10 Best Gangster Movies
Gangsterism is all about money, power, and influence—and you probably don't have any of those things, so here's a list of the 10 best Gangster movies.
1. "The Public Enemy" This early-30s classic is one of the first and best gangster movies, and the one that made the genre the popular phenomenon that it was back in the 1930s. Watch it for the famous scene in which Cagney smashes his girlfriend's face with a grapefruit, the harshest of the citrus fruits. That's cold-blooded.
2. "Scarface" This Howard Hawks movie is another of the culprits for popularizing the gangster movie. And it's easy to see why—Paul Muni is fantastic as the loose-cannon gangster and Hawks pulls out all the stops in filming the murder set pieces that make this one of the best gangster movies ever. Our favorite: A gangster played by Boris Karloff gets killed in mid-throw at the bowling alley, and manages to roll a postmortem strike.
3. "Le Samourai" John-Pierre Melville made some of the best gangster movies on the planet, beating American filmmakers at their own game. And "Le Samourai" is arguably his best attempt. Scenes that seem like they would be boring on paper are riveting, such as the sequence in which main character Jef's apartment is bugged, and the only think on the soundtrack is his squeaking bird. And no that's not some sort of hipster slang, it's a literal goddamn canary or something. Sounds annoying, right? Well, it isn't—and it's no coincidence that this movie was marketed as "The Godson" in the U.S.
4. "The Godfather" What can be said about the reigning king of the gangster movies? In the early '70s, the gangster movie trend was pretty much dead in the water. But then "The Godfather," not just one of the best gangster movies, but one of the best movie of all time, came out and the whole thing started over again.
5. "The Godfather Part II" It may be cheating to give spots to both gangster movies, but if you don't appreciate a good racket then why are you reading this? Anyway, the sequel to the best gangster movie of all time is almost as good as its predecessor—watch them back-to-back next time you have a couple weeks free.
6."Mean Streets" By now, using pop music in a gangster movie is like using a silencer when you shoot some mook in the back of the head and spray chunks of his face all over the room—it just makes sense. But in the '70s it wasn't just an easy creative choice but an innovative trend-set by then-young director Martin Scorsese.
7. "Scarface" This '80s-terpiece is not only one of the best gangster movies, but an over-the-top satire of gangster movies as well. Al Pacino earns his street cred in a delirious portrayal of someone who's fallen so far into a spiral of cocaine abuse and other excesses that he no longer knows who is friends are. A special note for white readers: Throw up a "Scarface" poster or wear a T-shirt for instant hip-hop credentials!
8. "Reservoir Dogs" These gangsters look so cool with their suits and their sunglasses and their ironic '70s pop songs! Lucky for them (and us) that they're also in one of the best gangster movies ever.
9. "Carlito's Way" Another Brian DePalma-directed, Al Pacino-starring movie on the list of best gangster movies? Watch it and you'll see why. This is kind of a spiritual successor to "Scarface," although it trades the earlier movie's coke-fueled satire for genuine emotion and sometimes even sentimentality. But before things get too mushy there's a scene where John Leguizamo gets thrown down a flight of stairs. Win-win.
10. "GoodFellas" Not only one of the best gangster movies, but the only movie on this list with a title in CamelCase. Typographical anomalies aside, this is a violent classic that shows both the glamorous side of a life of crime, and the terrible loneliness and despair. Fun!