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Prince of the City (1981)

R | | Crime, Drama | 21 August 1981 (USA)
A New York City narcotics detective reluctantly agrees to cooperate with a special commission investigating police corruption. However, he soon discovers that he's in over his head, and nobody can be trusted.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Detective Gus Levy
Richard Foronjy ...
Detective Joe Marinaro
Don Billett ...
Detective Bill Mayo
Kenny Marino ...
Dom Bando
Carmine Caridi ...
Detective Gino Mascone
Tony Page ...
Detective Raf Alvarez
Norman Parker ...
Assistant U.S. Atty. Rick Cappalino
Paul Roebling ...
Assistant U.S. Atty. Brooks Paige
Assistant U.S. Atty. George Polito
Steve Inwood ...
Assistant U.S. Atty. Mario Vincente
Carla Ciello
Ronnie Ciello
Tony Turco ...
Socks Ciello


New York City cop Daniel Ciello is involved in some questionable police practices. He is approached by internal affairs and in exchange for him potentially being let off the hook, he is instructed to begin to expose the inner workings of police corruption. Danny agrees as long as he does not have to turn in his partners but he soon learns that he cannot trust anyone and he must decide whose side he is on and who is on his. Written by Josh Pasnak <chainsaw@intouch.bc.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A cop is turning. Nobody's safe.


Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

21 August 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El príncipe de la ciudad  »

Box Office


$8,600,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Screenwriter Jay Presson Allen gave the book to Sidney Lumet telling him that the material would make a very interesting movie. She also told Sidney Lumet to read the book quickly. See more »


Near the start of the film when Dan is pushing his brother Ronnie around, there's a large crack on the wall (probably from a previous shot). After he pushes Ronnie near the wall, another large crack appears but Ronnie is never shown hitting the wall. See more »


Santimassino: Gino, you and I know you're a whore. Just a poor old whore who bellies up for any crook with two bucks. A whore and a thief. As far as I'm concerned you only have two options. You cooperate with us, you make the calls, or you go to jail with the other thieves. I don't even want to think about the third option.
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References Ship of Fools (1965) See more »


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User Reviews

Excellent Film, Unflinchingly Realistic
27 September 2004 | by (Manassas, VA) – See all my reviews

Much has been made of this film's brilliance and how it was glaringly ignored at that year's Oscars. It richly deserved the awards it never received. Its realistic, gritty feel comes from the fact that the movie was lifted straight from the book, with only name changes. The viewer is drawn into the unraveling world of a narcotics' policeman as he recoils in disgust from what he does to maintain his squad's phenomenally high arrest rate, i.e., stealing, bribing, corrupting themselves to nail the corrupt. Cielo first targets people far from him but then the circle tightens until he fingers his own men. For a cop to rat on fellow cops is a deeply ingrained anomaly, an affront to the ties that bind the police in a brotherhood deeper than blood. The direction is great, the dialog heavily laced with coarse language that deepens the realism, and the acting is fantastic. Treat Williams never again received a role nor gave a performance that approached the stellar proportions of this one. Jerry Orbach is so immersed in his part that Dick Wolf cast him as a homicide detective for Law & Order based on seeing his acting in this movie. All of the characters are three-dimensional, human and evoke emotions. Some are admirable, others pitiful, some are despicable. Though long, Prince of the City is never boring, and it leaves its moral dilemmas largely unanswered, letting the viewer sort out who did the right thing. This film was made by Sidney Lumet as an apology to the NYPD for his hatchet job in Serpico. It succeeds in more ways than mere atonement; this movie is superior to its predecessor in many ways and was inexcusably blown off at that year's Academy Awards. Still powerful and has aged well, even if Treat Williams and Lumet haven't.

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