and instead of offering a look into life in the mafia, it’s instead a glimpse into a lifestyle dominated by power, wealth, and the excesses (as well as downsides) that come from engaging in extreme white-collar crime.
6 ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ (1984)
Once Upon a Time in America is one of many great movies directed by Sergio Leone, and ended up being his final one, too. It’s a gangster epic about a gang of young boys who grow up to be bootleggers during Prohibition, and then are forced to confront the ghosts of their violent and betrayal-filled pasts in old age.
It ambitiously and successfully spans numerous decades, and features one of Robert De Niro’s best performances. It’s a dark and detailed look at a life of crime that refuses to sugarcoat or romanticize anything, which is what makes it simultaneously a challenging watch and one of the greatest movies of its decade.
5 ‘Gomorrah’ (2008)
While Goodfellas and other Scorsese crime movies often feature Italian-American characters in America, Gomorrah provides a look at crime families in Italy itself. It proves to be a gritty and often bleak watch, following various characters who are often interlinked and continually struggle with their lives of crime.
Scorsese himself even lent his name to the film when it got an American release, endorsing it and likely getting viewers outside Italy more interested in the film in the process. It’s a striking and ambitious film that balances various characters and subplots with ease, and the book it was based upon has since been adapted into a (quite different) TV series that ran for five seasons.
4 ‘The Irishman’ (2019)
Martin Scorsese’s longest feature film to date is The Irishman, an epic about the life of hitman Frank Sheeran, with a particular focus on his involvement with union boss Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance. It moves a little slower than other Scorsese crime movies, but that fits in with the film’s themes surrounding getting old, and the way life winds down as it approaches its end.
It still moves well, though, pacing-wise, and benefits from covering a ton of ground in its epic runtime. It feels a little like Goodfellas, except made by an older filmmaker and starring an older cast, making it a good deal more solemn and less flashy than the other Scorsese crime films it stands beside.
3 ‘City of God’ (2002)
One of the greatest crime films of all time, City of God depicts life in a Rio de Janeiro favela, focusing on a group of young boys who come of age in a dangerous and deadly environment. As things go on, they grow into teenagers, with one of the prominent characters doing all he can to escape the lifestyle he was born into, and another thriving within the violent way of life he’s always known.
It’s got a completely different setting than any Scorsese crime movie, of course, and also focuses on younger characters. But the way it’s paced and assembled gives off the feeling that it might have been at least a little inspired by Goodfellas or similar films, with it taking that influence and using it to create a crime film that’s unique, bold, and incredibly memorable.
2 ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (2012)
An over five-hour long movie that was released in two parts (both in 2012), Gangs of Wasseypur is one of the most ambitious crime epics of all time. It’s set in India, telling the story of a decades-long rivalry between two crime families, with the film ultimately showing this conflict play out over three generations and approximately 70 years.
It recalls movies like The Godfather, Scarface, and Goodfellas through its presentation, scale, and violence, but also manages to entirely be its own thing. It borrows from many sources and blends all its influences together in an expert fashion, making for a monumental and exciting film that’s as lengthy as it is enthralling, and is ultimately a must-watch for crime movie fans.
1 ‘The Godfather: Part II’ (1974)
Follow-ups don’t get much better than The Godfather: Part II. This film aims to be both a prequel and a sequel to the first film, showing how the Corleone crime family first came into existence while also showing how Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) runs the family business after his father’s passing.
While The Godfather presents a somewhat romanticized (at times) look at the mafia, The Godfather: Part II is darker, grittier, and even more emotionally intense. It’s those qualities that give it some similarities to Goodfellas, given that film aims to give a realistic and very honest look into mob life, in all its (occasional) ups and (numerous) downs.
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