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9 Movies like Goodfellas:  A Life of Crime

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Naomi Vowles itcherLooking for a film which gives you a glimpse into the life of a gangster? These movies like Goodfellas, including The Departed and Donnie Brasco should do the trick! ~ Naomi Vowles

Goodfellas (1990) is one hell of a film, telling the (mostly) true story of a real life descent into mob life as seen through the eyes of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), his friends and family, with a timeline spanning twenty-five years.

One of director Martin Scorsese’s best films, Goodfellas is widely considered as one of the best films ever made. The film weaves a complex narrative, and has frequently been praised for its honesty in portraying both the benefits and pitfalls of a mobster’s life. If you enjoyed Goodfellas, be sure to check out the other films on this list!

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Movies Similar to ‘Goodfellas’…

‘The Godfather’ (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)

The Godfather is a cinematic classic, and provided many of the blueprints for all Mafiosi-centric films thereafter. The first of a legendary trilogy depicting the Corleone crime family and, in particular, the personal journey of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), the film also features a stellar performance from Marlon Brando as his father, mob boss and titular ‘godfather’ Vito Corleone.

The second of the Godfather trilogy is, arguably, a better film, but hats off to the one which kicked it all off – an atmospheric, claustrophobic masterpiece in its own right.

Similarity Match: 95%
A different tone to Goodfellas, but the similarities are evident, as the central narrative of one man’s journey through the mob is vividly displayed, continuing in the subsequent sequels. The film is supported by a now infamous score and several equally infamous performances!

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‘The Departed’ (Martin Scorsese, 2006)

Scorsese returned to one of his favourite themes with The Departed, a new-millennium take on the corrupting influence of US mob rule. Instead of focusing on one central character the film tells the stories of two men ultimately consumed by their attempts at living a double life (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, respectively).

One is attempting to infiltrate an infamous gang to bring it down, the other is attempting to infiltrate the police force for much the same reason. It’s a masterful balancing act by a director who knows how to handle this subject matter.

Sound good? Make sure to also have a look at these other movies similar to ‘The Departed’.

Similarity Match: 80%
Supremely entertaining fare from a talented filmmaker who knows how to get the best out of his performers. Look out for Jack Nicholson as a particularly unpleasant mob boss, weaving a spider-like web around the city of Boston.

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‘Casino’ (Martin Scorsese, 1995)

Like Goodfellas before it, Casino, another great film by Martin Scorsese, gives us a glimpse not only of the horrors of life in the mob but a sense of the perceived importance of both loyalty and family within it.

Centred around crime-centric Las Vegas casinos in the 1970s and 1980s, the film is one of the most underrated of Scorsese’s career, and well worth a watch for fans of this genre. 

Similarity Match: 75%
An ensemble piece rather than a singular one, the film is nonetheless an atmospheric and moody thriller by Goodfellas’ director, again featuring many of the same cast members as the original film on top form.

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‘Donnie Brasco’ (Mike Newell, 1997)

Donnie Brasco tells the tale of an undercover cop infiltrating a vicious mafia gang through any means necessary. As the story continues, the rigours of everyday mob life start to take an increasingly serious toll on his real life.

The film shares a similar destructive ark to Goodfellas, and featured a tense, above-average performance from Johnny Depp in the central role as an increasingly desperate man struggling to keep a hold on his own moral centre, and an equally impressive turn from Al Pacino as a mob member he begins to form a genuine loyalty to. 

Similarity Match: 75%
The sense of being trapped within the criminal life whilst also acknowledging its benefits is central to both Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco. The storytelling from one man’s point of view also lends more similarities.

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If You Like ‘Goodfellas’, You Will Like…

‘Mean Streets’ (Martin Scorsese, 1973)

It’s impossible to compile a decent list of crime films without a pretty heavy showing from Martin Scorsese, and this list is no exception. Mean Streets is another one from the master himself, made some 17 years before Goodfellas, in his first film which features, amongst others, Robert De Niro in one of many Scorsese collaborations.

This film sets the scene for the formula Scorsese perfected in Goodfellas, making it a must-watch for big fans of the latter, with a similar atmosphere crafted by a then unknown rookie director.

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‘Once Upon a Time In America’ (Sergio Leone, 1984)

Set in the messy aftermath of Prohibition, this gangster film tells the story of one man’s need to confront the demons he hoped to have left behind in that bygone era. Featuring a stellar performance from long-time Scorsese collaborator Robert De Niro, the film is directed by spaghetti-western legend Sergio Leone.

This is a film on an epic scale, at nearly four hours long. It’s multi-layered and grand in scope, one to immerse yourself in unreservedly as a legitimate cinematic experience!

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‘Carlito’s Way’ (Brian De Palma, 1993)

Not a gangster-film as such, but Carlito’s Way certainly shows the perils of entering into a life of crime, and does so in vastly entertaining, expansive style! Al Pacino stars as a recently released convict vowing to go ‘legitimate’… until his lawyer (brilliantly played by an on-form Sean Penn) gets him into trouble once more…

Carlito’s Way features some great performances and some truly tense moments. Look out for the edge-of-your-seat train-chase scene towards the end of the movie!

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‘The Untouchables’ (Brian De Palma, 1987)

The ‘Mob’ as seen from the outside, with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery launching a desperate bid to take down real-life Chicago mob boss Al Capone (Robert De Niro).

Plenty of shoot-outs and taut confrontations in a classy, slick action thriller which plays around with real life events to forge a couple of hours of pure unadulterated entertainment.

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‘Scarface’ (Brian de Palma, 1983)

No list of crime films is really complete without Brian De Palma’s Scarface, worth a watch for many things including the indulgent depiction of gangster life, but perhaps most famous for Al Pacino’s frankly infamous ‘Say hello to my little friend!’ line during a particularly vicious shoot-out.

Check out this article for more movies like ‘Scarface’.

A great raucous and wildly entertaining film with plenty of memorable moments, take a seat and immerse yourself in this absolute classic!

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In Conclusion…

What are your favourite crime films? Do you have a favourite from the list?

Feel free to comment with your own suggestions!

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