Movie Synopsis of "Scarface"

by Nathaniel Williams
Brian de Palma directed the ultraviolent

Brian de Palma directed the ultraviolent "Scarface."

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Brian De Palma's "Scarface" was not an immediate sensation when it was released in 1983, but the movie has become a cult classic with fans of all ages and backgrounds. It bears little resemblance to a 1932 Howard Hawks film of the same title, apart from the basic story arc of the rise and fall of a brutal gangster named Tony. The earlier "Scarface" is a lean 90 minutes; the 1983 "Scarface" is nearly three hours and tells a far more epic tale.

Arrival in Miami

Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino) begins the movie as a poor Cuban refugee. He arrives in south Florida and is soon recruited by a drug dealer to conduct assassinations. After a few successful jobs and one bloody botched drug deal, Tony earns the favor of the local boss, Frank Lopez. Tony's mother and sister are less approving of his new criminal lifestyle.

Branching Out on His Own

Tony and one of Frank's top henchmen, Omar, begin to come into conflict. During a cocaine deal in Bolivia, a cocaine supplier reveals that Omar is an informant, and murders him. Tony returns to Frank with the news, and Frank angrily ends their business relationship. Tony is emboldened by his own business relationship with the Bolivians and begins to pursue Frank's girlfriend, Elvira. At the same time, he begins to become violently protective of his sister, who attracts many among Tony's drug world.

The Beginning of the Downfall

Tony is almost killed in a hit that he believes was set up by Frank. He confronts Frank and tricks him into revealing his responsibility for the attempted murder. One of Tony's henchmen kills Frank. Tony begins to consolidate Frank's former empire, and he marries Elvira. He enjoys enormous short-term success, but he begins to use cocaine more heavily and becomes paranoid of his own henchmen.

A Chance at Survival

Tony is arrested and charged with money laundering, but his Bolivian partners offer to clear his charges if he will carry out an assassination in New York for them. Tony heads to New York with his henchmen to carry out the killing. But when the target is surrounded by an innocent woman and children, Tony makes a choice that could bring about his own undoing.

Ending: Spoilers

Tony decides to shoot his own henchmen rather than kill the innocent civilians. Surrounded by enemies, both real and imagined, Tony holes up in his mansion, snorting cocaine and awaiting the army of Bolivians who come to kill him. The movie ends in a tremendous bloodbath that claims the lives of his sister, his henchmen, numerous Bolivians, and finally Tony himself.


  • "Scarface"; Universal Pictures; 1983
  • "Scarface"; United Artists; 1932

Photo Credits

  • Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images