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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

tomatometer

89

Average Rating: 8.6/10
Reviews Counted: 44
Fresh: 39 | Rotten: 5

Sergio Leone's epic crime drama is visually stunning, stylistically bold, and emotionally haunting, and filled with great performances from the likes of Robert De Niro and James Woods.

70

Average Rating: 8.2/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 3

Sergio Leone's epic crime drama is visually stunning, stylistically bold, and emotionally haunting, and filled with great performances from the likes of Robert De Niro and James Woods.

audience

94

liked it
Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 72,431

My Rating

Movie Info

Though some viewers might be put off by its length, graphic violence, and absence of likable characters, Sergio Leone's final film is also a cinematic masterpiece. Spanning four decades, the film tells the story of David "Noodles" Aaronson (Robert De Niro) and his Jewish pals, chronicling their childhoods on New York's Lower East Side in the 1920s, through their gangster careers in the 1930s, and culminating in Noodles' 1968 return to New York from self-imposed exile, at which time he learns the

R,

Drama

Harry Grey, Leonardo Benvenuti

Jun 10, 2003

Warner Home Video

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All Critics (44) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (39) | Rotten (5) | DVD (29)

Sergio Leone's languid, lovely and lengthy ode to Lower East Side mobsters (more specifically, mobster films) ...

November 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Leone is less interested in arousing an audience's easier emotions than in presenting, at a dispassionate distance, the horror of two men warily walking toward each other on a tightrope suspended above the snake pit of their , deepest compulsions.

April 12, 2011 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Every gesture is immediate, and every gesture seems eternal.

April 12, 2011 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comment (1)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A disappointment of considerable proportions.

September 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety | Comments (2)
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

While Leone's vision still has a magnificent sweep, the film finally subsides to an emotional core that is sombre, even elegiac, and which centres on a man who is bent and broken by time, and finally left with nothing but an impotent sadness.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out | Comments (2)
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There are times when we don't understand exactly what is happening, but never a time when we don't feel confidence in the film's narrative.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Comment (1)
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film, photographed by Tonino Delli Colli, is striking to look at, especially its New York street scenes, which were shot in Manhattan, Montreal and a back lot near Rome. The acting is stunning.

April 22, 2014 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

Just gasp at the scale, at the immaculate period reconstruction and at that incredible opening with its endlessly ringing phone.

April 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

A striking tale of loyalty, love, friendship and ambition, Once Upon A Time is a work of technical beauty and sombre emotion.

April 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Sergio Leone explores the seamiest byways of urban Americana through the story of two gangsters who start their partnership as Brooklyn kids in 1921 and tragically end it in the late '60s.

April 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor

A work of tremendous intellectual depth and emotional range

August 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinemania

Here was a filmmaker who specialized in pure, blistering images, and this operatic earthiness just doesn't play as well as the horrifying, salacious stuff.

November 21, 2012 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Sad and vast yet compelling throughout, this remain Leone's most towering achievement.

April 17, 2012 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Handsomely mounted beyond a shadow of a doubt, but as the final statement in Leone's career, it mostly makes me think of how fantastic his Westerns were.

September 13, 2011 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

While The Godfather delivers certainty and a comforting dramatic resolution, Once Upon A Time In America delivers a profound kind of mystery.

February 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

In a post The Godfather world, for Leone to even consider taking on an epically scoped New York gangster film took tremendous courage if not foolishness, Coppola had set the bar at an impossible height.

September 8, 2009 Full Review Source: Bangitout.com
Bangitout.com

Spaghetti western master Sergio Leone turns his eye toward an American gangster epic spanning 50 years with surprisingly positive results.

December 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Big Picture Big Sound
Big Picture Big Sound

Sergio Leone's cut is wonderful! Avoid the butchered theatrical version unleashed in the U.S.--I actually walked out on that indecipherable mess.

January 27, 2007

Hugely complex, achingly sad and splendidly gorgeous.

July 22, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Pure cinematic bliss.

June 4, 2006
ColeSmithey.com

Sergio Leone's swan song is an undisputed masterpeice, a self-reflexive crime-gangster epic with towering performances from De Niro and Tuesday Weld.

June 14, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Audience Reviews for Once Upon a Time in America

Now available in a four-hour director's cut, Leone's supreme masterpiece is a magnificent epic - superbly directed, full of fantastic performances and with a beautiful story about friendship and betrayal that culminates in a profoundly bitter, achingly sad ending.
October 21, 2012
blacksheepboy

Super Reviewer

It's hard to judge this masterpiece when thinking about Coppola and Scorsese's more well known gangster flicks or even to compare it to Leone's earlier westerns. It's unlike any other of his films as far pacing, energy etc. On the other hand, it is a truly epic, amazing look at the life of two individuals. The detail and deepness to the story is great.
March 5, 2012
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

"Once Upon a Time in America" is a stunning, lengthy, and novel-esque narration of three pivotal years (1922, 1933, and 1967) in the lives of two Jewish New York Gang members, Noodles and Max. The non-linear depiction of events, the brilliant imagery, the soundtrack, and amazing acting on behalf of Robert De Niro and James Woods make this film perfect, and it honestly defies categorization. "Once.." is not merely a gangster tale, but is more like a Dickens' novel in the vein of David Copperfield or Great Expectations. Every minute of its nearly 5 hours of duration is worth it, and one feels disappointed that the tale is told when the credits role. I could not possibly more highly rate a film, and I believe that it is as rewarding, entertaining, and fulfilling as any novel can be, and it should be elevated to a much higher regard. 89 percent simply doesn't cut it. 100 percent does. Find 5 hours during a dark night to ABSORB this masterpiece and don't you dare miss as single minute of it.
October 25, 2011
Colin Montgomery

Super Reviewer

A haunting, powerful, compelling, superbly-acted, visually beautiful and bold film from Sergio Leone. One of Robert De Niro's greatest performances as well. This crime epic is not only one of my favourites of the 1980s, it is in my top 5 favourite films of all-time.
September 4, 2011
Liam Gadd

Super Reviewer

    1. David "Noodles" Aaronson: Today they asked us to get rid of Joe, tomorrow they ask me to get rid of you. Is that okay with you? 'Cause it's not okay with me!
    – Submitted by Caesar M (7 months ago)
    1. Deborah: Age can wither me, Noodles. We're both getting old. All that we have left now are our memories. If you go to that party on Saturday night, you won't have those anymore. Tear up that invitation.
    – Submitted by Caesar M (7 months ago)
    1. Sharkey: You ever think of setting yourselves up in business? All those trucks used to haul liquor, soon be selling them for nothing. I'm talking about hundreds of vehicles controlled by a national organization. And supported by a powerful union headed by Jimmy. Whatever you ask, there's no way he can turn you down.
    – Submitted by Adam O (12 months ago)
    1. Cockeye: Newspaper guys never know what the fuck they want.
    – Submitted by Adam O (12 months ago)
    1. Young Peggy: You better stop squeezing me or I'm gonna poop in my pants!
    – Submitted by Adam O (12 months ago)
    1. Young Noodles: You'll put up and you'll shut up! You hear nothing, and you see nothing! Just like you did for Bugsy!
    – Submitted by Adam O (12 months ago)
View all quotes (21)

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Foreign Titles

  • Es war einmal in Amerika (DE)
  • Il était une fois en Amérique (FR)
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