8.4/10
313,611
721 user 133 critic

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 »
Reviews
Popularity
493 ( 47)
Top Rated Movies #72 | Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 11 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Edit

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
Edit

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:

As boys, they said they would die for each other. As men, they did. 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 »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Sergio Leone wanted his friend Sylvia Kristel to play the role of Carol, but the producers did not agree on the actress's participation and told the director to employ the "famous Hollywood star." See more »

Goofs

Just before the boys demonstrate the salt trick to the Italians, fluorescent lighting is visible inside the large buildings in the background. Fluorescent lights weren't commercially available until the 1940's. 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

Featured in Uvda: Episode #20.1 (2013) 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 »

User Reviews

 
A masterpiece and an atrocity!
11 January 2005 | by oldguybcSee all my reviews

This movie was a masterpiece. It ranks as one of the very best in film history, if not the best. At Cannes people yelled and screamed, couldn't believe just how good it was. The profound atrocity was a combination of two completely brainless acts, the first being Zack Stienberg's hatchet job for US release, supposedly requested by either Warner Bros or The Ladd Company (one blames the other now) and the second was the lack of anyone (and everyone)to post anything in this great film for Academy Award consideration, of which probably as many as 14 nominations and 4 sure- fire Oscars went down the toilet.

These atrocities were perpretrated, I believe, with two reasons in mind, the first to preserve the dim hope of "The Killing Fields" (Daly & Semel's baby) of garnering any awards... and second, to try to boost up the non- foreign chances. Warner Bros knew just how good it was, that goes without saying. The problem was... they already had their share of cash cows and they wanted a real star- studded showpiece to point at. The small minds already had their showpiece but, alas, it was an "eye- tallyan" flick with a producer/director who didn't communicate well. The hatchet job was carefully planned, I believe... the so- called "sneak preview" was done in Canada and not well received, probably due to the fact that the sound system was over- amped and the film 'broke' 3 or 4 times during the showing, what a farce! The awards snub started with the GGs and carried right thru. What a myriad of stupid and utterly pointless decisions! Must have literally tore Leone's heart out when he learned what they had done.

Morricone's score was a sure- thing Oscar, no question about it. DeNiro and maybe even Woods would have fought it out for best actor, Tuesday Weld as supporting actress, any one of 4 or 5 other supporting actors & actresses, most notably William Forsythe, cinematography, film editing, the list goes on & on... (best picture...Amadeus???? give me a break!!) Just what in the hell were they thinking?

Saw it in a theater 20 years ago and then again on TV about 1998 and finally in its correct format(on DVD) about two years ago and again last week at a friend's house. Stirred up all those angry thoughts all over again... sorry about that, getting' old & crotchety.


505 of 1,004 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 721 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »
Edit

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 »

Edit

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 »

Contribute to This Page



Recently Viewed