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Donnie Brasco (1997)



Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 55
Fresh: 48 | Rotten: 7

A stark, nuanced portrait of life in organized crime, bolstered by strong performances from Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.


Average Rating: 7.3/10
Critic Reviews: 17
Fresh: 14 | Rotten: 3

A stark, nuanced portrait of life in organized crime, bolstered by strong performances from Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 202,123

My Rating

Movie Info

This drama about an undercover cop who learns the hidden dangers of working his way inside the mob was based on a true story. Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp) is an FBI agent who is given an assignment to infiltrate the Mafia; calling himself Donnie Brasco, he befriends Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino), a low-level mob hit man whose personal life is in tatters. Lefty's marriage is falling apart, his son is a junkie, and his health is failing, which only adds to his growing disillusionment about having spent


Mystery & Suspense, Drama

Paul Attanasio

Jan 20, 1998


Watch It Now


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All Critics (57) | Top Critics (18) | Fresh (48) | Rotten (7) | DVD (24)

Although perhaps familiar in its outer trappings, Pacino's fine work is the key to the film succeeding to the extent that it does.

November 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A tense, sharp and compelling character study, Newell's film is a worthy addition to the Mob-movie canon.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Unfortunately, the story isn't inventive and Newell's methodical approach to it verges on monotony.

August 14, 2002 Full Review Source: Washington Post | Comments (3)
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A first-class Mafia thriller that is also, in its way, a love story.

June 18, 2002 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In the tired figure of Lefty, manifest in the craggy icon of Pacino, our sympathies are definitely enlisted, and the theme rings a poignant note.

April 12, 2002 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Pacino and Depp are a match made in acting heaven, riffing off each other with astonishing subtlety and wit.

May 11, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A gritty and humorous crime drama about an undercover cop infiltrating the Mafia.

January 29, 2010 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Depp's tight, guarded performance is almost painful to watch, and Newell seems to have reined in the flamboyant Pacino, whose portrait of the mobster as a grumpy old man may be his best work in years.

June 20, 2009 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

It's tempting to think Pacino stopped trying sometime in the mid-1980s. But watch Lefty's elegiac final scene and you might conclude that it's not Al's ability that's dimmed, rather it's the imagination of casting directors that's grown stale.

June 20, 2009 Full Review Source: Film4

[Newell and Attanasio] pay as much attention to emotional details as to the clockwork details of mob life.

July 30, 2007 Full Review Source:

Just misses ranking in the upper echelon of mob movies.

May 9, 2007 Full Review Source:

A classy piece of work that may disappoint those looking for something more conventional.

September 17, 2005 Full Review Source:

A blue collar gangster movie that succeeds on all attempted levels, particularly acting.

April 9, 2005 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

Donnie Brasco is a fine movie but it might just be best remembered as Johnny Depp's coming-out party. A star -- check that, an actor -- is born.

January 8, 2005 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Shows that solid acting and writing can salvage even material that has been covered by much better filmmakers.

August 26, 2003 Full Review

Donnie Brasco manages to sidestep the obvious and dwell on the intriguing.

May 14, 2003
Palo Alto Weekly

In almost every respect, Donnie Brasco is an original, the unexpected rebirth of an old and oft-told tale.

October 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Enquirer

Donnie Brasco is 120 minutes of riveting filmmaking.

September 10, 2002 Full Review Source: Montreal Film Journal
Montreal Film Journal

It's gritty, real and totally engrossing.

August 14, 2002
Jam! Movies

It's hard to develop any sympathy for the film's nasty manipulative humans, despite the best efforts of all involved in this newest slant on the mean-streets crowd.

June 5, 2002 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine | Comments (3)
Boxoffice Magazine

The humor and tragedy that Pacino and Depp put on the screen will stay with you.

April 17, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Scouts
Film Scouts

Audience Reviews for Donnie Brasco

I'm over a decade and a half late, but I finally watched Donnie Brasco. Went in not knowing a clue about who or what the movie was about, but afterwards I was left feeling stupid. Stupid because I didn't watch such a great mobster/suspense film sooner. It's pretty awesome to see Johnny Depp in a role where he is not playing a pirate or a man with scissors attached to his hands lol; if only he could get back to more of this real life acting. I enjoyed the movie and thought it flowed really well.
December 2, 2013
Eric Alvarez

Super Reviewer

WOO! A breath of fresh air. After a recommendation from a good friend of mine -- yup, I'm talking to you Rottentomatoes buddy ;) -- "Donnie Brasco" took me by a big surprise. What an enthralling piece of work that surges the audience into a non-Hollywood-ized portrayal of an everyday Mafia lifestyle. Everything you can ask for from a movie, "Donnie Brasco" answers it all.

An undercover within the mob. It's been done countless and millions of times. However, when done as exquisitely as "Donnie Brasco" does, it's like watching an original plotline again. The obvious story outcomes that we're expecting from a plotline in this type of genre, "Donnie Brasco" hurdles over somewhat the same plot-points with a higher emphasis on the psyche and the hidden. Altogether, it makes for an incredibly rich and engaging narrative. One of the most entertaining mafia flicks I've seen in an extremely long time, mainly due to the mind-blowingly outstanding performances -- by the likes of Johnny Depp and the infamous Al Pacino, -- the entertaining dips and dives of the narrative, and the exquisitely sharp writing that throws a lot of comedic punches to the gut, all the while having a sober basis on reality. "Donnie Brasco", with these elements done in grade-A fashion, manages to place itself as one of the most well-paced gangster movies of all time. Not once does the movie begin to outstay its welcome.

There's not much more to talk about without giving out the vital details of the narrative. Everything within this film works. This is a pitch-perfect, immaculate B-movie mafia flick, coupled with real rich tension, characters the audience deeply sympathizes with, and a narrative that's buttery-smooth. "Donnie Brasco" is a much watch.
October 7, 2012
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer

Undercover FBI agent Johnny Depp is taken under the wing of low level mobster Al Pacino and soon finds that the lines between his work and his personal life start to blur. Donnie Brasco is the true story of Joseph Pistone whose testimony resulted in hundreds of arrests within the New York Mafia in the late 1970s. Pacino plays the virtual opposite of Tony Montana in this warts and all depiction of life in the mob; he is a rather pathetic figure, little more than a flunky to self serving bosses within a world that's riddled with duplicity, treachery and hypocrisy. His partnership with Depp works really well as you start to feel the same sympathy for this shambling, dishevelled figure trying to get ahead without the intelligence or faculties to do so and the film is one of the first mainstream American films to tackle the implications of the work for a deep cover operative. Mike Newell's direction is maybe a little too slick so it was never going to challenge Goodfellas or The Godfather, but thanks to a fascinating true life story that's expertly performed it's a minor classic and worthy forerunner to the likes of The Departed and American Gangster.
August 16, 2012
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

Lefty: How many times have I had you in my house? If you're a rat, then I'm the biggest mutt in the history of the Mafia. 

"Donnie Brasco. Based on a true story."

Donnie Brasco is an amazing mafia film. First off, right from the get go we know what is going on. Joe Pistone is undercover as Donnie Brasco. His objective is to infiltrate the mob. This movie is constantly pushed aside by people. They'll it's okay, but it's no Goodfellas or Godfather. That isn't what it supposed to be. This is as unglamorous a loom at the life as you will ever see. Pacino's character Lefty isn't the typical mob character we are given. Normally the guy at the center of a mob movie is at the top. He's got money, cars, women, everything he wants, he's got. Not Lefty. He'll even tell you he's got nothing. Lefty along with Pistone don't make for a very glamourous pair. Pistone is on the edge of bringing down the mob, yet he has to deal with his wife who is unhappy with him and also the guilt of Lefty being killed when the mob finds out he was an undercover FBI agent the whole time.

Donnie Brasco features a superb cast. Al Pacino and Johnny Depp are both on the top of their game. They bring out the most in their characters every single scene. Plus there's a great supporting cast including Michael Madsen and Anne Heche, plus glimpses of Paul Giamatti. The film doesn't merely succeed because of the cast though. This real life story is one that needed to be told. It's absolutely engrossing and Mike Newell brings out the most in the story through his tremendous directing. 

There's always suspense in this film. Are they going to find out that Donnie Brasco isn't really Donnie Brasco? There are also moments when we think Lefty is going to get whacked, and then we think Donnie is going to get whacked. Lefty and Donnie are best friends one second, then something changes and we don't really know what Lefty's feelings are anymore. Then there's an article in the paper that Donnie can't have anyone seeing. There's people spotting Donnie on the street, but they don't know him as Donnie so they shout out, "Hey Joe." There's just so many ways for this to all come crumbling down on Joe Pistone and it's absolutely thrilling to watch unravel. 

You can look at this from two levels. First, it's a great mob movie showing the behind the scenes goings on and also the life of a low level worker of the mob. We also learn inside stuff on how they talk and how you get to be a made man. And second, it is a biographical story on Joe Pistone. He risked everything to go in and collect evidence to use against the mob. Either way you look at it, this is a tremendous film. One that deserves more praise than it has gotten.
July 12, 2012
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

    1. Lefty Ruggiero: I never said you were a rat. You's my best friend!
    – Submitted by Nash A (23 months ago)
    1. Lefty Ruggiero: If you're a rat, then I'm the biggest f***ing mutt in the history of the maffia.
    – Submitted by Nash A (23 months ago)
    1. Donnie Brasco/Joe Pistone: Forget about it.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (3)

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