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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama  |  28 September 1984 (Italy)
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 203,283 users  
Reviews: 487 user | 109 critic

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), 7 more credits »
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Top Rated Movies #72 | 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


Crime, passion and lust for power - Sergio Leone's explosive saga of gangland America. [Australia Theatrical] 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:

28 September 1984 (Italy)  »

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
See  »

Did You Know?


According to Sergio Leone, over 200 actors auditioned for the part of Max. See more »


In November, 1968, when Noodles visits the locker in the station and pulls out a wad of US Currency, the top bill is signed by W. Michael Blumenthal, President Carter's Secretary of the Treasury from January 23, 1977, to August 4, 1979. 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 »


Featured in Ben-Hur: The Epic That Changed Cinema (2005) See more »


La Gazza Ladra
Directed by Francesco Molinari Pradelli
from LP 894 103 "Rossini Overture"
P 1968 Distributed by Polygram Dischi S.p.A.
Music by Gioachino Rossini (uncredited)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A sprawling, deliberately paced, and generally a superbly crafted piece of work
19 October 2003 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It's been said that when one watches a "spaghetti" western (one of the "Man with no name" films with Clint Eastwood) filmmaker Sergio Leone's trademark cinema style and flair for clear storytelling is instantly recognizable. This is no truer than in his most ambitious effort, Once Upon a Time in America, in which his usage of close-ups, concise camera movement, sound transitions and syncs, and the sudden change in some scenes from tenderness to violence. And, he pulls it off without making the viewer feel dis-interested. Of course, it's hard to feel that way when watching the cast he has put together; even the child actors (one of which a young Jennifer Connelly as the young Deborah) are believable. Robert De Niro projects his subtitles like a pro, with his occasional outburst in the right place; James Woods gives one of his first great performances as Max; Elizabeth McGovern is the heart of the film; and Joe Pesci should've had more than just a one scene appearance, thought it's still good.

It's a story of life-long friends, in the tradition of the Godfather movies with obvious differences, and the story cuts back and forth to Noodles (De Niro) in his old age returning from exile, looking back on his childhood in Brooklyn, his rise to power with his partners, and the twists come quite unexpectedly. The pace is slow, but not detrimental, and it gives the viewer time to let the emotions sink in. The story is also non-linear, and yet doesn't give away facts to the viewer- this is something that more than likely influenced Tarantino (and many others) in style. By the end, every detail that has mounted up makes the whole experience rather fulfilling, if not perfect. Finally, I'd like to point out the exceptional musical score. Ennio Morricone, as it says on this site, has scored over four hundred films in forty years, including Leone's movies. This would have to be, arguably, one of his ten best works- his score is equally lively, saddened, intense, and perhaps majestic for a gangster epic. Overall, it's filled with the same spirit Leone had in directing the picture, and it corresponds beautifully- there are some scenes in this film that would simply not work without the strings. Grade: A

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