I’d also note, however, that a big PART of what makes “Goodfellas” compelling is that its portrayal of the Mafia is so utterly at odds with what we saw in “The Godfather.”
A revisionist Western, like Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” or Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven,” wouldn’t make such a great impression on us if we hadn’t already seen and absorbed so many brilliant old-fashioned Hollywood Westerns.
In the same way, if “The Godfather” had never been made, “Goodfellas” would lose much of its power. It worked in large measure BECAUSE “The Godfather” had romanticized Mob life, and Scorsese was giving us a taste of the real thing (which was far meaner, dirtier and uglier).
When I first saw The Godfather (it happened to be playing in a local theater here last year), I thought there was no way it could live up to the hype. Even if it was really good, I didn’t think it could live up to its reputation as being so very great. But I saw it, as I felt I had to see it since it was such a classic, and I loved it. Then the next week I watched Godfather II and I loved it too. I thought it was just as good, if not better, than the first. Al Pacino’s performance was my favorite, and I liked that in Part II it starts with Michael already being established. I didn’t really start to like the first one until Michael made the decision to get into the business and then there is no turning back. So I still think Al Pacino’s performance in both films is one of the best I’ve ever seen.
I don’t even remember the first time I watched Goodfellas, but it was on TCM, and although it was late at night I didn’t go to sleep because I wanted to finish it. I did like it, I liked it very much. But it just didn’t have the same feel to me as The Godfather. I can’t explain why I like things; I just do.
I tried to watch The Godfather a second time and found it more boring this time and harder to get through. I can never re-capture the magic feeling I got from the first time I watched it. Goodfellas, while good, didn’t have the same effect on me.
So I will admit that Goodfellas is a more fun movie to watch, and that is important to me, but it’s not the only criterion.
It is not a question like the one in the OP whose real answer is trivial (“Yes, there is someone somewhere who thinks Goodfellas is as good as The Godfather.”), so that instead of answering it, people who hear it will reinterpret it as meaning something else that makes sense (“Why do you think Goodfellas is as good as The Godfather?”).
The Godfather was a roman a clef about the history of the mob. Goodfellas was a memoir about the Lufthansa Heist, at the time the largest armed theft ever on US soil, and is more strongly rooted in fact than The Godfather was. (Aside: Robert Crumb’s father-in-law was involved with this crime.)
I have to say that I find the love for Goodfellas incredible. I found this movie completely unwatchable. The leads are all incredibly vile characters - and I’m not talking about their nihilism, selfishnes, or general tool-ness. To me, they’re flat one-note quasi-personalities who are given a lot of flash and glamour because the screenwriter couldn’t create a coherent personality (DeNiro being the big exception). At no point was I remotely interested in the leads or their doing or fate much past the big heist, which was marginally interesting. I certainly didn’t find them human. I guess I was supposed to feel some sympathy even for the devil, but frankly… no.
Now, I don’t have an opinion on the Godfather. Never seen it. I can say I’ve enjoyed many other mobster movies. But not Goodfellas.
I don’t beleieve you were supposed to feel sympathy for any of the leads in Goodfellas. I certainly didn’t. It was (to me) more like watching a documentary about some kind of particularly repulsive insects. I watch with morbid fascination, not with sympathy.
I like Roger Ebert’s description of the movie being about a man who sells his soul, and at the end his only regret is that he has no more soul left to sell.
Both great movies and I still prefer The Godfather but Goodfellas has lots of elements more appealing to the young - faster pacing; more drugs; way, way better soundtrack and a pretty cool line of humor.
I am an old fart and I more recently watched Goodfellas after reading this fascinating article about the making of the movie.