This Goodfellas Theory Explains Why Henry Hill Never Kills Anyone

Freedmen is told through the perspective of Henry Hill, which made way for a few theories, some of which suggest that Henry wasn’t being completely honest, which is why throughout the film he doesn’t kill anyone. Martin Scorsese has brought films from different genres throughout his career as a filmmaker, but he is still best known for his gangster films – and the one often considered his best (not only of the gangster genre but in general as well) is Freedmen.

Released in 1990 and based on the book wiseby Nicolas Pileggi, Freedmen chronicles the life of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), from his teenage days running errands for Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino) to becoming an associate of the Lucchese crime family and culminating with him agreeing to cooperate with the FBI. During his days working for the Paulie crime family, Henry became close to some of the biggest names in the mob of the day, such as Jimmy “The Gent” Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) , with whom he has committed a number of crimes, but oddly Henry doesn’t kill anyone, but Jimmy and Tommy do.


Related: Goodfellas: Why Henry Breaks The 4th Wall At The End

Although Freedmen only has five on-screen deaths, there are many more known to have happened off-screen and of course there must have been many before the events of the film, but Henry is not not seen or mentioned as having killed anyone. As Freedmen is told through Henry’s point of view, many viewers see him as an unreliable narrator and believe he might have lied to the FBI, which means the events of the film did not unfold as stated.

Henry Hill never kills anyone in Goodfellas

As mentioned above, Freedmen only has five on-screen deaths – Billy Batts, Spider, Parnell “Stacks” Edward, Morrie Kessler and Tommy, whose deaths came as something of a surprise to audiences – but there are plenty more who happened off-screen and were confirmed with the on-screen discovery of the bodies, such as Johnny Roastbeef and his wife, Frenchy and Joe Buddha, and Frankie Carbone. Most of these deaths were at the hands of Tommy or Jimmy or ordered by them (in Tommy’s case, his murder remains a mystery as it is unknown who killed him and who ordered him killed), and although Henry was present when some of it happened, he never pulled the trigger and stabbed anyone to death, which seems odd for someone so devoted to his work with the crowd.

Theory: Henry Hill lies to the FBI about Jimmy and Tommy

Goodfellas Funny Scene Henry Hill FBI

All of this, plus the fact that the film is told through his point of view, has made audiences believe that Henry is lying. All of the voiceover narration is seen by many as Henry telling his story to the FBI, and as such he may not have been entirely honest with them. A Reddit The user suggests that Henry is lying to the FBI to make himself better than the others and exaggerating the actions of Paulie, Jimmy, and Tommy. That’s why throughout Freedmen Henry is not seen killing anyone and is limited to threatening and witnessing his friends’ crimes, as he did with the murder of Billy Batts. The theory is supported by how Henry has been shown to be a liar since he was young, so most of the events of Freedmen could have been embellished to his advantage.

Henry Hill being an associate could also explain his lack of victims

Jimmy attends an audience with Henry

However, there could be another reason why Henry doesn’t kill anyone in Freedmen, and it’s all about his role in the Lucchese family. As mentioned above, Henry Hill was an associate, which means he has different privileges and jobs than people like Paulie and other “made men.” Freedmen actually addressed the fact that not only Henry but also Jimmy cannot become “made men” within the mob as they are both half Irish, and to be a made man the associate must be Italian -pureblood American, as was the case with Tommy (who was unfortunately led to believe he was done when he was in fact about to be murdered in retaliation for the murder of Billy Batt and possibly- to other crimes as well).

Related: Goodfellas: How Tommy Knew He Was Beaten

In the American Mafia, there is a strict hierarchical structure similar to that of the Sicilian. The modern organizational structure of the American Mafia is attributed to Salvatore Maranzano, who created the five families – Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino and Lucchese – and each has a boss, underboss, caporregimes/capos and soldiers. Before becoming a soldier and then climbing this structure, those who wish to join the mafia are “associates”, which means that they are not members of the mafia but still work for a crime family. Associates can include a wide range of people working for the family, including people with whom the family does business, such as restaurant owners, or a criminal who mediates in criminal transactions or sells drugs for divert police attention from the actual family members. Now Associates can have a variety of duties, ranging from being an errand boy (like Henry in his teenage years and maybe even what Spider did) to having virtually the same duties as a soldier, like the assault, murder, extortion, intimidation, etc. .

Although that means Henry might have been “allowed” to kill people like Jimmy did (who, it should be noted, was as well respected as a real mob member even though he’s never become a created man), it is also very possible that he was ‘t, and so his duties with the Lucchese family were limited to extortion, intimidation and many more, and murder was out about for him.

Did the real Henry Hill kill anyone?

Goodfellas Henry Subtly Teases Foreshadows Frankie Carbone's Death

Freedmen does not show Henry Hill killing someone, and wise has no proof that he killed anyone either, but that might not be entirely true. Henry Hill was singled out by many as a liar, and many claimed he told many, many lies about his criminal life once he got out of the mob (and completely blew his cover because he was living under the witness protection program for years), and among his many lies is whether he killed people during his time as an associate or not. During a (drunkenness) interview with Howard Stern in 2002, Henry admitted to killing three people on Jimmy’s orders, but there is also no evidence of this. Some believe that committing murder isn’t always about pulling the trigger or holding the knife, but participating in and contributing to the planning matters, so in that light, Henry was definitely guilty of murder as well.

The veracity of Henry Hill’s testimonies and stories are still questioned by many, who believe he lied about his actions as an associate of the mob to protect himself (as his character likely did in Freedmen), while others add that he could never have been so close to people like Jimmy and Tommy if he had never killed anyone. The truth about Henry Hill’s murders and possible lies may never be known as he is already dead, so ultimately it will be up to each viewer to decide whether the story told in Freedmen was a lie or he really never killed anyone.

Next: Goodfellas: How Real-Life Gangsters Reacted To The Movie

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