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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

R | | Crime, Drama | 1 June 1984 (USA)
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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 (novel), Leonardo Benvenuti (screenplay) | 6 more credits »
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Popularity
480 ( 263)
Top Rated Movies #72 | Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 11 wins & 8 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

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:

Sergio Leone's three-hour, forty-minute epic masterpiece starring Robert de Niro. 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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Details

Country:

USA | Italy

Language:

English | Italian | French

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

Show more on IMDbPro »

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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Did You Know?

Trivia

The bar in which the five young members of the gang debate whether to take the dollar the bartender offers them for burning the newsstand, or roll the drunk, is McSorley's Alehouse on 15 E. 7th Street near St. Mark's Square. It opened in 1854, and is the oldest continually operating bar in the United States. The building, from which the boys exit, is not, however, the exterior of McSorley's. See more »

Goofs

Noodles watches a 1967 telecast concerning the investigation revolving around Chairman Bailey (on a decidedly European-looking television set). Twice during the telecast, we see a cameraman with a portable video camera and an assistant with a portable videotape recorder. The very first Electronic News Gathering (ENG) equipment wasn't available in the US until at least 1971. 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.
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Alternate Versions

In 2012, The Film Foundation together with the Leone estate exhibited the 250-minute version of the film at Cannes. However, due to a settlement over copyright issues for international releases, the new version could only be shown in Italy first before it was finally released internationally in October 2014. The restored version adds the following six additional scenes:
  • Before the opening credits are displayed, additional disclaimers about the restoration are introduced, including that the film was restored and color corrected in 4K. The restoration adds more yellow to the film's visual look. However, the new scenes are based on the work print, which does not have the same color quality as the original prints could not be found, hence the semi-monochromatic look.
  • After Noodles looks upon his name on the memorial stone, he meets the cemetery director (an appearance by Louise Fletcher) and gets more information about the memorial. He sees a car nearby, realizing he's being watched. He's able to write down the license plate number.
  • A flashback where after the car falls into the water, the boys fooled around longer. But they were scared of Noodles as the freighter's shovel keeps aiming at the water. Back to 1968, Noodles eventually traces the car's license plate to Senator Bailey's address. The car that tailed him earlier in the cemetery emerges out of the compound and explodes shortly after.
  • After Noodles comes out of the door, the chauffeur criticizes his lifestyle (explains why he interferes during the rape). Noodles counters him with the financial benefits.
  • Eve's actual introduction: Noodles is left alone in the street after the rape. He visits a prostitute bar and had sex with Eve, the call girl whom was allowed to be called Deborah. The real Deborah walks out of the restaurant in disappointment.
  • Deborah performs the final scene of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra before Noodles goes to visit her backstage.
  • There's a pivotal scene of Max / Senator Bailey with Jimmy. Jimmy and his other associates want him dead because of his many mistakes but there still remains some final organization details to be sorted out. Finally, Jimmy suggests that he commit suicide with the line "I'd be very happy for you tonight, if during all the noise of the party I'd hear a shot." This scene explains things like: why the car bomb went off during the second additional scene; dramatizes Max's motivation with Noodles in the next scene; completing the character arc of Jimmy from an idealistic union boss to a full-fledgling hoodlum; creates more uncertainty of what happened at the end with the garbage truck.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in De Kijk van Koolhoven: Eurocrime (2020) See more »

Soundtracks

Amapola
Music and Spanish lyrics by José María Lacalle (as Joseph M. La Calle)
English lyrics by Albert Gamse
Used by permission: Edward B. Marks Music Corporation
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A major disappointment
10 June 2003 | by carda1See all my reviews

Over the years, this film has gained a near-mythological status: how Sergio Leone turned down 'The Godfather' to make this opus, his 16 years trying to get it made, the film's 'butchering' upon its North American release in 1984, Leone's 'broken heart' that led to his death just a few years later, etc. So, after reading a glowing review about a new, uncut version on DVD, I couldn't wait to rent the film.

I wish I could say it was a masterpiece. Clunky dialogue, lousy acting, cardboard characters, a pompous, TV mini-series feel to the story, unbelievable situations all conspire to sink this movie under its own weight.

One of the problems seems to be that the script was written by Italians and then somehow translated into English by an American writer who must have a tin ear for dialogue. The actors, all of whom have been excellent elsewhere, are left to look foolish uttering the stuff. The only one who barely gets by is De Niro - we realize what a great actor he is since he makes the most what he's given, which ain't much. Poor James Woods, who has appointed himself the chief cheerleader for this film, leaves little scenery unchewed. The rest of the cast go from mediocre to embarrassing - even the lovely and talented Jennifer Connelly, who appears as the love interest as a child, does not escape unscathed.

Having said all that, I seem to be in the minority about this film. So go ahead and see it, if you must. Just don't mention it in the same breath as 'The Godfather'.


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