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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

8.4
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 180,983 users  
Reviews: 472 user | 102 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.

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Title: Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

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Top 250 #75 | Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 13 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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

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

Taglines:

As boys, they made a pact to share their fortunes, their loves, their lives. As men, they shared a dream to rise from poverty to power. Their story is now a "once upon a time" motion picture experience. [Australia Theatrical] See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

|

Language:

| |

Release Date:

28 September 1984 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Érase una vez en América  »

Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$5,300,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

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

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

To prepare a draft of the script, writer Norman Mailer barricaded himself in a Rome hotel with whiskey bottles, boxes of Cuban cigars and a typewriter for three weeks. Mailer then had a meeting with Harry Grey to appropriately complete the draft, but Sergio Leone did not find it acceptable. See more »

Goofs

Early, when the guy is being beaten, the thugs shoot the punching bag next to his head to scare him - the shot is fired with a semiautomatic pistol with a silencer. The thug then puts the silencer in the guy's mouth and cocks the hammer of the pistol - since it is a semiautomatic, the hammer should have already been cocked. See more »

Quotes

[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

For his cameo, Joey Faye is listed in the credits as playing the "adorable old man." See more »

Connections

Featured in Smashing UK Top 10: Top 10 Film Directors (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

St. James Infirmary Blues
(uncredited)
Written by Irving Mills
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Leone's ultimate film
16 May 1999 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Sergio Leone's films are all love letters to America, the American dreams of an Italian who grew up at the movies, who apprenticed with Wyler, and Aldrich, signed himself Bob Robertson, and gave us Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Charles Bronson as we know them. Sadly, America didn't always repay the compliment. Leone's were "spaghetti westerns", money makers to be sure, but deemed disrespectful of the great tradition of Ford, Walsh and Hathaway. Many critics and Holllywood insiders called his earlier Eastwood films cynical and violent bottom-line commercial exploitation. By the time that they caught on to Leone's genuine popular appeal, the director had already moved on. And, his Once Upon a Time in the West was damned as pretentious, bloated, self-indulgent: an art film disguised as a Western, the Heaven's Gate of its day. That film's canny blend of pop appeal and pure cinematic genius gradually dawned on the powers that be (or were), and helped give rise to the renaissance of American filmmaking in the early seventies. It is worth noting that The Godfather could have been made by Leone, had he chosen. Leone had been pitching a gangster film that would encompass generations, for a generation or two, himself. Rather than do the Puzo version finally thrown back at him, he waited an eternity, and finally realized this, his last finished project. That ellipse of a decade or so between conception and completed movie is paralleled in the film, itself, by Robert De Niro's ("Noodles'") opium dream of the American twentieth century, its promises, and betrayals. Naturally, Leone was betrayed, once again, himself, by America, and this truly amazing film, with its densely multi-layered, overlapping flashback structure was butchered upon its release, becoming a linear-plotted sub-Godfather knockoff in the process. Luckily, the critics had grown up enough in the meantime to finally get a glimmering of what Leone was up to, and demand restitution. Very few saw it properly in theaters, but the video version respects the director's intentions, more or less. Ironically, Leone had foreseen television screen aspect ratios as determining home viewing of the future, and abbreviated his usual wide screen format for this movie, so this most troubled last project was the first released on video to most properly resemble the true cinematic experience. For diehard fans of the Eastwood westerns impatient with this at first, watch those movies till you want and need more. This will eventually get to you. For art film fanatics who don't get the earlier Leones, travel in the reverse direction, and you will be pleasantly surprised. This is the movie that Leone spent a decade conceiving. It will deliver for decades of viewing to come.


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