Gangster movies, the best in history

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Movies about gangsters: Although intimidating in real life, organized crime often provokes a strange fascination in a society that sees it as a lifestyle outside the rules and control of the authorities. Sensations that have made him a recurring element of the cinema with these tapes as its greatest exponent.

The term includes any “member of an organized gang of criminals” [vía], but popular culture has associated him almost exclusively with the criminal groups that emerged during the American prohibition era, many of which belonged to the Italian mafia.

From the great classics to the most recent exponents, we remember the best films of gangsters.

WARNING: This list includes spoilers.

The Godfather Trilogy (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

gangster movies

The deepest exploration of the Italian-American mafia. Far from being satisfied with tackling a violent criminal world, he showed an unprecedented perspective by deconstructing it as a perfectly well-established group in society, with the corrupt elites as its great allies, with the family as its highest priority.

This intimate vision was highly valued by the public, critics and organized crime of the time, who did not hesitate to express their identification with the story told.

It marked one of the highest points in the careers of Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and especially Marlon Brando, whose mythical interpretation of Vito Corleone sealed his stay in Hollywood Olympus. One of the most successful franchises in history, accumulating 9 Academy Awards out of a total of 29 nominations.

Rat’s Nest (Dir. Elia Kazan, 1954)

It is not a pure exponent of the subgenre, but a hybrid with drama. Rathole It has become one of the best gangster movies due to the power of its plot inspired by a series of 24 newspaper articles that earned Malcolm Johnson the Pulitzer, by revealing the deep corruption that afflicted the New York docks.

In addition, the brilliant performance of Marlon Brando, who plays a failed boxer forced to work for the corrupt boss of the port union who resorts to organized crime to ensure control of the New York docks and eager to achieve redemption when he meets the sister of one of his victims. A classic in every sense of the word and one of the great Oscar winners, with eight statuettes including Best Picture and Actor.

Gangster movies, the best in history

Bonnie & Clyde (dir. Arthur Penn, 1967)

America’s most notorious criminal couple have been revered for generations because their heists during the Great Depression made them a symbol of the failed American dream. His exploits have been adapted numerous times, reaching definitive status in 1967 with the unrivaled Bonnie & Clyde, one of the best gangster movies.

Its success was rooted in the duo made up of Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, who positioned themselves among the most memorable histrionic duos of all time.

The film was not without controversy, since its reflection of the leading characters was considered a glorification of crime and its highly violent methods.

Scarface (Dir. Brian de Palma, 1983)

There are few cases in which the remake ends up beating the original tape. This is the case of this film directed by Brian de Palma and starring Al Pacino, who forgets the Italian-American Tony Camonte seen in the Howard Hawks classic to introduce the Cuban refugee Tony Montana.

A decision that sought to leave behind the cinematographic gangsters in their purest form and the times of the prohibition of alcohol in order to update criminal cinema, addressing the first years of the fight against drugs and its escalation of violence that continues to manifest itself today. .

It came close to getting the dreaded X rating due to being excessively gory. It was only avoided thanks to a series of edits that ironically never made it to the final cut in a mix-up by the studio and the MPAA. The film soon became one of the best gangster films, but it did not receive much recognition (it was not nominated for a single Oscar). It is praised to this day for the brilliant performance of its protagonist, considered one of the most memorable in his entire career.

The Untouchables (Dir. Brian de Palma, 1987)

The vast majority of gangster movies focus on criminals, with The Untouchables being one of the few exceptions to this trend. The film inspired by the homonymous series, which in turn adapted the memoirs of agents Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, deals with the first years of the titular group integrated to end Al Capone’s mandate during Prohibition.

The project stands out more with a brilliant ensemble made up of Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Andy García and Robert De Niro, whose desires to get as close as possible to Capone made him contact the tailor who dressed the underworld leader for the making of some suits made to measure and with the same materials used by his most famous client.

A combination of enormously talented actors and some of the greatest legends of criminal cinema, where Connery would end up stealing the show with an outstanding performance that earned him the only Oscar of his entire career and that consolidated him forever among the great elites of celluloid.

Gangster movies, the best in history

The Irishman (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 2019)

gangster movies

It seemed that the days of the old cinematographic gangster had been forgotten, until Martin Scorsese decided to rescue the subgenre with the Irish. The tape is inspired by the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, introduces us to an Irishman recruited by the Italian mafia to become one of its deadliest assassins, which will make him a key player in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, who has been absent for more than 40 years.

Read our article: the Irish: a compendium of lessons from Martin Scorsese.

It stands out for the performances of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, three of the greatest legends of criminal cinema and who meet again, perhaps for the last time, for a symbolic farewell to a subgenre that is less and less popular among audiences. So much so, that the legendary filmmaker struggled to get support to complete the project, until he reached a distribution agreement with Netflix.

Once Upon a Time in America (Dir. Sergio Leone, 1984)

Sergio Leone always had a great fascination for the bloody American bases. He demonstrated this with his Dollar Trilogy, which marked the pinnacle of the spaghetti western, but also with Once Upon a Time in America, which chronicled the criminal rise of two Jewish friends in Prohibition times.

The production flirted with some of the most talented actors of the time for the leading role, such as Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, but the filmmaker leaned towards Robert De Niro. The actor wanted to complement his preparation by interviewing the dangerous Meyer Lansky.

His request was denied, but this did not prevent his consolidation among the great referents of the subgenre. The filmmaker dreamed for a while of turning this project into the beginning of a new trilogy on American bases, but the idea was scrapped by the production. It would be the last film of the Italian.

You might also be interested in: Martin Scorsese, his best films

Good Boys (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 1990)

The life of Henry Hill is the basis of this crude adaptation. The life of the Italian mobster forced him to enter the witness protection program, becoming what he considers “a nobody”.

Some names were changed, but Martin Scorsese’s obsession with extreme realism was such that he included real criminals in the cast. It is considered the film that established him among the masters of gangster movies.

In addition, he consolidated Robert De Niro in crime films after his experience in The Godfather II and Once Upon a Time in America. The audience considers it a gem of the subgenre, surpassed only by one of celluloid’s greatest masterpieces.

Damned caste (Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1956)

Stanley Kubrick is one of the great legends of cinema. Even so, there are few who remember his time in the criminal genre with Casta de malditos. The third film in his career, key in his ascent by premiering a year before La patrol infernal which would mark his definitive consolidation. The film revolves around a criminal veteran who plans one last heist before retiring for good.

The public did not connect with his ironic narrative and plagued with symbolism. The industry did welcome such elements and made the British one of its greatest promises.

Today it is a key player in the subgenre, whose influence continues to this day. Quentin Tarantino himself has confessed that he was a major source of inspiration for the making of Reservoir Dogs and Violent Times.

Dangerous Streets (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 1973)

gangster movies

The consolidation of Martin Scorsese as the greatest reference in criminal cinema began very early in his career. Dangerous Streets is the story of a young Italian-American whose nobility has nothing to do with the violent world around him.

It is considered Robert De Niro’s first breakout performance and was his first alliance with Scorsese. A great leap to the subgenre to consolidate itself the following year with The Godfather II.

Its premiere in the blaxploitation era made the studio suggest making the film only with African-American actors, which the young creative rejected.

Gangster movies, the best in history

The entry Gangster movies, the best in history was first published in Cine PREMIERE.

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