9 Gangster Films To See Before You Die… Or Meet With An Unfortunate Accident…

Share on twitter Tweet
Share on facebook Share

Trivial Diversions

9 Gangster Films To See Before You Die… Or Meet With An Unfortunate Accident…

9 Gangster Films To See Before You Die… Or Meet With An Unfortunate Accident…
a
9) Donnie Brasco – All the glamour and the romanticism is stripped away in Mike Newell’s true account of Joseph Pistone, the Federal agent who infiltrated the New York mafia more intimately than anyone before or after him. The cast in place is solid from top to bottom, with Johnny Depp as Pistone/Donnie Brasco, Michael Madsen as the up and coming Sonny Black, and most importantly Al Pacino as Lefty Ruggerio. Lefty is Pistone’s in road to the mob, and this performance by Pacino is one of his most unique and nuanced. Rarely do we get to see Pacino in the gang world as a lovable loser, but here that is exactly the case. Lefty is low on the totem pole, overlooked and disrespected as a simple foot soldier. And the relationship between Pistone and Lefty is heartfelt and, ultimately, heartbreaking.
a
8) The Untouchables – Brian DePalma’s most successful film, The Untouchables, may focus more on the police work of Elliott Ness (Kevin Costner) and his posse of hard-nosed crime fighters, but the picture would not have the same impact without a powerful performance from Robert DeNiro as the infamous Al Capone. DeNiro disappears behind extra weight to embody the most famous gangster in America’s history. Even though he is on screen for brief moments, DeNiro exudes the proper amount of menace to make The Untouchables a solid cops and robbers crime drama. And the score from Enio Morricone is one of the best, most unforgettable of the last thirty years.
a
7) Once Upon a Time in America – This epic story of the rise of the American mafia is strangely overlooked for the most part. Perhaps it is the excessive running time and the obvious parallels to Coppola’s Godfather films. But Sergio Leone’s film is powerful in its own right. It tells the story of David Aaronson, Noodles, a Jewish gangster who returns to his Brooklyn neighborhood after 30 years. This complex narrative follows these Jewish gangsters through the prohibition era and documents their rise and fall with compelling dramatic prose. DeNiro, making his second but surely not his final appearance on this list, plays Noodles, and the reliable Joe Pesci plays Frankie Mandoli. This epic tale lends itself to the power of a sprawling narrative, and Leone is more than capable to pull off such a grandiose tale of success and failure in the American mob scene.
a
6) White Heat – Jimmy Cagney returns to the list, this time playing a pure psychopath who escapes from prison and leads a gang of lowlifes and hoods on a heist at a chemical plant. This, of course, sets up the scene we all remember from White Heat: Cagney, playing Cody Jarrett, is cornered in the chemical plant. Flames are soon to engulf him, and he shouts from the top of the plant “Madeit Ma! Top o’ the world!” This, one of the most famous lines in film history, emphasizes the tumultuous relationship and desire for attention Jarrett wanted from his mother. This underlying theme in the story adds much-needed weight and pathos to the Cagney character, who would otherwise have been seen simply as a madman without a soul.
a
5) Mean Streets – Guess who’s back? Robert DeNiro had been working for a few years as an actor before Martin Scorsese directed him in Mean Streets. But it was his dynamic role as Johnny Boy, the wiseass lowlife gangster in debt all over town, that catapulted him to the top. DeNiro is young and spry and ferocious, and a little bit stupid, as Johnny Boy, one of a wide array of small-time hoods in Mean Streets. Harvey Keitel is the defacto leader of the band of misfits, struggling with his own inner demons and the guilt of his life. Mean Streets is a gritty look at neighborhood gangsters, and although it may be rough around the edges it was an early indicator of the talent of Martin Scorsese. You can see the energy and the earnest storytelling creativity in each and every scene.
a
4) City of God – Many people may not consider this a gangster film, but I would argue this is as much a gangster film as any other on this list. City of God takes place in Rio de Janeiro, in a violent and poverty-stricken neighborhood run by a gang of drug dealers and murderers. The Tender Trio robs and steals from a neighborhood and teaches the youngsters of the town to do the same. The film then follows the lives of two brothers, one who becomes a photographer and the other a drug dealer. This familial strife is common in gangster films, with the crime element creating a rift between the brothers. City of God is a dynamite film, unforgettable from open to close. Directors Fernando Meirellas and Katia Lund have their finger on the pulse of this South American town and they show it with crafty camera work and some fiery storytelling.
a
3) The Godfather – I recently read an article where obvious comparisons were drawn between the life of the Kennedy’s, a family of privilege who made their way through illegal means in the early twentieth century, and the Corleone’s, a family consisting of three very diverse brothers who have made their way in the upper class of the American mafia in New York City. I mention this because, well, what else can you say about Francis Ford Coppola’s sprawling American classic, a film steeped in Greek tragedy with a rise and fall documented over three films. This first one has a wild card too, in the form of Sonny Corleone played by James Caan. And of course Marlon Brando, creating the most iconic character in mafia film history.
a
2) The Godfather, Part II – This is only a handful of sequels that could arguably be considered superior to the original. Most of the time there is a significant decline between sequels, but with Coppola’s story continuation gaining even more steam, developing the familial strife even further, and telling two parallel narratives better than any other film before or since, The Godfather II transcends convention and becomes a film of its own. We truly see the darkness in Michael Corleone as he spirals further into a place of paranoia and hatred from which he can never recover. We also see the beginning of the Corleone family, and a young Vito’s (Robert DeNiro in his first Oscar-winning role) rise to power in Little Italy. The way these stories develop seamlessly, and the way they serve as polarizing stories of the same family is the biggest strength of a legendary picture.
a
1) Goodfellas – Not only is Goodfellas the finest, most well-tuned gangster picture of all time. It is one of the best of all films. Here is a seamless, unforgettable portrayal of the New York mafia, the inner workings of the lowest and the highest, and a story of ambition gone horribly awry by the end. Martin Scorsese’s true story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), and his rise through the ranks of the gangsters who controlled the city is a film which never takes its foot off the gas. Through subtle camera techniques, perfect soundtrack decisions, and fiery performances from Liotta, Joe Pesci (who would win the Oscar), and, of course, Robert DeNiro, Scorsese paints a picture that is unforgettable in every way imaginable. As it goes with a rise, there must also be a fall, and the final act of Goodfellas cements its power as Henry falls into drug addiction and petty crime to get through. Goodfellas is undoubtedly a masterpiece of modern American filmmaking.

Related topics City of God, Donnie Brasco, Gangster Movies, Godfather, Godfather II, Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time In America, The Untuchables, White Heat
Next post Previous post

Your reaction to this post?

  • LOL

    0

  • Money

    0

  • Cool

    0

  • Fail

    0

  • Cry

    0

  • Geek

    0

  • Angry

    0

  • WTF

    0

  • Crazy

    0

  • Love

    0

You may also like

3671 Views
A Sensitive Soul Masked By A Villainous Exterior: 10 Ron Perlman Facts
Movies

A Sensitive Soul Masked By A Villainous Exterior: 10 Ron Perlman Facts

Ron Perlman turns 65 years old this week. Everyone recognizes

10282 Views
7 TV Shows You Didn’t Realize Were Based On Books
Books

7 TV Shows You Didn’t Realize Were Based On Books

1. Friday Night Lights While many know the critically-acclaimed television

4214 Views
“I Am The Smartest Man Alive!”: 9 Facts You Might Not Know About ‘Billy Madison’ On Its 20th Anniversary
Movies

“I Am The Smartest Man Alive!”: 9 Facts You Might Not Know About ‘Billy Madison’ On Its 20th Anniversary

20 years ago, Billy Madison was released in theaters. The