There’s something about the swagger, confidence and twisted honor of a good gangster that appeals to an audience. We love to root for the criminal underdog who is struggling to achieve his version of the American dream with a tailored suit, a Tommy gun and a great looking dame on his arm. Hollywood knows this is what we love and they dish it up impeccably – with a perfect mix of tough-guy talk, gratuitous violence and brotherly bravado.
With the recent release of “Gangster Squad,” starring a bevy of big-screen heavy hitters including Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Sean Penn, along with the divine Emma Stone, it looks like Tinsel Town may have done it again. We’ll wait until “Gangster Squad” makes its way to Blu-ray to decide if it can take the place of any of these gangster classics on our top five list, but the odds look good.
“The Godfather Trilogy”
This Coppola saga that follows the Corleone crime dynasty as they rise to the heights of the organized crime world, only to ultimately find it crashing down around them, is the pinnacle of gangster movies. While battles continue regarding which installment of the trilogy is the best, there’s no denying the impact of these films and their influence society. At one point in time, we have all said the infamous line, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” When it comes to mobsters, molls and horse heads, “The Godfather” has made us an offer we can’t refuse and that’s why this classic trilogy comes in at the top of our list.
All it took was one introduction to Tony Montana’s” little friend” to convince us that this tale of a Cuban immigrant making a bloody play to take over a drug cartel is one of the best gangster movies ever. One of the things that cements this Brian de Palma film as one of the greats is its unapologetic portrayal of greed, corruption, power and the devastation they wreak. This is no tale of redemption; this is a bare-knuckled brawl with ambition and excess – and there’s no room for regret or moral retribution in Tony’s world of avarice and violence.
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This twisty tale of modern hit men, the mob boss’ wife, a boxer approaching retirement and a misplaced couple who tries to rob a diner delivers everything you’re looking for in a good gangster flick. And on top of the brains splattered all over the backseat, this movie shows a side of the bad guys that lulls us into a false sense of security as we chuckle at a silly conversation about what they call a Big Mac across the pond or twist along with Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace as they rule the dance floor. Quentin Tarantino created a masterpiece with this film and firmly secured it as one of our faves.
“Once Upon a Time in America”
This Sergio Leone classic follows the lives of Jewish gangsters in the Big Apple and tells the tale of a ruthless prohibition-era gangster with a conscience. The story shows how young boys with stars in their eyes and hopes for a better future follow a path of murder, crime and mayhem to end up, ultimately, with little more than regret. This film also emphasizes the gangster values of brotherhood and the constant threat of betrayal. The storytelling and score are the finishing touches that place this epic among our best gangster movies of all time.
Scorsese’s brutal interpretation of the Hong Kong movie “Infernal Affairs” became one of the great gangster films almost instantly, scoring Oscars for both Best Picture and Best Director. Once again, we get a familiar, yet completely new story of men drawn to greater things who are torn apart by organized crime and their own, conflicted passions. This film showcases both the gritty underbelly and an often overlooked vulnerability that makes this story completely and undeniably human. This multi-layered gangster tale is heart-wrenching to watch and that is why it deserves a spot as one of the best we’ve ever seen.
What is your favorite gangster movie?
About the Author: Lisa has been writing TV and Movie related articles for quite some time now. When she isn’t writing for Satellitetv.com, she spends quality time with her new Hopper DVR.