Top Ten Gangster Movies

There will also be a special place in my heart for the Gangster genre because it was films like Goodfellas and The Godfather (among other movies on this list, but I don’t want to give the whole thing away) that in all honesty got me into the art of film in general. When done right a good gangster movie is filled with rich and vibrant characters, stories and pieces of dialogue. This is my list of the best Gangster movies I’ve ever had the honor to watch.

Before getting into this, I’d like to clarify what I mean by Gangster movie. I considered any movie that involves gangsters driving the central drama of the film. That means I could use movies that didn’t necessarily star gangsters as the protagonists. For the list, I could use movies like The Untouchables and The Usual Suspects because even though the main characters weren’t mobsters, there would be no drama with out them. I could however not use a movie like The Dark Knight because even though gangsters play a part, they most certainly do not propel the plot of the film. Well, here we go…

10. The Untouchables

There were a lot of movies battling for this tenth spot; Miller’s Crossing almost made it, as did Gangs of New York and if I had an eleventh slot on this list it would be the complex drug drama, Layer Cake. It ended up being The Untouchables if only for how gratifyingly fun the movie can be from beginning to end. Robert De Niro is fantastic as the antagonist, but what makes this one of my favorite gangster movies is Sean Connery as Malone.

9. True Romance

True Romance is a beautiful love story as only Quentin Tarantino could write it. It’s filled with violence, course language, drugs, tense scenes (particularly one of my favorites in film including Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken), but at it’s heart it is a full fledged love story. It was unfortunately not directed by the man himself, but his brilliant writing is all there making True Romance undoubtedly one of the most incredible stories of crime ever told.

8. RockNRolla

Other than the sequel to Sherlock Holmes, I’ve loved every movie Guy Ritchie has ever made. It goes without saying that Snatch is just an awesome movie, while Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is even better, but for  me my favorite will always be RockNRolla. It has all the fast-paced direction and zest of any other Guy Ritchie movie, but with the added bonus of the greatest and most compelling characters Guy Ritchie has ever created.

7. A Prophet

A Prophet is simply a magnificent film that never fails to captivate. What sets A Prophet above most other crime dramas is a sense of brutality and realism. A Prophet is unbelievably epic and from beginning to end, it never fails to leave you speechless from scene to scene. And it’s not just the tense violence the director never fears or fails to utilize, but also the tense and dramatic scenes that propels the beautiful plot of a man raising through the ranks in a crime-driven French prison.

6. The Usual Suspects

I don’t think much needs to be said about The Usual Suspects and that right there is a testament to how truly spectacular of film it is. The writing is unbelievably intelligent and never spoon feeds you. While The Usual Suspects is an enjoyable and fascinating tale of thieves and criminal masterminds, it is also an enthralling mystery. It’s the kind of film you have to pay attention to. You have to take the time to examine every detail and by the end, what you find is simply an incredible film.

5. Goodfellas

Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors who ever lived and Goodfellas is just one of the many films that showcase his prowess. Goodfellas is a masterpiece through and through and while never failing to be completely entertaining, it tells a tremendous tale that envelops everything you’d ever want to know about a life of crime. Ray Liotta is fantastic, Robert De Niro is just as amazing as ever and Joe Pesci gives an Oscar-worthy performance. It’s Scorsese that deserves the most praise for directing such an amazing movie.

4. The Godfather (Part I+II)

I’ve always had a constant argument with myself as to what I loved more the first two Godfather films or Goodfellas. It wasn’t until just recently when I realized that I have to give it to The Godfather (Part I+II) if only  for its beautifully epic tale of not only crime, but also family, loyalty and change. Francis Ford Coppola, with the first two Godfathers, creates one of the greatest movies of all time. It would be an absolute sin not to put The Godfather (Part I+II) on a list of my favorite gangster movies in existence. I mean, it’s The Godfather!

3. Drive

There was a dilemma for me on whether or not I should put Drive on this list. Yes, Drive is so much more than a gangster movie, but without the involvement of organized crime the film would have nothing to drive the plot or our protagonist to do the things he does. Drive is, to put it as plainly as possible, extraordinary.It’s the retro feel, it’s the tremendous music, it’s the stylized violence, it’s the minimized dialogue, it’s the spellbinding direction that takes its time  to tell its story, and it’s the way that regardless of how much tension, action and blood is in the movie, it never fails to have a pleasant moment of realistic affection. Drive is a profound film in its flawless creation and its relentless entertainment.

2. The Departed

It’s practically unbelievable that Martin Scorsese has made as many masterpieces as he has. He made the raw and rugged Raging Bull, he made the grotesque and hellish Taxi Driver and he even made another entry on this list, Goodfellas, but The Departed is Scorsese’s magnum opus. There are a lot of different opinions as to what Scorsese’s best movies are and that’s understandable, but for me it’s The Departed and I seriously doubt that will ever change. Scorsese holds nothing back, he pulls all the punches and the result is something miraculous. The Departed tells a fantastic intertwining tale of cops, criminals and grit. It is and forever will be a masterpiece.

1. Pulp Fiction

Take what may be the greatest writing in cinematic history, a handful of characters that individually could have their own movies centered around them, the direction of a mastermind, some of the stories that inspired said mastermind to make movies in general and then throw in that magical twist that Tarantino adds to all of his films and what you get is the greatest gangster film in existence. Pulp Fiction is and will always be one of my favorite movies that will ever be created.

What Pulp Fiction offers isn’t just beautiful, but refreshingly original. And this originality isn’t in the case of the stories that are being intertwined, the film is original in the way that the stories are told and the characters that are being followed. In Pulp Fiction, what you get are days in the lives of the kind of low-lives you wouldn’t expect to see as protagonists whether they be a pair of talky hit men, the wife of a crime boss, a low-rent boxer or even a couple whose hobby is robbing restaurants and liquor stores.

With Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino taps into a the vein that is the gangster genre to make something truly extraordinary. Pulp Fiction offers an experience that is nothing short of breathtaking from start to finish. Every single aspect of Tarantino’s crime masterpiece is not only a gorgeous piece of art, but it’s also a consistently entertaining piece of pulp. It is one of the greatest movies ever made and nothing short of the greatest gangster movie of all time.

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Top Ten Coen Bros. Movies

The Coen Brohters are nothing short of the greatest filmmaker(s) of all time. Every single film they release is another brush stroke of originality that will, by the end, become the most memorable array of films that a filmmaker’s had to offer. I say filmmaker because whenever speaking of one, you always associate him with the other. That’s probably the reason they’re the best at what they do. They’ve got two brilliant minds working together.

Anyways, let’s get to this list. A list of Top Ten Coen Bros. Movies is one I’ve been working on for a while. The Coen Brothers are my favorite filmmaker(s) so this list had to be nothing short of perfect. I’ve put a lot of thought into it and here’s the result:

10. Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading is a story packed with black mail, murder, double crossings, back dealings, and above all else, stupidity. Burn After Reading is hilarious in the way that it throws a bunch of witless characters, none of which can be considered the main character, into a pointless story just to see what happens. Its an interesting concept and one that only the Coen Bros. could pull off.

9. Blood Simple

The Coen Brother’s first movie was made a little over 25 years ago and still leaves you speechless from beginning to end. It’s a simple tale of murder with real characters and an unforgettable mood of brutality and sleaze. Blood Simple is a fantastic movie that established exactly the kind of masterpieces that could be expected from these filmmakers in the future.

8. Miller’s Crossing

Miller’s Crossing is the Brother’s pitch-perfect take on the gangster genre. A prohibition era tale of a man who learns that empathy is a dangerous trait to have in a world run by sadism and crime. Miller’s Crossing is a poetic look at organized crime that few other filmmakers have been able to surpass. Miller’s Crossing should be held right up there with The Godfather and Goodfellas.

7. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the Brother’s take on pure adventure. Like “The Lord of the Rings”, “Kill Bill” and “Gladiator” we’re on a fantastic quest with our heroes who are after a simple task that lead them to many different experiences and meeting many different characters. In the Coen Brother’s case, this involves three escaped convicts after buried treasure and meeting a string of memorable characters, from “Baby Face” Nelson, a one-eyed bible salesmen, and even Robert Johnson. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is said to be a modernized version of Homer’s “Odyssey”. I haven’t read it, but based on this movie, I think I’d love it.

6. A Serious Man

The Coen Brother’s most recent film is a fantastic tale of the questions we all face in life and probably will never have answered. It’s a tale of a simple college professor who out of nowhere seems to be facing non-stop problems. First from a student attempting to bribe him for a better grade, then a wife who wants a divorce, a brother living on his couch, a daughter who steals from him to get a nose job, etc. He seeks the counsel of three different rabbi’s. What we see is hilarious and morally eye opening. This film, as all Coen Brother’s films do, but especially this film almost forces you to reflect on life’s big questions.

5. The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski is not just one of my favorite Coen Bros. films, it’s also by far the greatest comedy ever made. Most comedies, after a second viewing, you know what’s coming and you just don’t find it funny anymore. The Big Lebowski is almost magical in the way that it stays hilarious or is even funnier the more you watch it. I love every single moment we get to spend with, one of my favorite movie characters put on screen, The Dude and his hilarious friends and enemies. There are so many memorable lines and scenes that its making me sad that I’m not watching it right now.

4. True Grit

The Coen Brother’s have directed a versatile selection of films whether that be gangster films, mysteries, comedies or even tales of adventure. Their take on the western genre is a beautiful masterpiece on all accounts. True Grit unlike almost all westerns tells a story of the old west as realistically as possible. The direction and characters transcend into not only the western that feels the most real, but also a western that is one of the most resonant in the way that it truly brings you there and makes you feel for these characters. A truly brilliant film directed flawlessly by two brilliant minds.

3. Barton Fink

Barton Fink is nothing short of a masterpiece. An amazing film that is usually overlooked or misunderstood. I love every second of Barton Fink. The story seems simple early on, with a playwright moving to Hollywood, checks into the Hotel Earle, only to have writer’s block when asked to write a wrestling picture. What happens next is he meets his friendly neighbor Charlie, played by John Goodman in what is by far his greatest performance. I’ve already said too much though. I went in blind and what resulted was an fascinating movie experience. If you haven’t seen Barton Fink, I’d recommend doing the same. What makes Barton Fink stand out is the way that it is the kind of film you’ve never seen and will never see again. It’s utterly original and unquestionably brilliant.

2. Fargo

Fargo is nothing short of a perfect film. Fargo is the film where the Coen Brother’s really hit they’re full potential. They took every single thing that makes a Coen Bros. movie amazing and put it into this classic. Fargo takes that simple tale of murder, betrayal and realism they originated in Blood Simple and multiplied it by a billion.

Its hard to put into words what makes Fargo such a masterpiece, but for me I think it’s because how real Fargo seems. Its a story filled with real characters and real circumstances. It says in the beginning that the film is based on real events (any film buff knows that that’s actually not true) and that actually seems completely plausible because Fargo is directed to absolute perfection.

1. No Country for Old Men

When ever I think of No Country for Old Men, even before thinking about one of the greatest villains ever put on screen or the clever game of cat and mouse the film centers on or the resonant symbolism and morals that the makes the film spectacular. Before thinking of any of that, I first think of one word; Flawless. That’s what No Country for Old Men is; flawless, perfect, pure, and above all, a masterpiece.

No Country for Old Men is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s not my favorite, (although it is damn close) but I do consider it, by far, the greatest directed movie ever. The small details that few would notice, the lack of a score that adds to the realism, the shots and editing that forms tension one would never think possible with out music, are just a few of the artistic strokes the Coen’s make to form their greatest achievement in film.

No Country for Old Men centers on a game of cat and mouse between, an ordinary man named Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who happens upon a drug deal gone wrong and a suitcase full of 2 million dollars and an emotionless bounty hunter by the name of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) whose task is simple; get the money and kill anyone who gets in the way. The grisly tale is seen threw the eyes of a washed up Texas sheriff played by none other than Tommy Lee Jones. What is learned from this tale of blood and violence is honest, important, and makes for one of the greatest films ever made. Period.

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#39 Forest Scene (Miller’s Crossing)

 

A classic scene with powerful performances, cowardess and intimidation prevail in this scene. 

Best Character: Tom

Best Quote: “You can’t do this Tom, it isn’t right.”

Scene:

(clips can be seen of the clip in the trailer, but no actual scene could be found.)