10 Best American Crime Movies

They say crime never pays but that’s only if you’ve never seen the ten best American crime movies. Bad guys wear black, bad boys get the girl and for a long time, the word “bad” has also meant good. When you feel like watching people do things you wish you could, check out this list of movies.

  1. Heat(1995). Al Pacino and Robet DeNiro together for the first time. This is the matchup that people waited for since the "Godfather" movies. From the opening to the end this is one of the best American crime films you will ever see. The downtown Los Angeles shoot-out scene is classic and provided inspiration for the infamous North Hollywood shoot-out.
  2. Pulp Fiction(1994). This film made Quentin Tarantino a household name. An intermixed series of vignette’s, "Pulp Fiction" paints crime in bright, loud, and vulgar fashion. Guns, drugs and sex were never so fun.
  3. City of God(2002). It’s a foreign film, but you can understand it even without reading the sub-titles. A gritty tale of life in one of Brazil’s favelas, this story is chilling and crime-ridden.  It also introduces the world to one cinema’s best psychopaths in the character, Li’l Ze.
  4. Thief(1981). The precursor to "Heat," this film actually shares some of the same scenes and themes. Melodramatic and meticulously detailed in its depiction of crime, it reinforces just why Michael Mann is one of the master filmmakers of American crime films.
  5. The Departed(2006). This is Jack Nicholson in one of his best roles. It’s a police procedural about an undercover cop investigating an Irish mob boss. Leonardo DiCaprio is the undercover cop and Jack is the mob boss. This movie takes you into the heart of East Coast organized crime and the unspoken subculture of the American police community.
  6. Heist(2001). This movie is a mix of crime film and con film. Gene Hackman heads a crew of con men who plan to steal a boatload of gold. Literally. The plot is full of surprising twists and turns, finally revealing itself in a satisfying and entertaining way.
  7. Reservoir Dogs(1992). Tarantino’s first film was a good indicator of what was to come. It makes you cheer for these criminals even as one of them is cutting the ear off of a hostage. Full of fun banter and snappy dialogue it is a very entertaining American crime movie.
  8. No Country For Old Men(2007). Set in the American southwest, this movie is restrained in its brutality. Javier Bardem is brilliant as the stoic, yet charismatic, hitman that chases Josh Brolin along the border. In a criminal masterstroke Bardem’s character uses a cattle prod as his weapon of choice.
  9. Chinatown(1974). Roman Polanski, who has his own criminal issues, directed this classic movie that stars Jack Nicholson. A film noir-ish story about the building of Los Angeles, with some mystery and a little incest throw in, it’s worth the watch.  The reveal near the end of the movie is an all-time classic.  Nicholson’s interrogation of Faye Dunaway at the end of the movie classic, “My sister, my daughter, my sister, my daughter. She’s my daughter and my sister!”
  10. Oceans 11(2001). This is a remake of the film by the same name that starred Frank Sinatra. Packed with movie stars, the movie is mostly about the planning of the crime. The reveal of how the guys pull off the heist is as entertaining as the action that leads up to it.
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