Why “Goodfellas” is the Quintessential Crime Film

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Many directors have that one defining film. But what film defines Martin Scorsese? The legendary director has a body of work that includes incredible achievements like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York, The Departed, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

However, one of his films seems to stand out in the landscape of film history. Goodfellas is often considered Scorsese’s masterpiece, but it’s also consistently in the conversation as one of the best films ever made. It’s surely his most widely-recognized film and embodies pretty much everything the director does well: gritty, virtuosic, completely amoral crime sagas. The film is undeniably a favorite of other filmmakers as well, evidenced by just how often Goodfellas is still referenced — either through homage, dialogue, or parody. It’s so impactful that it has basically created its own sub-genre—“Goodfellas-esque.” You know a film has made its mark on cinema when imitations are immediately recognized. Goodfellas has endured strongly through the decades and it’s not going anywhere. Unlike the criminals in his films, this is a life sentence that we are more than happy to serve.

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