Once Upon A Time in America Vs. Goodfellas

Essay by takeud0wnbreakud0wnUniversity, Ph.D.A+, March 2008

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In Scorsese's GoodFellas and Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, the youth are ironically glamorized as underclass gangsters. Throughout both movies, the young teenaged boys attempt to create lives similar to those of their gangster heroes. During the course of their struggles they are forced to kill and steal and some of their own friends are killed in the process. They do all of this in order to achieve the "high class" life that they desperately would like to live. Thus, the main characters of GoodFellas and Once Upon a Time in America are very similar in certain respects including their gangster lives which are characterized by economic expansion, the drugs and liquor that they deal among society, their treatment of women, and the deaths they cause and suffer which define their eventual downfalls.

Throughout both GoodFellas and Once Upon a Time in America the viewer witnesses excessive drug use.

In GoodFellas Henry Hill becomes addicted to and sells a large amount of cocaine. During the film, Hill gets into the majority of his troubles due to his associations with cocaine. This display of wealth and power is a vital feature of the guerilla economics practiced within the criminal underworld, and as a young teen, Henry idolizes the success he sees around him on the streets. His childhood is a glorious time of economic expansion for the gang and the building of a vast empire. This eventually draws Henry into the drug world despite warnings from Paul Cicero, his "creator", and it eventually lands him in jail and ruins his life. In Once Upon A Time in America, the opening scene of the film is shot in an opium den where the main character, Noodles is depicted as an older man seemingly smoking his troubles away. Noodles...