No matter what decade it is, gangster movies will always find an audience. From classics like The Godfather and Scarface to the more recent Goodfellas, the enduring popularity of this genre of movies has stood the test of time. Whether you are a seasoned film aficionado or simply someone looking for a movie night, here is list of gangster movies that must be watched.
1. The Godfather
It wouldn’t be a list of gangster movies without the Godfather trilogy. It is a classic tale of power, corruption and feuds between families. In the first movie, we see father Vito Corleone take his already powerful family and make them the head of an organized crime network. We see young mafioso Michael Corleone take the reins of power and learn how to make the hard decisions to keep his family in control. While released in the 1970s, The Godfather stands the test of time, its lessons still as valid today as they were back then.
Released in 1990, Goodfellas stars Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci in this riveting tale about the mafia lifestyle. With the help of vivid flashbacks and gorgeous cinematography, Goodfellas tells the story of Henry Hill and his ambition to become a part of the mafia. A heartbreaking and brutal story, it shows why Henry Hill ultimately became one of the most famous gangsters of all time.
Another classic in the gangster genre is Scarface. It tells the story of Cuban immigrant Tony Montana and how he created a drug empire in Miami. Starring Al Pacino, this cult classic follows Montana’s rise and fall as he tries to maintain his control over the city’s drug business. While Scarface was initially released in 1983, it still resonates with viewers today with its commentary on racism, economics and the drug epidemic.
4. The Departed
Based off the story of the Hong Kong classic Infernal Affairs, The Departed tackles the issues of organized crime and government corruption. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this movie follows the story of two men tasked with infiltrating a criminal gang in Boston. Filled with suspense and action, The Departed puts a different spin on the typical organized crime story by showing how the police and justice system are often tied to criminal activity.
5. American Gangster
American Gangster is based on the true story of Frank Lucas, who ran a drug empire in the late 70s. Starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, this movie tells the story of Lucas’ rise and fall and how he was able to manipulate the system. With its powerful performances and tense moments, American Gangster is an entertaining and captivating story.
6. The Godfather: Part II
The second installment in the Godfather series, Part II follows Michael Corleone on his quest to solidify his power in the mob. Not only does it feature some of the most iconic scenes from the series, but it also provides deeper insights into the history of events that shaped the Corleone family. It also introduces characters such as Hyman Roth and Senator Patrick Geary who would play major roles in the rest of the movies.
7. The Untouchables
Starring Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro, The Untouchables follows the story of a group of law enforcement agents tasked with bringing down Al Capone’s criminal empire in Prohibition-era Chicago. From its intense shootout scenes to its suspenseful moments, The Untouchables is an action-packed ride that shows just how powerful the mob can be.
8. Once Upon a Time in America
Starring Robert De Niro and James Woods, Once Upon a Time in America tells the story of a group of delinquents turned gangsters in New York City. Spanning several decades, the movie follows their fortunes as they rise and fall in the crime world. With its stunning visuals and complex characters, Once Upon a Time in America is a masterpiece that is not to be missed.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, Casino follows the story of two mobsters who are tasked with running a casino in Las Vegas. With its gripping story, excellent performances and stunning visuals, Casino is an entertaining and captivating gangster movie that should not be missed.
An underrated classic, Leviathan follows the story of a Russian mobster and his attempts to survive in a post-Soviet world. Starring Paul Giamatti and Billy Huxley, this movie offers an eye-opening glimpse at the underworld of organized crime in Russia. With its compelling story and stellar performances, Leviathan is a must-watch gangster movie.
Angels with Dirty Faces
Released in 1938, Angels with Dirty Faces tells the story of two childhood friends who take vastly different paths in life. Starring James Cagney and Pat O’Brien, this movie follows their antics as they become involved in organized crime. From its realistic portrayal of the inner workings of organized crime to its touching story, Angels with Dirty Faces is an unforgettable gangster classic.
Organized Crime across Cultures
Organized crime is not limited to the United States. Many cultures have their own version of organized crime and the different forms it takes. In Italy, a region in the south known as the ‘White Hand’ was a powerful mafia organization. In Japan, the Yakuza are still in full force even today. From the Triads in China to the Sicilian Mafia, organized crime has taken many forms across the globe.
The Movie Industry and Organized Crime
The movie industry has been intertwined with organized crime since the early days of Hollywood. From studio bosses being connected to the mob to movie theater chains owned by criminals, it was all too common for movie makers to have close relations to gangsters. While those days are in the past, the movie industry is still home to stories and characters that are influenced by organized crime.
Staying ahead of the Law
Organized criminals are always looking for ways to outsmart the law. From new technologies to finding loopholes in legislation, criminals are constantly looking for new ways to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. This cat and mouse game has been played out in movies, television shows and books for decades, and has even led to some criminal organizations creating their own legal entities and fronts to hide their true intentions.
Criminal Psychology and Organized Crime
Organized crime often provides people with a sense of belonging and power that may be lacking in their everyday lives. Many criminals join gangs or organizations because they are looking to fill a void in their lives and find acceptance. Criminals also often suffer from mental health issues that can fuel their behavior. From PTSD to Borderline Personality Disorder, mental health is a key factor in understanding why people become involved in organized crime.
The Impact of Organized Crime
Organized crime has many adverse effects on society. From the damage to the economy to human trafficking and drug trafficking, crime has a devastating impact on communities around the world. It can also cause political instability and lead to violence, making it difficult for governments to maintain control over their citizens. Additionally, organized crime can also lead to an increase in corruption, as criminal organizations gain access to powerful individuals in politics and government.