The 15 Best Gangster Movies Of All Time

Spaghetti and meatballs, Pizza or a cold beer – these are all eternally satisfying, as well as a great gangster movie. Most of these films on this list were made before 2001; watching The Godfather was as close as you could get to being a mobster without having to whack a guy. I guess this is the only proper – and legal way – to experience that lifestyle. So, let’s have at it, shall we? And feel free to watch all of them.

15. Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde

Year: 1967
Director: Arthur Penn

Extremely influential, Bonnie and Clyde decisively moved the needle towards more graphic violence. This true and tragic story was depicted by Warren Beatty and Fay Dunaway, showing us wht he notorious outlaws were up to: robbery, killing and so on. This was one of the first movies that used squibs.

14. Miller’s Crossing

Miller’s Crossing

Year: 1990
Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

One of the early gems from the Coen brothers, Miller’s Crossing features a mix of dark humor, violence, and stylish filmmaking. This dense Irish mob tale was brilliant since John Turturro played bookie Bernie Bernbaum.

13. Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs

Year: 1992
Director: Quentin Tarantino

The debut from writer/director Quentin Tarantino, Reservoir Dogs showcased hyper-raw, violent, stylized storytelling that’s uniquely recognizable. A botched jewelry store robbery leads a ruthless crew of criminals to suspect a rat is among them.

12. The Public Enemy

The Public Enemy

Year: 1931
Director: William A. Wellman

The legendary James Cagney stars as a young man, depictinghis ascent through the ranks of the Chicago underworld crackles. This movie helped lay the groundwork for the gangster genre. Raw, brutal, it’s all gansgter.

11. Mean Streets

Mean Streets

Year: 1973
Director: Martin Scorcese

The legendary De Niro-Scorcese began right here in this story about what it’s like to grow up gangster. A classic New York City movie, Mean Streets features both De Niro and Harvey Keitel, proving Hollywood that Scorsese had real talent.

10. Gomorrah


Year: 2008
Director: Matteo Garrone

Gomorrah dives into the jarring realities of the modern-day crime family circuit in Naples. The paths of multiple characters are followed in this gritty foreign film, with all of them being connected by organized crime. This movie will keep you wondering what happens next.

9. Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition

Year: 2002
Director: Sam Mendes

Tom Hanks as a gangster? Road to Perdition is an adaption from a graphic novel; the story takes place during the Great Depression, as a hitman and his son seek revenge against a mobster who murdered the rest of their family. Paul Newman is in the movie, as well.

8. American Gangster

American Gangster

Year: 2007
Director: Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott dipped his toes into the gangster genre, by having Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe help him in the process. Based on the true story of Frank Lucas, the Harlem drug kingpin who rose to power in the 1970s, American Gangster delivers a smooth throwback vibe to go with A-level acting.

7. White Heat

White Heat

Year: 1949
Director: Raoul Walsh

James Cagney is the maniacally ruthless Cody Jarrett. This might be Cagney’s best gangster performance, the impact of White Heat’s explosive style and emotional depth can still be observed in today gangster flicks. Don’t miss it!

6. Heat


Year: 1995
Director: Michael Mann

Pacino and De Niro, together. The hype was high for Heat, with the film delivering an action-crime-thriller movie. Heat is surprisingly invested in the dialogue of its characters, since this is basically an action movie, but the shootout scenes will make up for that.

5. Once Upon a Time in America

Once Upon a Time in America

Year: 1984
Director: Sergio Leone

Famed Italian director Sergio Leone had huge ambitions with Once Upon a Time in America. However, Warner Bros. butchered the original for its US release. But if viewed intact, the movie excels at telling its story of four childhood friends who grow up to be gangsters and get their loyalty tested.

4. Scarface


Year: 1983
Director: Brian De Palma

Although Scarface is a bit overrated, but this over-the-top, so-bad-it’s-good, gangster movie is still worth watching.

3. The Departed

The Departed

Year: 2006
Director: Martin Scorcese

Possibly the best gangster film director of all time turned in a strong effort here, considering the cast: Jack Nicholson, Leonardio DiCaprio, Matt Damon. With plenty of twists and turns, and the relentless gunplay at the end, this movie will keep you eating popcorn for a while.

2. Donnie Brasco

Donnie Brasco

Year: 1997
Director: Mike Newell

A solid story and two acting greats fuel Donnie Brasco to its very solid standing in this list. Based on a true story, the film shows Johnny Depp – an undercover FBI agent – who befriends and an aging, low-level hit-man played by Al Pacino. Both are in fine form here, with dashes of humor and eloquence in their performances.

1. City of God

City of God

Year: 2002
Director: Fernando Meirelles

City of God is an ultra-violent and visceral look at young lives gone wrong in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro. Director Fernando Meirelles has one vivid and unique imagination, and the camera work shows that. Even though he’s guiding a cast of unknown actors, you can’t really tell.

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