If Cowboys and Indians movies are called Westerns, then perhaps Cops and Mobsters movies should be called Easterns. All kidding aside, some of the best movies over the past forty years have focused on the mob, gangsters, and their dealings with life. Then David Chase gifted the world The Sopranos and reinvigorated the mob genre for TV audiences. As Tony Soprano, James Gandolfini gave a heartwarming and menacing performance, sometimes in the same scene. The rest of the cast was amazing as well, helping to propel the show to becoming one of the greatest of all time.
The TV series was like a mob movie every week and it helped to reshape the television landscape for shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead, and other episodic serialized dramas. When you’re done debating what exactly happened during the final scene, check out 10 Great Gangster Movies To Watch If You Love The Sopranos.
10 True Romance
One wild night, Alabama Whitman married Clarence Worley. But she’s also on the run after stealing money from her pimp and now they have the mob after them too. While the Quentin Tarantino written/Tony Scott directed True Romance isn’t your traditional mob movie, it does feature James Gandolfini years before The Sopranos, in one of the bloodiest fight scenes ever caught on film that most likely could never be done today.
9 The Godfather
It’s the mob movie that started it all! From Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather tells the story of the Corleone crime family and the head of its table, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). All-out war between the Five Families spills out into the streets of New York and Italy.
With Vito convalescing due to an attempt on his life in Italy, Michael returns and reluctantly leads the family and consolidates all of the Five Families under his rule.
8 The Godfather, Part II
How do you improve on The Godfather? You tell the story of how Vito actually rose to power while telling the story of Michael expanding the Family’s interests. The Godfather, Part II features Robert DeNiro as a young Vito, expanding both of his families and becoming a bit of a neighborhood hero in the process. Meanwhile, Michael is trying to fortify his defenses as he experiences several betrayals and attempts on his life.
All you really need to know about why moviegoers love gangster movies, look no further than Goodfellas and its opening line - “as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Right from that moment onto Henry Hill giving himself up, Martin Scorsese showed why he’s the master of the mob epic, something he would so several times in his career and on this list. Tracking several decades worth of a story, coupled with some memorable scenes (“What am I funny, funny like a clown?”), and the funny-not-funny “dead” body in the trunk sequence, the only crazier than watching Goodfellas is realizing that a lot of this was based on a true story!
6 The Departed
For several months, every fan of The Departed (“The Depaahhted”) started sporting their best faux-Boston accent. But besides everyone becoming a proud New Englander all of a sudden, there’s a lot to unpack in the film that finally netted Martin Scorsese his long-overdue Best Directing Oscar. A kid is given the good life by mobster Frank Costello, only to become an officer on the take. Meanwhile, a kid from the other side of the tracks goes undercover with Frank’s crew to get intel and try to find the rat.
When it comes to the mob and gambling, Sam “Ace” Rothstein has proven invaluable. During their expansion into Vegas and the casino business, the Chicago Outfit asks him to oversee the Tangiers Casino.
He’s able to double the profits and the mob skins off the top before taxes. They eventually send out Sam’s beat friend, Nicky for protection. Things, of course, get a little dicey once Sam meets hustler Ginger McKenna and begins a very tumultuous marriage with her.
Plenty of people rightfully credit Pablo Escobar for introducing America to cocaine in the seventies and eighties, but he had big help from George Jung. Blow tells the romanticized version of how a kid from small-town Weymouth, Massachusetts makes it to top of the food chain, affiliated with the Medellín Cartel and Pablo Escobar. Johnny Depp oozes the swagger that Jung must have needed to get in good with the Cartel and become their top American importer.
Al Pacino is solely responsible for every fake, thick Cuban accent ever heard. Thanks to his portrayal of Cuban refugee Tony Montana in Brian De Palma’s Scarface. Written by Oliver Stone, the movie is a twisted version of the American Dream, Tony escapes from Cuba to Miami instead of immigrates and he murders his way to the top of the food chain in Cocaine and drug running, all leading up to the climactic showdown and “say hello to my little friend!” as Tony by himself tries to annihilate all of his competition.
2 Donnie Brasco
When you go undercover to try and stop the mob, you have to try and do two things. The first is obviously don’t get made by the people you’re investigating. The second is don’t fall for their lifestyle. Johnny Depp plays real-life Fed, Joe Pistone. Pistone spent several years masquerading as Donnie Brasco, investigating and infiltrating the Bonanno Family.
He meets an older mob guy; Benny Ruggiero and he’s instantly impressed with how Donnie handles himself and invites him to not only hang with him. But he also schools Donnie on mob life. While growing closer, Joe knows that he eventually has to make arrests and betray Lefty.
1 A Bronx Tale
Directed by Robert DeNiro and based on Chazz Palminteri’s stage play, A Bronx Tale isn’t just a mob story, it’s a tale of one of New York’s most diverse boroughs and the struggle of Lorenzo Anello to keep his boy, Calogero on the straight and narrow. Meanwhile, the boy is taken aback by the mob way of life, led by Sonny LoSpecchio. Most mob stories deal with a romanticized version of La Cosa Nostra, but A Bronx Tale is a heartbreaking battle for one boy’s soul.