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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

R | | Crime, Drama | 1 June 1984 (USA)
2:40 | Trailer

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A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life.



(novel), (screenplay) | 6 more credits »
778 ( 85)
Top Rated Movies #67 | Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 11 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Bright ...
James Hayden ...
Eve (as Darlanne Fleugel)
Larry Rapp ...
Richard Foronjy ...
Officer 'Fartface' Whitey (as Richard Foronji)


Epic tale of a group of Jewish gangsters in New York, from childhood, through their glory years during prohibition, and their meeting again 35 years later. Written by Andrew Welsh <andreww@bnr.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


As boys, they said they would die for each other. As men, they did. See more »


Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence, sexual content, language and some drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




| |

Release Date:

1 June 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Érase una vez en América  »

Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)


$5,300,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (re-cut) | (extended director's cut)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


By 1980, Sergio Leone spoke of casting Paul Newman as old Noodles and Tom Berenger as young Noodles; the role of Max going to Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel or John Malkovich; Liza Minnelli would be Deborah and Brooke Shields as young Deborah; and Claudia Cardinale would be Carol. See more »


When young Noodles holds young Peggy in the toilet and she says "You better stop squeezing me, or I'm gonna poop in my pants", the beginning of her line sounds twice, as if two different takes have been overlapped with a cross fade. See more »


[first lines]
[In 1933, two goons rudely question a young woman]
Beefy: Where is he? Where's he hiding?
Eve: I don't know... I've been looking for him since yesterday.
[second goon slaps her harshly; she falls onto the bed]
Beefy: I'm gonna ask you for the last time: Where is he?
Eve: I don't know... What are you gonna do to him?
[Two shots are heard]
Beefy: [to his partner] Stay here in case that rat shows up...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Joey Faye is credited as the "adorable old man." See more »


Referenced in Rémy Julienne: 50 ans de cascades (2013) See more »


Music by Ennio Morricone
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A Profound Expression of Truth Regarding Friendship andBetrayal
17 January 2000 | by (Alhambra, CA) – See all my reviews

This film is a profound expression of truth regarding friendship and betrayal. Noodles, played by Robert De Niro and Scott Tiler (during childhood), is a simple man and a thug with one credo: you can battle the entire world but you never betray a friend. During the course of this film we experience various pieces of Noodles's life, from childhood, through young adulthood and old age. We learn what happens to his friends, his foes and the love of his life, Deborah. The time span considered is long, including Noodles's childhood shortly after the turn of the century, through the prohibition era, and finally the 1960's.

The film is about relationships; the many years Noodles spends away from his friends receive only a cursory mention. The film, like life and memories, unfolds slowly and reflectively. Sergio Leone's cuts are long and each scene is beautifully amplified my Ennio Morricone's haunting score. The story is not told chronologically. Instead, the chapters of the story are slowly revealed like pieces of a great jigsaw puzzle. Each delicious piece might make us laugh, or cry, or smile, or feel shock. But, as each piece falls into place, a mystery unfolds. When the final piece is revealed, the true essence of the story becomes clear and a sad and beautiful tapestry comes into view.

This film is a true masterpiece, expressing a profound statement about friendship and betrayal, with fantastic acting, writing, directing and music. There is a shortened, two-and-a-half-hour version of the film released that is a disaster. It is like trying to understand a jigsaw puzzle with half of the pieces missing. The original four-hour film can be viewed and enjoyed several times and each time the viewer will see something new.

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Why does he rape Deborah? scarlet-45219
Wow it's a long film! Worth it???? RandytheRam83
what is your true 'definitive' version? lkay44
Bothered with the soundtrack blindg
It pains me to see so much hate for this film joet1999
How come Noodles never knew Max had become the governator Baley? MsAnaS
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