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WJEC AS Film Studies FM2 US Cinema Comparative Study: Goodfellas and American Gangster

Rob Miller | Monday September 07, 2015

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS AS, FM2, Section C: US Film Comparative Study, Analysis, Film Analysis, Films & Case Studies, American, Directors, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Hollywood Films, American Gangster, Goodfellas, Genres & Case Studies, Crime, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Genre, Narrative, Representation

  • Goodfellas (1990, Martin Scorsese)
  • American Gangster (2007, Ridley Scott)

Centres can choose from a range of different American film texts. The three main areas of study are Messages, Themes and Values, Narrative and Genre, Representation of Time and Place (often linked to Messages and Values) and Representation of Character. You can compare in Section B but in Section C you must. The above choice of texts reflects films belonging to the same genre but it is very possible to explore two films that encode similar messages and themes from different genres and time periods. Both films need to be contextualised with evidence in the exam drawn from key scenes via close textual analysis.

This is a resource not an exemplar response.

Institutional Context

Goodfellas was directed by Martin Scorsese and co-written by Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi who wrote the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy that the film is based on. Scorsese is well known for directing American films that explore gang culture (in particular Italian American gang culture) but also that explore problematical masculinity in films with similar themes like Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), a remake of Cape Fear (1991), Casino, which has been described as a film that very much borrows from the Goodfellas template (1995), Gangs of New York (2002), The Departed (2006) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Like many directors, Scorsese as an auteur has used the same actors in several of his films, in particular Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Like American Gangster Goodfellas is from the genre of Crime Gangster Thriller. Gangster films have evolved over time to become a sub genre of crime thrillers with their own set of recognisable codes and conventions. American Gangster had higher production values at $100m but this only reflects the 17 years between them while both had mainstream distribution by one of the...

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