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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama  |  28 September 1984 (Italy)
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 203,312 users  
Reviews: 487 user | 109 critic

A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life.



(novel), (screenplay), 7 more credits »
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Top Rated Movies #72 | Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 11 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Bright ...
James Hayden ...
Eve (as Darlanne Fleugel)
Larry Rapp ...
Richard Foronjy ...
Officer 'Fartface' Whitey (as Richard Foronji)


Epic tale of a group of Jewish gangsters in New York, from childhood, through their glory years during prohibition, and their meeting again 35 years later. Written by Andrew Welsh <andreww@bnr.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Sergio Leone's three-hour, forty-minute epic masterpiece starring Robert de Niro. [Australia Theatrical] See more »


Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence, sexual content, language and some drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




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Release Date:

28 September 1984 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Érase una vez en América  »

Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)


$5,300,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (re-cut) | (extended director's cut)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The phone rings a total of 24 times near the beginning of the movie. See more »


Noodles watches a 1967 telecast concerning the investigation revolving around Chairman Bailey (on a decidedly European-looking television set). Twice during the telecast, we see a cameraman with a portable video camera and an assistant with a portable videotape recorder. The very first Electronic News Gathering (ENG) equipment wasn't available in the US until at least 1971. See more »


[first lines]
[In 1933, two goons rudely question a young woman]
Beefy: Where is he? Where's he hiding?
Eve: I don't know... I've been looking for him since yesterday.
[second goon slaps her harshly; she falls onto the bed]
Beefy: I'm gonna ask you for the last time: Where is he?
Eve: I don't know... What are you gonna do to him?
[Two shots are heard]
Beefy: [to his partner] Stay here in case that rat shows up...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Joey Faye is credited as the "adorable old man." See more »


Featured in De Niro: A Self Portrait (2007) See more »


'Summertime' from 'Porgy and Bess'
Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by DuBose Heyward (as Dubose Hayward) and Ira Gershwin
Courtesy of Gershwin Publishing Company/Chappel and Co.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Mesmerizing and haunting tale of love, greed, regret, betrayal and revenge
29 October 1999 | by (Seattle) – See all my reviews

This is, for me, one of the finest examples of cinematic art. It isn't a simple, cut-n-dried 90 minute little package that gets wrapped up with a pretty bow at the end. You get pulled in by the enigmatic opening that unwinds the threads of the story to be found later. For many people having half an hour of purely visual story telling, of stories that are only mysteries at that point, before anything becomes truly linear is difficult to follow and discourages to many people. Our own memories are only snippets that only become linear as we concentrate on scenes from our lives. Once Upon a Time in America is like that as we follow Noodles through the `significant' part of his life - the times that formed him. When the story actually starts, we meet the girl that he always loved but could never have.

David `Noodles' Aaronson (DeNiro) was a kid on the very mean streets of Brooklyn when organized crime was born in America and he grew into and out of it. That's the simplest synopsis of the plot. The reality is that this isn't a movie about gangsters. Being a gangster is the easiest way for Noodles to survive and get ahead, but it also alienates and ruins his one love. Whenever he is close to giving himself to Deborah he always gets pulled back into the gang, in some form or another.

DeNiro's portrayal is of a gangster, through and through, who also has a conscience that, while not preventing him from being a ruthless killer, rules his life with regret, remorse and guilt. Leone takes a bit of poet/historic license by showing the Brooklyn Bridge being built in the background (the bridge had been built 40 years before), but it symbolizes Noodles' own growth. When the bridge is just pilings and incomplete towers, Noodles is just forming his future. By the time the bridge is complete, Noodles is nothing but a gangster and the bridge is majestic. When he returns 35 years later our view of the bridge is from under a freeway -- the world has moved along, but the bridge and Noodles are just as they were.

The length: If you're looking for a brief distraction that you'll barely remember 30 minutes later, this isn't the movie for you. However, if you are prepared and able to be undistributed for the nearly 4 hours that this film uses to compress a lifetime -- you will be rewarded with many facets of thought and examination.

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