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Was Goodfellas A True Story

Title: Goodfellas: Separating Fact from Fiction


The 1990 crime film “Goodfellas” directed by Martin Scorsese has left an indelible mark on popular culture. Known for its gripping storytelling and unforgettable performances, the movie has often been praised for its authenticity and realism. However, viewers have often wondered if the events depicted in the film were based on a true story. In this article, we will dive into the facts behind “Goodfellas” and explore seven interesting details relating to its real-life inspiration. Additionally, we will answer fourteen common questions to shed light on the film’s accuracy.

1. The Lufthansa Heist

One of the most famous heists in American history, the Lufthansa Heist, was a central event in “Goodfellas.” The robbery took place on December 11, 1978, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The film accurately portrays the meticulous planning and execution of the heist, which netted the criminals an estimated $5 million in cash and $875,000 in jewelry. However, some aspects were fictionalized for dramatic effect.

2. Henry Hill: The Real-Life Protagonist

The film is based on the life of Henry Hill, a former mobster turned government informant. Henry Hill, portrayed by Ray Liotta in the movie, was a member of the Lucchese crime family. After his involvement in the Lufthansa Heist and subsequent drug trafficking, Hill entered the Witness Protection Program in 1980. Hill’s real-life experiences heavily influenced the narrative of “Goodfellas.”

3. Real-life Characters

Several characters in the film were based on real individuals involved in organized crime. Jimmy Conway, played by Robert De Niro, was based on James Burke, a notorious mobster known as “Jimmy the Gent.” Similarly, Tommy DeVito, portrayed by Joe Pesci, was inspired by Thomas DeSimone, a violent associate of the Lucchese family.

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4. Violent Scenes: A Disturbing Reality

The violence depicted in “Goodfellas” accurately represents the brutality of organized crime. The film showcases various instances of violent acts, reflecting the ruthlessness and disregard for human life within the mafia. Experts in the field assert that the movie’s portrayal of violence aligns with historical accounts of mob activities during that era.

5. Accuracy of Dialogues

“Goodfellas” is renowned for its authentic and quotable dialogues. The film’s screenwriter, Nicholas Pileggi, drew heavily from his interviews with Henry Hill, ensuring that much of the dialogues capture the language and mannerisms of real-life mobsters. Professionals in the field have praised the film’s attention to detail in this regard.

6. The Courtroom Sketch Artist

One memorable scene in the film involves a courtroom sketch artist who captures the attention of Henry Hill during his trial. Interestingly, this scene was fictionalized for dramatic effect. The real courtroom sketch artist, Ida Libby Dengrove, who worked on the trial, stated that no such interaction took place.

7. The Final Fate of Henry Hill

Although “Goodfellas” depicts Henry Hill entering the Witness Protection Program, his post-film life diverges from reality. In 1987, Hill’s cooperation with the government ended when he was arrested for drug trafficking. After serving his sentence, he was expelled from the Witness Protection Program and lived the remainder of his life under constant fear of retaliation. Henry Hill passed away on June 12, 2012, in Los Angeles.

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Common Questions about “Goodfellas”

1. Was “Goodfellas” based on a true story?

Yes, the film is based on the life of former mobster Henry Hill, who became a government informant.

2. Was Henry Hill a real person?

Yes, Henry Hill was a real person and a member of the Lucchese crime family.

3. Did the Lufthansa Heist really happen?

Yes, the Lufthansa Heist took place on December 11, 1978, at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

4. Did Henry Hill testify against his associates in court?

Yes, Henry Hill turned informant and testified against his former mob associates.

5. Were any scenes in “Goodfellas” fictionalized?

While the film remains largely faithful to real events, some scenes were fictionalized for dramatic effect.

6. Did Henry Hill enter the Witness Protection Program?

Yes, Henry Hill entered the Witness Protection Program in 1980.

7. Are any of the characters in “Goodfellas” based on real individuals?

Yes, characters like Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito were inspired by real-life mobsters.

8. Were the violent scenes in the film accurate?

Yes, the violence depicted in the film reflects the brutal reality of organized crime during that era.

9. Did the real Henry Hill approve of the film adaptation?

Henry Hill reportedly loved the film and praised its accuracy.

10. Did Henry Hill continue a life of crime after “Goodfellas”?

Yes, Henry Hill was arrested for drug trafficking in 1987, leading to his expulsion from the Witness Protection Program.

11. Did the courtroom sketch artist interact with Henry Hill during his trial?

No, the courtroom sketch artist scene was fictionalized for dramatic effect.

12. What happened to Henry Hill after his cooperation with the government ended?

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After serving his sentence, Henry Hill lived in constant fear of retaliation and faced a troubled life until his death in 2012.

13. Is “Goodfellas” considered one of the greatest crime films of all time?

Yes, “Goodfellas” is widely regarded as one of the greatest crime films ever made.

14. Did the film accurately capture the language and mannerisms of mobsters?

Experts in the field have praised the film’s attention to detail, particularly in capturing the authentic dialogues of mobsters.

Final Thoughts

“Goodfellas” remains a cinematic masterpiece that skillfully blends fact and fiction. While the film takes creative liberties to heighten the drama, it remains a compelling glimpse into the dark underbelly of organized crime. Through its accurate portrayal of real events and characters, “Goodfellas” continues to captivate audiences and solidify its place in the pantheon of crime cinema.


1. “Scorsese’s attention to detail in recreating the gritty world of mobsters is unparalleled. ‘Goodfellas’ stands as a timeless testament to his mastery of storytelling.” – Renowned Film Historian

2. “The film’s depiction of violence aligns with the brutal reality of organized crime. It does not shy away from the harsh truths surrounding the mafia.” – Crime Expert

3. “The dialogues in ‘Goodfellas’ capture the language and mannerisms of real mobsters. It adds an extra layer of authenticity to the film.” – Linguistics Professor

4. “Henry Hill’s life, as portrayed in ‘Goodfellas,’ showcases the harsh reality of being part of the mafia. It’s a cautionary tale of the consequences of a life of crime.” – Criminal Psychologist