So many gangster movies, so little time.
It’s a genre that’s attracted A-list stars, directors and screenwriters over several decades — in addition to courting controversy and racking up an impressive array of industry awards. And now I’m here to help you narrow down the list of dozens (hundreds?) of gangster films to 8 you should definitely check out.
Capone – New to the Box and Redbox on Demand, this is a 2020 film whose theatrical release had to be scrapped due to COVID-19. In it, Tom Hardy gives an amazing performance as the Chicago gangster Al Capone during the end of his life after he’s served his 11-year prison term and is now slowly unraveling at home with his family in Florida. It’s a fascinating look at a relatively unexamined period in the life of a man whose name is synonymous with American organized crime.
Goodfellas – Considered to be the high point of director Martin Scorsese’s career — on top of being one of the greatest films of all time (not just in the gangster genre!) — this true story about the rise and fall of mob associate Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) co-stars gangster-movie mainstays Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.
The Godfather trilogy – In my opinion, Francis Ford Coppola’s intricate three-part tale of the Corleone crime family cannot be topped. Starring Marlon Brandon, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Andy Garcia and more (across the films), the series racked up 28 Academy Awards, with Parts I and II considered to be two of the best films ever made.
Casino – Scorsese makes the list again with this “inspired by true events” tale about the mob’s involvement in a Las Vegas casino (and much, more more). It stars Robert De Niro (again), Joe Pesci (again) and Sharon Stone, who earned an Oscar nomination and won a Golden Globe for her performance as a streetwise call girl.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – The US isn’t the only country plagued by organized crime. In this high-energy British heist comedy that put director Guy Ritchie on the map, a desperate card shark gets his friends to help him rob a local gang. I don’t need to tell you that things don’t exactly to as planned.
The Departed – This is one of my favorites on this list, as well as the only film Martin Scorsese has ever won a Best Director Oscar for (can you believe it?). Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon, it’s a twisty, violent tale involving the Boston mob and the Massachusetts Police Department.
American Gangster – In this gritty, Harlem-set tale, Ridley Scott directs Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe as fictionalized versions of heroin-smuggling Harlem gangster Frank Lucas and detective and eventual prosecutor Richie Rollins, respectively.
Analyze That – To lighten things up, we’ll end with Robert De Niro (again!) and Billy Crystal in this comedy sequel about a mobster and his psychiatrist.
What’s your favorite gangster movie?