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Once upon a Time in America

  • Drama
  • Crime/detective
  • 1984
  • Sergio Leone
  • 251 mins
  • 18


Epic crime drama starring Robert De Niro, James Woods and Elizabeth McGovern. Noodles, an ageing Jewish mobster haunted by his memories, is lured back to New York by a mysterious letter. His mind drifts back to his friend Max and their Lower East Side gang's rise to power before the Second World War.

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A star rating of 5 out of 5.

Sergio Leone was the man who reinvented the western with the Dollars films starring Clint Eastwood and also the masterly Once upon a Time in the West. This, his final film, is an extraordinary crime drama that runs for nearly four hours in its full-length version and chronicles the lives of two New York gangsters, Noodles and Max, played by Robert De Niro and James Woods. Clearly influenced by The Godfather - wags called Noodles and Max the "kosher nostra" - it is made on a massive scale. Four decades roll past in flashback, underpinned by a great Ennio Morricone score. The plotting is often arbitrary, but, unlike The Godfather, Leone and his fine actors never try to win our sympathy: these are nasty people and there are two rape scenes, involving Tuesday Weld and Elizabeth McGovern, that may be among the most shocking ever filmed. But just gasp at the scale, at the immaculate period reconstruction and at that incredible opening with its endlessly ringing phone. This is essentially a re-examination of Leone's western preoccupations. Just as he reclaimed the west for "violent, uncomplicated men", here he treats crime and corruption as a quintessential part of modern American life. According to Leone, we shouldn't be shocked that a bootlegger can end up mixing with the rich and powerful. That's just how the system works. It's a scathing indictment of America's recent past and perhaps that's why, like Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, it was a resounding flop on its US release and was heavily cut by its panicked distributors. It fared better in Europe, where it was hailed as a masterpiece of 1980s cinema.



NoodlesRobert De Niro
MaxJames Woods
DeborahElizabeth McGovern
Jimmy O'DonnellTreat Williams
CarolTuesday Weld
JoeBurt Young
FrankieJoe Pesci
Police chiefDanny Aiello
CockeyeWilliam Forsythe
PatsyJames Hayden
EveDarlanne Fluegel
"Fat" Moe GellyLarry Rapp
BugsyJames Russo
Chicken JoeRichard Bright
Young DeborahJennifer Connelly
Young NoodlesScott Tiler
Young MaxRusty Jacobs
Young PatsyBrian Bloom
Young CockeyeAdrian Curran
Young MoeMike Monetti


DirectorSergio Leone


Released on
English | Yiddish | Italian | French | Hebrew
Violence, swearing and nudity.
Available on
video, DVD and Blu-ray
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