Mob boss John Gotti reflects on his three-decade reign of crime in New York City. In 1972, he is tasked by Neil Dellacroce, underboss to the Gambino crime family, to kill James McBratney, who is believed responsible for the kidnapping and murder of boss Carlo Gambino’s nephew. Killing McBratney at a bar, Gotti becomes a “made man”.
Decades later in the 1990s, Gotti is incarcerated at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, having been diagnosed with throat cancer. He meets with his son, John “Junior”, who is considering a plea bargain.
In 1972, after the McBratney hit, he is identified in the murder and sentenced to four years at Green Haven, but leaves on medical furloughs to conduct further criminal business, including another hit. Gotti is paroled from Lewisburg in 1974 after serving two years and joins his wife, Victoria, and children at their new home in Howard Beach, Queens. By 1979, Gotti operates out of the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club with friend Angelo Ruggiero. Junior enters the New York Military Academy but hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps. Despite Dellacroce’s counsel and the assurances of Frank DeCicco, Gotti is mistrustful of Anthony Casso. In 1980, Gotti’s 12-year-old son Frank is struck and killed by a neighbor’s car. The neighbor later disappears, and the only witness to his abduction is intimidated into silence.
By 1985, the Gambino organization has come under scrutiny, and Gotti doubts Paul Castellano’s leadership. Junior instigates a bar brawl that leaves a man dead, infuriating Gotti. The Gambino family faces further scrutiny when the government releases the embarrassing Ruggerio tapes, caught on FBI wiretap. Gotti escapes criminal charges, but the prosecution announces that his associate, Wilfred Johnson, is an informant; although Gotti agrees to give him a “pass”, Johnson is later killed. Gotti learns that Castellano plans to reorganize the Gambino family and possibly break up Gotti’s crew. Dying of cancer, Dellacroce helps Gotti secure the approval of the Five Families to eliminate Castellano, who fails to attend Dellacroce’s funeral.
On December 16, 1985, Gotti has Castellano and his bodyguard gunned down, and is named the new head of the Gambino family, capturing the attention of the press and the public as “the real-life Godfather”. Vincent Gigante plots with Casso to eliminate Gotti, and DiCicco is killed by a car bomb that Ruggerio believes was meant for Gotti. Casso survives an unsanctioned hit, tracking down the assassin and torturing him into revealing he was sent by Ruggerio. Gotti settles the matter with Gigante, and casts Ruggerio out of his crew.
Escaping prosecution for the third time, Gotti is nicknamed “the Teflon don” by the press. Ruggiero dies of cancer in 1989. Becoming a made man, Junior is married in 1990. On trial in 1992 for the fourth time, Gotti is charged with Castellano’s murder; Sammy Gravano testifies against him, and Gotti is sentenced to life in prison. Junior assumes control as the organization is targeted by rivals and several members are killed, and is himself taken into custody in 1998.
Gotti dies on June 10, 2002. Junior chooses to leave his criminal life behind for the sake of his family, and after five trials in 37 months, he goes free.