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(Credit: Alamy)

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Visit the filming locations of Martin Scorsese film 'Goodfellas'

Simply put, Goodfellas is a masterpiece. One of Martin Scorsese’s most celebrated works, the 1990 mob epic has become one of the defining works of the genre, second only to Francis Ford Coppola’s indomitable picture The Godfather. It is no exaggeration to say that every gangster film of note that was released after Goodfellas looked to it as a guidebook. 

Based on the 1985 novel Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, the film explores the cultural glorification of a life of crime and the moral vacuum that it exists in, by recounting the life of famed mobster Henry Hill. Although it is frequently compared to 1972’s The Godfather, Scorsese’s take on organised crime is totally unique. If anything, Goodfellas is an honest, unglorified take on the life of a gangster, whereas Coppola’s work, based on the Mario Puzo book of the same name, slightly romanticises its subject matter.

Notably, Goodfellas is brimming with iconic lines, including the timeless opener, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” With this one line, the audience was immediately drawn into the insidious but flash American underworld of the 1960s and ’70s. Hill is played by Ray Liotta, in what can only be described as his career-defining role. His performance is gritty and realistic and augments the violent real-life exploits of Henry Hill.

Scorsese wanted to treat his adaptation as a “staged documentary”, and that’s exactly what he did. The film is one of the most unflinching looks at violence and moral corruption. It displays Hill experiencing both sides of the coin, with the soaring highs and the crushing lows, and in doing so, recreated what a gangster film should be. 

Given that Scorsese’s film is so realistic, it was only necessary that he film the movie on location across New York and New Jersey, giving it the authentic essence that we all know and love, even if the locations in the film aren’t always exactly where they claim to be. 

There are many reasons why Goodfellas tells its story so masterfully, and one of these is the cinematography. Duly, we’ve listed five real filming locations, reflecting just how lifelike Scorsese’s “staged documentary” really is.

The filming locations Goodfellas:

The diner near Idlewild airport

Location: Jackson Hole Diner, 69-35 Astoria Blvd N, Queens

It is one of the most unforgettable scenes in Goodfellas, and it follows just at the beginning of the film after we’ve seen a young and triumphant Henry Hill make his name in the mob in the ’50s. It then jumps forward to 1963, outside of Idlewild Airport, where we see Henry and Tommy waiting on the bonnet of their car outside a diner. 

This is the scene where the pair steal a truck full of cargo, and it turns out that the diner is a real one. Called Jackson Hole Diner, it is situated at 69-35 Astoria Boulevard in Queens, New YorkBy all accounts, it’s pretty good too.

(Credit: YouTube still)

The first of many double dates:

Location: Salerno’s Restaurant, 117-11 Hillside Avenue, Richmond Hill, Queens.

Our notoriously savvy wise guy Mr. Hill thinks he’s a bit of a ladies’ man at this point in the film. However, he has a hard time trying to woo Karen (Lorraine Bracco), who is clearly unimpressed with his attitude and “obnoxious” behaviour. Memorably, he can’t wait “to get away” from this double-date set up by Tommy. 

It proves to be a pivotal moment in the film, as it is the first time Henry and Karen meet, and after that night, they hit it off and eventually get married, which opens up its own can of worms.

This first date was filmed at the since-closed Salerno’s Restaurant, 117-11 Hillside Avenue at Myrtle Avenue, Richmond Hill, Queens. It then became the Indian restaurant, Tropicana Lounge, was has also now shut down. The building was clearly in its prime when it was Salerno’s and can also be seen in its former glory in the 2008 film Righteous Kill, which stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

(Credit: YouTube still)

‘Tampa Zoo’

Location: Prospect Park Zoo, 450 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn.

This is one of the most notable filming locations of Goodfellas. We all remember the ‘Lion Scene’, when Henry and Jimmy attempt to collect a debt from a gambler at what is meant to be Tampa Zoo, Florida. 

However, it’s not Tampa at all. The place where they threaten to feed the beaten up debtor to the lions is actually Brooklyn’s historical Prospect Park Zoo, housed at 450 Flatbush Avenue. For some strange reason, it’s not surprising that Scorsese decided to stay put and film what is supposedly Tampa in his native New York

(Credit: Garry R. Osgood)

Hatching the Lufthansa raid

Location: Neir’s Tavern, 87-48 78th St, Queens.

The tavern is perhaps the most famous out of all the Goodfellas locations. Luckily for us, unlike many of the other filming locations of the film, it’s still open for business today and is one of the most celebrated pubs in the Woodhaven neighbourhood of Queens. It is here that the daring Lufthansa heist is planned, which becomes the last significant mob activity that Hill is involved in. 

Neir’s Tavern is one of the oldest bars in New York and was opened all the way back in 1829 as The Old Blue Pump House. It’s changed names a handful of times over the years and was bought by Louis Neir sometime around the turn of the last century. 

It markets itself as an “unpretentious watering hole”, and is a cornerstone of the local community. It has been featured in many films, and it rightly celebrates its iconic inclusion in Goodfellas. If you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit. 

(Credit: Neir’s Tavern)

Receiving the news of Tommy’s murder

Location: Goodfellas Diner, 56-26 Maspeth Ave, Queens.

In this particular scene, we see Henry and Jimmy meet up and wait at the ‘Sherwood Diner’ to wait for the happy news of Tommy, who is about to finally become a ‘Made Man’, which is also set to grant Henry and Jimmy all the same benefits by proxy. 

However, things don’t go to plan. Tommy is murdered as soon as he walks into the room where “the ceremony” is set to take place as retribution for the murder of Billy Batts earlier in the film. It’s in the payphone booth outside the diner that Jimmy receives the grave news, and where he smashes the phone in anger. 

In transires that The Sherwood is actually a real diner on Rockaway Turnpike in Lawrence, New York, and it is where the events actually happened. But like with what happened with the ‘Tampa’ zoo scene, Scorsese and crew opted to use The Clinton Diner, which has since been renamed as Goodfellas Diner, thanks to the clientele it attracts because of the film. 

Unfortunately, it was damaged by a large fire in June 2018 and is still waiting to reopen.

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