The Best Twenty Modern Mob Movies to Enjoy

The Best Twenty Modern Mob Movies to Enjoy
Sucker Punch - visuals are dazzling & the narrative is just too clunky
THIS WEEK IN FILM opening March 25th

Could you imagine a group of your favorite movie mobsters meeting to hash out long standing issues, but only speaking in their respective movie quoted dialogue? I’d love to witness this, almost as much as I’d like to see a Forrest Gump meets Karl Childers (Sling Blade) epic adventure.

Talking points would be cigarettes, alcohol, random killings and territory borders. Nicky Santoro (Casino – Joe Pesci) would preside, while Turkish (Snatch – Jason Statham) tries to mediate. Let’s just say there would be plenty of bad blood left on the table once the meeting ends, much of it to be spilled at a later date.

As an example, let’s look at the minutes from Tuesday’s first official Circle of Friends Mob Round Table meeting:

Meeting Minutes

Circle of Friends Mob Round Table # 1March 22, 2011

7:00 pm

Those present: Nicky Santoro (Casino), Mr. Blonde (Reservoir Dogs), Frank Costello (The Departed), Tony Montana (Scarface), Turkish (Snatch), Nikolai Luzhin (Eastern Promises), Noodles (Once Upon a Time in America), Tom Reagan (Miller’s Crossing), Jackie Brown (Jackie Brown) and Murphy (The Boondock Saints).Opening Session and Introductions

Nicky Santoro (to all): I think in all fairness, I should explain to you exactly what it is that I do. For instance tomorrow morning I’ll get up nice and early, take a walk down over to the bank and… walk in and see and, uh… if you don’t have my money for me, I’ll… crack your f*****’ head wide-open in front of everybody in the bank. And just about the time that I’m comin’ out of jail, hopefully, you’ll be coming out of your coma. And guess what? I’ll split your f*****’ head open again. ‘Cause I’m f*****’ stupid. I don’t give a f*** about jail. That’s my business. That’s what I do.Mr. Blonde (to Santoro): Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?

Frank Costello (to all): The only one that can do what I do is me. Lot of people had to die for me to be me. You wanna be me?Tony Montana (to Santoro): You wanna waste my time? Okay. I call my lawyer. He’s the best lawyer in Miami. He’s such a good lawyer, that by tomorrow morning, you gonna be working in Alaska. So dress warm.

Turkish (to all regarding Montana’s previous comments): Did you understand a single word of what he just said?Nikolai Luzhin (to all): Anger is dangerous. It makes people do stupid things.

Noodles (to Luzhin): I’m not that kind of guy. Besides, I’m afraid if I give you a good crack in the mouth, you’d probably like it…Tom Reagan (to Noodles): My chin’s hanging out right next to yours. I’d worry a lot less if I thought you were worrying enough.

Jackie Brown (to Noodles): Shut your raggedy-ass up, and sit the f*** down!

Murphy (to all, with a follow-up request to adjourn): That was way easier than I thought.

Agenda 1 – Cigarettes (never discussed)
Agenda 2 – Alcohol (never discussed)
Agenda 3 – Killings (never discussed
Agenda 4 – Territory borders (never discussed)
Adjournment – meeting adjourned at 7:06 pm

So what makes a good mob movie anyway?

The script itself of course, direction, character development, etc., but having some of Hollywood’s better known and more dazzling actors playing heavy and violent roles usually nails it for me. That’s the key.

Take Robert DeNiro for example. Why does Martin Scorsese insist on using DeNiro in all of his mob movies? It’s because DeNiro is wonderful and nails this type of role without effort. Everyone remembers his performances and he’ll forever be rooted in my head as the best mob actor in the business today. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but DeNiro is in eight of my top-20 favorite mob movies. Joe Pesci, Jack Nicholson and Viggo Mortensen are some more of my favorite actors that know how to hammer home the mob-movie role.With this in mind, it was extremely difficult to pick just 20 gangster flicks. It’s almost impossible since you’re leaving films off that deserve to be mentioned – I’m talking to you Godfather II and Gangs of New York – but it’s inevitable if you’re trying to keep things short and sweet.

Without further adieu, here are my own personal favorites in order, with mob nationality listed as well:

  1. Goodfellas (1990 – Italian) – Yes, Robert DeNiro stars along with Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta and a whole lot of cast goodness. It doesn’t get much better for me, especially with the timeline story telling genius that Director Martin Scorsese shares. I love the child to adult progression of Henry Hill
  2. The Departed (2006 – Irish) – It’s another Scorsese film that deserved every bit of the Oscar that it won. You want to see Jack Nicholson at his best? Then watch The Departed. Watching Nicholson playing Irish mob boss Frank Costello is a special treat.
  3. Eastern Promises (2007 – Russian) – This is one of the most underrated films ever made. There are some things that bother me about the film, but the rawness and simplicity of Eastern Promises is magnificent. You don’t want to miss the bathhouse fight scene with Viggo Mortensen.
  4. The Godfather (1972 – Italian) – As far as classic mob movie goes – arguably at the top of everyone’s list except mine – The Godfather is a true winner. The all-star cast along with an excellent script chisels this one in time forever.
  5. Casino (1995 – Italian) – Las Vegas infiltration of the mob in the 1970’s portrayed yet again by Scorsese. And, guess who stars? Yes, that Bobby DeNiro guy again. Casino is wonderfully acted, along with incredible editing and camera work.
  6. Scarface (1983 – Cuban) – As one of the more quotable gangster movies ever made, Scarface is extremely shocking and incredibly foul – just what I want out of a mob story. Tony Montana is fearless, loathsome and will do anything to rule the city.
  7. Pulp Fiction (1994 – American) – Quentin Tarantino directs and pieces together one of the best interrupted timeline films, with excellent individual stories that eventually intersect for the viewer. Pulp Fiction put John Travolta back on the map again after those dreadful Look Who’s Talking movies.
  8. The Untouchables (1987 – Italian) – I was in high school when I saw The Untouchables and it still burns heavily into my head with scenes of Al Capone and his baseball bat. Sean Connery steals the show however, as evidenced by his Oscar win in a supporting role.
  9. Reservoir Dogs (1992 – American) – It’s still difficult for me to decide which Tarantino movie I like better between Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Each is special in its own right. Reservoir Dogs is about a jewel heist that goes terribly wrong with each gangster suspecting the other of being a cop.
  10. A Bronx Tale (1993 – Italian) – I’m a sucker for films that have a story within a story. I love the struggle between Lorenzo (Robert DeNiro) – father and bus driver – and Sonny (Chazz Palmenteri) – local gangster – as they fight for the affections of “C” (Lillo Brancato), Lorenzo’s son.
  11. Once Upon a Time in America (1984 – Jewish) – You have to be a serious DeNiro lover or a mob-loving movie guy or gal to sit through Once Upon a Time in America. Why? It’s 229 minutes long. Yes, that’s almost four hours long! Come on, you know you want to dig in and tough this one out. It’s a great story, from youth to adulthood, surrounding the rise and fall of Jewish gangsters in New York.
  12. Miller’s Crossing (1990 – Irish) – It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Miller’s Crossing, but this put Gabriel Byrne on the map for me. I love underrated performers in Hollywood, and Byrne sure fits the bill. The same thing can be said for John Turturro who gives a performance of a lifetime. Byrne plays Tom Reagan, peacemaker between two rival mobs.
  13. The Boondock Saints (1999 – Irish, Russian) – The Boondock Saints fits the mob category as it follows two fraternal twin brothers out for vengeance against a Russian boss and his gang. There are plenty of hi-jinks with the brothers running amuck in the city killing anything in their sights.
  14. The Professional (1994 – Italian) – This is the first time we get to witness Natalie Portman in a feature film, and wow, how outstanding was she in The Professional? Other great performances from Gary Oldman and Jean Reno make this one a pleasure. Reno plays mob hit man, Leo, who has decided to protect Mathilda (Portman) after witnessing her family being killed by rogue government agents.
  15. The Usual Suspects (1995 – American, Turkish) – A mish-mash of characters fill The Usual Suspects as police investigate a harbor explosion, interviewing five jailed suspects. I love the flashback features in the film and the mystery and intrigue that’s provided with Turkish mob boss Keyser Soze.
  16. Jackie Brown (1997 – American) – Here’s Tarantino (and DeNiro in a lesser role) yet again as he directs Jackie Brown, a film about a female flight attendant that gets caught up between the police and her boss.
  17. Kung Fu Hustle (2004 – Chinese) – This isn’t your normal mob movie, as Stephen Chow directs, writes and stars in Kung Fu Hustle. One of the funniest and craziest movies I’ve ever seen about a man named Sing (Chow) who is looking for his big breakthrough as a tough-guy mobster. You don’t want to miss Kung Fu Hustle.
  18. Snatch (2000 – Russian, English) – Director Guy Ritchie has turned into a master filmmaker with his English gang-styled movies. A stolen diamond – a huge one at that – is the centerpiece of Ritchie’s film, as the storyline follows a Russian mobster, jewelers, bookmakers and boxing promoters. Brad Pitt is worth watching Snatch alone.
  19. Donnie Brasco (1997 – Italian) – Donnie Brasco is true story about FBI undercover agent Joseph D. Pistone, who infiltrates the Bonanno crime family in the 1970’s. Johnny Depp plays Pistone, but known only to the mob as Donnie Brasco, a jewelry expert and thief.
  20. Heat (1995 – American) – Heat is the first time that Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro star together in a film – seriously. Its good guy vs. bad guy as a cop (Pacino) chases down a known bank robber (DeNiro). There are some nice twists and turns in Heat, with a very suspenseful ending.


Sucker Punch - visuals are dazzling & the narrative is just too clunky
THIS WEEK IN FILM opening March 25th

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