Best Gangster Movies: The Top 10 Iconic World of Crime and Power

Best Gangster Movies

Gangster movies are a subgenre of crime films that typically focus on the criminal activities of organized crime syndicates, often centered around a particular gang or group of gangsters. These movies often portray the lives of gangsters, their conflicts with rival gangs, law enforcement, and their families.

The history of gangster movies dates back to the early 1900s, with the rise of the American mafia and other organized crime syndicates. As the public became increasingly fascinated with the stories of these criminals and their activities, filmmakers began to incorporate these themes into their movies.

The Golden Age of gangster movies was during the 1930s and 1940s, with classics like “Little Caesar” (1931), “The Public Enemy” (1931), and “The Godfather” (1972). These films not only captured the attention of audiences, but they also established the conventions and archetypes of the genre that have been used in countless films since.

Over the years, gangster movies have continued to evolve, with filmmakers exploring new themes and ideas within the genre. Some films focus on the rise and fall of a single gangster, while others examine the relationships between gangsters and their families, the law enforcement officials trying to bring them down, and the communities impacted by their criminal activities.

Today, gangster movies remain a popular and enduring part of the cinematic landscape. From classic films like “The Godfather” to more recent movies like “The Departed” (2006) and “The Irishman” (2019), the genre continues to captivate audiences with its exploration of power, loyalty, and violence.

Top 10 Best Gangster Movies

Gangster movies have been a popular genre since the early 1900s, and they continue to captivate audiences with their exploration of organized crime syndicates and the lives of gangsters. In this list, we have compiled the top 10 best gangster movies of all time, based on critical acclaim, cultural impact, and audience reception. From classic films like “The Godfather” to more recent movies like “The Departed,” each of these films offers a unique perspective on the criminal underworld and the people who inhabit it. Whether you’re a fan of classic gangster movies or looking for something new, this list has something for everyone. 

S. No

Best Gangster Movies

Year

1

The Godfather Part II 

1974

2

Goodfellas

1990

3

The Godfather

1972

4

Once Upon a Time in America

1984

5

The Public Enemy 

1931

6

Eastern Promises

2007

7

City of God

2002

8

A Prophet

2009

9

Gomorrah

2008

10

The French Connection

1971

TRENDING

1. The Godfather Part II (1974)

“The Godfather Part II” is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made and the pinnacle of the gangster movie genre. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the film is both a sequel and a prequel to the first “Godfather” movie, exploring the early life of Vito Corleone (played by Robert De Niro) and the rise to power of his son Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino). The film won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is known for its epic scope, stunning cinematography, and masterful performances.

The film is structured in a non-linear fashion, with flashbacks to Vito’s early life intercut with scenes of Michael consolidating his power as the new Don of the Corleone family. The themes of family, loyalty, and betrayal that were present in the first film are further explored in “The Godfather Part II,” with Michael struggling to maintain control of his empire while dealing with the consequences of his actions.

The film’s cast also includes notable performances from Diane Keaton as Michael’s wife Kay, John Cazale as Michael’s brother Fredo, and Talia Shire as Michael’s sister Connie. The film’s score, composed by Nino Rota, is also widely celebrated for its haunting and iconic themes.

2. Goodfellas (1990)

“Goodfellas” is a crime film directed by Martin Scorsese and based on the true story of Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), a mobster who became an FBI informant. The film is known for its realistic portrayal of organized crime and its use of voiceover narration to tell the story of Hill’s life in the Mafia.

The film also features standout performances from Robert De Niro as Hill’s mentor Jimmy Conway, Joe Pesci as the psychopathic Tommy DeVito, and Lorraine Bracco as Hill’s wife Karen. The film’s soundtrack, which includes classic rock and roll tracks from the 1960s and 1970s, is also a memorable aspect of the film.

“Goodfellas” received critical acclaim upon its release and has since been recognized as one of the greatest films of all time. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards and won Best Supporting Actor for Joe Pesci’s performance as Tommy DeVito.

3. The Godfather (1972)

“The Godfather” is widely considered a masterpiece of American cinema and one of the greatest films ever made. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, the film tells the story of the Corleone family, a powerful Mafia clan in New York City.

Marlon Brando delivers a memorable performance as Vito Corleone, the patriarch of the Corleone family, while Al Pacino shines as his reluctant son Michael, who is drawn into the family’s criminal activities. The film’s supporting cast includes James Caan as Sonny Corleone, Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, and Talia Shire as Connie Corleone.

The film’s themes of family, power, and loyalty have resonated with audiences for decades, and its iconic imagery and dialogue have become cultural touchstones. “The Godfather” was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won three, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Marlon Brando, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Coppola and Puzo.

4. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Directed by Sergio Leone and starring Robert De Niro and James Woods, “Once Upon a Time in America” is an epic crime drama that spans several decades in the lives of a group of Jewish gangsters in New York City. The film tells the story of Noodles (De Niro), a gangster who rises to power in the Prohibition era and ultimately becomes embroiled in a web of betrayal and deceit.

With its sweeping narrative, stunning visuals, and unforgettable performances, “Once Upon a Time in America” is widely regarded as one of the greatest gangster films ever made. Leone’s direction is masterful, seamlessly weaving together flashbacks and dream sequences to create a complex and layered portrait of a criminal underworld. De Niro and Woods both give powerhouse performances, anchoring the film with their nuanced portrayals of flawed and complicated characters.

5. The Public Enemy (1931)

Considered a classic of the gangster genre, “The Public Enemy” stars James Cagney as Tom Powers, a small-time criminal who rises through the ranks to become a notorious bootlegger during Prohibition. The film follows Tom’s life of crime and his conflicts with rival gangsters and law enforcement, ultimately leading to a tragic and violent conclusion.

Directed by William A. Wellman, “The Public Enemy” was a groundbreaking film that set the template for many gangster movies to come. Cagney’s electrifying performance as Tom Powers cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s most dynamic actors, and the film’s depiction of violence and criminality caused controversy and sparked public debate. Despite the controversy, “The Public Enemy” remains a landmark of the genre and a must-see for fans of classic Hollywood cinema.

6. Eastern Promises (2007)

Directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen, “Eastern Promises” is a gripping and visceral crime thriller set in the world of the Russian mafia in London. Mortensen plays Nikolai, a driver for a Russian gangster who becomes embroiled in a web of violence and corruption when he tries to protect a young woman from his boss.

Featuring intense action sequences and a richly drawn cast of characters, “Eastern Promises” is a standout entry in the gangster genre. Cronenberg’s direction is stylish and suspenseful, and Mortensen delivers a mesmerizing performance as the enigmatic Nikolai. The film’s exploration of loyalty, family, and honor in the criminal underworld offers a fresh and compelling take on a well-worn genre. With its raw power and emotional depth, “Eastern Promises” is a must-see for fans of crime movies.

7. City of God (2002)

“City of God” is a Brazilian crime film directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund. The film is set in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro and follows the lives of several young men as they navigate the violent and dangerous world of organized crime. The film is based on real events and is a powerful portrayal of the harsh realities of life in the slums of Rio.

The film is notable for its use of non-professional actors, many of whom were residents of the favelas where the film was shot. The result is a gritty and authentic portrayal of life in these communities that is both visceral and captivating. “City of God” has been praised for its vivid characters, thrilling action sequences, and its unflinching portrayal of violence and poverty.

8. A Prophet (2009)

“A Prophet” is a French crime drama directed by Jacques Audiard. The film follows the story of Malik, a young Arab man who is sent to prison and must navigate the complex social hierarchy of the inmates. As he rises through the ranks, he becomes embroiled in the power struggles between different criminal factions, leading to a violent and explosive climax.

The film is notable for its nuanced portrayal of Malik’s character, who is both sympathetic and morally ambiguous. The film also tackles themes of race and identity, as Malik struggles to reconcile his Arab heritage with his experiences in the French prison system. “A Prophet” has been praised for its strong performances, taut direction, and its insightful exploration of the complexities of prison life.

9. Gomorrah (2008)

“Gomorrah” is an Italian crime drama directed by Matteo Garrone. The film is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Roberto Saviano, which exposes the inner workings of the Camorra, a powerful organized crime syndicate in Naples. The film weaves together several different storylines, each of which explores a different aspect of the Camorra’s criminal activities.

The film is notable for its unflinching portrayal of the violence and corruption that permeates every aspect of life in Naples. The film’s realistic depiction of the Camorra’s activities has been praised for its authenticity and its ability to shed light on a world that is often hidden from view. “Gomorrah” has been praised for its masterful storytelling, powerful performances, and its uncompromising portrayal of the Camorra’s criminal empire.

10. The French Connection (1971)

“The French Connection” is an American crime thriller directed by William Friedkin. The film follows two New York City detectives as they pursue a French drug smuggler who is operating in the city. The film is notable for its gritty, documentary-style approach to filmmaking, which gives the story a sense of urgency and authenticity.

The film’s iconic car chase scene has become one of the most famous in movie history, and the film as a whole has been praised for its intense action sequences and its unflinching portrayal of the gritty underbelly of New York City. “The French Connection” won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Gene Hackman’s performance as detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle. The film is widely regarded as a classic of the crime thriller genre and remains a must-see for fans of gangster movies.

Which is the Best Gangster Movie of All Time?

The Godfather Part II” is a 1974 American epic crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It is the sequel to the 1972 film “The Godfather” and is widely regarded as the best gangster movie of all time. The film tells the story of the Corleone family, both in the present day and in flashbacks to the early 1900s, and explores the themes of power, family, and morality.

The film’s structure is unique in that it follows two parallel storylines, one set in the present day as Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) attempts to expand the family’s criminal empire, and one set in the past as we see the rise of Michael’s father, Vito Corleone (played by Robert De Niro), from a poor immigrant to a powerful gangster.

The film is notable for its exceptional performances, particularly from Pacino and De Niro, who both won Academy Awards for their roles. The film also won five other Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Coppola, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

“The Godfather Part II” is widely regarded as a masterpiece of American cinema, with its complex narrative structure, richly drawn characters, and themes of power and morality resonating with audiences around the world. The film’s exploration of the immigrant experience and the American dream has made it a cultural touchstone and a reflection of the complexities of the American identity. Its influence can be seen in countless films and television shows that have followed in its wake, cementing its status as the best gangster movie of all time.

How Gangster Movies have Impacted Popular Culture?

Gangster movies have had a significant impact on popular culture since their emergence in the early 20th century. These films have captured the public’s fascination with organized crime, exploring the world of the mafia, the underworld, and the inner workings of criminal organizations. The impact of these movies on popular culture is undeniable and can be seen in many aspects of modern society, from fashion to music, and even politics.

One of the most significant impacts of gangster movies on popular culture is the way they have influenced fashion. Many iconic gangster films, such as “The Godfather,” “Scarface,” and “Goodfellas,” have showcased stylish and fashionable clothing, accessories, and hairstyles that have become synonymous with the genre. From sharp suits to fedoras, these films have inspired fashion trends that continue to this day.

Gangster movies have also impacted music, particularly in the realm of hip-hop. Many rappers have been influenced by the gangster lifestyle portrayed in these films, and have incorporated their themes and aesthetics into their music. This has resulted in the creation of a subgenre of hip-hop known as gangsta rap, which often features lyrics that glorify the gangster lifestyle and criminal activity.

The influence of gangster movies can also be seen in the political sphere. Many politicians have used the language and imagery of these films to appeal to their constituents, particularly when discussing issues related to law and order. For example, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who made a name for himself as a crime-busting prosecutor in the 1980s, often referenced gangster movies in his speeches and press conferences, drawing on their imagery to frame his approach to tackling crime.

Gangster movies have also inspired countless other works of art and entertainment, including TV shows, video games, and novels. The themes and characters of these films continue to captivate audiences and influence popular culture, making them an enduring part of the cinematic landscape.

Gangster movies have had a significant impact on popular culture, influencing fashion, music, politics, and many other aspects of modern society. Their enduring popularity speaks to their ability to capture the public’s imagination and fascination with the world of organized crime.

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