They say crime doesn’t pay, but Hollywood has a different take on the old adage. For decades, the crime genre has produced some of cinema’s most popular films, providing us regular Joes with a look into the lives of mobsters, gangsters, and other high-profile criminals.
The Wolf of Wall Street is the latest movie to showcase the extravagant lifestyle of a career criminal. Using methods that are “absolutely not” legal, Jordan Belfort and his merry band of stock brokers are able to acquire an unthinkable amount of cash by scamming the wealthiest Americans out of their money – and then bask in the fruits of their labor.
Anyone who has seen the trailers for the film knows that it would be hard to resist the opportunity to be in Belfort’s entourage. Elaborate pool parties, fancy cars, and bikini models on yachts are only a few reasons why most of us would follow in the footsteps of Jonah Hill’s Donnie Azoff by quitting our day jobs to work for Belfort. That got us thinking about the five movie criminals we would want to live like. Obviously, the fall from grace is always around the corner, but the high life is difficult to turn down.
Henry Hill – Goodfellas
As far back as Henry Hill could remember, he always wanted to be a gangster and one viewing of Goodfellas’ opening sequence will make you want to be one too. In Martin Scorsese’s classic, we are introduced to the protagonist as a wide-eyed youth who is infatuated with becoming a member of the mob. In a monologue filled with optimism, young Henry glamorizes the lifestyle, claiming that there is no better way to be.
Starting from his job at the cabstand as a teenager to an adult working heists with Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito, Henry spends the first part of Goodfellas validating everything he says in those opening minutes. He becomes rich early in his life, enjoys the family nature of the New York mob, doesn’t have to work a “real” job, and commands the utmost respect from the mob’s associates (symbolized by the famous Copacabana sequence). Herein lies the beauty of Goodfellas. It takes people who murder and steal for a living and turns them into relatable characters.
Of course, Henry’s naivety from his childhood comes back to bite him as the less-appealing aspects of gangster life rear their ugly heads in the film’s second half (most notably, FBI helicopters and jail time). Still, through designer suits, expensive meals, and a feeling of invulnerability – however short-lived – we’d still take his experiences over being a schnook.