Top Movies Based on True Stories: GoodFellas

There are hundreds of movies based on true stories- some that are made direct to DVD or for TV, and others that are released in theaters. The list below names the top movies (in my opinion) that are based on true stories. Not only are they rated by just how widely known they are, but just how close they stick to the actual occurrence of events.

1. Goodfellas– 1990- Directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro as James Conway, Ray Liotta as Henry Hill and Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito.

This film is one classic example of a well-known biographical story, which was based on a novel written by New York crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi. It has received many awards, like being #2 on AFI’s 10 Top Ten for the Gangster category and was voted 92 and 94 on both AFI’s Top 100 Movies list.  The film is somewhat similar to the actual events that happened to the Lucchese family, with most characters having their name changed for certain reasons.

Although Henry Hill’s name remained unchanged, there are several differences between the movie Hill and the mobster Hill. First off, the movie depicts Hill getting arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes, when in real life; Henry was arrested for buying tires with a stolen credit card. Jimmy Conway is based on Jimmy Burke, who has been rumored to have committed more than 50 murders, but was convicted of one- hustler Richard Eaton. Tommy DeVito was Thomas DeSimone, a “pure psychopath,” as described by the real Henry Hill. Unlike the movie states, he was actually 7 years younger that Hill and he was a very brolic man.

The overall film: The film was between 90-95% accurate according to Henry Hill. One of the few differences in fact could be that “You think I’m funny” scene with Joe Pesci. That did not actually happen to DeSimone, but actually to Pesci himself, when he worked in a restaurant and told a real mobster that he was funny. (In fact, Scorsese liked the anecdote so much, he included it within the movie and only told Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci about the unscripted scene, since he wanted genuine reactions from the other actors). Also, remember that famous dead body in the trunk scene? Well, that actually happened in real life, just not in that order. In real life, Billy Batts never had a good relationship with DeSimone, so he jokingly said to DeSimone to go shine shoes (as in the movie). Both in the movie and in life, DeSimone got mad and decided to kill him. In the movie, the killing (taking place within the restaurant, just kicking him) and going to eat breakfast at his mother’s house happened all in one night. In the real world, the “killing” took place a few weeks later, with DeSimone, Hill and Burke putting him in the trunk. They went to DeSimone’s mother for breakfast and a shovel (the movie also adds a large steak knife) and on their way to bury Batts, they realize he is still alive. They kill him, bring him upstate to get buried and then pour limes on him so the smell wouldn’t rise. Overall, the movie stayed pretty close to the events chosen to be depicted.


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