We gotta murder’s row of gangster flicks for ya. Check out our top 10 gangster flicks that will knock your socks off!
Cess Silvera’s low-budget directorial debut is chock-full of drugs, gun fights, reggae music and bootylicious women. This movie tackles the life and times of two Jamaican “shottas” – the word for gangster in the Jamaican vernacular- and their quest to win back their gang’s turf in Miami.
Though the two leads deliver solid performances as revenge-seeking gangsters, one cannot help but feel that the characters they portray lack some sort of emotional depth or interesting characteristic that would make viewers want to root for them. The plot feels unoriginal and contrived; the ending is abrupt and leaves more questions than answers. But that seems to be point that this movie is driving at- a gangster’s life can sometimes end with a senseless bloody bang.
9. New Jack City (1991)
Set during the crack cocaine gang wars in the 1980’s, New Jack City tells the story of how a gang leader’s greed for power led to the meteoric rise of his drug empire, and then later on, his painful downfall. Drug lord Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) is leader of the Cash Money Brothers, the biggest and most prominent gang/drug ring in New York City. After the death of an undercover associate at the gang’s hands, cop Scotty Appleton (played by rapper Ice-T) vows to infiltrate the gang and take down its leader, once and for all.
Nino Brown, as the leader of the CMB gang, is not your average stereotypical gangster. There’s a lot more to him than what meets the eye. The movie’s release in 1991 was quite controversial due to the heavy violence it portrays. But still, it cannot be denied that New Jack City can be considered as one of the best gangster films of all time, full of heavy twists and turns that will leave the audience gripping their seats.
Boyz n the Hood follows the lives of three boys (Tre,Ricky and Doughboy who are played by Cuba Gooding Jr, Morris Chestnut and Ice Cube respectively) living in the gang-riddled community of south central-LA over a seven year period. The emotionally-charged story is one of the films highest points, along with the actors’ excellent performances.
A gangster film and coming-of-age story rolled into one, Boyz n the Hood was a big success for the then fledgling director John Singleton when it was released in 1991. The film radically changed the way how people look at gangsters, showing that there’s more to them than drugs and guns alone.
A known connoisseur of the gangster genre, director Martin Scorsese shines once more in the gangster action/drama film “The Departed.” Weaving an intricate tale of fraud and deception that is sure to leave audiences in constant anticipation, Scorsese is able to use his all-star cast to their highest potential. Matt Damon is Collin Sullivan, a gang informant who managed to infiltrate the Massachusetts police force, while Leonardo DiCaprio is Billy Costigan, Sullivan’s counterpart on the mobster side, who is working with the police to keep tabs on the movements of the group. Racing against time, the two moles set out to uncover each other’s identity, and eliminate him.
Despite being a remake of the Hong Kong film Internal Affairs, the Departed can still stand on its own merit. The plot line is gripping and leaves no shortage of gratuitous violence and good old-fashioned suspense.
6. A Prophet (2009)
A young Algerian man receives his education not from a school, but behind the cold steel bars of a prison, in the midst of two warring factions of mobsters. When he was sent to the prison for a petty offense, nineteen-year-old Malik El Djebena (played by Tahar Rahim) finds himself entangled in the tensions between rival Muslim and Corsican groups inside. Slowly but surely, he rises through the ranks and redeems himself.
A Prophet is certainly not for the faint-at-heart. Despite featuring violently gritty scenes that would make some viewers squirm in their seats, it still is a beautiful masterpiece that showcases how one man can overcome even the biggest of obstacles.
5. The Godfather (1972)
A gangster films list is not complete without the Godfather. This is the film that basically defined the whole genre and the entirety of Hollywood films in general. It is the standard with which other gangster/mafia films are measured up to- the Godfather has set the bar up so high that no other film has been able to replicate its success.
Reluctant villain-hero Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is one of the most memorable tragic characters in film history. Pacino’s performance is excellent- just the right amount of brooding and sensitivity that makes people connect with Michael’s troubles. The theme of loyalty and family ties permeates throughout the film, and it is something that most viewers can truly relate with.
4. Goodfellas (1990)
Another classic from acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas is a mobster movie that has long established its place as one of the genre’s most defining films. It takes viewers on a quick ride inside the world of organized crime, and the various dynamics that living a Mafia life entails. Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) has always dreamt of becoming a gangster. The film shows viewers how Henry came to be as he is, and how he managed to rise up the mob hierarchy with the use of wits, deceit and cunning.
As expected, Scorsese excels in this particular genre. The plot is gritty and darkly humorous, and the events are all weaved masterfully to produce a gripping and harrowing tale of one man’s rise to power and infamy.
3. Scarface (1983)
Al Pacino is in his element once again in this thrilling crime drama film that details the story of a brooding immigrant from Cuba and his quest to take over a drug cartel. After escaping from his home country during the Mariel exodus in 1980, Tony finds his way to Florida. He soon finds himself in the employ of a drug cartel. There he proves his mettle, and eventually works his way up the ranks to be a drug kingpin himself.
Al Pacino’s portrayal of Tony Montana in this movie is strangely gripping- Tony is violent, seething, and charismatic. He’s a bad guy alright, but he’s a bad guy that you would root for.
2. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
This filmic masterpiece from the director Sergio Leone is more than just violence, drugs, and sex. Once Upon a Time in America is about the lives of Jewish gangsters who reside in New York, and the struggles that they faced throughout the years, particularly during the Prohibition. The film itself is lengthy with a running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, but it’s important to note that the story spans nearly 40 years in this Jewish family’s saga. It’s a movie that is definitely worth sitting through.
1. The Public Enemy (1931)
An oldie but a goodie, The Public Enemy was one of the first gangster-oriented films that captured the public’s attention. Partly based on a novel written by two former street thugs (“Beer and Blood”) the movie also gives its viewers a taste of life in the Prohibition period through the eyes of its two main protagonists, Tom Powers and Matt Doyle. It tells how these two friends manage to fight their way through the seedy criminal underworld of America, and how it affected their friendship and familial ties.