“He loved the American dream…with a vengeance.” Tony Montana is the hero at the center of Scarface, a 1983 feature film with a lasting cult following. The first and second acts of the film follow Montana’s rise from refugee to drug kingpin while the third act concludes with a violent and precipitous fall. Images, clips, and quotes from the movie appear frequently in pop culture as posters, t-shirts, and in pop lyrics (for example, “The World Is Yours” by Nas). Montana is played by Al Pacino, an actor who would have been well-known to audiences in 1983 for his portrayal of Michael Coreleone in The Godfather a decade earlier. Pacino’s very public Italian-American identity (along with his inconsistent on-screen Cuban accent) contribute to a confusing representation of Cuban politics and refugee life in Miami.
What genre is Scarface? Who is its audience? What sort of hero is Tony Montana? Are we supposed to root for him? Is it exciting to see him rise to power? Is it sad to see him fall? Is the audience invited to identify with Tony?
In the trailer for Scarface, the narrator twice refers to “the American Dream.” What is the American Dream? Does Tony aspire to the American Dream? Or does he represent it? Is it possible for a criminal to live the American Dream?
How is Cuba depicted in Scarface? Why would Tony Montana leave Cuba? Would audiences in 1983 know about a “Cuban Dream”? How was it different from the American Dream?
What role do women seem to play in Scarface? Tony is depicted interacting with women several times in the trailer. How does he refer to women in the dialogue? What does he mean when he says, “With the right woman, there’s no stopping me…” Who is “the right woman”? And how would she make him “unstoppable”?