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 15 Best Films of 2008

Once again, as with my Top 25 Best Performances of 2008, I just couldn’t bring myself to only make a top ten, because there were a few movies this year that wouldn’t make my top ten, but in my opinion certainly deserved to be mentioned, so I made a top 15. This was a great year for films even if it didn’t start to shine until the summer. It was a tough year from a critic’s stand point, mainly because it gets very hard to make a list like this at the end of the year. It was fortunately a great year for anyone who’s a fan of films. Well here’s my list, I hope you enjoy it.

15. Appaloosa

It was very nice to see another good western to come out this year. I love this genre and I hope it never ends. This one in particular had a plot that was both simple and developed very well. The acting was great and two of the performances made it onto my top 25 performances of the year. I loved all the the performances, but Viggo’s and Irons’ performances were especially good. If you enjoy the genre you won’t want to miss this one.

14. Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading was a great movie, but it isn’t getting the credit it deserves mostly because its not really being understood. Well I enjoyed every character, every line, and every second of what is now in my mind a classic Coen Brothers movie. Extra props goes out to Brad Pitt for playing a limited role to pure perfection. I laughed out loud every time he came on screen.

13. Milk

Milk was a great movie, but I do believe it is getting way too much credit because there were many movies that came out this year that were much better. Either way, Milk was well made and incredibly acted by all especially Josh Brolin and Sean Penn. Its a tale that needed to be told and it couldn’t have been told mush better or with a better cast then this. 

12. In Bruges

In Bruges was rather surprising finding almost a perfect middle ground between comedy and drama. It was able to be very dramatic and even sad at times, while being absolutely hilarious at others, Ralph Fiennes was amazing and I had no complaints with any of the other actors. I just saw this movie for the first time on DVD and I only wish I would’ve been able to catch it in the theater. I probably would’ve liked it even more.

11. RockNRolla

Another great Guy Ritchie movie with great characters, dialogue and writing. There was a bit more story to this one instead of just a fast-paced shoot em’ up, which was a very nice surprise. I can’t wait till Guy Ritchie’s next project. People say that Guy Ritchie just directs the same movie over and over. I don’t agree, I think Ritchie has just established his own movie genre for himself. Others have tried to copy and done great like In Bruges or Layer Cake, while others have failed like Smokin Aces, but nonetheless, this is Ritchie’s territory and he owns it. 

10. Quantum of Solace

I enjoyed Quantum of Solace much more than people are saying. Sure it wasn’t as good as the first, but it was still a great movie. There were some small details that should’ve been fixed and a certain line that needed to be said. All that aside, Quantum of Solace was an intelligently crafted and well-acted action thriller that deserves a place in memory. I for one can’t wait for the next. 

9. Gran Torino

Gran Torino was a highly entertaining movie due mainly to Clint Eastwood and the wonderful dialogue and transformation he exuberates. Gran Torino is a wonderful drama that teaches us morals of race and the ability to change, while being completely entertaining the whole way through. The suppoting acting wasn’t that great sure, but Clint Eastwood sure makes up for it.

8. Body of Lies

This is very sadly, a highly over looked movie. I was very excited for it and saw it in the first weekend. It was incredible, it told a very good story with a great cast and had some really great action sequences to boot. I didn’t understand why not many people were seeing it and why it wasn’t getting very good grades, but either way, I loved the movie and can’t wait for another viewing. If you get the chance, check out this movie. Its a very entertaining watch.

7. W.

W. was a fantastic movie from start to finish. Some might disagree with me putting this movie so high (his name may start with an L and end with an ANCE), but I loved this movie. It was not what I was expecting, in a good way though. I was expecting a very well-made comedy with Oliver Stone at the helm, that would just bash on Bush. What I got was a drama with a bit of comedy thrown in. I actually liked Bush better after seeing the movie. The movie tells his story and allows you to draw your own opinions, I felt empathy for the guy. The movie was also great because of the performances of Josh Brolin and Richard Dreyfuss. They made a perfect team. The direction made what could’ve been very boring into very entertaining and what else can be expected of Oliver Stone.

6. The Wrestler

The Wrestler was movie I just recently saw and I’m so glad I did. It was such a good movie and its just really hard to describe why without giving away much other than saying that Mickey Rourke was spectacular in a role that won’t soon be forgot. The Wrestler was also probably the saddest movie I’ve seen, ever. The fact that it made me feel sad tells me that they did exactly what they set out to do. The Wrestler is a must-see this year not only for Rourke’s performance, but also the incredible story of someone whose not so incredible any more.

5. WALL-E

WALL-E is a fantastic movie. It is visually a spectacle to watch and yes it is an animated movie, but nonetheless it deserves to be this high like any other movie. It is able to have many criticisms on society, while telling a wonderful tale of how love concurs all. Each character and scene is more beautiful and creative than the last. It makes you feel every emotion and is able to keep you enthralled with the story even with the limited dialogue it has. 

4. Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire is an incredible movie and it tells a story of love that we’ve all heard or seen before, but it tells it in a way that is so different and original. Slumdog Millionaire is being called by most, the best films of the year and yes it is up there, it is one of the best, but is it the best? No I don’t believe so, obviously, as you can see, I enjoyed three other movies more than this one, but I do not think this is the best. I will be disappointed if it wins the oscar for best picture, but I will not be angry because it still is a great movie.

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an epic in all shapes and forms. It tells one of the most beautiful tales I’ve ever seen of love and life. It is acted and directed to perfection. The movie is so astoundingly beautiful and it shows such original thoughts and morals. There’s a whole strew of well-crafted characters and scenes and through the whole movie, not once did the length bother me. It felt almost short because it was telling a story that took place over an 80 year time span. This is an elegant tale that shows that all people are special and different and everyone deserves to be loved. 

2. FROST/NIXON

FROST/NIXON was an event to be remembered. It was such a surprise of a movie, it was amazing how much better this movie was then I originally thought and I already thought it was going to be a great movie, what I saw was nothing short of perfection. It wasn’t just the incredible action, which was IN-CRED-I-BLE, it was a direction, the way the film just kept building nonstop tension, never let up and gave you everything you wanted to see and more. Frank Langella was of course breath taking, but not just him, but everybody just fit perfectly into every role. FROST/NIXON unfortunately was pretty over-looked because of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire came out around the same time and I actually enjoyed FROST/NIXON more then both of them. It’s a movie with no action, but dialogue so well written and acted that the audience feels so involved to the point where it does feel just like action. FROST/NIXON is the kind of film you could watch over and over because you just fail to release that your watching a movie. A spectacle to be hold that only comes around once in a blue moon. 

1. The Dark Knight

Anyone who has read this site before will find this of now surprise because I’ve stated in the past multiple times that not only is this the best movie of the year, but the greatest movie ever made, and I’ve seen a lot of movies. The Dark Knight is an epic masterpiece of good and evil. What more could you ask for? The classic ritual of good vs. evil has been used sense the beginning of film and it will be used until the end of film. This is the greatest depiction of good vs. evil ever created. Each understands that god needs the devil, good needs evil and they need each other. There is no good without evil and there is no evil without good. The Joker is the greatest character in film history by far. He is so evil that he kills innocent people for fun and is willing to be killed knowing that it will instill chaos and anarchy into a world that he thinks desperately needs it. While the hero of the story won’t kill anyone knowing that’s what seperates him from the dark side sort of speak. The Joker won’t kill Batman though either because he knows that evil needs good. He knows that he won’t have nearly as much “fun” without him. That’s the genius of the film and the whole Batman series, the greatest hero ever who never even asks for anything in return will never kill the greatest evil ever and vice-versa. The Dark Knight is a masterpiece, in my opinion, that’s the best way to describe a film, and it most certainly is a masterpiece.

RockNRolla Review

RockNRolla was a very entertaining film, but none-the-less, not what I expected. It was the slowest of Ritchie’s London crime capers, which wasn’t expected. It started out slow, but it got more and more fast paced as the movie went on. Out of Guy Ritchie’s fast-paced London crime capers, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is his best, but I would say that this at least ties with Snatch.  

The movie had all the right ingredients for a Guy Ritchie movie, great characters, great actors, great dialogue, and a jumbled plot involving such topics as, real-estate, violent junkies, war criminals, $7 million, a lucky painting, crayfish and a lot more. The movie was great, well executed, fun. A lot people say that Guy Ritchie isn’t a good director because he does the same type of film everytime, well to then I say, “yeah and that’s because he’s damn good at it”. No one has problems with Martin Scorsese making a lot of mobster movies. 

There were so many memorable scenes in this movie that makes you remember Lock Stock and Snatch. In the beginning I was thinking that the movie wasn’t going to be that good, but as the movie progressed, and the body count rose, I remembered whose movie I was watching and why. As a final note, I would like to say that I loved two characters the most in this movie, Lenny Cole, played by Tom Wilkinson, and Archie played by I don’t know, but he was great. My last words are this, Guy Ritchie has an incredible way of telling all his stories and his way has always been attempted to be duplicated, but no one can ever stand up with the original fast-paced cleverness of Guy Ritchie. 

Grade: A-