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A Comparative Analysis of Goodfellas and the Godfather

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A Comparative Analysis of Goodfellas and the Godfather essay
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The Crime Family Feud

Few films have been able to surpass Goodfellas and The Godfather in the crime drama genre. However, these two films have exceptionally different aspects. Both film follow organized crime and the mafia but are told and directed in different manners. Goodfellas, directed by Martin Scorsese, is a much more gritty portrayal of crime. While The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is a much more sophisticated portrayal of crime. Goodfellas is a better crime drama than The Godfather because of its realistic portrayals of crime, its easily accessible narrative, and its entertainment value.

Goodfellas is a better crime drama film than The Godfather because of its realistic portrayal of crime. The Godfather portrays crime in an excessively dramatic matter. The dialogue in The Godfather feels unnaturally dramatic. Marlon Brando’s performance of Don Vito Corleone is dramatized excessively. Corleone’s dialogue is well acted and is well suited for the camera but it does not feel realistic. For instance, Don Corleone’s first piece of dialogue in the movie involves speaking to a man who wants vengeance after his daughter is beaten. Corleone appears to refuse the offer because the man has never made any previous attempts to become acquainted with him. However, after the man pleads with Corleone and promises to be a friend, Corleone goes through with the offer so long as the man returns the favor at some point. This dialogue between the two characters is performed well and gives the audience a glance at Corleone’s character and intentions. However, the situation is clearly dramatized. Director Francis Ford Coppola’s take on crime throughout the film is romanticized with too much excess. The mafia is portrayed as a force that is not affected by police and politicians. The only way that the mafia is taken down in the film is by other families. For example, the audience is led to believe that the Corleone family has bought out nearly all the politicians and press in New York City. Other families are portrayed as having power over the police. The amount of influence that the mafia is portrayed to have is overwhelming. Realistically, the mafia would have to worry about more than other families. The epic conclusion of the film involves the murder of every conceivable enemy that the Corleone family has. The problem with this ending is how easily the murders happen. There is no struggle with any of the murders and each of them goes as planned. While the ending is certainly fulfilling and spectacular, it requires the audience to suspend some belief. The Godfather is too polished and refined for a realistic crime drama. For example, the film is shot in a cinematic style that details the inner workings of the mafia in a dramatic way rather than in a realistic way. The movie is fantastic and revered by critics as one of the greatest films of all time, but aspects of the film are clearly amplified too greatly. Unlike The Godfather, the dialogue between characters in Goodfellas feels realistic and natural. For example, the beginning of the movie is narrated by Ray Liotta’s character, Henry Hill. He describes his fascination with gangsters and how he always wanted to become one. The dialogue flows seamlessly and naturally. Director Martin Scorsese portrays character dialogue in a way that does not feel forced. Characters speak to each other like they would in reality. One significant reason for this is that the film is based on a true story. Scorsese is able to portray dialogue in such a realistic manner because he has source material that is grounded in truth. The portrayals of crime in Goodfellas are gritty and violent. For instance, the opening scene involves Joe Pesci’s character stabbing a nearly dead person multiple times followed by Robert De Niro’s character shooting the person multiple times. Crime is not glamorous and should not be perceived in such a way. The intense violence throughout the film informs the audience of this fact. In Goodfellas, criminals are often seen displaying paranoid behavior. For instance, criminals are very careful with using phones and often want to talk face to face. This realism is what all serious crime dramas should display. Goodfellas portrays crime in a mostly unrefined manner. For example, in one scene the camera pans by people in a restaurant. The narrator talks briefly about the characters in the restaurant associated with crime. This take exists mostly to show the scope of organized crime, as most of these people are never mentioned again throughout the film. The film does not waste time attempting to explain the influence of each person but instead focuses on a few main characters. This personal narrative proves to be effective in portraying crime realistically.

The narrative of Goodfellas is easily accessible and benefits a crime drama film better than The Godfather’s narrative. The Godfather has a complicated narrative that limits its audience accessibility. For instance, the narrative of The Godfather is elegant. While many films would benefit from an elegant narrative, in a crime drama film it complicates the film. A large multitude of characters are introduced in the film. When a narrative is elegant like The Godfather, too many characters exist and they are not properly introduced. The audience will lose interest if they are unable to follow the film. Another example in the film that limits audience accessibility is the third-person narrative. The lack of a first-person narrative often further limits a film’s accessibility. For instance, films that contain first-person narratives will typically have a narrator that gently leads the audience through the film. Third-person narratives have a chance to lose the audience among the commotion of the film. A third example of The Godfather’s limited accessibility is the film’s theatrical and cinematic direction. The theatrical depictions of crime often conflict with the audience’s expectations of crime. Audiences often expect a crime drama to be rough and gritty, but The Godfather is a much more cinematic experience. This collision between expectations and reality disappoints the audience. On the other hand, Goodfellas has a narrative that is easily accessible, especially in comparison to The Godfather. Goodfellas has a narrative that is straightforward and easy to follow. The direction is clear and crisp. For example, the film as told from the main character’s perspective explains everything going on in a simple way. The experience of the audience is always accounted for. Director Martin Scorsese deliberately makes it difficult for the audience to be lost throughout the film. The first-person narrative significantly increases the audience’s accessibility. The audience is able to experience the movie with a character. This personal approach is much more relatable and often more enjoyable than a third-person narrative. For example, during Goodfellas, as main character Henry Hill approaches despair, the audience becomes attached to his story. He betrays his friends and the audience still feels attached to him. This attachment to the main character ultimately makes the film more accessible. The narrative also allows an honest approach to crime. Crime is never black and white. Henry Hill cannot be considered a good person but the audience remains attached to him. As Hill commits crimes, the audience is still committed to his story and wants him to be successful. The film allows the audience to be supportive of a criminal. Goodfellas is a tremendously accessible film in comparison to The Godfather.

Goodfellas is a more entertaining film than The Godfather. The Godfather is not a strictly entertaining film. For example, The Godfather is not a strictly entertaining film. For example, The Godfather is a film that takes itself seriously. Director Coppola was not interested in making a simply entertaining film. Coppola was interested in a compelling story that would be considered more than just a crime drama. However, his success would mean losing entertainment and would ultimately result in a weaker crime drama. Another instance in which The Godfather loses entertainment value is in its slow pacing. While The Godfather is certainly a crime drama, it takes quite a few scenes before the film displays an actual crime. The Godfather slowly introduces a story and incorporates crime into the story later into the film. This makes the film less entertaining than a typical crime drama. Another example of The Godfather’s lacking entertainment value is its dull storytelling. The Godfather devotes a great amount of its duration to character development. While character development is an important aspect of a good film, it is certainly not the most entertaining form of storytelling. Conversely, Goodfellas is an entertaining film from beginning to end. Goodfellas contains plenty moments of comic relief. Joe Pesci’s character, while a violent criminal, provides many moments of comedic relief. His character is hilarious especially when combined with Ray Liotta’s portrayal of Henry Hill. Ray Liotta’s laugh makes every example of comedic relief from Pesci’s character even more hilarious. The abundant comic relief throughout the film makes for an entertaining experience. Another example of the entertainment value in Goodfellas is its fast-paced nature. The first scene of the film involves a crime in action. This is followed by even more depictions of crime in the next few scenes. Scorsese wastes no time introducing crime into the film. Goodfellas is also an entertaining experience because of its storytelling aspects. Scorsese tells the story in a realistic but dramatic fashion. The film follows what the audience expects from a crime drama. Goodfellas is the quintessential crime drama film.

It is clear that both The Godfather and Goodfellas are excellent films. Oftentimes critics rank The Godfather above Goodfellas. However, Goodfellas is a better crime drama film. The Godfather is an immensely polished film but it does not represent crime as well as Goodfellas. Goodfellas realistically portrays crime better than The Godfather. While The Godfather has built an extraordinary reputation as a classic movie, Goodfellas challenges its position. Goodfellas remains a film that audiences can easily immerse themselves into because of its narrative and entertaining features. The crime drama genre would not be the same without these two movies, but ultimately Goodfellas is the genre defining film.

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