Setting aside musicals, romantics, action movies, Gangster-dramas have always seen to captivate audience over the years. The idea of power, respect, unquestionable loyalty has always left audience baffled by the character. We, at Xtrascoop have piled up the 10 best gangster movies ever made over the years
10.The Public Enemy (1931)
This 100-min gangster-drama was one of the first gangster movies to be ever made in Hollywood. The story is centered around Tom Powers, played by James Cagney, and his rise and fall in the Chicago mob. The movie is well paced, starting from Tom Powers’s childhood and his eventual involvement in the mob. It is only once Prohibition hits, Tom along with his childhood best friend Matt begin to rise to power, quick with their wits of stealing and selling beer. The movie also has a sentiment touch to it with the relationship between Tom and his family. If you watch the movie carefully, one can even identify how Tom’s character has been laid as a foundation to characters for the gangster movies made nowadays. The ruthlessness, the idea of sucking up to no-one, the unexpected sentimental touch, the movie pretty much-defined characteristics for a Hollywood gangster. We all in a way, have to be thankful to The Public Enemy for its definition of a true gangster.
9. Miller’s Crossing (1990)
Probably Coen brothers most unknown project, this movie is beautiful. The subject of manipulation is used throughout the movie and the Coen brothers have done a brilliant job with the protagonist’s characterization. Set in the Prohibition era, the movie revolves around a peacemaker and an adviser to an Irish mob boss, who gets trapped in a war between the two mobs. He does a blunder by saving someone who is about to get whacked (killed) and this gets back to him. His loyalty is also questioned in the process and the whole movie is about Tom Reagan, the protagonist, played by Gabriel Byrne, talking his way through and using manipulation to save his life and getting the things he wants to be done. The soundtrack is truly peaceful and the Coen Brothers taking is quite brilliant. Miller’s Crossing is that one gangster movie with a storyline that is pretty unique when compared to the conventional ones.
8. American Gangster (2007)
This movie outright makes you feel that this is the most classy a gangster can get and is bound to leave you baffled at times. Based on a true story, this movie is about Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington and detective Richie Roberts, played by Russel Crowe. Frank is a well known respected person in Harlem but what the world doesn’t know is that he is a drug lord. With his simple style and limited travel, Frank isn’t even acknowledged or suspected by the police until one unfortunate day. Russel Crowe does a brilliant job as a detective in hunt of his prey and Denzel gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a true thug of class and respect. The movie gives a pretty great insight into how the drug syndicate works and the logistics behind the process. The setting of Harlem is amazing and the defining shots are brilliant. American Gangster is one of those movies with a storyline that you will feel is too unbelievable to have happened.
7. Donnie Brasco (1997)
Starring Johnny Depp as Joe Pistone and Al Pacino as Lefty, this movie is about an FBI agent who infiltrates the mob but as time passes, begins to relate more with it only to slowly slide away from his personal and professional life. Based on a true story, this movie is pure entertainment and Al Pacino’s role is just too funny at times. We are introduced to an old gangster who has not been promoted since years in the mob and on a daily basis rants about it. The movie does a brilliant job at explaining mob hierarchy and the different positions in it. This part of the movie is very interesting as it explains how the mob system works. As the movie goes on, it’s shown how Joe grows pity for Lefty, develops a liking towards him and how he starts to help him out in the mob. Donnie Brasco on an overall is a hilarious and enjoyable gangster movie with an ending that hits you right in the feels.
6. Casino (1995)
Starring Martin Scorsese’s favorite combination, this movie is set in Las Vegas. Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci play Sam and Nicky, characters who are initially best friends but as time flies, they eventually become enemies, each with the desire to expand their own business. Marty uses narration from both characters for storytelling and the way the business and the back-end looting in Vegas happens is brilliantly narrated. Casino brings back the Goodfellas feels with Joe Pesci’s and De Niro’s friendship, the narration, the humor elements and is truly enjoyable. As usual, there is always a woman involved, but what stands out from other gangster movies has to be her character. The character is real strong but unexpectedly soft when it comes to certain elements and Sharon Stone does an amazing job playing it, bagging her the Academy. Casino is an amazing and enjoyable flick that really stands out in certain aspects.
5. Once Upon A Time In America (1984)
A tale of two friends who grow from petty criminals to become gangsters, this movie is a thug but also an emotional journey. Set in the Prohibition era, the movie takes us on a voyage of power, ego, and love. The grand scale of the movie is truly capturing. From settings, background score to character-defining scenes, the movie is quite brilliant. Robert De Niro and James Woods play best friends and a certain event causes De Niro to leave. The movie is told in flashbacks with his return and the present timeline is full of nostalgia. With one of the most interesting endings, Once Upon A Time In America hits you right in the feels at times, leaving you thinking even after its over. Once Upon A Time In America is definitely a must-watch to anyone who appreciates the beauty and grandness of cinema.
4. Scarface (1983)
With probably one of the best characterization ever done in Hollywood, Scarface brings a very different feel when compared to the usual gangster movies. While every other movie has character justification to prove even the bad guy is good or has a point or just thinks differently, Scarface isn’t like that. Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino, is a violent man in the quest of building an empire and by the time he builds one, he’s made enemies. Brian De Palma’s Scarface in that way stands out with Tony Montana’s character. The character is shown to be very raw, with goals we all frankly want to achieve deep inside. The character’s perception of the world in the movie is just too unique. Being Al Pacino’s most iconic role till date, his accent and dialogue delivery is brilliant and his acting was definitely Oscar worthy. According to me, of all the gangster movies made, Scarface has the best characterization for a protagonist.
3. Goodfellas (1990)
According to me, Goodfellas has to be the most entertaining gangster movie ever made. Martin Scorsese’s brilliant touch with the use of narration from the protagonist keeps us involved throughout. Based on a true story, the story is about the rise and fall of Henry Hill and his journey and troubles with his mates, Jimmy Conway and Tommy Devito. Joe Pesci’s comical maniac act as Tommy Devito leaves us in splits at times, Robert De Niro’s proves his acting brilliance bringing out a sense of class and power in Jimmy Conway’s character. The protagonist Henry Hill played by Ray Liotta quest for power and his fading devotion to his boss and the system has been brilliantly shown. The movie’s use of violence as supporting humor, the role of love and its influence on the protagonist’s characterization, iconic sequence shots and the directorial justice to the script all have to be greatly appreciated. Goodfellas is a must watch for anyone who just wants to sit down and enjoy a real thug movie.
2. The Godfather: Part Two (1974)
The second part of The Godfather series takes us into two generations- The rise of Vito Corleone and the struggle of Michael Corleone as the Godfather. Al Pacino displays a certain form of strength and justice in his character. Robert De Niro does a brilliant job playing a newcomer in the States, looking to lead a decent life but eventually becomes a man of power and importance, respected for his goodness. By giving attention to details such as the importance of family in both timelines, Francis Ford Coppola does an incredible job at characterization and how one has adapted it from the other. The match cuts, properly shot time gaps with a brilliant setting, The Godfather 2 carries on the visual grandness of the series.
1. The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather, without any doubt, has to be the best mob movie ever made. Taking us into the world of the mafia, the complications that come with being in it and the hierarchy of power, Francis Ford Coppola does a commendable job by showing the idea of power and the royalties that come with it. Taking us into the Sicilian backdrop and the raw lifestyle over there, he pays attention to details such as love which slowly tend to contribute more to the bigger picture. Set in 1940’s, this movie is about a Don, and his principles, and line of succession. From dialogues which are quoted even today, the soundtrack that still resonates everywhere, defining cinematography to Marlon Brando’s Oscar-winning performance as Don Corleone and Al Pacino class-to-rogue act as Michael Corleone, The Godfather perfects in all of them to being the best gangster-drama ever made.
What is your favorite gangster movie of all time? Do let us know in the comments