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Crime and American gangster films focus more on the sinister motives of gangsters, especially the criminal figures who operate outside the limits of the law. The crime stories depicted in gangster films usually draw attention to the gangster lifestyle in the sense that they glamorize the rise and fall of a gangster. Most of the gangster movies produced before the 1960s associated gangsters with immorality and unlikable by the larger society, who in most cases ended up being killed or caught by law enforcement. The fundamental moral lesson that are derived from the gangster movies produced before 1960s is that gangsters were villains who caused chaos and evil in the society that was morally upstanding; as a result, the gangsters deserved unhappy endings that they usually received. The Goodfellas is a perfect idolization of the rise and fall of a gangster, which serves to indicate some level of consistency with the moral lessons depicted in most gangster movies.
The moral lesson in Goodfellas is consistent with the view that gangsters are villains and bring about chaos; therefore, they usually deserve unhappy endings. The outcome of the end of a gangster lifestyle is notable by the end of the glamour and the beginning of contact with the criminal justice system. In most cases, gangsters are not successful in their endeavors; they turn out to be the losers. However, Henry Hill, who is the main protagonist in the film, is a sympathetic hero that the audience would want to succeed. Despite his initial entry into gangster life by adhering to the codes of conduct, Henry Hill defies these rules, mentions the names of his fellow gangsters including Jimmy and Pauly. In addition, he was a principal witness against them so that he could receive an enrollment at the federal witness protection program. Henry Hill is sympathetic hero because never killed anybody and he is against the brutality and violence of Tommy when undertaking their gangster activities. Despite the fact that he helps Tommy in covering up evidence, he is remorseful regarding the kind of life that he is living. Among all the characters in the movie, Henry Hill is the closest thing to a hero in the movie. The motivation of Henry Hill in criminality is mainly due to his notion of good life. Henry has always wished to be a gangster and considers it as being the best thing when compared to being the president of the United States. This indicates that Henry Hill is not a hero under ordinary circumstances, but turns out to be the closest character that is suitable for the title of a hero.
Henry’s motivation into criminality is mainly due to his view of a good and successful life. Henry always wished to be a part of something that is significant, which resulted to the quitting of schools and becoming involved with gangster activities. His motivation for the gangster life is due to the idolization of the Lucchese crime family gangsters and admits that he has always wanted to be a gangster. Given his viewpoint of success and good life, this movement seems justified since the gangster lifestyle did not get him by chance; rather, it was his dream. There are redeeming qualities that Henry posses. For instance, in the course of his gangster life, he did not kill anybody and that he revealed the names of his fellow villains. However, these qualities are not adequate to keep him from being a villain, owing to the fact that circumstances forced him to do act so.
In conclusion, the moral theme in Goodfellas is consistent with the depictions of gangster movies before the 1960s that portrayed gangsters as villains and immoral, who brought about chaos and evil in a society that was morally upstanding.