Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time

In the ever-evolving world of cinema, few genres captivate audiences quite like the gangster movies. From gripping tales of organized crime to iconic characters that etch themselves into our cultural landscape, these films offer a glimpse into the clandestine and often dangerous underworld. As traverse through the annals of cinematic history, exploring the captivating narratives and unforgettable performances, here’s a countdown of the top 10 gangster movies that have left an indelible mark on the silver screen. Strap in for a ride through the gritty, compelling, and often morally complex world of the ultimate gangster films.

The Godfather (1972)

  • Themes: Loyalty, family, corruption, the American Dream’s dark side.
  • Memorable Moments: Don Corleone’s opening monologue, Sonny’s brutal death, the baptism intercut with the massacre, Michael’s transformation into a ruthless leader.
  • Impact: Elevated the gangster genre to new heights, influencing countless films and spawning a pop culture phenomenon.

No list of gangster movies would be complete without The Godfather. This epic film tells the story of the Corleone family, a powerful Mafia clan in New York City. The film is a masterpiece of storytelling, with unforgettable characters, iconic lines, and a timeless score. Marlon Brando gives a legendary performance as Don Vito Corleone, the aging patriarch who must keep his family together in the face of rival gangs and police pressure.

Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time
The Godfather (1972) – Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time


The Goodfellas (1990)

  • Themes: Greed, addiction, the allure and emptiness of the gangster life.
  • Memorable Moments: The “Copa” tracking shot, Henry’s hilarious narration, the Lufthansa heist, Jimmy’s death in the kitchen.
  • Impact: Popularized the “fast-paced, shaky-cam” filmmaking style, redefined the mob movie through its unflinching honesty.

Another Martin Scorsese classic, The Goodfellas is a fast-paced, violent look at the life of Henry Hill, a young man who rises through the ranks of the Lucchese crime family. The film is both exhilarating and disturbing, showing the dark side of the gangster lifestyle with unflinching honesty. Ray Liotta gives a career-defining performance as Hill, and the supporting cast is equally impressive, including Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, and Lorraine Bracco.

The Goodfellas (1990) - Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time
The Goodfellas (1990) – Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time

Scarface (1983)

  • Themes: Excess, ambition, self-destruction, the immigrant experience.
  • Memorable Moments: Tony’s rise to power montage, “Say hello to my little friend!”, the chainsaw scene, Elvira’s tragic demise.
  • Impact: A controversial yet undeniable cultural touchstone, influencing fashion, music, and gangster iconography.

Brian De Palma’s Scarface is a remake of the 1932 film of the same name, but it’s much more than just a rehash. This stylish and violent film tells the story of Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who builds a drug empire in Miami. Al Pacino is electrifying as Montana, a man who is consumed by greed and power. The film is also notable for its over-the-top action sequences and its score by Giorgio Moroder.

Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time
Scarface (1983) – Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time

The Departed (2006)

  • Themes: Identity, morality, betrayal, the blurred lines between good and evil.
  • Memorable Moments: The rooftop showdown, the iconic “rat scene,” Leonardo DiCaprio’s explosive performance, the final twist ending.
  • Impact: Revitalized the American gangster film, showcased the talent of DiCaprio and Damon, proved Hollywood could successfully adapt foreign films.

Martin Scorsese takes on the Hong Kong crime film Infernal Affairs with The Departed, a story of two undercover cops working for opposite sides of the law. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon star as the cops, while Jack Nicholson gives a typically manic performance as the Irish mob boss they’re both trying to take down. The film is a suspenseful and action-packed thriller, with a shocking twist ending that you won’t see coming.

Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time
The Departed (2006) – Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time

City of God (2002)

  • Themes: Poverty, violence, hope amid despair, the cycle of crime.
  • Memorable Moments: The opening chicken chase, Rocket’s transformation into a photographer, the brutal favela shootout, the unforgettable soundtrack.
  • Impact: Brought international attention to Brazilian cinema, highlighted the harsh realities of life in impoverished communities.

This Brazilian film is a raw and brutal look at life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The film follows a young boy named Rocket as he grows up surrounded by violence and poverty. City of God is a powerful and disturbing film, but it’s also a beautifully shot and well-acted one. It’s a must-see for any fan of the gangster genre.

City Of God (Cidade De Deus) - Official Site - Miramax

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

  • Themes: Nostalgia, friendship, loss, the corrupting nature of time.
  • Memorable Moments: The heartbreaking dance sequence, Noodles’ final visit to Deborah, the epic flashback structure, Morricone’s poignant score.
  • Impact: Considered a masterpiece of gangster cinema, praised for its visual beauty, emotional depth, and complex characters.

Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America is a sprawling epic that tells the story of four Jewish gangsters in New York City. The film is beautifully shot and features a haunting score by Ennio Morricone. It’s a long film, but it’s worth the investment for its stunning visuals, unforgettable characters, and powerful story.

Once Upon a Time in America (1984) - Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time
Once Upon a Time in America (1984) – Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time

Infernal Affairs (2002)

  • Themes: Loyalty, sacrifice, the psychological toll of living a double life.
  • Memorable Moments: The rooftop exchange between Lau and Ming, the thrilling foot chase through the alleyways, the ambiguous ending.
  • Impact: Spawned numerous remakes and adaptations, including Hollywood’s The Departed, redefined the Hong Kong crime thriller genre.

The Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs is the inspiration for The Departed, but it’s a great film in its own right. The film tells the story of two undercover cops, one working for the police and the other for the Triads. It’s a suspenseful and action-packed thriller with a shocking twist ending.

Infernal Affairs (2002) - Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time
Infernal Affairs (2002) – Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time


The Untouchables (1987)

  • Themes: Justice vs. corruption, Prohibition-era Chicago, the power of teamwork.
  • Memorable Moments: The iconic train station shootout, the climactic confrontation between Ness and Capone, Morricone’s exhilarating score.
  • Impact: Revitalized the interest in historical gangster films, showcased the talents of Costner and Connery, provided a classic cat-and-mouse narrative.

Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables is a classic cat-and-mouse game between Eliot Ness, a determined federal agent, and Al Capone, the notorious Chicago gangster. Kevin Costner and Sean Connery give excellent performances as Ness and Capone, respectively. The film is also notable for its iconic score by Ennio Morricone.

Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time
The Untouchables (1987) – Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

  • Themes: Misfortune, dark humor, London’s criminal underworld, redemption through chaos.
  • Memorable Moments: The botched poker game, Big Chris’s explosive temper, the hilarious dialogue and slang, the twist ending.
  • Impact: Launched Guy Ritchie’s career, brought British gangster films to a wider audience, showcased a unique blend of violence and humor.

Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a British crime comedy that follows a group of friends who get in over their heads after a poker game goes wrong. The film is fast-paced, funny, and violent, with a distinctive Cockney rhyming slang dialect. It’s a great introduction to the world of British gangster films.

Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) – Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

  • The film’s title is never explicitly explained, adding to its layered mystique.
  • The soundtrack by Carter Burwell features melancholic jazz and blues numbers, perfectly complementing the film’s atmosphere.
  • The Coen brothers cleverly weave literary references and mythological allusions throughout the narrative, rewarding attentive viewers.
Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time
Miller’s Crossing (1990) – Top 10 Gangster Movies of all time

The film takes us to the Prohibition era, immersing us in the smoke-filled speakeasies and treacherous dealings of Irish mob boss Leo O’Bannon (Albert Finney). His right-hand man, Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), navigates the murky waters of loyalty and deceit, caught between Leo’s fiery wife Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) and rival gangster Caspar “Fat Gus” Griswald (Jon Polito). Joel and Ethan Coen paint a masterfully intricate picture, where alliances shift like sand in the wind and double-crosses lurk around every corner. The sharp, witty dialogue crackles with sardonic humor, even as the tension ratchets up, leaving audiences guessing who will emerge unscathed.

Beyond the gripping plot and superb performances, Miller’s Crossing boasts stunning visuals. The Coen brothers, with the artistry of cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, conjure a bleakly beautiful world of snow-covered landscapes, dimly lit interiors, and striking chiaroscuro contrasts.

While initially a box office disappointment, Miller’s Crossing has garnered critical acclaim and cult status over the years. Its influence on neo-noir and gangster films is undeniable, with its complex characters, intricate plotting, and hauntingly beautiful visuals continuing to captivate audiences.

If you’re looking for a gangster film that goes beyond the clichés, offering a cerebral puzzle wrapped in a stylish package, then Miller’s Crossing is a must-watch. Just be prepared for a wild ride where no one is quite who they seem, and the line between betrayal and loyalty blurs irrevocably.

This list is just a starting point, of course. There are many other great gangster movies out there, so be sure to explore and find your own favorites. In addition to the films listed above, here are a few other honorable mentions:

  • Reservoir Dogs (1992)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Miller’s Crossing (1990)
  • Eastern Promises (2007)
  • The Gangs of New York (2002)


As the curtains draw to a close on our journey through the top 10 gangster movies of all time, it becomes abundantly clear that these films are more than just tales of crime and intrigue. They are windows into the human condition, exploring themes of power, loyalty, betrayal, and the complex interplay between law and lawlessness. From the timeless classics that laid the foundation to the modern masterpieces that continue to push the boundaries of storytelling, each film on this list has earned its place through its impact, performances, and ability to resonate across generations.

As the genre evolves, these cinematic gems serve as a testament to the enduring allure of the gangster narrative, leaving an indelible imprint on the fabric of film history and ensuring their place in the pantheon of cinematic greatness. Whether you’re drawn to the anti-hero, the allure of the underworld, or the intricate dance between crime and consequence, these top 10 gangster movies stand as a testament to the power of storytelling and the enduring fascination with the darker shades of human existence.

By Eryk Wu Address: 3999 Pine Forest Hollow Trail Houston, TX 77084 Phone: +12813473007 Email: Website:

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