Martin Scorsese created one of Goodfellas' most memorable scenes - the day mobster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) gets busted for drug trafficking - with the help of six classic-rock songs.

"Ooh, that was an expensive scene," music editor Christopher Brooks told GQ in 2010. "The sequence in Goodfellas — moving the cocaine, making the Sunday gravy and taking care of the brother in the wheelchair, and dodging helicopters — the way music and film are used there, so that you actually feel you're high on coke?" The Sopranos creator David Chase noted. "I don't think anybody's ever done that before or since. It's beautiful filmmaking."

The scenes in the 1990 movie break down the fateful day of May 11, 1980, into 10 glorious minutes. It begins at 6:55AM, when Henry does a line of cocaine on his way out the door to run some errands, which include dropping guns off at Jimmy Conway's (Robert De Niro) house and picking up both his brother Michael (Kevin Corrigan) at the hospital and more cocaine. He also finds time to cook a feast, mix the coke with quinine at his mistress Sandy's (Debi Mazar) place and driving his babysitter Lois (Welker White) to the airport so she can deliver the drugs he picked up.

Watch 'Goodfellas'' Helicopter Scene 

But as Henry leaves the house, he spots a helicopter, which he believes is following him. That forces him to change his plans, roping in his wife Karen (Lorraine Bracco) to make it look like they're an ordinary couple visiting her family and doing some shopping. It all seems to be on the verge of working out as planned, but then Lois realizes she left behind her lucky hat, which she refuses to fly without. Late at night, before Henry and Lois can even leave her driveway, the feds swarm in and make the bust.

Scorsese's use of music in this pivotal scene gets us inside the characters' heads. He shows Henry leaving the house as Harry Nilsson's jittery, narcotic-fueled "Jump Into the Fire" plays; after leaving Jimmy's, the mood switches to Mick Jagger's "Memo From Turner" as Henry drives to his next destination. That fades into the Who's live version of "Magic Bus" as Henry jams on the brakes to avoid crashing into a stopped car.

Watch 'Goodfellas'' Helicopter Scene 

"Jump Into the Fire" then returns as Henry drives Michael home and begins prepping dinner. The Rolling Stones' "Monkey Man" plays as Henry and Karen head to her parents' house. The couple gets the all-clear to the opening strains of Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy," which quickly transitions to George Harrison's "What Is Life."

With a quick zoom on Henry's face as he takes a hit, "Mannish Boy" returns. The Hill family eats in silence, but when Lois protests that she needs her hat, the drum break from "Jump Into the Fire" starts up again with the song's bass line starting as a cop points a gun at Henry and tells him to turn off the car.

"That scene is directed, obviously, by someone who's used cocaine!" Spike Lee noted. "Simple as that. And used it a lot. And if you've never tried cocaine, which I haven't, now I know what it feels like after watching that scene."

Watch 'Goodfellas'' Helicopter Scene 

Liotta concurred: "I've had a couple people come up to me who were users, and they said they would cue up that scene just to remember what that stuff could do to you."

That feeling was achieved through improvised dialogue - both Corrigan and Isiah Whitlock, who plays his the doctor, recalled nothing was scripted - and Thelma Schoonmaker's inventive editing.

"We were jump-cutting Ray Liotta making meatballs and looking for the helicopter," Schoonmaker explained. "And every time we screened it, we said, 'We can make it faster, faster, faster.'"

The integration of music and visuals in those 10 minutes are broken down in the video below. It touches on the camera's synchronized moving to the opening of "Mannish Boy" and other subliminal tricks used by Scorsese, Schoonmaker and others who helped make the classic movie.

 

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