Must See Gangster Movies

The Godfather

The Godfather, a 1972 classic by Francis Ford Coppola, is one of the most exemplary gangster movies ever made. Marlon Brando stars as Don Vito Corleone, the patriarch of a highly influential Italian organized crime family operating in post World War II New York City. The story follows Don Vito’s efforts to preserve and protect his legacy by keeping his criminal organization out of direct conflict with other crime families and the federal government. The film is filled with iconic performances and imagery, ranging from the horse head in the bed to the legendary grand finale shootout scene. Many consider The Godfather as the movie from which all other gangster movies are composed of.


Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas from 1990 is one of the greatest gangster movies ever made. Robert De Niro takes the lead as mobster Henry Hill, telling the story of the rise and fall of a New York mobster. The movie follows Hill’s journey from his teenage years to his eventual imprisonment. The movie is full of complex characters and scenes, which build into a powerful account of Hill’s experiences. Also starring Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta, Goodfellas is highly regarded as one of the best films to depict the inner lives of criminals. From the opening narration by Ray Liotta to the intense shootout scene at the end, Goodfellas provides a thrilling lesson in how the culture of the mob works.


Casino, released in 1995, is one of the most influential gangster movies of the last three decades. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film tells the story of Sam “Ace” Rothstein, a casino mob boss played by Robert De Niro, who is tasked with running Las Vegas’ top casinos as a front for a mob-run organization. Along the way, Ace must deal with the ever-shifting politics of the mob landscape and the intervention of the government. The film features strong performances from De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci, who all portray Las Vegas’ troubled life in the late 70s faithfully. It also features some of Scorsese’s most impressive direction, particularly in the long surveillance sequence, which is one of the filmmaker’s most iconic scenes.


Scarface, released in 1983, is a classic crime movie directed by Brian De Palma. Al Pacino leads a star-studded cast as Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who rises to become a powerful drug kingpin and ultimately the most powerful criminal in 1980s Miami. Scarface combines intense action sequences with a riveting narrative, offering a gripping insight into power, greed and betrayal. The movie follows Tony’s rise and fall, showing his arrogance and his unyielding loyalty to his family and his friends. Its impact on popular culture is obvious and its influence on future filmmakers undeniable, making Scarface an essential viewing for any fan of the genre.

The Departed

Martin Scorsese’s 2006 classic The Departed follows two young men, Billy Costigan and Colin Sullivan, as they navigate their way through the complicated and deadly criminal underworld of Boston. Billy is a covert cop assigned to infiltrate the Irish mob while Colin is an upstart mole planted by the mob within the police force. As the stakes rise and the paths of the two men cross, their fates become more intertwined. Featuring stellar performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg, The Departed shows the complexities of loyalty, betrayal, and vengeance in an intense and atmospheric fashion.

Once Upon a Time in America

Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America is a sprawling epic about four Jewish delinquents-turned-gangsters in New York City, primarily set in the 1920s. Robert De Niro, James Woods and Joe Pesci star as the quartet of characters whose lives intertwine and diverge as they chase down their ambitions of money and power. With its powerful visuals, atmosphere and story of ambition, friendship and betrayal, Once Upon a Time in America provides a riveting and emotionally charged view into the maelstrom of 1930s-1980s New York.

Drugs, Money and Power

The 1984 classic,Drugs, Money and Power,directed by Dick Richards is an essential viewing for any fan of the genre.The movie revolves around Crystal, a Los Angeles based gang leader and his ambitions of taking over the city with the help of his gang.The movie is filled with intense moments of violence , betrayal and revenge.The excellent performances from Brian Bosh and Richard Jenkins is one of the key highlights of the movie.The gritty atmosphere, realistic dialogue and clever screenplay make the movie a worthy viewing.The movie shows how far people would go to achieve their ambitions and the cost of being involved in criminal activities.

The Black Dahlia

Brian De Palma’s 2006 classic The Black Dahlia tells the story of two troubled Los Angeles cops, Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert and Lee Blanchard, as they investigate the brutal murder of a young woman. Starring Scarlett Johansson and Aaron Eckhart as the protagonists and Hilary Swank as the murder victim, The Black Dahlia paints a picture of what it’s like to be an LAPD officer during the 1940s. It follows the duo’s investigation through the vibrant criminal underworld of Los Angeles, from the mob’s rich men to the noir-esque lowlife of the corrupt city. Its blend of intense suspense and classic noir atmosphere helps make The Black Dahlia an unforgettable gangster experience.

The Untouchables

The Untouchables, released in 1987, is Brian De Palma’s classic crime movie starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. The film follows an ambitious and determined federal Treasury agent, Elliot Ness, as he and his team embark on a mission to bring down the notorious mobster Al Capone. As they untangle through Capone’s gang of thugs, they must also contend with the corruption that runs rampant within the police force. The movie provides an intense and visceral account of Ness’ pursuit of justice, with standout performances by all involved, especially Sean Connery and Robert De Niro.

Where to Watch

It is easier than ever to watch your favorite gangster movies. All of titles mentioned in this article can be watched on streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. So, if you’re looking for some great gangster movies to watch, all of these should be at the top of your list!


Clothing has been an integral part of many gangster movies, from the slick suits of The Godfather to the infamous pink shirt from Scarface. The gangster look has become iconic, with designers such as Gucci, Prada and Versace now offering clothing inspired by classic male and female gangsters. The gangster look can go hand in hand with streetwear, mixing the classic black suit with slouchy jeans and t-shirts. It can also be taken to the red carpet, with many celebrities taking inspiration from famous gangster movies.


The use of music in gangster movies has become iconic, with movies such as Scarface, The Godfather and Goodfellas utilizing some of the most memorable soundtracks. From classic orchestral scores to jazz, rock, rap and pop, the sound of gangsters on screen has been an integral part of the experience. From Al Pacino’s “say hello to my little friend” scene in Scarface to the dramatic operatic score of The Godfather, the musical accompaniment of gangster movies has had an unmistakable influence on popular culture.

Impact on Pop Culture

Gangster movies have had a huge impact on popular culture and are often seen as some of the most classic films ever made. They have informed the way we think about crime and criminals, while also offering a glimpse into the lives of the darker side of society. The influence of these films can be felt in books, television, music, fashion, and video games. Many films, especially Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Scarface, and The Departed, have become classic films that are widely referenced and quoted.

Real Life Gangsters

The popularity of gangster films has been so enduring, largely due to the delving insights into the real-life gangsters that populate the criminal underworld. The stories of criminals such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and John Gotti have inspired films such as Scarface, The Godfather and Goodfellas. These films have offered a gripping lesson in the history of organized crime, helped by excellent performances from some of the top leading actors of the time.


Gangster movies are some of the most iconic films of all time. They are known for their intense characters and stories, realistic dialogue, intense action sequences and iconic soundtracks. The genre has influenced pop culture in many ways, from fashion to video games. Whether you’re looking for a thrilling watch, or an insight into the culture of organized crime, these are some classic gangster movies that every film lover should see.

Vicki Strouth is a life-long film enthusiast, having grown up watching classic cinema in her childhood. She has since gone on to pursue writing about films and movie news, with her work being published on various online platforms. She is passionate about supporting independent filmmakers and highlighting important stories from around the world. She has also written a successful book about classic movies from Hollywood's Golden Age era. Vicki currently lives in Seattle, where she continues to explore films of all genres and eras.

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