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Portrayal Of The Mafia In Movies Film Studies Essay

1265 words (5 pages) Essay in Film Studies

5/12/16 Film Studies Reference this

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This is an essay about mafia and movies. This essay will examine how movies like Bugsy, The Godfather trilogy, and Goodfellas contributed to the American popular culture. It will analyze their effects, contents and find a sociological “fit” in their culture. It will also gauge their factualness and highlight the message sent to the viewers. Society’s fascination with organized crime will also be looked into. In detail, the essay will discuss the popularity of The Sopranos and how it affected the society’s view of organized crime. Organized crime is very rampant in the USA and is defined as any group having a formal structure and whose principal objective is to obtain money through illegal activities from the government or individuals.


Bugsy Malone: This movie was released in 1976 by Allan Parker and starring was a child musical gangster acting like an adult. It features prohibition, show girls and gang warfare. In this movie, the child gangster is determined to rule over New York City. He later comes to realize the emergence of a rival gang that has developed a secret weapon capable of firing sweets as quick as a machine gun; he sets out to counter this. The movie climaxes cheerfully with a custard pie fight. The movie is a Multi winner of BAFTA Awards and its impact is significant in the American popular culture (Cd Universe, 2010).

The Godfather trilogy: This movie was released in 1972 by Francis Ford Coppola and starring is Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) also known as “The Godfather”, who is the head of one of the most powerful mafia families in America. The Godfather tells the story of the Corleone family, Italian- immigrants, caring people, and Mafioso. Don Vito is a most complicated gangster. He says that, he is not a killer, and he never mixes business with personal matters. He puts family first. The Corleone family is drawn into a bitter and violent war with other mafia families over their refusal to participate in the lucrative but dangerous drug trade where Don Vito was shot though he didn’t die. His youngest son Michael protects his father against the killers trying to finish what they have started. He takes his revenge against those trying to kill his father, shooting them during a meeting at a restaurant. Although the main theme is family obligation, “The Godfather” also touches on the tug of war between tradition and change, the trap of power, and the place of morality in a changing world. “The Godfather” ended up winning ten Academy Awards and all “gangster movies” have been judged by the standards of this one. The full impact is however more appreciated in the context of the entire “Godfather” trilogy (Leong, 2002).

Goodfellas: This movie was released in 1990 and was directed by Martin Scorsese. It is based on the true story of former mobster Henry Hill, Goodfellas and begins with his famous quote, “As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster…” Goodfellas follows the life of Henry Hill, an Irish-Italian American who becomes involved in organized crime at a young age. He has many friends – rich friends, powerful friends. When he gets married, Karen is forced to adjust to the life of a typical mobster’s wife. Henry’s best friends in crime are Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito. Their reputations rose fast within the mob hierarchy. The gangsters got what they wanted and were treated like kings. But things begin to fall apart when the incompetent and undisciplined men with whom they worked start flaunting cash from the robbery. The three friends are forced to kill off several members of the team in order to avoid raising the suspicions of the police. Henry was later arrested. Although the movie is dark and brutal, it is also humorous and romantic. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards and is among the 100 greatest movies of all time (Leo, 2007).

The Sopranos: This is an American drama series revolving around a New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano and the difficulties he faces in balancing family responsibilities and heading a criminal organization. It is truly special, it’s the dark humor, the gruesome, unspeakable murders thrown in with the unexpected sentimentality, the cowardice of some and the honor of others .It  is released in series the last being of 2007.”The Sopranos” ended with a lackluster episode with so many questions as to where “The Sopranos” crime family trajectory would end. It also features Tony’s family members and Mafia associates. It has won many awards, including twenty-one Emmys and five Golden Globes (Cinemaroll, 2008; Sev, 1998).

These movies have defined the gangster genre in the USA and acts as a benchmark for other films and have dominated the American popular culture. In Bagsy Malone, the movie is filled with fun and humor. However the acts of gun shooting with sweets and the notion of controlling New York City by two rival mafias demonstrate the American popular culture. It has episodes of violence though acted by children. This has in a way introduced even children to this culture by the virtue of acting. In the case of The Godfather trilogy, family obligation is demonstrated. However the facts about meeting this obligation are marred by killings and violence. The revenge by Michael, the shooting of the Godfather and the drug syndicate are all affirmative on the mafias. This movie thereby promoted the American popular culture. For the Goodfellas, Henry demonstrates his will to join the mafias at the initial stages of the movie and goes ahead to actualize this. Henry and his friends engaged in mugging, killings bring out the brutal side of this movie despite the humor and romance in earlier scenes .These acts affirms mafias and hence promoting the popular culture. The recognition that these movies received in the international arena in form of awards demonstrates how the mafias have established ground in the USA. Worth noting is that the effect has been negative. This has led to increased rates of crime especially murder, drug trafficking, extortions and hijackings.

Socially, this has led to increased fear of the above vices as they are practiced under very familiar circumstances as family obligations and others driven by crave of just becoming a mafia. It has also accommodated the idea that even children can become mafias. Despite the irony and exaggeration in the cast, it is sad to note that these are facts happening daily as seen in the movies and experienced in reality. The society is fascinated by organized crime due to poverty, lack of employment, acts of revenge, discrimination of others and the urge of getting rich quick with less effort. The message sent to the viewers is that of encouraging them to join the mafias at whatever age and for any reason with a promise of success. The movies also dictate the fact that the act of joining the mafias cannot be complimented by any other thing including family responsibilities. The popularity of The Sopranos did hinder the society’s view on organized crime. The dilemma faced buy tony of balancing the responsibilities of the family and heading a criminal gang. The falling marriages, rebellion, adultery, drug abuse eminent killings tried to the mafias changed the society’s perception on organized crime. It was evident that so many people will suffer out of their involvement with the mafias. The family responsibilities were at risk of being foregone as much interest and time was put on the vices.

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