Top 10: Mafia / Gangster Movies

  1. CloudStrife84
  2. Mike

The 10 best mafia / gangster movies ever made.

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GoodFellas 1990,  R)
Masterfully directed crime epic, by one of the world's most ingenious story-tellers, Martin Scorsese. Spanning across several decades, this stellarly crafted biopic invites us to an exclusive sphere of luxury and extreme violence, where everything can and does happen. For me, this is the mob movie of mob movies. All due respect to "The Godfather", but it's got nothing on the sheer excitement and amazing cast of this film. No matter how many times I watch it, I never cease to be mesmerized by the perfectly executed true story. Stylish, insightful, bloody and compelling, it's the work of a true artist, whose every touch and influence, makes for nothing short of pure cinematic magic. A must-see gangster drama and one of my favourite movies of all-time!
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels 1999,  R)
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Guy Ritchie's directorial debut is a verbally explosive crime-caper, with lots of clever and witty dialogue and a top notch cast. Original in style and highly entertaining, there's really no film quite like it. The only one that comes close to it is Snatch - which is another gangster gem by Ritchie, but that doesn't really match the brilliance of this one. So if you haven't seen it yet, I suggest you do so at first opportunity. Because it's so far above the median line that it plays in a whole different league. One of the coolest films you'll ever see and a personal favourite mine that never gets old.
The Usual Suspects 1995,  R)
The Usual Suspects
Skeletal budget. Classy realization. To conceive that as little as six million dollars went into the making of this film - that's 2% of the production expense of The Dark Knight Rises mind you - is, in one word, flabbergasting. And if that doesn't arch an eyebrow, perhaps the actuality that it was directed by a 30-year-old Bryan Singer (who at the time had but one feature film and one little anonymous short in his luggage) will. Needless to say, it takes the savviest sort of visionary to pull off a tour de force of the kind. A magician even, grinding a coarse piece of coal until it becomes a bright, shiny diamond. Like many promising young film-makers though, it seems he has now tragically gone the George Lucas route. By that I'm referring to $195 000 000 fairy tale flop entitled Jack the Giant Slayer, which - if I'm gonna be mathematical about it - equals to thirty The Usual Suspects. And for what, I ask? A nimiety of CGI that immediately dissolved into the white noise of blandville? Oh yeah, that's money well spent. And such a sad touch of irony. But enough number-crunching for a while. Exciting from the get-go, this neo-noir mystery thriller has rightfully earned its diploma as one of the all-time greats. Boasting a superlative cast, it weaves the highly intricate tale of five peculiar criminals - all of different aptitudes, personalities and walks of life - and how they're tied to a central incident in film, involving a massacre aboard a cargo ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles. Implicated in this is also Keyser Söze, an enigmatic crime lord and character of such fame and legend that he would transcend the film per se and become a pop culture phenomenon of his own. Not bad for a guy who - spoiler alert - doesn't exist. Leaving it naked at that description, however, would be to simplify the narrative. Plot threads are numerous and each character, big or small, has his little story to tell. In the main though, it can be divided into two separate blocks: one, which takes place in the present, fixed on the interrogation of Roger "Verbal" Kint, a crippled con man played by an exceptionally subtle Kevin Spacey. A role which would also land him his very first Oscar. Divulged to us by Verbal through narration and sizable flashbacks, the other story block accounts for the series of events that would ultimately lead up to the incident on the boat. Deals, heists, humorous interplay between the five outlaws - some levity at first, but then progressively darker and complex. A caper requiring great focus, and like so rewards the attentive viewer. I've always loved films that loom large as smarter than yourself: how it makes you ponder, concentrate, put all your brain cells to work. Cerebral and labyrinthian, but not too far over your head. The screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie is exactly that, and the Academy did the respectable thing, handing him an Oscar for his astonishing wordsmanship. Praised be also the thespians for carrying out their lines with such verve. Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollack, Pete Postlethwaite and Benicio Del Toro. And yes, even Stephen Baldwin, star of such beloved classics as Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, is framed within the mugshot of a first-rate screen performer in this film. The power of an outstanding script I suppose, and a director who knows his craft, bringing out the best in all his players. Close to perfection on all accounts - the editing, the cinematography, the rousing music score by John Ottman - it all runs like clockwork. My one and only complaint is that the pacing, between missions, is a little slow and rough around the edges at times. But whenever the action kicks in - whether it be abstract, verbal or in the language of bullets - you can be sure that it does so with world-class suspense. Edgy and thoroughly awesome; a film for true film buffs, who rate intellect above the needlessly bombastic and akin to Se7en, The Sixth Sense and other masterworks of the 90's, are never-not-welcoming to a great final twist. "Who is Keyser Söze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Söze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that, poof. He's gone."
A Bronx Tale 1993,  R)
A Bronx Tale
Pretty much a copy of Goodfellas, mixed with a touch of West Side Story. Even though De Niro's directing doesn't quite match up to Scorsese's masterfulness, this is still a great movie with some good messages, without ever being too preachy. In fact, I would definitely say it's one of the best mobster movies ever made, and has a lot more heart and feeling to it than (for example) the much overrated Godfather trilogy. My only complaint concerns the pacing, which I thought could have been a little better. I would also have liked to see Joe Pesci in a bigger role, because it's a real waste of talent to not have him appear until the last few minutes of the movie.
Pulp Fiction 1994,  R)
Pulp Fiction
Supremely cool and stuffed with great dialogue, Pulp Fiction is by far my all-time favourite Tarantino flick. Where most films have one or maybe two scenes worth adding to memory, this is filled to the brim with outrageously fun and instantly quotable moments. From the priceless "Butch-picks-a-weapon-scene" to the iconic dance number by Uma Thurman and John Travolta, not a minute is wasted in this ingeniously constructed attention-grabber. I'm usually of the opinion that Tarantino is somewhat overrated, but this is the one exception that lives up to all the hype and rave reviews. A little draggy here and there, but the great style and originality more than makes up for it. A truly royale piece of film-making, that I'm now incredibly delighted to own on Blu-ray. Because as far as cult fare goes, Pulp Fiction is a classic that can be seen over and over again.
Scarface 2003,  R)
The Godfather 1972,  R)
The Godfather, Part II 1974,  R)
The Bank Job 2008,  R)
The Bank Job
Terrific heist flick and one of the best British films I've ever seen. It starts off quite slowly, but gradually gets better as the plot moves along. The pacing is absolutely brilliant (which to me is always a key element when it comes to my overall enjoyment of the story) and it also features a great deal of interesting characters. I had a preconception that it wouldn't be anything special, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Because this transcends itself high above the usual standard, and even surpasses films like Snatch and Ocean's Eleven (altough they have a little higher re-watch value). That being said, this is positively something I can recommend in good conscience. A true sleeper hit!
The Departed 2006,  R)

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