“Mob” or “gangster” is one of the most popular and favorite film genres. Proof of the genre’s popularity is The Godfather (the first film). Without question, it’s the most famous mob film, but the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) lists the The Godfather as the #1 film — out of all other genres. And that is quite worth mentioning, especially for every die-hard fans of this film genre.
Here, we compile a list of what we think are the best and the greatest mob movies of all time.
The Godfather is widely regarded as one of all time greatest films. It recounts an aging patriarch of a fictional New York crime dynasty who passes the control over to his reluctant youngest son, who eventually transforms into a ruthless Mafia boss himself. Released in 1972, it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy. Its screenplay was written by Coppola and Mario Puzo based on Puzo’s novel, also titled The Godfather.
Once Upon a Time in America
The film was directed and co-written by Sergio Leone and starred Robert De Niro and James Woods. Based on Harry Grey’s novel The Hoods, it chronicles the lives of the Jewish gangsters and their rise to notoriety in the world of organized crime in New York City. Although Once Upon a Time in America is essentially a gangster film, it otherwise centers on childhood friendships, love, lust, betrayal, history, loss, greed, and the mobsters’ prominence in American society.
Once Upon a Time in America fared poorly, critically and commercially, when it was first theatrically released in 1984. However, critical re-evaluation of the film eventually made it one of the best gangster movies of all time.
1983’s Scarface is a remake of the 1932 film of the same name. It was directed by Brian DePalma and starred Al Pacino, while the screenplay was written by Oliver Stone. This remake was set in the contemporary era where a determined Cuban refugee arrived in Miami, Florida. From virtually nothing, he eventually rose to become a drug kingpin while succumbing to his own greed. Here is an interesting fact: Stone wrote the screenplay while he was struggling with his cocaine addiction.
Du Rififi Chez les Hommes
Du Rififi Chez les Hommes is a 1955 French crime film which was based on the novel by Auguste Le Breton’s. Also known in many parts of the world as Rififi, it was directed by American filmmaker Jules Dassin, who had been blacklisted from Hollywood. He was also part of the film’s cast.
It tells a story about four men planning a technically perfect heist on a jewelry shop, but something goes awry along the way. The film’s perfectly-detailed and intricate robbery scene (which was carried out with no spoken word or background music) has been actually copied by real-life criminals from around the world.
Road to Perdition
Road to Perdition is a 2002 crime thriller mob film directed by Sam Mendes, and stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig. The movie is an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name by Max Allan Collins. Road to Perdition follows a story of loyalty that is being put to the test when a mobster’s son witnesses what his father does for a living.
Casino is a 1995 film directed by Martin Scorsese. He and Nicholas Pileggi co-wrote the screenplay, based on the non-fiction novel of the same name by Pileggi. The film features an all-star cast including Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone. In this movie, a Jewish American handicapper is assigned by the Italian mob to supervise the daily operations inside a fictional casino in Las Vegas.
Heat is a crime drama and thriller film written and directed by Michael Mann and released in 1995. It stars Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, and Val Kilmer. The film is inspired by an actual incident in the 1960s involving a Chicago police officer’s “hot” pursuit of a criminal named McCauley.
In this movie, a professional thief and his gang of robbers start to feel the heat from the police when they accidentally leave evidence at their last heist. DeNiro plays the thief Neil McCauley and Pacino essays the role of a police detective who tracks down McCauley and his group.
This 1987 Brian DePalma-directed crime drama film stars Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Robert DeNiro, and Sean Connery. The screenplay was written by David Mamet, based on Eliot Ness’ autobiographical book of the same title (co-written also by Oscar Farley). Set in the Prohibition era, the movie follows Ness’ efforts to stop the notorious mob leader Al Capone. Because of the growing and almost-uncontrollable corruption, Ness forms a small, hand-picked team “The Untouchables” to be sure Capone is punished for his crimes.
In Old Chicago
This 1937 drama film, directed by Henry King, follows the O’Leary brothers’ bitter rivalry in Chicago on the eve of the Chicago Great Fire. It stars Tyrone Power and Don Ameche as the brothers-cum-rivals, and Alice Brady their mother Mrs. O’Leary.
Gangs of New York
Gangs of New York is a 2002 film directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Daneil Day-Lewis, and Cameron Diaz. The film is a fictionalized historical account set in the mid-1800s in Manhattan’s Five Points district, where Amsterdam Vallon returns to seek revenge against Bill “the Butcher” Cutting for murdering his father.
Bugsy is a 1991 American film directed by Barry Levinson and stars Warren Beatty and Annette Benning. It follows the real-life story of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, a notorious Jewish-American mobster in the 1930s and 1940s. Levinson, Beatty, and Mark Johnson are the film’s producers.
Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut follows a group of criminals, who survived a botched jewelry heist, and who begin to suspect that one of the members is a police informant. Tarantino also wrote the screenplay. An independently-produced film released in 1992, it gained “cult” status and achieved even higher popularity after the success of Tarantino’s next film Pulp Fiction.
Miller’s Crossing is a mob film by the Coen brothers, Joel (the director) and Ethan (the producer), and was released in 1990. Set in the prohibition era, the story follows a power struggle between the two warring mob gangs. An advisor to a crime boss tries to keep the peace between the two rival gangs but instead ends up playing both sides against each other.
Snatch is a 2000 crime comedy written and directed by Guy Ritchie. The movie has two intertwined plots: one involves the search for a priceless stolen diamond, the other involves a small-time boxing promoter finding himself under control of a ruthless gangster. The film features an ensemble cast playing interesting characters, and is also brimming with clever, snappy dialogue, and dark comedy.
Kiss of Death
Kiss of Death is a film noir released in 1947, and is directed by Henry Hathaway. The film stars Victor Mature as a criminal named Nick Bianco who is sent up to 20 prison for robbery. His district attorney has sympathy for Nick’s two daughters and because of this he gives Nick a chance to be free — that is, he manages to sell out on his accomplices. The film has received critical approval since its release.
Touchez Pas Au Grisbi
Touchez Pas Au Grisbi is a French crime drama film directed by Jacques Becker and released in 1954. It follows the story of an aging mobster who, wanting to retire comfortably rich, pulls out one last great heist. The “hero” finally strikes gold, but his retirement is cut short when his best friend is kidnapped. The abductors want the eight stolen gold bars as ransom in exchange for his friend’s freedom.
Machine-Gun Kelly is a 1958 film directed by Roger Corman and starring Charles Bronson, who took his first lead role. It follows the exploits of the real-life famous bank robber George “Machine-Gun” Kelly, who seldom conducts his crimes without his Thompson machine gun. The film was produced with budget constraints, but received critical reviews upon its original release.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Another crime film by director Guy Ritchie (who went on to direct Snatch), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels follows a story of a heist involving a card sharp who loses a big-time card game to a powerful crime lord in a fixed game. In order to raise cash to pay off his debts, he and his friends plan to rob a small-time gang, but this doesn’t make for an easy robbery. The film was produced on a shoe-string budget of over a million dollars, but it received a handsome box office gross of over $28 million, making it also a commercial (and also critical) success.
Carlito’s Way is a 1993 crime drama movie directed by Brian DePalma, and stars Al Pacino, Sean Penn, and Penelope Ann Miller. The film tells the story of an ex-convict who vows to start a new life. But he is unable to escape his past and instead ends up being entangled in the same criminal ways that got him jailed in the first place.
The film was an adaptation of the novel Carlito’s Way and its sequel After Hours which were both written by Judge Edwin Torres.
Pulp Fiction is a film directed by Quentin Tarantino and features four intertwining stories of two hit men, a boxer and a couple of bandits. The black comedy crime film, known for its unconventional structure and lots of pop-culture references, is one of the most influential movies from the 1990s, and revitalized John Travolta’s career. It also pushed the careers of Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman.