A Bronx Tale

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A Bronx Tale
A Bronx Tale.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert De Niro
Screenplay byChazz Palminteri
Based onA Bronx Tale
by Chazz Palminteri
Produced by
CinematographyReynaldo Villalobos
Edited by
Music byButch Barbella
Distributed bySavoy Pictures
Release dates
  • September 14, 1993 (1993-09-14) (TIFF)
  • September 29, 1993 (1993-09-29) (United States)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$17.3 million[2]

A Bronx Tale is a 1993 American coming-of-age crime drama film directed by and starring Robert De Niro in his directorial debut and produced by Jane Rosenthal, adapted from Chazz Palminteri's 1989 play of the same name. It tells the coming of age story of an Italian-American boy, Calogero, who, after encountering a local Mafia boss, is torn between the temptations of organized crime and the values of his honest, hardworking father, as well as racial tensions in his community. The Broadway production was converted to film with limited changes, and starred Palminteri and De Niro.

De Niro, who first viewed the play in Los Angeles in 1990, acquired the rights from Palminteri, intent on making the play his directorial debut. The duo then worked heavily together on the screenplay, with Palminteri aiming to retain many of the aspects of the original script, as it was based largely on his own childhood. Production began in 1991, and was funded in collaboration with De Niro's TriBeCa Productions and Savoy Pictures, as the first film released by each studio.

A Bronx Tale premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 1993, and released in the United States on September 29, 1993. The film achieved limited commercial success, grossing over $17 million domestically. However, it fared much better with critics, who praised the performances of the leads, and launched Palminteri's acting career, while also helping De Niro gain acceptance as a director.


In 1960, nine-year-old Calogero lives in Belmont, a working-class Italian-American neighborhood in The Bronx with his father, Lorenzo, a MTA bus driver, and his mother, Rosina. Calogero becomes enamored with the Mafia presence in his neighborhood led by local boss Sonny. One day, Calogero witnesses Sonny shoot and kill a man assaulting his friend. Calogero keeps quiet when questioned by NYPD Detectives. Sonny's men offer Lorenzo a better paying job but, preferring a law-abiding life, he politely declines. Sonny befriends Calogero and gives him the nickname "C." Calogero earns tips working in Sonny's bar and throwing dice and is admonished by Lorenzo when he discovers the cash. Lorenzo returns the money to Sonny and warns him to keep away from Calogero.

Eight years later, a 17-year old Calogero has been visiting Sonny regularly without his father's knowledge. Calogero is part of a gang of local Italian-American boys, which concerns Sonny. Calogero meets an African-American girl, Jane, and they develop a tentative friendship. Despite the high level of racial tension between Italian-Americans and African-Americans in the area, Calogero arranges a date with Jane. He asks for advice from Sonny, who decides to lend Calogero his car. Later, Calogero's friends beat up a group of African-American cyclists riding through their neighborhood. One of the cyclists turns out to be Jane's brother, who accuses Calogero of beating him up when he and Jane meet for their date. Calogero loses his temper over the accusation, and calls him a nigger, which he instantly regrets. Jane leaves with her brother.

At home, Lorenzo confronts Calogero after seeing him driving Sonny's car. They argue and Calogero storms out. He runs into his friends, who tell him that some African-Americans egged their social club in retaliation to the earlier beating. Shortly thereafter, Sonny and his crew confront Calogero after finding a bomb on Sonny's car. Calogero tearfully pleads his unwavering dedication to Sonny, who recognizes Calogero's innocence and allows him to leave. Calogero meets up with friends, who plan revenge on the African-Americans using Molotov cocktails. They force Calogero to participate, but Sonny stops their car and orders Calogero out. Calogero catches up with Jane, who tells him that her brother admitted that Calogero was not his assailant. Jane and Calogero make amends, but he suddenly remembers his friends' plans to attack Jane's neighborhood, and the two rush to stop them. During the attack, an African-American shopkeeper throws an unbroken Molotov cocktail back at the boys' car which enters through the window and ignites the Molotov cocktails still in the vehicle, resulting in an explosion that kills everyone inside. When Calogero and Jane arrive, they find the car engulfed in flames and the boys' dead bodies burned.

Calogero leaves and rushes into Sonny's bar to thank him for saving his life, but an assassin shoots Sonny in the back of the head before Calogero can warn him. Calogero later learns that the killer was the son of the man he witnessed Sonny kill when he was nine. At Sonny's funeral, countless people come to pay their respects. When everyone but Calogero disperses, a lone man, Carmine, visits the funeral, claiming that Sonny once saved his life as well. Calogero does not recognize Carmine until he sees a scar on his forehead and realizes he was the man whom Sonny defended by shooting the other man eight years ago. Carmine tells Calogero that he is filling in for Sonny in the neighborhood for the time being and promises Calogero help should he ever need it. Carmine leaves just as Lorenzo unexpectedly arrives to pay his respects to Sonny. Lorenzo thanks him for saving his son's life and admits that he never hated him, but that he resented him for making Calogero grow up so quickly. Calogero bids Sonny goodbye and walks home with Lorenzo while narrating the lessons he learned from his two mentors.



The film is based on Chazz Palminteri's original play of the same name, which was performed as a one-man show, being largely based on his own childhood, specifically the shooting Calogero witnesses as a child, as well as the occupation and name of his father.[3]

In 1990, at a performance of A Bronx Tale, Robert De Niro met with Palminteri in his dressing room after having seen the show. De Niro told Palminteri, "This is one of the greatest one-man shows I've ever seen, if not the greatest ... This is a movie, this is an incredible movie."[4] After acquiring the rights to create the film, with De Niro claiming the deal was made solely with a gentlemen's agreement with Palminteri, the duo began crafting the screenplay.[4] Prior to partnering with De Niro, Palminteri rejected several offers for the film's rights, including some as high as $1 million, due to not being granted the roles of primary screenwriter and Sonny, the gangster Calogero meets.[4] De Niro met Palminteri's requirements on the condition that he be allowed to direct the film and play Lorenzo, Calogero's father, which Palminteri accepted.[4]



The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 1993. It was then released in the United States on September 29, 1993.

Home media[edit]

Sometime after the film's theatrical run, HBO released the movie on VHS, CD and in 1998 on DVD. The DVD is out of print, but in January 2010, Focus Features released a DVD copy of the film exclusive to online retailer Amazon.


Box office[edit]

A Bronx Tale opened in 1,077 theaters, with an opening weekend gross of $3.7 million. It went on to make $17.3 million domestically.[1][2]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 33 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A Bronx Tale sets itself apart from other coming-of-age dramas thanks to a solid script, a terrific cast, and director Robert De Niro's sensitive work behind the camera."[5] Metacritic gave it a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6]

Critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, calling it "very funny [and] very touching. It is filled with life and colorful characters and great lines of dialogue, and De Niro, in his debut as a director, finds the right notes as he moves from laughter to anger to tears [while] retaining its values."[7]

In 2008, the American Film Institute nominated this film for its Top 10 Gangster Films list.[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1994 Artios Award Best Casting for Feature Film Ellen Chenoweth Nominated
1994 Young Artist Award Best Youth Actor Co-Starring in a Motion Picture Drama Francis Capra Nominated
1996 Jordi Award Best Foreign Actor Chazz Palminteri Also for Bullets Over Broadway and The Usual Suspects Won


  1. ^ a b Kachka, Boris (October 14, 2007). "How 'A Bronx Tale' Got Told – New York Magazine". Nymag.com. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "A Bronx Tale (1993)". Box Office Mojo. November 16, 1993. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  3. ^ "Chazz Palminteri and the real-life inspiration for 'A Bronx Tale' are forever intertwined". bostonglobe.com. March 31, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Vlastelica, Ryan (March 2, 2016). "Chazz Palminteri on A Bronx Tale, Keyser Söze, and Stallone's career advice". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  5. ^ "A Bronx Tale (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  6. ^ "A Bronx Tale Reviews". Metacritic.
  7. ^ "A Bronx Tale". rogerebert.com. October 1, 1993. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  8. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2016.

External links[edit]