Gangsters are the iconic image of all-American criminals. Whether they’re Italian, Irish, or Russian, the portrayal of gangsters on screen has always been a favourite of mine. From their sharp suits and tough-guy attitudes to pull yourself up by your bootstraps ethos, the gangster movie represents the dark side of the American dream. These are my all-time 5 favourite gangster movies:

The Godfather Part II

The Godfather Part II is a 1974 film that was produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola from a screenplay he co-wrote with Mario Puzo, based on the 1968 novel The Godfather by Puzo. The film’s portrayal of gangsters has been said to be one of the best ever committed to celluloid, and it also shows a fascinating look at American society from 1945 to 1955.

The Godfather Part II received 12 Oscar nominations but did not have quite as much success at the Oscars as its predecessor. Still, it ranks as one of the best mobster films ever made.

Goodfellas

Goodfellas is one of the most famous modern movies about gangsters and crime. The movie was directed by Martin Scorsese and starred Ray Liota alongside Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro, and Lorraine Braco. The story of Goodfellas takes place in America during the 1960s and 1970s. Mafia members Tommy DeVito, Jimmy Conway, and Henry Hill start off as petty criminals but quickly rise to power as mobsters with a lot of influence. As their influence grows, these mobsters make more and more enemies until they become so paranoid that they start turning on each other.

Written by Nicholas Pileggi, “Goodfellas” is a true story about Henry Hill’s life as a gangster. Based on an actual person, the movie creates an interesting portrait of how life was as a gangster in the mafia during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Like most movies in this genre, Goodfellas provides a stylized and romanticized version of organized crime that is exhilarating and exciting.

Once Upon a Time in America

This film is often one of the most overlooked gangster movies ever made. A look behind the scenes during prohibition in America, this movie was nominated for nine Academy Awards when it was released in 1984 and was ranked in the top 100 in AFI’s “100 Years of Film” list.

The film follows the life of David “Noodles” Aaronson (played by Robert De Niro) as he watches his friends and partners go into legitimate businesses while mobster Bugsy Siegel (played by James Woods) rises to power.

The Krays

The Krays is an English gangster film released in 1990. The narrative follows the exploits of the Kray twins, twin English gangsters who became infamous for their violent crimes in London’s East End during the 1950s and 1960s. It stars real-life brothers Gary and Martin Kemp as well as Barbara Windsor.

When they were just 25 years old, both Robert and Reggie Kray escaped from prison with just 8 months left on their sentence. They robbed a security van that was carrying a load of money worth over £200 000 before going into hiding for a short while to build up a new criminal network. Their empire included protection rackets, arson, armed robbery, fraud, burglary and violence against anyone who defied them. However, their criminal empire collapsed in 1968 when the twins were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. This movie is one of the best gangster movies you can watch.

Scarface

The movie Scarface is about a Cuban refugee named Tony Montana who adapts to the American Dream. As the movie progresses, Tony builds his crime empire in Miami in order to keep himself and his wife out of trouble. The film is about how far you can go when you have access to limitless money and power.

Although the movie is violent and graphic, it still attempts to give an accurate portrayal of a crime boss and his life. Tony is a man who manages to go from the bottom of society’s ladder, all the way to the top through hard work and perseverance. Not only does he play by his own rules, but he also rips up the rules that others want him to follow. It is the classic corruption of the American dream.

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