As the wildly popular HBO series The Sopranos proved, audiences are absolutely mesmerized by gangster movies. This is perhaps the only genre where you openly root for the bad guys to get away with their crimes due to just how cool they look as they intimidate characters who’ve gotten way over their heads and even wack their way to power and fortune. Whether it’s conventional Italian-American mafia or the streets of Compton, we can’t get enough. Here are 10 gangster movies — in no particular order — that did it best.
This is the movie that put Martin Scorsese on the map. Starring Harvey Keitel as an up and coming gangster who is on the cusp of “respectable” organized crime and a young Robert De Niro as the giddy, irresponsible goofball Johnny Boy, who seems to owe everybody money. Mean Streets captures the grittiness of New York City — something that would be duplicated in later Scorsese/De Niro movies such as Taxi Driver — and marked the first time a rock score was integrated into the structure of a movie.
Considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time, the Godfather is the story of a crime family led by Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) that is fighting to stay relevant. It contains several of the most iconic scenes in cinema history, including the horse’s head in the bed and Vito’s famous “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” quote. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning three of them including Best Picture.
The Godfather Part 2
If the first Godfather is regarded as among the greatest films, Part 2 is arguably the greatest sequel ever made. It brilliantly tells two stories at once: flashbacks that explain how a young Corleone (Robert De Nero) rose to power along with a story set in contemporary times where Corleone’s son Michael reluctantly takes over the reins of the crime family from his late father.
Starring De Nero and Sean Connery — two of the greatest actors of all time — this Prohibition Era movie about legendary mafia crime boss Al Capone is a non-stop thriller. The Union Square sequence featuring gunshots and a baby carriage tumbling down the stairs is one of the most iconic in cinema history, and serves as a nod to Odessa Stairs sequence in the 1925 movie Battleship Potemkin, which the scene is based on.