For much of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is a rising star in the underworld. A gangster since he was a child, Henry seems to have a natural proclivity for a life of crime, and while he makes sure he does the right thing by paying tribute to the higher ups, he genuinely seems to enjoy his life on the wrong side of the law. While things do take a dramatic turn for the worse partway through the film, you can’t deny that things go really well for quite awhile in Henry’s life. For those moments in your own life when you’re on top of the pile and the King of the Copacabana — right before your mouthy friend whacks a made guy and things start to turn (metaphorically speaking) — here are a few choice Henry Hill quotes.
“One day some of the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother’s groceries all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect.”
Everything seems brighter when filtered through the idyllic vision of youth, and this was never more evident than with the young Henry Hill, who got to handle phone calls and park Cadillacs as part of his after-school job. For Henry, the true consequence of his world hadn’t yet been apparent, the kind that couldn’t be helped by eight ruined aprons. But like the good times, childhood doesn’t last forever, so why not go ahead and reap the benefits while you can?
“By the time I grew up, there was thirty billion a year in cargo moving through Idlewild Airport, and believe me, we tried to steal every bit of it.”
By the time Henry had become a young adult, he still had a very wide-eyed, almost naive view of the world. With his boss, Jimmy (Robert De Niro), greasing all the right palms and making all the right connections, Henry’s life of crime, and the bounty that resulted from it, seemed to come almost too easy. Still, when things are working out in your favor, who wouldn’t have that kind of ambition? Still, there’s no better way to take advantage of a good thing by trying to make it even better.
“I’m a union delegate.”
Henry was never more on top of the world than he was when he took Karen (Lorraine Bracco) out for their first real date. After walking her to the back door of the Copacabana, past the lines out front, through the kitchen, and into the club where a table is being set up in front just for them by one of the many folks who Henry tips with a $20 bill, Karen’s just a little curious as to what Henry actually does for a living. While Henry does come clean to her eventually, this is the night when he gets to make his first impression all over again, and with every detail working out perfectly, he doesn’t ruin the moment with a complicated explanation. It’s never good to lie, of course, but when you’re caught up in the moment like this, you don’t always have to complicate things right then and there. Think of the phrase, “I’m a union delegate” as something like truth layaway.
“Anything I wanted was a phone call away. Free cars. The keys to a dozen hideout flats all over the city. I bet twenty, thirty grand over a weekend and then I’d either blow the winnings in a week or go to the sharks to pay back the bookies.”
At the height of Henry’s power, he seemed to have the world at his disposal, and he knew it. More importantly, he realized the importance of taking inventory on what he was grateful for. When things are going good, it’s important you take the time to step back and recognize what you have. Even if it;s a comfortable ride to prison.
“Paulie did the prep work. He was doing a year for contempt, and he had this wonderful system for doing the garlic. He used a razor, and he used to slice it so thin that he used to liquefy in the pan with just a little oil. It was a very good system.”
Of course, it wasn’t all airport heists and selling stolen goods out of the back of a restaurant. Turns out, being a professional criminal has a downside to it. When Henry gets sentenced to ten years in prison for roughing up a guy who’s sister happened to work for the FBI, he finds out that doing ‘hard time’ is more of an expression when you’re a wiseguy. While most people ended up crammed together in tiny cells, he ends up in a little loft smuggling in food and marveling at Paulie’s (Paul Sorvino) method of slicing garlic razor thin (as you are right now as you watch that GIF over and over again). Just because you’re facing some setbacks, doesn’t mean that everything’s not going well, and it’s worth taking the time to acknowledge that.
“To us, those goody-good people who worked sh*tty jobs for bum paychecks and took the subway to work every day and worried about their bills were dead. I mean, they were suckers.”
Sometimes things end up going so well that you can’t possibly imagine any other way of living life. It might come off as a little bit boastful, but go ahead and indulge your good fortune while you can. As Goodfellas reminds us, things can change at a moment’s notice.
“See I was cooking dinner that night, and I had to start braising the beef, pork butt, and veal shanks for the tomato sauce. And I was making ziti with the meat gravy, and I was roasting peppers over the flames, and I was gonna put on some string beans with olive oil and garlic, and I had some beautiful cutlets that were cut just right that I was going to fry up before dinner, just as an appetizer.”
Let’s be honest, all good things come to an end, much like Henry’s life as a gangster does on May 11th, 1980, thanks to a month’s worth of surveillance and a very persistent helicopter — and all the lucky hats in the world weren’t going to change that. Still, even with his world on the verge of collapsing all around him, Henry remains pretty optimistic about the epic meal he was making for his kid brother, Mikey (Kevin Corrigan). Because let’s be real here, your attitude can make all the difference as far as how well things are going for you — so don’t be afraid to make the most of what you have.
Especially when it comes to the contents of your refrigerator.