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The Goodfellas Painting

The painting was originally painted by the mother of Nicholas Pileggi and is based upon a 1978 edition of National Geographic. Pileggi wrote the book “Wise Guy” which the movie is based upon..

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Movie Facts

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Nicholas Pileggi – Book and Screenplay
Adapted from: Wiseguy
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Awards: Nominated for an Oscar for best picture. Academy Award winner for Best Actor in a Supporting Role Domestic Total Gross: $46,836,394

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MOTHER: Have some more. You hardly touched anything. Did Tommy tell you about my painting? Look at this. (Pulls out an oil painting from alongside the refrigerator.)

JIMMY: It’s beautiful.

TOMMY: I like this one. One dog goes one way and the other goes the other.

MOTHER: One’s going east, the other’s going west. So what?

TOMMY: And this guy’s saying, “Whaddya want from me?” The guy’s got a nice head of white hair. Beautiful. The dog it looks the same.

JIMMY: Looks like somebody we know.


In Martin Scorsese’s classic 1990 gangster film “Goodfellas,” there’s a humorous scene involving a painting of two dogs. The painting doesn’t carry any significant plot weight, but it serves as a piece of cultural flavor and adds depth to the characters and the world they inhabit. It’s also one of those small details that fans of the movie tend to remember and discuss.

Here’s the context:

Karen Hill (played by Lorraine Bracco) brings over a painting to Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). The painting depicts two dogs, one black and one white, sitting on either side of an old man in a rowboat. Tommy humorously describes the painting, saying the two dogs look like someone they know, and the scene offers a brief moment of levity. The old man in the painting is described as entering or leaving a certain “situation” (implied to be a criminal or troublesome situation), and the dogs are likened to two gangsters they know.

The significance of the painting can be seen in several ways:

1. Comic Relief: The way the characters talk about the painting offers a humorous moment in an otherwise intense film. Tommy’s colorful description of the painting and how he relates it to their own experiences in the mob world provides levity.

2. Character Depth: It gives us a glimpse into the personalities and relationships of the characters. Their ability to find humor and relatability in such a mundane object tells us a lot about how they see the world around them.

3. Cultural Touchstone: For fans of the movie, the painting becomes a memorable cultural reference. It’s not a pivotal plot point, but it’s a detail that has been referenced and parodied in other media, adding to the film’s cultural impact.

While the painting itself is not symbolic in the grander themes of “Goodfellas,” its inclusion provides texture and character development in the movie.

“Whaddya want from me?” The guy’s got a nice head of white hair. Beautiful. The dog it looks the same.