Gangster Squad may not have connected with audiences recently, but don't look for filmmakers to shy away from the format. With such a colorful history as a sub-genre in Hollywood, gangster films have long been and always will be a great form of entertainment. They have also given us some of the top films of all time (currently several sit on our Movie Fanatic Top 100 of All-Time).
What are the best of the best? Movie Fanatic reveals our Top 10 Gangster Movies of All-Time.
10. The Untouchables
Sean Connery won an Oscar for his portrayal of an Irishman and brute force leader of the federal quintet of agents on a mission to take down Al Capone (the unforgettable Robert De Niro). Kevin Costner portrays Eliott Ness, the man who turned popular culture's fascination with gangsters into a real life passion to follow the G-men assigned to bring them down.
Brian De Palma expertly wielded his camera with The Untouchables and captured the sacrifice of the men who took it upon themselves to bring down an empire -- even if that straw that broke the camel's back was a simple case of tax evasion. That train station scene is still one of the most harrowing in film history! Check out our killer The Untouchables quotes for even more gangster goodness.
9. White Heat
James Cagney set the standard for gangster films with White Heat. The film arrived in 1949 and recalled the pre-World War II era where gangsters ruled the roost. The film is considered Cagney's most iconic role and still to this day stands as one of the absolute best films to follow a crime syndicate in history. Want to know more about this classic? Check out our White Heat quotes.
8. Donnie Brasco
Donnie Brasco crackles with a quiet, smoldering intensity until it blows up into one jaw-dropping moment after another in the film's final moments. Al Pacino is a mid-level gangster who takes Johnny Depp's titular character under his wing. As they both climb up the ladder of the criminal enterprise, the audience's knowledge that Depp is an undercover government agent only adds to the suspense. How will this play out? These Donnie Brasco quotes tease, but don't tell!
But, we will say it is the saddest of endings for a gangster film. And through Pacino's searing performance, we literally shed a tear as his fate becomes clear.
7. Pulp Fiction
Quentin Tarantino's masterwork is at its heart a gangster story with Ving Rhames' character pulling the strings to the action. Besides having fantastic Pulp Fiction quotes, the movie also well represented many of the gangster movie archetypes.
There are the hired hands, played brilliantly by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson. Uma Thurman represented the classic gangster moll and there's that "fixed" boxing match that is a classic tool of gangsters extolling control that sets in motion the heart of our story. Bloody brilliant, indeed.
6. Miller’s Crossing
The Coen brothers proved with Miller's Crossing that there is no genre they cannot master. The duo handled the gangster film with class, panache and power with the 1990 film that followed the Irish mafia (a nice change of pace) during the Prohibition years. The Coens' unique take on gangster cinema is honestly one of their most underrated. Read our Miller's Crossing quotes for more on this great film.
Guy Ritchie's gangsters and Snatch cast run the gamut. There's the boss (so frustratingly played by Dennis Farina), the player (Benicio del Toro), the wanna-be's (led by Jason Statham), the brute (Vinnie Jones), the enforcer (Rade Serbedzija as Boris the Blade) and the wild card (Brad Pitt, doing his most unrecognizable accent ever).
All of the drama surrounds a particularly large diamond that Farina's gangster had del Toro steal. It winds up in the hands of many... but where it ends up will surprise! Ritchie's film is funny, thrilling and fulfilled the promise the filmmaker showed in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
4. The Departed
Martin Scorsese finally won an Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director with The Departed, and yes, it was long overdue. Was it his first film worthy of that honor? Surely not. But, the film about a Boston gangster (Jack Nicholson), his on the inside cop (Matt Damon) and the men who seek to bring him down (Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Leonardo DiCaprio) is one amazing flick.
It's also a nice change of pace to see a gangster film set in a city other than Chicago or New York! Visit our The Departed quotes for more!
3. The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola forever cemented his legacy with The Godfather. He crafted the quintessential gangster flick that took what White Heat and its ilk started and revitalized it for a new audience. It won Best Picture and gave us indelible The Godfather quotes, but what sets this film apart is how so much of it has permeated into pop culture itself, even with a recent nod to it on a Modern Family episode!
2. The Godfather Part 2
How do you follow up an instant classic? Do as Coppola did with The Godfather and do one better with The Godfather Part 2. Thanks to the original film's author Mario Puzi's screenplay -- with its instant classic The Godfather Part 2 quotes -- the filmmaker had a perfect blueprint to take the Corleone family's saga further. This film truly became Michael's (Al Pacino) story and injected the gangster genre with an insight few had ever captured.
If Movie Fanatic had our druthers, Goodfellas would have been the film to garner Scorsese his Oscar for Best Picture. Losing to Dances with Wolves is as hard to swallow today as it was two decades ago. Simply reading a few Goodfellas quotes and it's easy to see that few gangster films truly capture the thematic arc of the Mafia in America and its rise and fall as Scorsese's film did.
The cast is astounding, including Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, who won an Oscar for his part. But, above all else... it was Ray Liotta who was impeccably cast as Henry Hill, the young man who grew up in the Mafia's shadow. He became a triumphant part of their world, before drugs and greed -- led by him -- would bring the entire organization down.
Honorable mentions: Road to Perdition, Mean Streets, Reservoir Dogs, Once Upon a time in America, Bugsy, Casino
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