The Sopranos and Goodfellas have many things in common, most notably many of their actors, and one scene in The Sopranos involving Christopher Moltisanti shooting a guy in the foot is a perfect Goodfellas nod that goes beyond the obvious. The gangster genre has seen a bunch of titles that have become classics, both on the big screen and TV, and while they all have a common theme, these rarely connect or reference each other. However, two of the most popular and successful titles from the gangster genre – Goodfellas and The Sopranos – not only have many actors in common but also one scene that perfectly references one actor’s role in the other
Goodfellas is often considered Martin Scorsese’s best work, and it’s based on the book Wiseguy, by Nicholas Pileggi. Released in 1990, Goodfellas chronicles the life of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), an associate of the Lucchese crime family from his days as a teenager running errands for Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino) to his full involvement with the mob, up to his decision years later to become an FBI informant. Nine years later, now on TV, came The Sopranos, created by David Chase. Set in New Jersey and New York City, The Sopranos follows mobster Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) who struggles to balance his chaotic family life, role as boss of the Soprano family, and his mental health, and just like Goodfellas, it’s full of drama, betrayals, and graphic scenes.
As mentioned above, Goodfellas and The Sopranos have many, many actors in common, and among the most notable ones is Michael Imperioli, who had a small role in Goodfellas as Spider and played Christopher Moltisanti, Tony’s protégé and “nephew” in The Sopranos. In Goodfellas, Spider only appears twice, and he was a young man who was bartending a card game attended by Henry, Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), and other mobsters. Spider left a big impression as he forgot Tommy’s drink, who argued with the young man while the rest laughed at them. This made Tommy angrier and continued yelling as Spider left to get his drink, and ended up shooting him in the foot. Spider returned a week later to serve them drinks again, wearing a cast on his foot. Tommy teased him about it, and Spider was brave enough to tell him to “go f*** himself”, for which Jimmy praised him, but that only made Tommy angrier, who shot Spider multiple times, killing him on the spot.
Christopher’s fate in The Sopranos was way different than Spider’s, and he made it to the final season of the show, but not without a major reference to his role in Goodfellas. In The Sopranos season 1, Christopher was waiting for his turn at a bakery, and when it came, the guy at the counter attended the man behind Christopher because they knew each other. Christopher was volatile and impulsive, and he immediately reacted to this in the worst way. After being left alone with the guy at the counter, Christopher threatened him and shot him in the foot, saying “it happens!” as the guy cried. This is not only a perfect reference to Spider getting shot in the foot but also an interesting mirror between Tommy DeVito and Christopher Moltisanti. Both characters didn’t feel respected in their “families”, were impulsive and violent, and were constantly looking to prove themselves to the rest, even though they didn’t need to (especially Tommy, who was the only one out of the group of him, Henry, and Jimmy who could be a “made man”).
It’s interesting to see Michael Imperioli playing a character like Spider against one like Tommy DeVito and later playing one like Christopher Moltisanti, who was leaned more towards a Tommy DeVito type of character, and that reference to getting shot in the foot was brilliant and fun for those who have watched both Goodfellas and The Sopranos. Neither Spider nor Christopher had peaceful endings, but both left quite an impression on viewers for different reasons.