Ten of the Best Gangster Movies

This is our run down of the ten best gangster flicks, as voted by YOU on our social media channels. The poll was open over four days, and we asked you to cast your votes for your top three gangster, mob and crime movies. We had a great response, and we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who voted!

We’ll count them down from number ten right through to your absolute favorite at number one. Here we go…

10. Gotti: The Rise and Fall of a Real Mafia Don (1996)

This is a made for TV movie by HBO that was originally released on August 17, 1996. Armand Assante is a class act in the title role as Gambino boss John Gotti, and won an Emmy Award for his performance in the film. The movie recounts the years from 1973 until Gotti’s imprisonment in 1992, and highlights several of his close associations with friends and mobsters. It charts his rise within the Gambino family, from soldier, to capo, and ultimately to boss, following the assassination of Paul Castellano in 1985. Other notable cast members include Anthony Quinn as Neil Dellacroce, William Forsythe as Sammy Gravano, and Vincent Pastore as Angelo Ruggiero.

9. Once Upon a Time In America (1984)

Once Upon a Time In America is an epic crime drama, spanning four decades in the life of David ‘Noodles’ Aaronson – played by Robert De Niro – and his friends. Many class this as a cinematic masterpiece, though it was feared that some would be put off by the running time of 144 minutes, however, the full version runs for 229 minutes. It was director Sergio Leone’s final film, and it’s a monumental one! The movie is based on the book The Hoods by Harry Grey.

8. The Departed (2006)

The Departed is inspired by Internal Affairs, a Hong Kong crime film from 2002. The movie is set amidst the South Boston organized crime world and the Irish Mob. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan, Jack Nicholson as Irish Mob boss, Frank Costello, Matt Damon as Colin Sullivan, and Mark Wahlberg as Sgt Sean Dignam. Other notable actors include Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone and Alec Baldwin. The movie draws some parallels with real life – the character of Frank Costello is loosely based on gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, and Colin Sullivan is said to be based on FBI agent John Connolly. The movie was a huge success, took $291.5 million at the box office, and won four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

7. Donnie Brasco (1997)

This movie is loosely based on the true story of Joseph Pistone, an FBI agent who manages to infiltrate the Mob and lives to tell the tale. In 1970s New York, Joe Pistone, using the alias Donnie Brasco works his way into the Bonanno crime family by befriending Lefty Ruggiero. Ruggiero vouches for Brasco, which allows him further access to the Mob as he becomes a trusted associate. Brasco straddles the line between federal agent and criminal, and begins to lose himself in his new identity. The film boasts a top notch cast, including Johnny Depp as Donnie Brasco, Al Pacino as Lefty, and Michael Madsen as Sonny. The movie is based on the 1988 book Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia by Joseph D. Pistone.

6. A Bronx Tale (1993)

This movie marked Robert De Niro’s directorial debut, and was adapted from Chazz Palminteri‘s 1989 play of the same name. It follows the coming of age story of Italian-American, Calogero, and his admiration and friendship with local Mafia boss, Sonny. Calogero becomes torn between the values of his hardworking father and the temptations of organized crime. The cast included such names as Chazz Palminteri as Sony, Robert De Niro as Lorenzo, and Francis Capra/Lillo Brancata Jr. as younger/older Calogero. The movie was well received by critics upon it’s release, and is now regarded as one of the top gangster films of the 1990s.

5. Casino (1995)

Another Martin Scorsese classic in our top ten, Casino is based on the book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi also co-wrote the screenplay for the movie with Scorsese. Throughout the film, the details of mob involvement in the casinos of the 1970’s and ’80’s are revealed. Ace, a Mob associate, is the smooth operator of the Tangiers casino. Nicky is his boyhood friend, Mob enforcer, and all round tough guy, robbing and shaking down the locals. Ace winds up falling in love with hustler, dancer, and former prostitute, Ginger McKenna, which slowly spirals into disaster, whilst Nicky’s volatile temper and erratic ways cause his eventual downfall. The cast includes some great names, such as Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, James Woods, and Frank Vincent.

4. The Godfather: Part ll (1974)

The sequel and prequel to The Godfather, and second film in the trilogy, this was produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, from the screenplay co-written with Mario Puzo. The movie continues the story of the Corleone crime family, and follows a young Vito Corleone growing up in Sicily and in 1910s New York; and tracks Michael Corleone in the 1950s as he attempts to expand the family business into Las Vegas, Hollywood and Cuba. Some major names in this movie, including Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, Robert De Niro as a younger Vito, Robert Duvall as Tom Hagan, John Cazale as Fredo, and Diane Keaton as Kay. A bit of trivia from the closing credits – It states that the film is based on the novel “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo. However, only the scenes showing the young Vito are derived from the novel. Everything dealing with Michael Corleone and his family in Las Vegas was created especially for the film, with the exception of the Deanna Dunn character.

3. Scarface (1983)

Directed by Brian DePalma, this film tells the story of Tony Montana, a ballsy Cuban immigrant who works his way up the criminal ladder, takes over a drug cartel and slowly succumbs to greed. His world begins to crumble towards the end, as he becomes more paranoid due to a combination of power, money and drug use. This version is a remake of the original Scarface from 1932. Al Pacino stars as Tony Montana, though the role was originally offered to Robert De Niro, who turned it down. The cast also includes Steven Bauer as Manny, Michelle Pfeiffer as Elvira, and Robert Loggia as Frank Lopez. See our Ten Best Tony Montana Quotes.

2. The Godfather: Part l (1972)

The ultimate crime saga, The Godfather, is sitting in second place in our list – and that placing is thoroughly deserved! Many movie critics consider this to be one of the best American films ever made, and rightly so. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino star as aging ‘Don’, Vito Corleone and his youngest son, Michael, respectively. The movie spans the years 1945 to 1955, and follows the transfer of power from father to son, though Michael Corleone is at first reluctant to inherit the family business. As with our previous entry for The Godfather ll, Francis Ford Coppola directed this one, and co-wrote the screenplay with Mario Puzo. It’s based on the 1969 book The Godfather by Mario Puzo. The star-studded cast also includes James Caan as Sonny, Robert Duvall as Tom Hagan, Lenny Montana as Luca Brasi, Diane Keaton as Kay, Talia Shire as Connie, and Richard Castellano as Clemenza.

1. Goodfellas

We had a feeling this would be either at, or very near, the top position! An absolute classic of a movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring some huge names in the gangster movie genre. The film is adapted from the 1985 book called Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, and Pileggi co-wrote the screenplay with Martin Scorsese. In fact, the movie was originally called Wise Guy before completion, but was later changed to Goodfellas. The movie follows the rise and fall of the Lucchese family Mob associate, Henry Hill. Goodfellas is regarded by many as the best film ever made, and is viewed as the pinnacle of Scorsese’s career.  In 2000, it was deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the US Library of Congress. High praise indeed! The cast of Goodfellas reads like a who’s who of gangster genre actors and actresses – Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito, Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway, Paul Sorvino as Paul Cicero, Frank Vincent as Billy Batts, and Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill. An excellent five star movie, and one totally deserving of being our number one!

That concludes our Ten Best Movies, as voted by YOU! Thanks again to those who voted. We hope you enjoyed reading, as much as we enjoyed compiling the list. Are you happy with the results? Any that you feel should have been rated higher? Let us know in the comments!

Before we go, honorable mentions go to the following movies….they were close, but didn’t quite make the cut! The Irishman, Carlito’s Way, Blood In, Blood Out, American Gangster, Long Good Friday, City of God, Rise of the Footsoldier, Black Mass, and Gangs of New York.

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