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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Goodfellas can be found here.

Goodfellas is based on Wiseguy, a 1986 novel by Nicholas Pileggi. The title of Pileggi's book was changed to Goodfellas because it had already been used for a TV series and for Brian De Palma's comedy Wise Guys (1986).

The book is based on a true story, so the film follows the book fairly well except for a few changes. The character of Tommy is based mostly on mob enforcer Tommy DeSimone -- in the movie, Tommy's last name is never mentioned but it's "DeVito" in the closing credits. Played by Joe Pesci, Tommy is shown as a small man with a violent temper and as being somewhat older than Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) -- when Tommy & Henry first meet, they're both teenagers. In reality, DiSimone stood over six feet tall and was several years younger than Henry, disappearing when he was only 29. When Tommy, Henry, and Jimmy (Robert De Niro), were on their way to bury Billy Batts (Frank Vincent), Tommy was driving, not Henry. It was Tuddy (Frank DiLeo), not Tommy, who wanted Henry to come with him on the double date. Tommy just vanished, no one knows how he was killed, so the scene where Tommy is actually shot and the line about Tommy's mother not being able to have an open coffin at Tommy's funeral are both fictional and thrown in for dramatic license. The major change in the film adaptation is that Tommy isn't a main character in the book. He is only mentioned in it, but is still regarded as a violent killer. Several of the characters' names were changed for the film, the most notable being Paulie Vario, who became Paul Cicero. Tommy DeSimone was changed to Tommy DeVito, and Jimmy Conway was Jimmy Burke A.K.A. Jimmy Conway-Burke.

Warner Brothers did not receive permission to use the airline's logo in the film. It was an American Airlines ticket and the company did not want to be affiliated with the illegal operation depicted in the movie (drug trafficking).

Like Henry says to Karen during their argument when she visits, "This is what happens when you 'go away,'" i.e., when a wiseguy is sent to prison: you lose your support base in the mob, so Paulie refused to help Henry's family out. The reason is never fully explained, but it's probably because Paulie and other mob enforcers don't want to draw attention to the relationship they have with a convicted criminal like Henry or Jimmy. In light of that, the only way Henry could find (aside from working in the prison metal shop, etc.) to support Karen and his girls was to deal drugs in prison. Don't forget, Henry and his friends always considered themselves above manual labor or 9-5-type jobs, so Henry would look for an easy way to "put food on the table". Also, dealing drugs would earn Henry far more money than working in the prison would. Paulie tells Henry, in the backyard during the family dinner after Henry's released from prison, "I don't want any more of that shit...just stay away from the garbage...I'm not talking about what you did inside. You did what you had to do." And, as we see, Henry doesn't listen to Paulie's orders.

Yes they are, except for two updates: (1) Jimmy (whose original surname was Burke) died while being treated for lung cancer at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, on April 13, 1996; Burke had been transferred there for treatment from Wende Correctional Facility east of Buffalo, and (2) Henry Hill died in Los Angeles on June 12, 2012, aged 69.

It's an old film and tv technique called "breaking the fourth wall." Traditionally, a film or TV set is a closed world where the "fourth wall", i.e., the TV screen or film screen, is never addressed by the actors or characters in a show. By having Henry tell us directly that he was sad to be leaving the easy-going criminal life of a mobster, Scorsese makes the scene much more dramatic.

Actors who have had roles on the TV show "The Sopranos" who also made an appearance in "GoodFellas" include: Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Jennifer Melfi), Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti), Tony Darrow (Lawrence "Larry Boy" Barese), Tony Lip (Carmine Lupertazzi), Tony Sirico (Paulie Gualtieri), Vincent Pastore ("Big Pussy" Bonpensiero), Frank Vincent (Phil Leotardo), Anthony Caso, Tobin Bell, Gene Canfield, Nicole Burdette, Gaetano LoGiudice, Vito Antuofermo, Chuck Low, Frank Adonis, Suzanne Shepherd, Nancy Cassaro, Frank Pellegrino, Marianne Leone, Paul Herman, Frank Albanese, Anthony Alessandro, Victor Colicchio, and John "Cha Cha" Ciarcia.

Ultimate Guide to the songs from Goodfellas:

During the opening credits and opening narration: "Rags to Riches" by Tony Bennett

While young Henry is parking cadillacs: "Can't We Be Sweethearts" by The Cleftones

When they threaten Henry's mailman: "Hearts of Stone" by Otis Williams and The Charms

During the wiseguy get-together (cookout) at Paulie's home: "Sincerely" by The Moonglows

During the new suit/shooting victim (aprons.) scene: "Firenze Sogna" by Giuseppe Di Stefano

When Jimmy Conway is first introduced: "Speedo" by The Cadillacs

When young Henry gets pinched: "Parlami d'amore Mariu" by Giuseppe Di Stefano

When they first show the grown-up Henry Hill: "Stardust" by Billy Ward and His Dominoes

In the bar when the various mobsters are being introduced: "This World We Live in" by Mina

During the narration, the business partners scene, and when Henry and Tommy burn the restaurant: "Playboy" by The Marvellettes

During the double date; Karen's introduction: "It's Not for Me to Say" by Johnny Mathis

When Karen is stood-up by Henry: "I Will Follow Him" by Betty Curtis

When Henry and Karen enter the club from the rear: "Then He Kissed Me" by The Crystals

They divide the money from the airport heist: "Look in My Eyes" by the Chantels

When Henry and Karen at the resort and at the club: "Roses Are Red" by Bobby Vinton (incidentally, Bobby Vinton Jr plays his father in this scene.)

At Henry and Karen's wedding and reception: "Life Is But a Dream" by The Harptones

During the hostess party: "Leader of the Pack" by The Shangri-Las

During the narration of life in the mob/no outsiders: "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" by Dean Martin

When Billy Batts is introduced: "He's Sure the Boy I Love" by the Crystals

When Billy Batts gets beat up in the bar: "Atlantis" by Donovan

During the night out with the girlfriends: "Pretend You Don't See Her" by Jerry Vale

During the digging up Billy Batts' body: "Remember (Walkin' in the Sand)" by the Shangri-Las

When Janice is showing her girlfriends their apartment: "Baby I Love You" by Aretha Franklin

During the Prison life/dinner scene: "Beyond the Sea" by Bobby Darin

At Paulie's after Henry is paroled: "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" Performed by Tony Bennett

When Henry is cutting cocaine at Sandy's place: "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones

When Karen shows off the new house/furniture: "Wives and Lovers" by Jack Jones

When the babysitter (with baby) is introduced: "Monkey Man" by The Rolling Stones

When Jimmy chews out Johnny Roastbeef for the Cadillac: "Frosty the Snow Man" by The Ronettes

After Jimmy chews out Johnny Roastbeef: "Christmas" by Darlene Love

During the execution of Stacks: "Bells of St. Marys" by The Drifters

When they are in the bar, "They're going to 'make' him." Scene: "Unchained Melody" by Vito and The Salutations

When Jimmy contemplates killing Morrie: "Sunshine of Your Love" by Cream

When Dead bodies are being discovered: "Layla (Piano Exit)" by Derek and The Dominos

At the beginning of the helicopter sequence: "Jump into the Fire" by Harry Nilsson

After Henry leaves Jimmy's with the silencers: "Memo from Turner" by The Rolling Stones

When Henry almost has the car accident: "Magic Bus" by The Who

When Henry drives his brother home from the hospital: "Jump into the Fire" by Harry Nilsson - (2nd time played)

When Henry drops off the guns at Karen's mother's house: "Monkey Man" by The Rolling Stones - (2nd time played)

When Henry & Karen leave Karen's mother's house to go "shopping" & check the sky for the helicopter: "Mannish Boy" by Muddy Waters (it's a brief snip of the vocals by Muddy, but it's there)

When Henry and Karen drive to his cocaine connection's motel : "What Is Life" by George Harrison

When Henry is at Sandy's place mixing the coke: "Mannish Boy" by Muddy Waters (2nd time & much more recognizable)

During the End credits: "My Way" by Sid Vicious" and "Layla (Piano Exit)" by Eric Clapton's mid 70s band, Derek and The Dominoes

Both 'The Big Heist' and 'The $10 Million Dollar Getaway' cover much the same ground and feature the same characters but are more down-to-earth and tend to concentrate on the Lufthansa robbery and its aftermath. In some ways they are more true to life; for instance 'The Big Heist' depicts Tommy's physical appearance much more accurately than Goodfellas does. Fundamentally it depends on how much Henry Hill's recollections are to be trusted.


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