These Are Some of the Best Mafia and Gangster Movies Ever Made


Mafia films have a sense of dirty, exciting fun when done right. These gangster pictures have been a staple in all of Hollywood’s assemblage of films, from the classic Little Caesar and The Public Enemy from the ’30s to more recent movies like American Gangster. It’s hit-and-miss, and while movies like Gangster Squad and Live By Night haven’t really done anything to benefit the genre, others like Goodfellas, The Godfather, and The Untouchables have been essential viewing for the average filmgoer.

The latter movies are known to be a joy to watch and have stood the test of time, with people having cherished them for many decades. Despite what many think, gangster films are not just about gangs and rivals shooting and killing each other. They in fact weave a history of what a certain part of American culture was about.

Here are some of the best mafia and gangster movies that have ever dawned on the silver screen.

9 The Departed

Matt Damon talks to Jack Nicholson in The Departed
Warner Bros.

This Best Picture winner is without a doubt a great flick to sink your teeth into if you want a gritty thriller that follows in the footsteps of other gangster flicks. The story sees William Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) play as moles for opposing sides of the law.

The Departed is an assessment of law and order but flips the switch, with chaotic good and lawful evil, and uses its cast to the absolute fullest. Its harrowing themes of right and wrong are still potent and strong years after release. It remains a highlight of Martin Scorsese’s career and got him his first and only Oscar for Best Director that still seems well-deserved in the director’s long tenure as a filmmaker.

8 The Irishman

The cast of The Irishman, Pacino in the center

Here we have another of the best Scorsese films, one which proved to be somewhat overlong and the most expensive film in his career. The film revolves around World War II veteran Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro), who recalls becoming a hitman for the Mafia and eventually killing union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

Related: These Are the Best Al Pacino Movies, Ranked

With an ardent sense of Scorsese retracing his roots as a director and using his cinematic penchant to create a marvel of a film, it’s not hard to figure out why The Irishman was so highly acclaimed by critics. Its rawness and realistic charm coupled with impressive de-aging is what made this epic mafia film a winner.

7 Black Mass

Depp as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass
Warner Bros.

After a string of less successful films, Johnny Depp’s career bounced back with this banger of a gangster film detailing the meteoric rise and fall of Whitey Bulger. Black Mass is a memoir of sorts of its character, an informant for FBI agent John Connelly (Joel Edgerton), while Bulger remains murdering and committing heinous acts.

Many critics have considered Depp’s performance here to be one of his greatest in decades. This film added a sense of ‘Depp-th’ in the mafia pantheon that elevates itself into the perfect biographical portrayal of Bulger that could have never happened without his involvement.

6 Public Enemies

Johnny Depp with a gun in Public Enemies
Universal Pictures

Yet another Depp film that has made this list on gangster movies, and for good reason. Johnny Depp turns in a chilling performance yet again as notorious gangster John Dillinger. Audiences get the chance to witness Dillinger’s treachery and his ultimate downfall as a Robin Hood of the streets in Michael Mann’s slick flick Public Enemies.

Related: These Are the Best Michael Mann Movies, Ranked

This epic neo-noir flick has often been underrated by critics and audiences, but its realism and daring thematic elements are what bring this dark thriller to life as a unique gangster film.

5 Goodfellas

The cast of Goodfellas
Warner Bros.

What do you know? It’s another Martin Scorsese film. Goodfellas introduced audiences to Henry Hill, who has always been attracted and drawn to the gangster lifestyle, one that ends up ruining his life rather than sustaining the thrill that he always desired.

The film is largely considered to be the best movie of the director’s career, and has many staunch followers obsessed with its trivia. Its raunchy and bloody liveliness, as well as its ability to be funny and violent simultaneously, makes it a one-in-a-million gangster film for a generation.

4 White Heat

Warner Bros.

If there was one definitive James Cagney film that had the actor as a ruthless gangster in an equally ruthless movie, White Heat would be it. Cagney portrays Arthur “Cody” Jarrett, who proves himself to be a huge mama’s boy. The character, while nefarious in his nature, is still strapped to his mother’s tit and does everything he can to please her. The film was an epic cinematic achievement in the genre of crime-thrillers and still stands as a harrowing film that has taken its rightful place on top of the world.

3 The Untouchables

The cast of The Untouchables holding guns
Paramount Pictures

Gangsters, cops, and killers are a mainstay in this magnificently detailed period gangster movie. The Untouchables is based upon the non-fiction book of the same name by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley. The story follows the 1930s Prohibition era where Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) reigns supreme as the crime lord of Chicago. Eliot Ness forms a group of highly-trained, police-backed gunmen to bring down Capone’s terror in the city.

The film’s crime-drenched art direction is what elevates this beauty of a gangster film to more than just the sum of its parts. Additionally, Sean Connery was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for playing Jim Malone, even if his accent was incredibly noticeable.

2 The Godfather Part II

Pacino in The Godfather Part 2
Paramount Pictures

The sequel to its supreme predecessor has been cited as one of the best sequels ever made in Hollywood. Fans see Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) take the mantle of the Godfather while the audience learns more about his father Vito, who rose to power as the original Godfather working his way through the streets of New York.

The film was the winner of six Academy Awards and was a sight to behold, with some outlets hailing it as superior to its predecessor. The Godfather: Part II proved to be a staple in mafia movies and was a rousing sensation in cinema.

1 The Godfather

Brando in The Godfather
Paramount Pictures

Speaking of The Godfather and Francis Ford Coppola, the original got there first and remains the quintessential gangster film and a defining chapter of the 1970s New Hollywood. It had heart, bloody violence, and a magical charm for gangster films. Audiences were first introduced to the Corleone family and The Godfather saga with Michael being the reluctant member to want to join the crime-obsessed organization just coming back from the war.

The Godfather has been known as not only one of the greatest gangster films ever made, but one of the greatest films ever made. It has been in the top 10 on many movie polls and has endured longevity even after fifty years of its release.

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