Once Upon a Time in America is quite possibly the best movie ever made, period. I originally watched this as a child when my family got their very first VHS tape player. I saw CafeDVD had it and rented it last year. This is a double disk movie. It is a good one for when you know the weather is going to trap you inside all weekend.
Epic doesn’t begin to describe the scope and quality of Once Upon a Time in America. It spans the 50 year history of young kids growing up on the Lower East Side when it was by and large an Italian ghetto about the time automobiles were becoming popular. You fall in love with the young boys committing their petty crimes and trying to have sex for the first time. They have no idea how to go about it, they just know they want it. The joys of youth end when one of them goes to prison.
The story picks up when the boy, now a man, is released from prison. His childhood friends are now full fledged gangsters and they welcome him back. Robert De Niro and James Woods deliver phenom performances. Elizabeth McGovern and the young girl who plays her as a child both deliver Oscar level performances. In truth, nobody in this movie appears to be a bit character/actor along for the ride. Everyone delivers. Joe Pesci disappeared so far into character that I didn’t even know he was in the movie until I saw the credits. That is how deeply into character these actors went.
Five stars are simply not enough for this movie.