Most popular gangster movies (1975-2006)

Behind every great fortune lies a great crime
Every great fortune begins with a crime
At the root of every great fortune there was a crime.

—Balzac

They say that behind every great fortune there is a crime! America was built on dreams, tears, blood, courage, sweat, passion and a little bit of illegal activity. And all that also happens to be the necessary ingredients of a good gangster. Gangster movies were always popular because of exciting underground world with rules of their own. Here is 9 most popular/best gangster movies of all time.

1. Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas, gangster, mafia
Goodfellas (1990)

A young man grows up in the mob and works very hard to advance himself through the ranks. He enjoys his life of money and luxury, but is oblivious to the horror that he causes. A drug addiction and a few mistakes ultimately unravel his climb to the top. Based on the book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi. (imdb)

Interesting fact: According to Nicholas Pileggi, some actual mobsters were hired as extras to lend authenticity to scenes. The mobsters gave fake Social Security numbers to Warner Bros. and it is unknown how they received their paychecks.

2. Casino (1995)

Casino-1995
Casino (1995)

In early-1970s Las Vegas, low-level mobster Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro) gets tapped by his bosses to head the Tangiers Casino. At first, he’s a great success in the job, but over the years, problems with his loose-cannon enforcer Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), his ex-hustler wife Ginger (Sharon Stone), her con-artist ex Lester Diamond (James Woods) and a handful of corrupt politicians put Sam in ever-increasing danger. Martin Scorsese directs this adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s book. (imdb)

Interesting fact: The word “fuck” is said 435 times, including in the narration – 2.4 times per minute on average. The film held the record for the most uses of the word until the release of Summer of Sam (1999), which also has a reported 435 uses. The recorded was later broken by The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), which has close to 600 uses.

3. The Godfather (1975)

Godfather-movie
Godfather (1975)

Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, this mob drama, based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, focuses on the powerful Italian-American crime family of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). When the don’s youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), reluctantly joins the Mafia, he becomes involved in the inevitable cycle of violence and betrayal. Although Michael tries to maintain a normal relationship with his wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), he is drawn deeper into the family business. (imdb)

Interesting fact: Marlon Brando wanted to make Don Corleone “look like a bulldog,” so he stuffed his cheeks with cotton wool for the audition. For the actual filming, he wore a mouthpiece made by a dentist. This appliance is on display in the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York.

4. Donnie Brasco (1997)

donnie-brasco-1997
Donnie Brasco (1997)

Joseph Pistone (Johnny Depp) is an FBI agent who has infiltrated one of the major New York Mafia families and is living under the name Donnie Brasco. He develops a relationship with mob hit man Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero (Al Pacino) in order to get deeper under cover, but ends up developing a real friendship with the Mafioso. As their relationship develops, Pistone must decide whether or not to complete his job, knowing that it will lead to the murder of his new friend. (imdb)

Interesting fact: Joseph D. Pistone said in an interview in the special features on the DVD, that he was suppose to be undercover for a few months. It ended up being six years. His family was moved across the country after nine months. He rarely saw them.

5. The Departed (2006)

The-Departed-2006
The Departed (2006)

South Boston cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes under cover to infiltrate the organization of gangland chief Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). As Billy gains the mobster’s trust, a career criminal named Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) infiltrates the police department and reports on its activities to his syndicate bosses. When both organizations learn they have a mole in their midst, Billy and Colin must figure out each other’s identities to save their own lives. (imdb)

Interesting fact: When the film won the Oscar for Best Picture, Martin Scorsese said that he was surprised the film had won. Scorsese said that because the film is such a tough, nasty, and violent film, he never thought about the idea of awards while he was filming it.

6. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Once-Upon-a-Time-in-America-1984
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

In 1968, the elderly David “Noodles” Aaronson (Robert De Niro) returns to New York, where he had a career in the criminal underground in the ’20s and ’30s. Most of his old friends, like longtime partner Max (James Woods), are long gone, yet he feels his past is unresolved. Told in flashbacks, the film follows Noodles from a tough kid in a Jewish slum in New York’s Lower East Side, through his rise to bootlegger and then Mafia boss — a journey marked by violence, betrayal and remorse. (imdb)

Interesting fact: When filming was completed, the footage ran to a total of 8-10 hours. Director Sergio Leone and editor Nino Baragli trimmed the footage to around 6 hours, with the plan of releasing the film as two three-hour movies. The producers refused this idea and Leone had to further cut the film down to 3 hours 49 minutes

7. Carlito’s Way (1993)

Carlito’s-Way-1993
Carlito’s Way (1993)

A free man after years in prison, Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) intends to give up his criminal ways, but it’s not long before the ex-con is sucked back into the New York City underworld. Reconnecting with his dancer girlfriend, Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), Carlito gets entangled in the shady dealings of his friend Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn), who also serves as his lawyer. When Carlito and Kleinfeld run afoul of shifty gangster Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo), it sets them on a dangerous path. (imdb)

Interesting fact: Al Pacino and Penelope Ann Miller became romantically involved during filming. Miller spoke publicly about their romance in interviews. But Pacino was in a relationship with Lyndall Hobbs at the time. Pacino attended the film’s premiere with Hobbs and avoided Miller entirely.

8. Scarface (1983)

Scarface-1983
Scarface (1983)

After getting a green card in exchange for assassinating a Cuban government official, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) stakes a claim on the drug trade in Miami. Viciously murdering anyone who stands in his way, Tony eventually becomes the biggest drug lord in the state, controlling nearly all the cocaine that comes through Miami. But increased pressure from the police, wars with Colombian drug cartels and his own drug-fueled paranoia serve to fuel the flames of his eventual downfall. (imdb)

Interesting fact: Oliver Stone wrote this film while fighting a cocaine addiction. He had moved to Paris to be away from a plentiful supply of the drug in the U.S.

9. Bugsy (1991)

Bugsy-1991
Bugsy (1991)

New York mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (Warren Beatty) leaves New York City to dip into the glamour of Hollywood, Calif., and to build up syndicate gambling rackets. Bowled over by actress Virginia Hill (Annette Bening), the dapper Siegel courts her, despite having a wife and children. Obsessed with creating a gambling haven, Siegel takes racketeering to the Nevada desert and helps develop Las Vegas, only to find himself in deep water over his reckless construction of the Flamingo Hotel. (imdb)

Interesting fact: The film shows Siegel watching a screen test of himself. In real life, Bugsy Siegel made many friends amongst the Hollywood elite, asked for and had a screen test. The footage no longer exists, like so many other screen tests, yet the legend of Siegel’s attempt to break into showbiz lives on.

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