Classic Movie Scene: Goodfellas’ Opening Sequence

Guest blogger Sophie Stephenson writes:

Released in 1990, Goodfellas stars Ray Liotta as Henry, a half-Irish, half-Italian American, who as a boy became involved with a group of mobsters, and as he got older began more and more to embrace the life of crime. The opening credits of the film are an explosive introduction to the crew.

We first see Henry and his two fellow protagonists, James and Tommy, driving along a dark road, when after hearing banging sounds coming from the boot (trunk) of the car they pull over to the side of the road. On opening the boot they realize a man they have inside and had thought to be dead is still alive. On discovering this, Tommy stabs the man several times in the chest, after which James continues to shoot him four times. The fact that they stabbed and then shot so many times when just once would have obviously been fatal shows how gratuitous this violence is. The camera then focuses on Henry as he closes the car boot, with him giving a voiceover saying “As far back as I could remember I always wanted to be a gangster,” followed by the track “Rags to Riches” by Tony Bennett. This jazzy number, along with Liotta’s voiceover, gives the impression of a glamorous lifestyle.

It is notable that almost any scene in the film containing violence is accompanied by an upbeat song, creating an exciting atmosphere and the idea that these people are certainly living the high life, which while the Production Code was still in use would not have been allowed. This is true of many of Martin Scorsese’s other works, such as 2006’s The Departed, and is one of many elements which have contributed to Scorsese being considered a superb auteur.

Sophie Stephenson is a 23-year-old student from Edinburgh, Scotland, currently studying a degree in English and Film. It is her ambition to pursue a career in film journalism, and she started her blog to enable people to read her writing. She has a keen interest in crime and fantasy films. For more information, visit Literally Geeking.

What’s your favorite movie scene? Let us know in the comments!