I have always been fascinated with everything Mafia. I was young when I started watching old gangster films on television and even watching gangster shows like the reboot of The Untouchables series, which was really good, in 1993. I have no idea where this fascination came from, but it’s been a hobby for some time. Reading, movies, television shows. Well here are Hey Buddy Movie’s top ten gangster movies.
Unfortunately this may have you question this list as a whole because this movie is anywhere near it, but stick with me here. This was the movie that got me hooked on the gangster/mafia genre. This was also the first R rated movie I owned thanks to my grandma. A previously viewed copy that I wore out. I was a huge Christian Slater fan, which initially drew me to the film and then I became hooked and ready to watch anything about the mafia. I found out that a lot of the film was historically accurate. The look of the film and the colors used make much of it actually eye popping. It also has some pretty decent dialogues, especially from F Murray Abraham. Give it a shot if you haven’t seen it yet, it really is worth it.
9. Road to Perdition
Adapted from a graphic novel, Perdition is one of the better comic to film adaptations existing. Tom Hanks plays his first villain character that the audience actually starts to feel for as he tries to protect his son from a vengeful gangster he once thought of as family. Hanks character is a hitman with a heart. The late great Paul Newman is very reserved in his role as head of a family that adopted Hanks as one of their own and must decide between him and his own son. Jude Law puts in a haunting performance as the hitman hired to kill Hanks. Not only is it an interesting story, but the direction and photography/production values are incredible. The movie looks beautiful throughout its entire runtime.
8. The Departed
Odd that a Scorsese film would show up on a list like this, but here it is. This is the one that finally got him the Oscar, even though it wasn’t his strongest effort. This was Jack Nicholson’s last great role in a career that had a lot of great roles. I used to have a deep seeded disliking for Leonardo Dicaprio in his early acting career, I didn’t get why he was so popular. This is one of the roles that earn that popularity. Everyone, Martin Sheen, Adam Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg, on down to the one liners is perfectly cast here. There is hardly a dull moment in the film and it has one heck of an ending.
7. Donnie Brasco
The combined greatness of Depp and Pacino is what makes this movie the success it is. I don’t think there would have been a very good movie here if the cast was different. Can you picture either Tom Cruise or John Travolta, both attached at one point, as Brasco? Pacino and Depp lose themselves in these characters and it’s mesmerizing. Top that with a based on a true story premise and you have got one good movie. The production value on the wardrobe as well as the feeling of the era comes across perfectly on screen.
6. The Untouchables
It would be interesting to see if this movie would have been as good if Robert de Niro wasn’t Al Capone and Sean Connery wasn’t in the wise sage role. Both of them are the best parts of the film. Rounded out with the star Kevin Costner as honest cop Elliott Ness and Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith to finish the group make for a fun cast. Some great locations and some seriously good costume design make this film look authentic as well as an enjoyable movie to watch. Filled with memorable scenes and many quotable lines, this is one to cherish.
5. A History of Violence
The second film on this list whose source material came from a graphic novel. Viggo Mortneson plays a small town café owner who gets national coverage as a hero after masterfully killing two killers who were on a road trip of death. This brings a mysterious man to his door step played by Ed Harris who thinks Viggo’s character is a mafia hitman on the run pretending to be a husband and father. This is another one that looks great, no surprise there as it’s directed by David Cronenberg. It has some parts that are hard to watch, so fair warning here.
4. Eastern Promises
Another Cronenberg/Mortenson collaboration came in the form of a Russian gangster flick. Mortenson plays the close friend and advisor to a New York gangster’s son who has ties to the Russian mob. The look of the film feels as gritty as the story. The acting is phenomenal and the story has a great ending that I thought would bring on a sequel, but we have yet to even hear of one happening.
This film is brilliant in almost every way. It was a game changer for film when it came out in 1990 for many reasons. It had unflinchingly realistic violence, multiple narrators and a quick pace that seems to build in energy. This movie is hands down Ray Liotta’s best role and outside of The Godfather Part 2, Robert de Niro’s as well. Add to that the brilliant performance by Joe Pesci and so much of the supporting cast and you have one of the most realistic gangster films ever made. It’s also another great quotable film.
2. Gangs of New York
Many or everyone would strongly disagree with me on this one, but I think this is Scorsese’s best film to date. It was a film of love for him, which he developed for years and finally came to fruition in the fall of 2002. The cinematography and production value alone is something to behold. You can feel the dirtiness and cold through the screen. You also get an absolutely genius performance by Daniel Day Lewis as Bill the Butcher. The rest of the cast is great as well. After seeing the movie I ran out and bought the book that Scorsese based his film on when he found it in the late seventies at a friend’s house. Scorsese bring Herbert Ashbury’s fantastic historical text to life and it is awesome. It’s an all around good film.
1. The Godfather
I don’t think anyone would argue that this film shouldn’t be number one. Though some prefer its first sequel over this one, I have to go with this one every time. What was missing from that sequel was the intense performance of James Caan. The movie succeeds on practically every level. From the genius performance of Marlon Brando and Al Pacino to the pacing and tone of the film, this film will stand the test of time again and again.
There you go, thoughts?