Hollywood loves its gangsters

But which mobster movie franchise is better?


Photos fair use from Warner Brothers and Paramount.

In this week’s edition of Cinema Summaries, Andrew compares Goodfellas and the Godfather.

Andrew Jáuregui, Interactive Media Editor

Hollywood loves the bad guys, and it’s no more evident than in its love for the gangster movie. Some of the greatest films of all time belong to this genre, with two similar, yet opposite, depictions of the mafia standing above the rest: Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas and Francis Ford Copola’s The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II.

The Godfather and its sequel are considered by many to be the greatest films of all time. However, the events of the film are much more dramatic and inaccurate than the life of gangsters depicted in Goodfellas. While this largely due to the films being an adaptation of the dramatic book of the same name, much of it also came from the fact that the movies were filmed at the height of the mob’s power in the seventies. 

The scripts had to be reviewed by actual members of the mafia, and they forbid the studio from using the words “mafia” or “Cosa Nostra”. The mob made sure that the image of gangsters we see in the films were a representation that the mob itself wanted us to see. On the other hand, the people behind the films pushed hard to make sure that the most important elements remained and the creative visions remained intact. The end result, films about gangsters crafted by both actual gangsters and the best minds in the film industry. Combined with legendary performances by Marlon Barndo, Al Paccino, Robert Duvall, Robert DeNiro, and many others, it is no wonder how the films have achieved an immortal success that will, without a doubt, continue to live on.

Almost twenty years later, Martin Scorsese would direct Goodfellas, a far more violent, vulgar, greedy, and immoral depiction of the Mafia. Having grown up around the real thing, Scorsese brought to the screen a depiction of the mob much more accurate than The Godfather. While a film of such nature could never have been released in the seventies, the mob’s power had severely weakened to this point, and little could be done to stop Scorcese from making his film. While the film does its fair share of glamorizing the life of mobsters, it is still one of the most accurate depictions ever seen in cinema.

Both films are classics in cinema history, each of them extremely worthy of their success. For those who haven’t seen them yet, I urge you to watch the first two Godfather films first to allow you to experience the more fantastical depiction of mobsters before experiencing the more realistic one.