10King of New York (1990)
No top 10 gangster movies list would be complete without the excellent acting of Christopher Walken. The crime boss bullies his way to the top of the underground drug heap only to share his money with the poor. Other than Walken, can you really picture someone else in this role? The childish antics of his sidekick (Laurence Fishburn) are interesting to say the least. King of New York rightfully deserves to be on our list.
Beatty and Bening’s Bugsy comes in at #9 on our top 10 gangster movies list. New York mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (Warren Beatty) leaves New York City to sample a taste of the good life–Hollywood style. Instantly infatuated by all things L.A., Bugsy decides to buy (take is more accurate) anything he wishes. Mr. Siegel creates a new made-to-order life. His job is to consolidate the syndicate gambling business, and everything is going to plan until she walks in. Virginia Hill (Annette Bening) stops Benny Siegel in his tracks. The gangster soon forgets about his wife, children and everyone else on the East Coast. The wild ride must come to an end of course, but not before this mobster makes quite a name for himself.
8Reservoir Dogs (1992)
We’re not sure if it’s the ear slicing scene or the opening credits in slow motion that grab our attention. Perhaps it’s the keenly arranged score that nails it for Reservoir Dogs. A group of small-time thieves are assembled to pull off the perfect diamond robbery. Of course nothing is perfect and things get messy–quite literally. One of the robbers is actually an informant for the cops, which creates big problems among this crew. This bunch is not to be trusted when things are hunky-dory, and when there’s drama? Wait and see what happens when a bank shootout spills out onto the midday streets.
7The Public Enemy (1931)
#7 on our top 10 gangster movies list is The Public Enemy. If you’re going to be a tough guy, you can’t visit your family every Sunday. It just doesn’t work. Tom Powers (James Cagney) and Matt Doyle (Eddie Woods) are a couple of young hoods trying to survive the rough streets of Chicago. They quickly graduate from petty stickup men, to wanted killers. And in the criminal underworld, everyone is gunning for you. Despite the hardcore reputation Powers has built, enemy gangs come for him–and they take no prisoners.
6American Gangster (2007)
Denzel Washington breaks away from the goody two-shoes characters of military men and law-abiding figures of the nineties. His starring role in American Gangster makes this perfectly clear–Washington is cast as a sly criminal. Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) pays his dues as a chauffeur for one of Harlem’s leading black gangsters. After his boss dies, Lucas uses his street smarts and ambition to become one of the city’s most powerful crime bosses. But lurking in the background is veteran cop, and night school student, Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe). Richie discovers a crack in the Lucas power structure, and devotes his life to bringing the drug kingpin down.
5The Departed (2006)
Coming in at the halfway spot on our list of top 10 gangster movies is The Departed. Although we’re not crazy about some of the casting choices made in The Departed, the storyline will keep you engaged. Good cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) trades in his uniform to work undercover. Costigan makes an attempt to gain access to crime kingpin Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). As Billy gains the mobster’s trust, a career criminal named Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) infiltrates the Boston police department. Sullivan takes his inside information and reports it back to Costello. When both organizations learn that they have a mole in their ranks, Billy and Colin race to uncover who it is to survive.
4Little Caesar (1931)
Modern gangster pics all have an original role model to thank. In this top 10 gangster movies entry, that person is Caesar “Rico” Bandello (Edward G. Robinson). An aspiring small-town criminal, Caesar relocates to Chicago to make it big. No gangster is without a right-hand man, and Caesar’s is Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). Rico’s reputation grows quickly, but his partner Joe decides to leave a life of crime for show business. The story unfolds as the two vastly different worlds collide.
More violence than some of the other pictures on our list, but that shouldn’t turn you away one bit. Scene-stealing performances by Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta will bring out your inner mobster, as you pretend to be a made man in front of the mirror. What makes this gangster film work so well? The brotherhood of actors De Niro, Liotta, and Pesci, the voice-over narration of Henry Hill, and the cat and mouse chase of Ray Liotta’s character by the FBI.
2The Godfather (1972)
#2 on our top 10 gangster movies list is a Francis Ford Coppola classic. No matter whose movie list you read, The Godfather is most likely going to reign supreme. Not only is it one of the best movies about the mafia ever produced, but The Godfather is arguably the best movie ever made as well. Acting greats Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and more create a moment in time that movie fans, actors, writers, and others can revel in, borrow from, and attempt to replicate. If you haven’t seen this classic movie, prepare to be amazed.
To watch Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in a movie fanatic’s favorite is pure delight. Pacino makes his character come alive like few gangsters before or since. His ambitions and dreams are larger than life, and he’ll stop at nothing to realize them. Scarface begins with Tony agreeing to kill a political figure in Cuba in exchange for a green card. Quite a crime to commit, but Montana views it as a mandatory step in reaching U.S. soil. Once he arrives, his unquenchable desire to have it all takes him the rest of the way.