Life in the Mafia in The Godfather and Goodfellas

Categories: The Godfather

Throughout the years there have been many movies that have described and glorified life in the mafia There have been movies about the italian mafia, irish mafia, and other notorious gang affiliations. Most of these films share similar backstories or themes but still stand out in there genre of films. Two of the most notorious movies portraying mafia groups and member is The Godfather and Goodfellas. Even though these are two different films both of these films show the life and what it takes to be part of the mob.

Each film shows different perspectives of the mafia life each similar and different in many ways. There have been many reviews that both show praise and dislike towards both movies but they each still are considered two of the greatest films ever made.

Both films were following the paths of the main characters from the start of when they became mobsters and follow there life in the mob. The godfather began with Michael coming home after serving in the war.

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Michael was the son of an italian mafia boss and the family business in Michaels family was being in the Italian mafia. Michael came home and had no interest in being in the family business. Michaels father also had no interest in having his son follow in his footsteps and enter the lifestyle of the mafia. His father did not want the influence of the italian mafia effecting his son because he's seen first hand what it does to a person's life.

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Michael ends up joining the mafia because he finds out that his father was in danger so he had no choice but to join so he could protect his father. Once Michaels father found out that his only “good” son left had entered the world of the mob he felt divided because he knows now that his son can not go back to the world he lived in before. Both Michael and his father know that the only way out of the mob is through death.

Goodfellas follows the journey of Henry Hill who always dreamed of joining the mafia and becoming a notorious Italian gangster. Ever since Henry was young he slowly became associated with the Lucchese Family. The Lucchese Family was the italian mafia who ran Henry's neighborhood in Brooklyn. Growing up Henry idolized them and later on became a underling of the Lucchese Family boss. Henry was still not part of the mafia yet though. Henry was later busted by cops and went to jail for a little. While in jail henry did not give any information to the cops about the mob. Once Henry got out he was praised by the Lucchese mafia for not betraying them and was initiated into the mafia. As the movie progresses Henry lives more by the gangster lifestyle as he grows up. Henry started a family but was still going up in the mafia ranks. The effects of the mafia continued to grow on Henry, and he became more reckless and heartless. Henry was also attracting unwanted attention from other mafia members and was putting his family and friends into harm's way.

As Henry spiraled out of control he became more greedy and wanted more. He turned to drugs and was later arrested for it. He was bailed out by his wife Karin, but she flushed all of the drugs down the toilet so they would not get caught. This led to Henry losing everything and becoming penniless. Now that Henry was underwatch by the cops the mafia threatened Henry and his family. Henry could not handle the pressure and the risk of being killed so he turned himself into the FBI to be an informant. The FBI put Henry and his family under witness protection to keep him safe from the mafia.

In the Godfather Michael started off as a “good” guy both in the film and through the eyes of the viewers. As the movie progressed you could slowly see the change in Michael due to the influence of his new life in the mafia. Michaels change came at the turning point in the movie were he gave up on his morals of being the good guy. He threw away his morals when he shot two of the people who were threats to his family and life. At this moment he became the “bad” guy that his father never wanted him to be. The reason for Michaels actions were the same reason for why he joined the mafia in the first place to protect what was dear to him his family. This was the last of the once good michael, he can never go back now. Everything in the film was leading up to what would become of Michael. He later took the name of Godfather and will now live a dangerous and dishonest life.

Out of the two movies Goodfellas is the more brutal movie. The reason for that is in the Godfather the mafia life is more glorified. The Godfather is glorified in the eyes of the viewer because it is the story of a man who was good and only joined the mafia to carry out a vendetta which was to protect his family. Goodfellas is not as powder coated as Godfather and involves many murders and crimes depicting the violence of the mob. In this film there was always a mysterious and eerie feeling to each crime, murder, and even conversations that occured. This can be seen in many of the murder scenes throughout the movie. Each of these scenes have a mysterious feel to them just from how the mafia members act. For example there was a scene were one of the targets named Woltz was shown in a pool of blood in his bed, the one who murdered him was Tom Hagen. Leading up to this scene there were many events that occurred but the whole point of the visit was to scare Woltz and show that Hagens could kill him whenever if needed. These types of scenes leave the viewers disoriented and amazed at the same time because of how the mafia becomes untraceable after these crimes. This is shown when Tom Hagen just slips away from the crime scene without being noticed or found out. Throughout Goodfellas you can also see how each of the mob's actions were carefully thought out and organized by masterminds in the mafia.

One difference in both of the movies is the type of mafia members the main characters were. In the godfather Michael was a former soldier who was honest and good hearted. He ended up the joining the mafia to protect his family. He was still trying to be as good as he could without harming anyone.As the movie goes on Michael started to become more sinister than he was at the beginning leading to him becoming one of the mobs infamous leaders. In Goodfellas Henry was not thought of as a good person he had no aspirations when he was younger other than being in the mafia. Once he joined the mafia he had no hesitation when it came to committing crimes. Unlike Michael who was trying to protect his family Henry kept putting his family in more danger as the movie went on. Close to the end of Goodfellas Henry ended up leaving the mafia to try to protect himself, where as Michael who did not want anything to do with the mafia ended up becoming a leader in the mafia.

Out of the two movies the one that showed the truth behind the mafia life the best was Goodfellas. Not that the Godfather was not a good depiction of the mafia it just did not show all of the details. Goodfellas showed how being in the mob changes who you are. The movie also showed how even people who were close to you can betray. Goodfellas also showed the cunning and smart ways of how the mafia operated to not get caught. There was also many different jobs that the mafia did that were shown like drug dealing and assassinations. So in the end the reason for Goodfellas being the better film out of the two is because it was more realistic and less glorified and showed the danger of being in the mafia more graphically.


  1. Coppola, Francis, The Godfather, Paramount Pictures,1972
  2. Scorsese, Martin, Goodfellas, Warner Bros.,1990
Updated: Feb 23, 2024
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Life in the Mafia in The Godfather and Goodfellas. (2024, Feb 23). Retrieved from

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