5 Screenwriting Tips from Martin Scorsese's 'Goodfellas'

'Goodfellas'Credit: Warner Bros.
Do you have dreams of being a gangster? 

One of the best gangster and crime films of all time is Goodfellas. It is a 1990 American biopic film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Nicholas Pileggi. The movie is a stylish look inside a crime family as it's built and as it crumbles. I'm a huge fan of its intricate characters, snappy dialogue, and incredible visuals. 

This is the kind of movie you can learn a lot from. So today, we're going to look at some specific lessons you can glean from how they wrote the movie and see how you can apply them to your own work. 

Let's dive in. 

5 Screenwriting Tips from Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas

1. Create an Intriguing Opening Scene

If you're writing a spec, the most important part of it is your opening scene.

You want to hook the reader right away. Get people interested in the characters and the story. Your opening scene is a pathway into the story. You give them information on the kind of movie they'll watch. What's the genre and why will people care? Nail that scene, and you're off to a great start. 

2. How to Make an Antihero Likable

Antiheroes are hard characters to write. An antihero is not your typical protagonist because their personality traits are much more complicated. They may do bad deeds, but there's a key to making them someone you root for. It has less to do with likability and much more to do with making them interesting.

We don't always like Henry Hill, but we are interested in what he's doing. 

3. How to Write Compelling Voiceover

Voiceover is one of the trickiest things to write. You don't want to overexplain what's happening in the scene, but you do want to add flavor to a story and accentuate the good parts. This movie does such a good job at giving you the vibes and then letting what happens on screen explain the rest. 

4. How to Construct a Riveting Love Story

You wouldn't think a movie like this would have a love story, but within it are two characters who cannot seem to get away from one another. Karen and Henry work on screen because we truly understand their characters and motivation. You can work this kind of believability into any genre. You just have to build characters we love. 

5. How to Develop Memorable Scenes

If you want to learn how to write a memorable scene, you only need to remember one thing: conflict.

Every scene in this movie has a ton of conflict. We're always seeing Henry Hill fighting or trying to get what he wants. He doesn't always succeed, but each scene continues to build those conflicts into the overall narrative. It's exciting and fun because we build a world where it feels like almost anything can happen. 

Let us know what you think in the comments.      

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