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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

R | | Crime, Drama | 1 June 1984 (USA)
Trailer
2:41 | Trailer
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.

Director:

Sergio Leone

Writers:

Harry Grey (based on novel "The Hoods" by), Leonardo Benvenuti (screenplay by) | 6 more credits »
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Popularity
540 ( 69)
Top Rated Movies #72 | Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 11 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert De Niro ... Noodles
James Woods ... Max
Elizabeth McGovern ... Deborah
Treat Williams ... Jimmy O'Donnell
Tuesday Weld ... Carol
Burt Young ... Joe
Joe Pesci ... Frankie
Danny Aiello ... Police Chief Aiello
William Forsythe ... Cockeye
James Hayden James Hayden ... Patsy
Darlanne Fluegel ... Eve (as Darlanne Fleugel)
Larry Rapp ... Fat Moe
Dutch Miller Dutch Miller ... Van Linden
Robert Harper ... Sharkey
Richard Bright ... Chicken Joe
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Storyline

With the vivid memory of his long-gone childhood friends, Max, Patsy, and Cockeye, etched in his mind, his ferociously loyal partners-in-crime during their rise to prominence in New York's Prohibition-era Lower East Side, the defeated, penniless, and guilt-ridden former gangster, David "Noodles" Aaronson, returns to Manhattan. Not knowing what to expect, while on a mission to shed light on his opaque past, grizzled Noodles reunites with his only living friend, Fat Moe, after thirty-five haunted years of self-exile. However, the relentless, piercing sound of culpability stands in the way of finding closure, as the inscrutable content of a well-worn leather suitcase further complicates matters. And now, against the backdrop of a torn conscience, the sad and bittersweet recollections of more than fifty years of love, death, and everything in between, become inextricably intertwined, leading to even more puzzling questions. But, what are a man's options when he is left with nothing? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The epic and powerful story of an unforgettable era 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:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ennio Morricone had originally composed "Deborah's Theme" in the 1970s for another film, but it was rejected. Morricone presented the piece to Sergio Leone for use in the film, but Leone was initially reluctant to use it, since he considered it very similar to Morricone's main theme for Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). See more »

Goofs

When Max and Noodles are on the beach, Noodles' girlfriend lays a newspaper across his face. When the wind blows, you can see duplicate pages, revealing that it's a fake newspaper. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[In 1933, three goons question a young woman about Noodles]
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?
[second goon shoots her dead]
Beefy: [to third goon] Stay here in case that rat shows up.
One of Beefy's Thugs: Okay.
[...]
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Crazy Credits

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

Alternate Versions

The Brazilian DVD (Warner) is heavily censored by blurring and re-framing in the scene a woman pretends to be dead in the back of a hearse by blurring and re-framing. These cuts were originally made in the Korean release. The first Brazilian release by Flashstar is uncut. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Miller's Crossing (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

Yesterday
Words and Music by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Used by permission: Northern Songs (as Norther Songs Ltd.) c/o ATV Music
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User Reviews

Leone's ultimate film
16 May 1999 | by tencoSee 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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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

Italy | USA

Language:

English | Italian | French | Yiddish | Hebrew

Release Date:

1 June 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Once Upon a Time in America See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,412,014, 3 June 1984

Gross USA:

$5,321,508

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$5,472,914
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (re-cut) | (extended cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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