‘Rocky,’ ‘Goodfellas,’ and more: the films of producer and veteran Irwin Winkler

Joel Searls
Feb 27, 2024 1:06 PM PST
5 minute read
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 03: Producer Irwin Winkler attends the 20th Annual AFI Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 03, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 03: Producer Irwin Winkler attends the 20th Annual AFI Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 03, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)


With such hits as The Wolf on Wallstreet, The Net, and so many more, Irwin Winkler has captured audiences and critics’ attention on the silver screen for over 50 years.

Irwin Winkler has captured audiences and critics' attention on the silver screen for over 50 years. He is a force of nature known for such hits as Rocky, Raging Bull, The Right Stuff, Goodfellas, The Irishman, Double Trouble, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Rocky II through Rocky V, Creed I through Creed III, The Wolf of Wall Street, Rocky Balboa, The Net and The Mechanic (1972 and 2011).

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He has worked with such stars as Elvis Presley, Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Michael B. Jordan, Al Pacino, Sandra Bullock, Milla Jovovich, Pierce Brosnan, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Leonardo Di Caprio, Margot Robbie, James Caan, Charles Bronson, Jason Statham, Tessa Thompson and Lorraine Bracco.

Winkler (left) with Sly Stallone and Robert Chartoff (right), receiving their Oscars for Rocky. Public domain.

He has collaborated with directors such as Martin Scorsese, John Avidelsen, Sly Stallone, Sydney Pollack, Ryan Coogler, Hugh Hudson and James McTeigue. Before all of his Hollywood success, Winkler volunteered for the U.S. Army when the Korean War broke out. He served for two years in Louisiana and used his G.I. Bill for his degree in American Literature at NYU.


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Creed is a resounding success on many levels that made its theatrical debut in 2015. It is strongly directed by Ryan Coogler and stars Michael B. Jordan, Sly Stallone, Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad in top form. It follows the amateur boxing career of Adonis Creed (Jordan) who is the son of Apollo Creed as he is trained by Rocky Balboa for a big fight. Thankfully the franchise didn't end with Rocky Balboa in 2006 and Creed came along to continue the inspirational storytelling. The film made $173M at the box office on a budget of around $40M. It has since spawned two sequels, one of which, Creed III was directed by Michael B. Jordan, which also did very well in the box office ($275M). Stallone won many awards for his portrayal of Rocky such as the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Critics' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as well. A definite new age hit by Winkler and team.


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Goodfellas is a groundbreaking, award-winning gangster film by Martin Scorsese released on September 19th, 1990. It stars Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino. It is based on the book, Wiseguy, by Henry Hill, a famous mob associate. The story follows Hill's life and exploits inside the world of organized crime in NYC. The film has some of the best performances from many of the cast's careers. It is also considered the high point of Scorsese's career. The film was nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor, which Pesci won. The movie has a great soundtrack which goes hand in hand with the action and suspense on screen. In 2000 the film was entered into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Another hit by Winkler.

The Irishman

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The gang is all back together again, minus Liotta with another gangster land hit, The Irishman, from Scorsese and produced by Winkler. It came out in 2019 on Netflix at a cost of anywhere between $159M to $250M. The movie is based on the 2004 book by Charles Brandt, I Heard You Paint Houses. The film stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci with a strong supporting cast of Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Stephanie Kurtzba and Ray Romano. The film was the ninth collaboration by Scorsese and De Niro, his fourth with Pesci and the first time the great director got to collaborate with Pacino, aka Michael Corleone. The story covers a hitman, Frank Sheeran (De Niro) and how he gets involved with the mafia through Russell Bufalino (Pesci). The film includes the time when Sheeran worked for Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). The movie has excellent cinematography as well as a top-of-line set design with period costumes. It was nominated for 10 Oscars to include Best Picture.

The Net

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The Net is an action thriller directed and produced by Irwin Winkler. That's right, he can do it all! It came in 1995 and stars Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northam and Dennis Miller. The story follows a computer program in Venice, California, who finds a conspiracy that puts her life and those around her at risk. Bullock does a fine job convincing the audience of her vulnerability and fears with some good dialogue with Miller. Some of these types of electronic espionage and tracking are real life today. The movie did exceptionally well as it brought in $100.6M against a budget of $22M. It spawned a TV show and a sequel.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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Yet another collaboration with Martin Scorsese, Winkler and he are quite the dynamic duo. The Wolf of Wall Street hit the big screen in 2013 and is a biographical black comedy crime film. It is based on a memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort which was published in 2007. The story follows Belfort's life on Wall Street as a stockbroker in the 1980s, the heyday of drugs, parties and wild living all the while making millions on the job (not that this does not exist in the same way, shape or form today). It stars Leonardo Di Caprio, Jona Hill, Margot Robbie and Kyle Chander. The film met critical and box office acclaim with a score of $406.9M against a budget of $100M. It was nominated for many Oscars to include Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Di Caprio) and Best Supporting Actor (Hill).

The Mechanic (1972)

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A Charles Bronson death-filled classic from an earlier era of Hollywood tough guys, The Mechanic delivers as he "fixes things." Whatever those "things" are likely involve bullets and a gun or many guns. Bronson goes into a full action-death mode in the film and shows he is one man not to be messed with. He is also a man of few words and says "whoa," "hey pallie," and "easy their tough guy" or some sort in every post-Death Wish film in his resume. This is in the same vein. I'm surprised there weren't more spin-offs or some type of resurrection for his character. Oops, spoiler, Bronson died in a movie. The movie is directed by Michael Winner and stars Charley B, Jan-Michael Vincent, Keenan Wynn and Jill Ireland (Bronson's wife). The film is about special assassin Arthur Bishop (no surprise here, it's Bronson), who brings on a new guy Steve McKenna (Vincent) to his operation. They pursue Harry McKenna (Wynn), the father of Steve, as he operates the secret company which Bishop works for. The film opens with no dialogue for 16 minutes and Bronson exacting his hardcore justice with an assassination (What? A Bronson movie with little dialogue and death, say it isn't so! We need more drama...wait...no...action is fine). The film was met with mixed reviews -- it spawned a remake of the same name in 2011 with Jason Statham and a further sequel in 2016 Mechanic: Resurrection.


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