I’ve since gone soft and my go-to answer is now Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but Goodfellas remains in the top five, no question.
It’s the best work of Scorsese’s impressive career. Every shot, every frame, is inspired. And when it comes to music, no film ever has made better use of the “drop the needle” approach of using popular music as score.
All of which brings me to…
‘Layla’ – Goodfellas
Scorsese uses the melancholy piano interlude that ends Derek & The Dominos’ ‘Layla’ during the film’s turning point, when the glamour and dangerous excitement of the mafia life give way to paranoia, fear and horror.
The sequence starts with the discovery of a series of bodies, whacked by Robert DeNiro’s Jimmy Conway to cover his tracks after a recent heist, then shifts to the planned elevation of Joe Pesci’s Tommy to “made” status. Anybody who’s seen the film knows how that turns out.
I don’t know if this was the first time I’d heard ‘Layla’ but it is forever married to this remarkable sequence.
Here’s the move clip, followed by the song absent all the dead bodies.