Top 5 Gangster Films
The line between loyalty and greed is thin, and one that means gangster films are our favourite genre of film of all time. The drama created has given us some of the most iconic characters in some of the most iconic scenes in the history of cinema.
It’s not just us either, with gangster films always topping the charts in ‘best of all time’ lists. Whether you’re rooting for Tony Montana or Vito Corleone, we all want the same thing – for the mob to take our their rivals and get away with the dosh and the gumar.
With that said, and the first trailer release of Johnny Depp’s Black Mass, here are our Top 5 Favourite Gangster Films in the history of cinema.
Casino is the first of two films on our list that sees Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro star as Italian mobsters. Set in Las Vegas, this glitzy crime drama is as brutal and it is glamorous. Ace Rothstein (De Niro) and Nicky Santoro (Pesci) are boyhood friends who move to Vegas in search of fortune. The film depicts the role the mob had in casinos in the 70s and 80s, with De Niro as the smooth operator of the casino and Pesci playing the enforcer, robbing and shaking down the locals like only he can.
It’s a classic gangster tale of greed, deception, power, and murder as the two mobsters’ dreams spiral out of control as Nicky falls into an ever growing pit of violence and drugs, while Ace falls into something far more dangerous – love. Directed impeccably by the master of gangster films, Martin Scorsese, Casino is packed full of stunning performance from our two leads and an incredible Sharon Stone.
Say hello to everyone’s little friend. Scarface tells the story of Cuban refugee Tony Montana, played by mob regular Al Pacino. It’s the age old tale of rags to riches which defines many an American classic. Set in the 80s, Montana immigrates to Miami with nothing and rises to become a powerful drug kingpin. The film also stars an unknown and very young looking Michelle Pfeiffer.
Scarface might be the most explicit mob movie on our list but it still packs an emotional punch with Pacino’s fall from grace demolishing everything in sight. Apparently the film divided opinion on its release as many thought it was far too graphic. Thankfully, most have seen the error or their ways and Scarface makes our list at a cantor. Not a lot of people know that Scarface was actually a remake of a 1932 film of the same name, which surely also makes it the best remake ever made.
We couldn’t really have a gangster list without it. Francis Ford Coppola’s three-hour juggernaut The Godfather paved the way for gangster films and Hollywood epics in general when it was released in 1972. Starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a fictional New York crime family, the story spans 10 years, between 1945-55, and concentrates on the transformation of Michael Corleone (Pacino) from reluctant family outsider to ruthless Mafia boss. All this under the watchful eye of family patriarch Vito (Brando).
The Godfather was one of kind on its release. No gangster film had ever portrayed the Mafia with such nuance and complexity and it’s surely fair to say that without The Godfather, we don’t get Goodfellas and the like that followed. On the contrary, we also would have never had to suffer Sofia Coppola in Part III! But we can forgive a father for giving his daughter a break, I suppose. Marlon Brando’s performance is arguably the greatest there’s ever been and The Godfather is without doubt one of the great movies ever made.
What many consider Scorsese’s masterpiece, Goodfellas sees the powerhouse duo of Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci unite again along with Ray Liotta for a film that depicts the rise and fall of Lucchese crime family associate Henry Hill (the first-person narrator in the film) and his friends over a period from 1955 to 1980.
Goodfellas is perfectly acted with riveting performances from Liotta and Pesci that echo the mightiest of car crashes you can’t help but watch. Scorsese’s masterpiece walks the difficult line between the glamour and despair of a life of crime impeccably.
The Godfather: Part II
Many of you will group The Godfather films as a Trilogy. While you are well within your rights to do so, we don’t roll like that here at Average Joes. Partly because Part III would bring the average quality of the films down a notch, but mainly because we firmly believe that The Godfather Part II is the greatest gangster film of all time. And you know what? It’s probably the greatest film of all time. Period.
The Godfather Part II carries on from where Part I finished with Vito Corleone’s son Michael at the helm of the family. During the film he expands and tightens his grip on his crime syndicate stretching from Lake Tahoe, Nevada to pre-revolution 1958 Cuba. The early life of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York is also portrayed as a flash back throughout the film by Robert De Niro.
Although it probably set a new unwanted precedent for the sequel, we can easily forgive Coppola. Violent, at times heart-breaking and some of the best story telling you will ever see, The Godfather Part II is filmmaking at its absolute best.
So there we have it! Our favourite gangster films ever made. I’m sure we’re going to get some stick for missing out other classics like Miller’s Crossing and Once Upon a Time In America, but we only had room for five and refuse to group the Godfather’s like some other shoddy lists!