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Martin Scorsese is one of the best-known directors in Hollywood. His legendary career has spanned over six decades, and he has scores of critically acclaimed movies to his name.

His most famous work is probably the gangster film Goodfellas. It’s had a far-reaching effect on movies, inspiring generations of directors. Over the decades, it’s become an iconic part of the culture. But it was almost just a little different. Although this wouldn’t have dimmed its genius, Goodfellas almost had a different name — and it was pretty basic. 

(L-R) Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci in front of a dark background
Goodfellas | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

‘Goodfellas’ nearly had a different name

Goodfellas has become such a familiar part of cinematic history that it’s hard to imagine it changed in any way. But it turns out that it almost had a different name. Stacker reports that the book that the movie was based on was called Wiseguy. Naturally, the title of the book was the first one considered for the movie.

But when it came time to actually start filming, two other projects at the time had similar names. During production, they decided to change the name, to avoid confusion. After all this time, thinking of the iconic Goodfellas by another name seems impossible. But it was almost called Wiseguy, as strange as that may seem today. 

‘Goodfellas’ was a groundbreaking movie

Goodfellas debuted in 1990, and according to Mental Floss, some people think it’s actually the best movie ever made. Not everyone agrees, but it’s generally accepted that it is at least the best Scorsese film. And that’s the top spot out of a very long list of impressive movies

Goodfellas was set in the world of New York organized crime families. It was told from the perspective of Henry Hill, who was based on an actual person. The real Hill told his story to author Nicholas Pileggi, who spent years interviewing him. The nonfiction book he wrote based on those interviews provided a detailed look at life in the mafia from an insider’s viewpoint. 

To take that story and make it into a movie, Scorsese paid an obsessive level of attention to details. He oversaw the smallest elements, such as choosing the music for the soundtrack. He even reportedly tied the ties of one of the actors to ensure they looked just right. In the end, many people thought he got pretty close to perfection with the movie. It got raves from audiences, movie critics, Hollywood, and even some criminals.

‘Goodfellas’ was widely acclaimed


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The movie was not only a blockbuster success but it was also praised by critics. It was nominated for six Oscars, winning one statue. The good reviews didn’t end there. Some of the people who responded positively were gangsters. It seemed that they approved of how well it showed the reality of their lives. 

According to ScreenRant, Scorsese hired actual criminals and mobsters to play parts in the movie, to give it an authentic feel. This caused some problems because some of these actors reportedly gave the payroll office fake names and Social Security numbers.

But people in organized crime seemed to appreciate the accuracy that was shown on screen. Pileggi, who not only wrote the original book but also co-wrote the movie script, described it as a “mob home movie” and said that gangsters felt that it showed “the real thing.”