Once Upon a Time in America (1984)


Once_Upon_A_Time_In_America1 “I’m the chief of police, not the chief of the people. ” – Police Chief Aiello

Number of Times Seen – between 3-5 times (Cable in the 80’s, DVD and 28 Jun 2016)

Brief Synopsis – A gangster in hiding for 35 years returns to his old stomping ground and reminisces about his life as the leader of a part of the Jewish mafia in New York during the 1930’s.

My Take on it – I remember seeing this film in it’s full version a few times on cable and although I didn’t remember much about the story itself, I always recalled how great of a film it was.

I have been meaning to watch and review this for some time, but the 4+ hours was always a bit daunting and I preferred to watch shorter movies instead.  In the end, I finally found time and inclination to watch this.

This film is only slightly less than perfect and Sergio Leone chose wisely to make this his final film so he could really go out with a bang.  I also believe that it’s his best film.

The main characters are all quite complex ones but they manage to develop them well enough for us to care about each and every one of them.

This is supposedly based on real people and the way things play out its quite easy for the audience to believe it is quite close to the truth.

The cast is superbly led by Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Danny Aiello and Treat Williams who all give amazing performances and make it all look so easy.

For those who don’t like long movies, I don’t recommend seeing the shortened version because it’s supposedly missing quite a lot of important exposition.

For those (like me) who don’t mind long movies, you’re in for a treat if you have patience and make it through this wonderful film.

There are parts of me that truly believe that this film is even better than any of the Godfather series movies [… I know,  blasphemy :)] because of the way Leone tells the story.

Bottom Line – Amazing story that feels almost complete in it’s full version form of 4+ hours.  Excellent cast make it all look so easy.  Complex characters that are developed extremely well make us believe that this could have all been true.  In some ways, this film is even better than The Godfather series. Leone’s final film is also his best IMHO. Not for those who can’t stand long movies, but DON’T even attempt to watch the shortened version which is supposedly a travesty. Highly Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – Robert De Niro requested a private meeting with renowned crime boss Meyer Lansky to prepare for his role as Noodles. The request was denied. (From IMDB)

Rating – Oscar Worthy

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16 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

  1. This is in my all-time top 10. It’s a magnificent piece of film that I have watched a few times back in the 80s and recently. I agree that it’s better than The Godfather, but I think it’s not quite as good as The GF II.

    I have seen the shorter version. It makes the movie feel disjointed. It also feels longer because it doesn’t always make sense. The full-blown 4 hour epic is the way to go. Great review.

    Liked by 1 person

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