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 Movie Gun Fights

Bullets, hand guns, shotguns, machine guns, snipers, shootouts, showdowns and more bullets: add these things in film and what you get are sometimes the best action scenes ever created. Whether the battle involves many people or just two, this is my list of my favorite gun fights in film. I found when making this list that, while a lot gun fights are extremely entertaining, there are many films that used violence and gun fights to emphasize or establish the morals of the story at hand. I like to think I found a good balance between the entertaining gun fights and the powerful ones when I made this list.

10. The Good, the Bad, the Weird

Of the gun fights on this list, this one is the least meaningful for me. I just couldn’t help putting it on this list because it’s so insanely fun. Even more fantastic than the showdown at the end that pays homage to Sergio Leone’s masterpiece is the ridiculous bullet fest through the desert that leads to the climax. The music and the added bonus of it being a chase scene makes it unforgettable.

9. Hot Fuzz

In a brilliant attempt to satirize buddy cop films and action movies in general, Hot Fuzz ends up having one of the greatest action scenes ever filmed in it’s finale. Throughout the film, laughs are had, blood is splattered and the idea that being a cop isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the movies is established. Then that idea is turned on its head and Hot Fuzz becomes a balls-to-the-wall shootout.

8. The Matrix

I don’t think anything really needs to be said here. I can’t think of the idea of gun fights in cinema with out thinking of the lobby shootout in The Matrix. It was probably the first truly great movie gun fight I ever saw and I love it still. I’ve always had an attachment to The Matrix as movie. I will watch it any time I get the chance and enjoy it every time. The lobby shootout is just one of the many reasons the film is awesome.

7. Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver is a Martin Scorsese masterpiece that is brilliantly punctuated by a bullet-filled and blood-soaked gun fight. Taxi Driver is one of the greatest character studies ever created. Travis Bickle is an incredibly dark and layered character and the examination of this complex character and the hell that surrounds him eventually leads to his baring arms and one of the most disturbing and yet glorious gun fights ever filmed.

6. L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential is simply an incredible movie all around filled with rich characters and memorable moments. The most memorable of which is the end of the film and the shootout that takes place. The greatest moment in L.A. Confidential though is the end of the shootout where Dudley says “Hold up your badge, so they know you’re a policeman.” Then protagonist Edmund Exley does the most honorable thing he’s done in the entire film.

5. Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan is brutal, it’s honest, it’s epic, it’s inspiring and it’s one of the greatest war movies ever created. The D-Day scene in the beginning is nothing short of perfect, however my favorite sequence in the film and the one that makes my list is the finale. While exemplifying the idea that war is hell, Saving Private Ryan manages to tell an excellent story of honor and duty. This story reaches it’s peak when it’s realized what our protagonists will do to actually save Private Ryan.

4. Once Upon a Time in the West

Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the most phenomenally epic westerns ever created and one I would easily call the greatest western ever made had it not been for the creation of a couple other masterpieces. Some might say the best scene in the film is the tense opening scene, which is amazing, but for me the greatest scene of the film is the showdown between protagonist “Harmonica”  and antagonist Frank. Truthfully, the scene speaks for itself.

3. Inglourious Basterds

It is simply common knowledge at this point that Quentin Tarantino loves cinema and always shows his love for his favorite movies in the movies that he makes. Inglourious Basterds drew many allusions from the films of Sergio Leone and like a great Sergio Leone movie Inglourious Basterds has one hell of a showdown. In the La Louisiane  scene, Quentin Tarantino crafts an extraordinary gun fight by building tension not with the music, editing and cinematography that Sergio Leone would use, but with dialogue. Then he ends his showdown in an instant, not with a single bullet, but with a quick and bloody shootout.

2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This is it. This is the showdown that epitomizes the idea of showdown and there was never a doubt in my mind that it would be right here as my second favorite gun fight in film. No film on this list is as beautifully epic as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It’s a dramatic, fun and enthralling adventure through the west and it all culminates into one of the greatest gun fights in film.

It’s almost indescribable how incredible this scene actually is. The film was already amazing, but it’s this showdown that makes it a masterpiece. We get to know these characters throughout this adventure and when the inevitable occurs, it’s nothing short of breathtaking. The dialogue is had, the music swells, the characters move and stare strategically, the shots change spastically and BAM!

1. Unforgiven

Unforgiven is the western masterpiece. It’s Clint Eastwood’s best film, it’s the greatest western in existence and it’s one of the greatest movies ever made. Unforgiven tells a simple tale of a ruthless murderer who has long since retired but ends up taking one last job. Unforgiven shows the violent west for what it is and establishes profound ideas of violence and what makes us who we are. What you find in the finale of Unforgiven isn’t just the greatest gun fight, but also one of the greatest scenes in film.

Little Bill Dagget makes for a deliciously ruthless antagonist where as William Munny is simply one of the greatest characters in film. When Little Bill Dagget and the well-known and feared William Munny finally meet what results is with out a doubt one of the most flawless pieces of filmmaking ever. “I’ll see you in hell William Munny,” Little Bill says with as much dignity as he has left and what Munny replies with a cock of his gun and a simple, powerful, and shameful “yeah”. Unforgiven offers a lot of things one which is the greatest gun fight cinematic history.

 

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