Once Upon a Time in America (1984)



Critic Consensus: 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.

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 … More

Rating: R (for strong violence, sexual content, language and some drug use)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Harry Grey, Leonardo Benvenuti, Leo Benvenuti, Franco Ferrini, Piero De Bernardi
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 10, 2003
Warner Home Video


as David "Noodles" Aaro...

as Jimmy O'Donnell

as Frankie

as Police Chief Aiello

as Fat Moe

as Van Linden

as Peggy

as Chicken Joe

as Crowning

as Woman in the Puppet ...

as Mandy

as Trigger

as Beefy

as Mrs. Aiello

as Willie the Ape

as Young Noodles

as Young Max/David

as Young Patsy

as Young Cockeye

as Young Fat Moe

as Young Deborah

as Dominic

as Bugsy

as Bugsy's Gang

as Bugsy's Gang

as Al Capuano

as Fred Capuano

as Johnny Capuano

as Young Peggy

as Interviewer

as Irving Gold

as Monkey

as Girl in Coffin

as Adorable Old Man

as Nurse Thompson

as Reporter

as Reporter

as Reporter

as Chauffeur

as Cemetery Caretaker

as Max's Mother

as Peggy's Mother

as Ticket Agent

as Newstand Man

as Mounted Policeman

as 2nd Mounted Policema...

as Sgt. P. Halloran

as Street Singer

as Friend of Young Debo...

as Young Macrò
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Once Upon a Time in America

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Critic Reviews for Once Upon a Time in America

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (11)

Adding 22 minutes only enhances Leone's brilliant saga of guilt and betrayal

Full Review… | April 11, 2015
New York Post
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | November 20, 2012
Time Out
Top 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.

Full Review… | April 12, 2011
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Every gesture is immediate, and every gesture seems eternal.

Full Review… | April 12, 2011
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A disappointment of considerable proportions.

Full Review… | September 12, 2008
Top 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.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

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.

Carlos Magalhães

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.

Graham Jones
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.

Colin Montgomery
Colin Montgomery

Super Reviewer

Once Upon a Time in America Quotes

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