Long gone are the days when good stories and solid characters made a movie better, not CGI and senseless one-liners. During those days when bullets and criminals ruled the Hollywood genre, the Gangster movies were what kept the wheels churning in the industry.
American Gangster is pretty much an experiment in disguise. When Ridley Scott came up with this movie, what he wanted was a blend between the classic popcorn flick and a real think piece on violence. The movie succeeds and excels at both. Set in the 1960’s, American Gangster gives us a classic look at 20th Century crime from a modern perspective. The movie was nominated for two Oscars – for Best Art Direction and Best supporting Actor – Ruby Dee.
The French Connection
the French Connection is part police procedural and part international crime thriller. And it gives us the best of both worlds. Gene Hackman plays the role of a detective who uncovers a drug smuggling ring within the City of New York with a French Connection. Yep that’s the irony. The movie’s uniqueness is in the way the story is told. It’s said from the cops’ perspective, as they solve the case one clue at a time. Despite it being a movie about cops, it’s still considered a very good gangster movie.
There will be two names you might be hearing a lot in this list – Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma. Before De Palma made a name for himself with Scarface, the movie that shot him to fame was 1967’s The Untouchables. With stars like Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Robert De Niro, this movie set in the Prohibition era is a legendary gangster movie that was well ahead of its time. De Palma mixes textbook police procedural with a wonderful cat and mouse chase narrative to give us a movie that has rocked our world since decades.
Once Upon A Time In America
Once Upon A Time In America was Sergio Leone’s last movie. It was the final movie he made in the last 13 years of his life. But it was the one to beat. The movie originally had a 255 minute run time and Leone wanted the movie to be shown in multiple features rather than in one go. the Studio decided it was not possible and released 2 hours 19 minutes feature after cutting many scenes. This created mass confusion since a lot of the plot was wantonly edited out. When the original director’s cut was released years later, Leone’s vision came to life. The movie pushed the boundaries of violence even for a Gangster movie. It also gives us Robert De Niro’s all-time greatest performance.
Pop culture sometimes glamorizes gangster movies. After watching so many badass heroes revolt against the system and make a name for themselves, it’s quite easy to forget the acts we get inspired from are illegal. They will put us in harm’s way. Movies like The Godfather and Scarface are guilty of this fact. They romanticize something very evil. Gomorrah is a slap on the face of that trend. This Italian movie shows us the real face of gang life. It is the true story of a rela life mafia gang from the heart of Napoli.
The Departed is inspired by the Hong Kong movie that is one of the first entries on this list – Infernal Affairs. The reason Infernal Affairs isn’t in here but The Departed is because the former was still a raw and primal movie. Martin Scorsese took what was the best about the movie, added his own storytelling elements and turned the movie into on Oscar winning cult classic. The movie gives us one of the best performances by Jack Nicholson. With a star studded ensemble like Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, The Departed is a treat to watch.
Many do not know this but Al Pacino’s Scarface was not an original movie. The 1983 movie directed by Brian De Palma is a remake of a 1932 movie of the same name. The remake was just made bolder and better with a better cast. Al Pacino is an actor made for gangster movies. And he shines in Scarface as the lead protagonist/antagonist. The movie is known to be particularly distinct for its unique style and flair unlike other movies of the same genre that came before it. It was won numerous accolades and was even nominated for numerous Oscars.
When The Godfather was about to be released, the Italian-American Community actually filed a lawsuit against the movie to stop it from using the terms Mafia and Cosa Nostra prior to its big screen debut. Despite the words never appearing in the movie’s theatrical cut, no movie has ever come close to symbolize organized crime and the Italian Crime Families more than The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola did not just immortalize his name with The Godfather. The movie also made Al Pacino and John Cazale household names in the movie industry.
Goodfellas is based on a book called Wiseguy written by Nocholas Pillegi. Martin Scorsese adopted this book for a live action remake and the rest is history. No matter how many times you watch Goodfellas, you will find a new way to appreciate its cinematic brilliance. from the moment Loitta starts narrating the movie in its first few seconds, we are hooked. The movie takes us into a tour of the Brooklyn Italian Crime Families. Unlike the other Martin Scorsese movies, this movie inadvertently turns the lead character into the one thing everyone in the criminal underworld hates – a snitch.
The Godfather Part II
There might probably be no movie shot as iconic as Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone, resting on his fists, pondering over the life decisions that have led him to this legendary moment. Seldom do we see a sequel trump its predecessor nowadays, a rare sight indeed. It was the Godfather Part II that taught us it is possible way back in 1974. For all its cultural significance and genius storytelling, The Godfather Part II remains the greatest gangster movie to have been ever made. And no movie that ever came after it would even come close to hold a candle against its might.