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Some of the best films of Joe Pesci

Joe Pesci has had a long, interesting career. He initially began his showbiz career as a singer before moving on to a comedy double act with Frank Vincent in the early 70s. His first credited film role was in 1976’s The Death Collector. It was this that brought him to the attention of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. This led to him starring in Raging Bull and an ongoing partnership for many other brilliant movies.

Pesci was great in both comedic and dramatic roles. He played many iconic supporting characters that often stole the show, but he did, on occasion have some memorable leading roles.

With this in mind, let us take a look at some of the best films that Joe Pesci has starred in.

Raging Bull – 1980

Martin Scorsese directed the biopic of boxer Jake LaMotta. Robert De Niro played Jake and Pesci played his brother Joey. Shot in stark black and white, the film follows the ups and many downs of LaMotta. Pesci is brilliant in the role of Joey and is almost an audience stand-in as we react in much the same way as he does with regards LaMotta’s behaviour. As is so often the case, we are always left wanting more scenes with Pesci. He was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Lethal Weapon 2 – 1989

“I’m Leo Getz, and whatever you want, Leo gets!” The original Lethal Weapon starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover was a lot of fun. Then came the sequel, which is one of those times a sequel equals, or even improves, on the original. Joe Pesci played Leo Getz who Riggs and Murtagh are assigned to protect. Pesci steals every scene as the obnoxious Getx he is in and the chemistry between him and his co-stars is fantastic. So good in face that he returned for the following two films.

Goodfellas – 1990

Arguably, Pesci’s best role as gangster Tommy DeVito and the one that saw him win Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Reunited with Scorsese and De Niro, Pesci is a dangerous, menacing character of chaos who fills every scene with tension. The moment when Ray Liotta’s character says Tommy is a funny guy is a roller coaster of tension and humour. Every moment Pesci is on screen is perfection.

Home Alone – 1990

A change of pace saw Pesci star as Harry with Daniel Stern as Merv, in what has become a Christmas classic. Riffing on his menacing tough guy roles as the incompetent thief we have all laughed at the cartoon antics that Macauley Culkin as Kevin McCallister puts The Wet Bandits through. It could have been an embarrasing mess, but both Pesci and Stern absolutely give it their all and you spend the whole film waiting to see their comeuppance. They reunited for the sequel in 1992 but the original is where the magic happened.

My Cousin Vinny – 1992

A rare leading role, saw Pesci star opposite Marisa Tomei in the fish-out-of-water comedy. It followed Italian-American New Yorkers Vinny and his fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito as they head to the Southern States of America to defend Vinny’s cousin. Pesci going head-to-head with Fred Gwynne (in his last role) as the judge are some of the best scenes of the film and the supporting cast make it a comedy classic. Marisa Tomei also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role.

Casino – 1995

Pesci was back with De Niro and Scorsese for the film that looks at some of the history of Las Vegas and the changes it went through over the years. We follow De Niro’s Sam “Ace” Rothstein who is asked by the Chicago Outfit to oversee the day-to-day casino and hotel operations at the Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas. We get to see how casinos operate, whether you play with a live dealer, try your luck on the slots, it portrays the ins and outs of making sure everything runs smoothly and is a fascinating aspect of the film. Pesci plays Nicky Santoro (Pesci), a “made man” and friend of Sam who is tasked with protecting Sam. Similar to his role in Goodfellas, Pesci’s Nicky follows his own rules and eventually pays the price.

The Irishman – 2019

In 1999, Pesci announced his retirement from acting to pursue a musical career. However, in 2017 it was announced he would work with Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro again. Pesci was offered his role a reported 50 times before agreeing to take part, at first saying he did not want to do “the gangster thing again.” Pesci eventually said yes and played mob boss Russell Bufalino. A change from the enforcer characters he had played in the past, Pesci played the role much quieter and reserved when compared to his previous gangster roles. Pesci’s performance was critically acclaimed and earned him various accolades, including nominations for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor and for two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Pesci has been in many other films, which roles are your favourite?

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