To call Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather simply influential would be an understatement, the gangster epic changed cinema and the mob movie forever, and countless movies have attempted to follow in its footsteps. Despite few having faith in the title prior to production, The Godfather became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time upon release and is now frequently named as one of the greatest motion pictures to ever grace theaters.
Gangster films, of course, existed before Coppola had his stab at it, yet few, if any, had ever given its mobster characters such depth and emotional complexity. Since The Godfather’s release, a staggering amount of movies featuring Italian American mafia men have been unleashed on moviegoers, with an average of nine per year since 1972.
10 A Bronx Tale Offers Up A Different Look At De Niro In A Mob Movie
Robert De Niro has been a genuine powerhouse in Hollywood for over 40 years, and his reputation for playing irresistible gangsters that audiences can’t help but root for is rivaled only by his The Godfather: Part II co-star Al Pacino. De Niro is known for playing bad men, so when A Bronx Tale was released in 1993, it was a pleasant surprise to watch De Niro bring such a neutrally good character to life in a mob movie.
De Niro played Lorenzo, a hardworking bus driver whose son falls into the temptations of mafia life. De Niro also directs the coming-of-age drama, and though it contains many of the expected ingredients of a gangster movie, it’s an unusually heartwarming picture.
9 Pacino Could Have His Own Mt. Rushmore Of Gangster Characters & Scarface Is One Of Them
Brian De Palma brilliantly utilized The Godfather’s Al Pacino for his own gangster flick, Scarface, in 1983, shifting Pacino from soft-spoken and cold, to loud-mouthed and hot-headed.
The decay of Michael Corleone’s morality served to inspire a wide range of characters within both the gangster genre and cinema in general. Despite Tony Montana’s sharp contrast with Corleone in terms of personality and temperament, both men find themselves shedding their morality as they rise within the crime world. Both roles are often mentioned as Pacino’s career-best, and Scarface is deservedly held up with Coppola’s classic as examples of gangster movie greatness.
8 New Jack City Is A Ruthless & Riveting Crime Thriller
The Wesley Snipes starring New Jack City takes its cues from The Godfather when dealing with family betrayals, intense violence, and the struggle to steer clear of the life of crime when raised around it. Mario Van Peebles directs and also stars in the thriller alongside Snipes, and with support from the talents of Chris Rock and Ice-T, crafts a surprisingly grounded, yet gritty and absorbing tale.
The film also avoids glamorizing the drug kingpin lifestyle, leaving its strong anti-drug message open for praise from many critics. New Jack City is one of the ’90s best gangster movies and remains hugely influential.
7 Road To Perdition Is A Throwback To Classic Gangster Movies
While many actors are synonymous with the gangster genre and spend large chunks of their careers playing wiseguys and mob men on screen, the prolific and immensely talented Tom Hanks is not one of them. Given Hanks’ reputation as one of Hollywood’s true greats, it should come as no surprise that his entry into the gangster movie catalog more than lives up to expectations.
At times, Road to Perdition feels like a throwback to gangster movies of old, particularly the likes of The Godfather. This is of course aided by the presence of Tinseltown legend Paul Newman, but the film also boasts the talents of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, and James Bond himself, Daniel Craig.
6 There’s Even More Al Pacino Greatness To Be Seen In Donnie Brasco
Organized crime has received many depictions over the years in cinema, yet few are as nuanced and rich as Donnie Brasco’s. The 1997 film puts Johnny Depp in the cowboy boots of an undercover FBI agent infiltrating the Bonanno crime family. His friend and mentor in the movie is Lefty, played by gangster movie great Al Pacino.
Donnie Brasco is loosely based on a true story, and like The Godfather, it offers up a wealth of sharp turns and surprises. Backstabbings are a constant in mob movies, but Donnie Brasco’s are some of the genre’s most enthralling.
5 Infernal Affairs Makes Double-Crossing Look Like An Art Form
Though the American remake The Departed may be the more famous film in the Western world, Hong Kong’s gangster movie masterpiece Infernal Affairs is the preferred film for many. The movie is much heavier on the action than The Godfather, but Infernal Affairs matches the emotional depth in a way that has rarely been seen in the genre since Coppola’s 1972 film.
Tony Leung and Andy Lau shine as the stars, and the film’s unpredictable plot is packed with twists and turns that will delight any fan of the gangster movie, or action thrillers in general.
4 We Own The Night Gives Nods To The Greats In All The Right Places
One look at Robert Duvall in We Own The Night is likely to conjure up nostalgic images of his iconic character Tom Hagen from The Godfather films, and the throwback is welcome, as We Own The Night is an intense, captivating, and tragic movie with many similarities to Coppola’s.
Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, and Eva Mendes lead the line. A particular death scene in the film is simply jaw-dropping in execution, and could well be in contention for the greatest death scene in gangster movie history.
3 Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels Is British Bad Guy Brilliance
Seen by many as the greatest British crime movie, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels took a page out of The Godfather’s book by hiring real-life ex-criminals to appear in the film. Though he was not one of them, the movie also introduced the world to the ever charismatic Jason Statham.
Guy Ritchie’s classic could be described as The Godfather meets Pulp Fiction, but it’s more than capable of standing on its own. Lock, Stock is unique, thrilling, and offers up a surprising amount of fun for a gangster flick.
2 South Korean Stars Team Up For A Glorious Gangster Drama In New World
Korean cinema has gained great traction worldwide in recent years thanks to Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning movie Parasite, yet South Korea has been blessing theaters with fantastic movies for decades, and one of their finest entries into the gangster genre is Park Hoon-jung’s New World.
The film is packed with references to The Godfather and makes for a more thought-provoking film than many of its counterparts. New World also features some of South Korea’s best acting talents, including Choi Min-sik of Oldboy and I Saw The Devil fame.
1 Goodfellas May Be The Only Mob Movie That Can Really Go Toe-To-Toe With Coppola’s Classic
Martin Scorsese’s classic mafia movie is essentially a guarantee on any “Best Gangster Movies” list, Goodfellas takes many of the themes and ideas explored in Coppolla’s masterpiece and gives the subgenre its greatest update.
The Godfather: Part II’s Robert De Niro delivers his typical brilliance alongside lead Ray Liotta, but it’s Joe Pesci who steals the show. Goodfellas won numerous awards, including a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Pesci. It may not be as classy as The Godfather, but Scorsese’s story of Henry Hill and his wiseguy buddies is just as iconic.
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