Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Gangs of New York (2002)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Gangs of New York (2002)

In Martin Scorsese's historical epic about Manhattan's Five Points, a NY neighborhood in the mid 1800s:

  • the confrontational line-up scene on snowy streets between an Irish-Catholic immigrant gang dubbed the Dead Rabbits (led by 'Priest' Vallon (Liam Neeson)) against the Natives - the forces of the character of villainous leader Bill 'the Butcher' Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis); Bill's derogatory comment about the opposing forces: ("Is this it, Priest? The Pope's new army? A few crusty bitches and a handful of ragtags?"); the Priest's forces responded with a show of force among the recruits: ("Now, now, Bill, you swore this was a battle between warriors, not a bunch of Miss Nancys. So warriors is what I brought. The O'Connell Guard. The Plug Uglies. The Shirt Tails. The Chichesters. The Forty Thieves")
Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting's (Daniel Day-Lewis) Irish-Catholic Nativist Immigrants vs. 'Priest' Vallon's (Liam Nesson) Dead Rabbits:
The Battle of the Points
  • Bill 'the Butcher's' speech (while holding out two knives in each hand) before commencing the bloody territorial Battle of the Points, fought on the snowy streets of the Five Points: ("On my challenge, by the ancient laws of combat, we have met at this chosen ground to settle for good and all, who holds sway over the Five Points: Us Natives, born right-wise to this fine land or the foreign hordes defiling it. By the ancient laws of combat, I accept the challenge of the so-called Natives. You plague our people at every turn. But from this day out, you shall plague us no more.")
  • the death of Vallon on the bloody battlefield, stabbed in the abdomen by Bill - witnessed by his young son Amsterdam (Leonardo di Caprio as adult), who returned 16 years later to seek revenge for the death of his father by ingratiating himself with Bill the Butcher
  • the scene of newly-arrived poor immigrants on the docks being conscripted to fight the Civil War, as coffins were being stacked up
  • Bill the Butcher's monologue (with a tattered US flag draped over his shoulder) about how violence and the "spectacle of fearsome acts" had allowed him to maintain his powerful grip: ("I'm 47. Forty-seven years old. You know how I stayed alive this long? All these years? Fear. The spectacle of fearsome acts. Somebody steals from me, I cut off his hands. He offends me, I cut out his tongue. He rises against me, I cut off his head, stick it on a pike and raise it high up so all in the streets can see. That's what preserves the order of things. Fear")
  • Bill's continuing monologue about knowing Amsterdam's father, claiming that his enemy Vallon was worthy of respect - because on one occasion, the Priest had beaten Bill, but let him survive in shame - to fight again with greater resolve: ("I killed the last honorable man 15 years ago....The Priest and me, we lived by the same principles. It was only faith divided us. (pointing to a scar) He give me this, you know. That was the finest beating I ever took. My face was pulp, my guts was pierced and my ribs was all mashed up. And when he came to finish me, I couldn't look him in the eye. He spared me because he wanted me to live in shame. This was a great man. A great man. So I cut out the eye that looked away. Sent it to him wrapped in blue paper. I would have cut 'em both out if I could have fought him blind. Then I rose back up again with a full heart and buried him in his own blood")
  • the scene of Amsterdam attempting to assassinate Bill with a knife, with Bill's counter-attack, striking Amsterdam in the abdomen and then acknowledging that he knew Amsterdam was "the son of Priest Vallon" - and then beating him up and terrorizing him in front of a cheering crowd and letting him live ("marked with shame - a freak worthy of Barnum's Muzeum of Wonders") - after burning his cheek with a hot blade: ("I want yous all to meet the son of Priest Vallon. I took him under my wing and see how I'm repaid?...Saves my life one day, so he can kill me the next like a sneak-thief, instead of fightin' like a man. A base defiler, unworthy of a noble name.... We need to tenderize this meat a little bit. All right, let's kiss good night to that pretty young face of yours. What'll it be, then? Rib or chop? Loin or shank?...He ain't earned a death. He ain't earned a death at my hands. No. He'll walk amongst you marked with shame - a freak worthy of Barnum's Museum of Wonders")
  • the climactic face-to-face confrontation between Bill and Amsterdam, interrupted by the quelling of draft riots by cannon fire from Union Army ships, and Bill's wound in the abdomen from cannon shrapnel ("Thank God. I die a true American"), and Amsterdam's further stabbing of Bill to end his life
  • the astonishing "time passage" finale of the Battery Park's development from 1863 to pre-9/11 New York City - with Amsterdam's concluding voice-over: ("It was four days and nights before the worst of the mob was finally put down. We never knew how many New Yorkers died that week before the city was finally delivered. My father told me we was all born of blood and tribulation. And so then too was our great city. But for those of us what lived and died in them furious days, it was like everything we knew was mightily swept away. And no matter what they did to build the city up again, for the rest of time, it would be like no one even knew we was ever here")

(Leonardo di Caprio)

Civil War Coffins Stacked on Dock

The Butcher's Monologue About Fear

Assassination Attempt

Amsterdam's Fight to the Death with Bill

Graves of Cutting and 'Priest' Side by Side

Time Passage View of Battery Park to Present-Day New York


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