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Goodfellas Cinematography Analysis Essay

Goodfellas is an American crime drama that was released in 1990. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it stars Robert DeNiro and Ray Liotta. The film is about the life of Henry Hill (Liotta) who becomes involved with the mafia during his teens and rises to a high level position within their ranks before turning informant against them after being arrested for drug dealing in 1980. The goodfellas cinematography analysis essay will discuss how goodfellas uses camera techniques to convey meaning, mood, time passage and even symbolism throughout its duration.

Essay 1

Martin Scorsese has several works that are deserving of acclaim. Almost every film is a distinct attempt to portray human existence as it is, with its own benefits and drawbacks. It isn’t enough for Scorsese to simply produce a movie; he must achieve a masterpiece where each angel, camera movement, and frame has its own meaning and function.

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His Goodfellas, a 1990 film, is one of them. Despite the fact that this movie did not win the Oscar for best picture (Dances with Wolves took it instead), Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci’s Goodfellas is still regarded as an essential piece of work that prompted Scorsese to return to gangster cinematography and take another significant step in his career. In this paper, several cinematographic aspects such as movie shots, optics, movements , compositions, and long takes in Goodfellas will be discussed.

Body. Movie shots

The sequences in Goodfellas, as well as all other motion pictures, are made up of a variety of shots that seek to construct a full and thorough scene (Corrigan 66). Scorsese’s goal with the frames and angles in Goodfellas is to overwhelm the viewer with information, which is why each frame contains numerous details to notice.

The following are some examples of the director’s choices in frames to communicate “the freshness and vitality of a real world.” (Lopate 241) The idea is that even the film’s opening shots might quickly unsettle viewers. For instance, when the three major characters, Henry, Jimmy, and Tommy, are in a vehicle (ELS): the director wishes to emphasize their friendship, business, and trust despite audience not being aware of their relationships. Another shot when Karen holds the weapon and looks at it from above (MS): the director wants to convey the notion of human decision when a young girl understands what awaits her, that she has a choice, and that she must decide. Her choice was based on emotions and sentiments.

The opening shots of the film are from a distance. The sequence is followed by several close-ups depicting the little girl on her deathbed and Karen’s interview with Henry, who has survived his injuries after being shot twice by Karen to commit suicide because of betrayal (CU). The gun isn’t just a weapon; it’s also a symbol that shouldn’t be recognized yet continues to dominate. The black man was shot in rapid succession by Tom at the end of the scene (ELS). Life and human limitations in controlling events are defined by the selected shot. Finally, there’s the pink vehicle shot where two bodies lie dead on the ground (LS): it was an example of a message disguised as a murder, intended to be both cruel and expected.

Angles are also important in the film. The importance of camera angles in film is often discussed. Even if someone does not understand the message or tone of the character, director’s hints will aid in defining their essence. For example, an eye-level angle when Henry cooks at home makes the character ordinary with the responsibilities inherent to people who have to live, work, communicate, and analyze their behavior; a low angle when Henry stands close to the vehicle while holding Billy Batz is employed by the director to emphasize that this character has something important to say regarding the audience; The high vantage point when Karen discovers her husband has been arrested and will spend two years in jail is employed to highlight the character’s hopelessness.


When Henry goes to Copacabana, the most spectacular example of blended camera movement and actor movement is seen. Everything remains in its place yet continues to move, people are required to hurry up in order to accomplish their goals, events are difficult to manage, for this reason the director wanted to employ as many moving subjects as feasible to convey current changes and society’s demands through the use of running as a symbol.

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Optics and camera’s focus

There are three types of eye movements employed in the film. The use of shallow focus, deep focus, and perspective focusing (Mamer 23) demonstrates the significance of one image over others.

For instance, in a restaurant, it’s simple to pick out the main characters since they aren’t powerful enough to stand out from the crowd. The director intends to demonstrate that while these three individuals perform the leading roles, there are still numerous people who play identical roles in society.

When Karen aims the gun at Henry, the shallow focus is utilized, as the image of the weapon does not appear to be detailed. Frequent perspective focuses occur throughout the film as the director explains and describes the narrative from many perspectives.

Composition of the movie

Film composition is all about arranging the elements of a movie in such a way that the audience may freely enjoy it. The director must display his talent for integrating each component of the work with its meaning in order to succeed at creating a film. Scorsese demonstrates how an excellent composition should appear. This film is not only about organized crime. It also contains themes such as friendship, collaboration, business, love, sex, and drugs, to name a few. Scorsese films the takes; even if some are not perfect or significant, the significance of each element is indisputable.

Necessity of long takes in Goodfellas

The primary aim of any lengthy take is to create the appropriate dramatic or narrative impact, and in Goodfellas, one such breathtaking shot is Karen and Henry’s stroll along the Copacabana. The director demonstrates what Karen should expect because it is her boyfriend’s domain: she is tempted with a desire to peer into the criminal underworld, and Henry becomes interested in the notion that he may open this world to his girlfriend.

Film stock and the tonality of colors

The colors in 1990’s Goodfellas were often variable in their natural saturation. The darker moments (when the characters are in the car after Billy Batz’ murder), for example, appear to be more saturated in order to emphasize the film’s dramatic mood, however when viewed under more appropriate lighting conditions, they will be spot on.

Success of lighting in the movie

In the same sequence in which Henry and Karen are strolling through the club, you may note how effectively the director utilizes lighting to create a sense of drama. As a result of this decision, it appears that the play between light and shadow reflects humanity’s belief in duplicity. Henry is as quick as a butterfly who cannot define the dangers of the dark environment.

To put it another way, in this historical drama set during the Civil War, certain key colors of lighting are used to convey significant themes and emotions. Of course, there are many other examples in the film where various keys of light were employed to express various ideas and sentiments. Scorsese uses lighting to communicate what is going on inside his characters’ minds. It’s worth noting that one of the initial scenes in the movie is red-hued. Overall crimson tones in the shot symbolize hope, mystery, and human destiny at once. The director believes that this story has a foundation and that movies like these intend to offer a number of concepts linked with human existence, feelings, life purposes.


In general, the methods utilized by Scorsese in his Goodfellas as well as the acting of each character in the film are perfectly chosen so that the message of the story can be understood and appreciated, while also allowing for enjoyable viewing.

The evaluation of viewpoints, compositions, lighting, frames, and angels, for example, helps to highlight the major elements of the film and establish a director’s intended meaning. Because each scene is a unique blend of an idea and a method that reveals the concept, it is not surprising that many people enjoy this film as well as learn from it.

Essay 2

When we think of a “Goodfella,” we usually think of a kind, modest, and maybe even honorable man. Maybe someone like your father or a coach or teacher. Goodfellas may appear to be all of these qualities or people from the outside looking in when watched by Scorsese. Ironically, being a “Goodfella” (or wise guy) entails more about avarice, corruption, and cold-hearted murder than humility and honesty. Throughout the entire film, Scorsese uses mise en scene, editing, and cinematography to bring us into the gritty underworld of the Italian Mafia.

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In the first scene of Sound design, which also establishes how sick and “comfortable” these characters have gotten with their mobster lifestyle, it creates suspense as well as helps us understand how unhealthy and “comfortable” they’ve become. In cinema, sound is frequently underutilized. It’s something that’s very easy to overlook, yet it has a significant impact on the film’s overall success and public perception. Films would seem odd and uninteresting without appropriate sound effects, dialog, or music. Music can be utilized in almost every movie to create such things as tension, suspense, and emotions that viewers can really relate to.

Sound effects can be used to enhance the believability of a scene and give you a feeling of actually being there. They also help establish the film’s tone and move it forward. Sound effects add to the realism of the whole picture and provide a sense of presence. The opening shot begins with the opening credits, which include the sound of a car driving by repeatedly in the distance. This suggests that they are driving along a straight road, such as a highway, at this point. When the credits conclude, we see the rear of a vehicle moving down the highway. It is completely alone on the road and is middle of the night. As a result of mise en setting , we have an example of mise en scene: “New York 1970,” appears on screen, giving away immediately where it’s set.

Henry Hill, Jimmy Conway, and Tommy Devito are seen sitting in a vehicle (Henry Hill, Jimmy Conway, and Tommy Devito) with the camera fixed on the driver. They all seem exhausted; the car is silent. At first, the sequence appears to be innocent enough; they all appear to be relaxed, with Jimmy Conway almost dozing off in his seat. The only noise comes from the car as it travels down the highway, with only its head and rear lights providing illumination. The scene has an air of intrigue thanks to the lightning.

The men remain silent until a faint rustling can be heard from the back of the vehicle. Tommy advises that it might be a “flat”, at which point he suggests that the guys pull over and check. The tone used by the men implies that they have not done anything wrong morally, implying that they have done nothing wrong.

The sequence then switches to the vehicle in the woods, with all three men getting out to look at the back of the car. The environment implies that they are all alone, with crickets heard and crunching leaves as they walk around the automobile. As they come closer to opening the trunk, Jimmy and Tommy pull out weapons, implying that they intend to bury whatever is inside.

Hill approaches the trunk, which is now all the way open, to peer inside. The suspense and tension as Hill makes his way towards the trunk are unrivaled in movies, since the audience has no idea what will happen when he opens it. A bloodied man (that the three had believed was dead) is seen barely alive when Hill cracks open the trunk. He’s softly pleading “No, no, no,” while murmuring something about “no” (or something similar). Just as you think he’ll be spared, Tommy charges up and plunges a huge kitchen knife into him.

You can hear the knife penetrate, then re-enter the body as it cuts through the dying man’s flesh. As he is committing the assault, Tommy is barbacially murmuring, demonstrating a lack of emotions and an inner fury that has been built up inside him. Just as you think things can’t get any more graphic, Jimmy approaches the victim and fires four rounds into his chest. The gun shots sound out over the corpse’s rattling impact with each bullet fired. Hill ducks away from camera for a fraction of a second after the second gun shot rings out.

The crossed-out letter G in front of a raised hand indicates that he is not as fierce or sadistic as Conway or Devito (there are many more examples like this later in the film). When the killing has finished, the lens filter becomes tinted red as the camera focuses on the corpse. This method of adding color to films is known as film tinting. The color red represents murder and blood, with rageful acts being depicted. Hill appears on screen, walking towards his automobile. He can be heard describing in the background, “I’ve always wanted to be a Gangster since I was little.”

The credits roll over the last shot, which is a close-up of his face. The song “Rags to Riches” by Tony Bennett begins to play as the frame freezes. This is an example of using popular music in a movie to connect with the audience. It fits perfectly with the main character/narrator Henry Hill, who goes from rags to riches throughout the film. The scene then cuts to black, and the title card appears on screen.

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The Opening Scene of the film does much more than introduce characters or a certain storyline. It establishes the tone for the rest of the film. It makes a point that people can be barbaric, cold-blooded killers at the turn of a switch, regardless how well-groomed and professional they appear. The use of sound effects and music throughout the film aids in this process, as do musical selections. This really helps you get an idea of when your watching in terms of historical period and glamorizes their criminal lifestyle considerably. Without the excellent sound design in Goodfellas, it wouldn’t be considered one of the 20th century’s best Mob/Crime dramas.

Essay 3

The goodfellas is a Martin Scorsese film based on the true story of Nicholas Pileggi’s 1985 best-selling book “Wiseguy.” This crime classic takes place over a 30-year period and is filled with violent passion. With previous crime movies such as mean streets, Scorcese established his legendary reputation for creating stylish virtuoso films.

For the first time, Scorsese contacted author Nicholas Pileggi right after reading Wiseguy to inquire if he could direct an adaptation of the book. The real Henry Hill, a Brooklyn-born kid of Irish and Sicilian parents who worked for the Mob as a youngster in 1955 before retiring when he stole, deceived, and schemed his way into trouble through drugs until becoming a Mob target, was based on interviews with. In 1980, Hill agreed to become a government witness in return for immunity.

Scorsese grew up in a mob-infested neighborhood of New York, and he felt like he had the ideal background to turn Wiseguy into a movie. The plot of the movies may appear strange, but they have several parallels. Both films are concerned with greed. They’re both about guys fantasizing about living a luxurious lifestyle through illegal means. Both contain questionable morality, as well as its glorification of greed and corruption, and unrestrained profanity. Both protagonists, Jordan Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street and Henry Hill from The Goodfellas, start out from modest origins before achieving their goals.

Essay 4

“I’ve always wanted to be a gangster since I was a kid. To me, being a gangster is superior to being president of the United States.” It’s the first voiceover line from Henry in Goodfellas; and it establishes the tone of the film. In 146 minutes, Martin Scorsese creates an incredible yet cruel world for gangsters. Scorsese tells Mean Street from the perspective of the lowest-level street criminals. It’s also about storytelling from that same basic level in Mean Street.

The film’s narrator, an elderly woman who has seen it all, tells us that the main character is a man consumed by power. The movie’s tension steadily builds up to the dramatic finale in which he must choose between his thirst for power and survival or accept his fate. Scorsese uses beautiful camera movements and vivid colors to create a lovely and dreamlike atmosphere for the tale. However, there is more behind the glamorous appearance.

In Goodfellas, Scorsese employs slow motion shots to convey Karen’s fantastic and hopeful feeling on her wedding (around 43:25). Slow speed but smooth movement of characters gives audiences an unreal but happy sensation. We might feel Karen is expecting a wonderful new life for herself. In Taxi Driver, Scorsese utilized slow motion in order to add a little mystery and dreamlike atmosphere to the city’s night view. There is also amazing slow motion in King of Comedy.

In the context of a popular film, slow-motion shots are used as many as four times. In Ranging Bull, Scorsese employs slow-motion scenes in several fight sequences, including flashing light shot and Jake’s breathing shot. The static camera angles and the slow-motion sequences create a drowsy and hypnotic atmosphere. They enhance audience involvement in the tale. Ranging Bull features another scene with many slow motion shots (about 1:21:07). Jake’s joy is highlighted by Scorsese using several slow motion shots to punctuate his victory in the game and attainment of the belt (around 1:21:07).

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