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Donnie Brasco (1997)

R  |   |  Biography, Crime, Drama  |  28 February 1997 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 214,331 users   Metascore: 76/100
Reviews: 233 user | 113 critic | 21 from Metacritic.com

An FBI undercover agent infiltrates the mob and finds himself identifying more with the mafia life, at the expense of his regular one.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tim Curley (as Zeljko Ivanek)
Walt MacPherson ...
Ronnie Farer ...


This true story follows FBI agent Joe Pistone as he infiltrates the mafia of New York. Befriending Lefty Ruggiero, Pistone (under the name Donnie Brasco) is able to embed himself in a mafia faction led by Sonny Black. Ruggiero and Pistone become tight as the group goes about collecting money for 'the bosses'. Eventually, the group become big-time when Black himself becomes a boss; all the while, Pistone collects evidence. However, the trials and tribulations of the undercover work become more than Pistone can bear. His marriage falls apart, and to top it off, the mafia suspect a mole in the organization. The real dilemma is afforded to Pistone, who knows if he walks away from the mafia, Ruggiero will be the one punished. Written by P. Wong <pwong@nt.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In 1978, the US government waged a war against organized crime. One man was left behind the lines. See more »


Biography | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some strong graphic violence, pervasive strong language and brief nudity and sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

28 February 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Brasco  »

Box Office


$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$11,660,216 (USA) (28 February 1997)


$41,954,997 (USA) (13 June 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (extended cut)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When Donnie and Nicky read the newspaper headline about the boss getting killed, the picture shows mob boss Carmine Galante, who was killed in back of a Brooklyn, N.Y. restaurant in 1979. See more »


The shaving cream on Jilly, who gives Donnie the thumbs up, changes between shots. See more »


[repeated line]
Lefty: I think I just shit my pants.
See more »


Referenced in Big Apple: No Good Deed (2001) See more »


Breath Of The Jungle
Written and Performed by Curt Sobel
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

An absorbing, well made gangster movie.
17 September 2003 | by (Todmorden, England) – See all my reviews

Mike Newell is the weirdest choice for director of a Mafia drama, but he actually makes a terrific fist of it, delivering one of the very best gangster movies ever made. Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Anne Heche and Michael Madsen are all in top form in front of the camera, too.

Depp plays undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone in this intriguing true story. Pistone is trying to infiltrate his way into a mob family in order to gather evidence against them. He assumes the identity of "Donnie Brasco" and slowly but surely earns the love and trust of an old-pro hit-man named Lefty Ruggiero (Pacino). As the months go by, Pistone's marriage begins to fall apart as he is away from his wife (Heche) pretty much all the time. The line between his real life and his undercover life blurs together and he finds himself dangerously close to being seduced by the violent Mob lifestyle.

Donnie Brasco is an extraordinary film in many ways. As already mentioned, the performances are note-perfect. But there's so much more to it than that. The late 70s period details are impeccably captured; the dialogue is extraordinarily raw and realistic; the moral dilemma facing Depp is achingly, agonisingly conveyed. It's such a powerful picture, completely involving, that by the end you find yourself wrapped up in Pistone's predicament, asking yourself what decisions you would make in the same circumstances. Very few movies genuinely inspire you to debate the whats, whys and wherefores of the main character and his actions... but with Donnie Brasco, that's just what you'll find yourself doing.

59 of 64 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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