Great directors have favorite topics that they draw most of their material from and Martin Scorsese is no different. Even though the Oscar-winning director veered out of his comfort zone with films such as The Last Temptation of Christ and The Wolf Of Wallstreet, he is at his finest when he is telling the stories of sly men with guns. With the release of The Irishman, he reminded us all why he is the don of gangster flicks.
But even though Scorsese’s films tend to get the most appreciation (it’s not his fault that he’s good), there are other gangster films that are equally good, if not better. Need to watch something that doesn’t start with the words ‘Directed by Martin Scorsese?’ We highly recommend the following.
10 The Untouchables (1987)
De Niro always gets the best roles, doesn’t he? In The Untouchables, he plays notorious gangster Al Capone. The film, which has a stellar cast, follows a federal agent called Ness (Kevin Costner) who moves to Chicago during the Prohibition Era to hunt down Capone.
Due to Capone’s power and influence, Ness has a hard time completing his mission. However, his fortunes change when he meets an honest cop called Malone (Sean Connery). They don’t quite manage to pin Capone on his violent crimes but they get him on tax evasion. Directed by Brian De Palma, The Untouchables is definitely an all-time great gangster film.
9 A Bronx Tale (1993)
Chazz Palminteri always looks like a real-life mob boss. He has that stare of a man who is about to order a hit. He is currently doing great in his role as Joe Bonnano in the Epix TV series Godfather Of Harlem but in A Bronx Tale, Chazz was phenomenal too as Sonny, the crime boss in an Italian occupied Bronx neighborhood.
In the film, Sonny forms a bond with a young boy called Calogero and introduces him to the ways of the mob but the boy’s father disapproves of their relationship. Calogero respects both Sonny and his father so his loyalties are constantly torn between the two. And guess who directs the film? Robert De Niro.
8 Carlito’s Way (1993)
When Al Pacino is in a movie, nothing can go wrong. Wait! That’s not entirely true because Al was in Jack And Jill with Adam Sandler. That film is widely considered one of the worst comedy films of all time. Maybe Al should just stick to gangster flicks.
In Carlito’s Way, Al Pacino stars as Puerto Rican drug dealer Carlito Brigante. He is saved from a thirty-year jail sentence by his smart, drug-addicted lawyer, Dave (Sean Penn). Carlito vows to stop being a gangster and starts working in a nightclub that Dave owns. His wish is to save enough money to enable him to move back to the Caribbean. However, his old life soon catches up with him.
7 Desperado (1995)
Antonio Banderas has recently made a comeback with the award-winning 2019 film Pain And Glory and his 2017 series Genius: Picasso. But he isn’t as big a star as he was when Desperado came out. The Robert Rodriguez film was a bloody gangster flick set in Mexico.
It followed the mysterious, guitar-loving”El Mariachi”(Banderas) as he tried to seek revenge for the killing of his girlfriend. The man responsible is a notorious drug dealer known as Bucho. Joaquim de Almeida who made a career out of playing wealthy bad guys in movies such as Fast Five and TV shows 24, puts up a great performance as Bucho. Danny Trejo is also present as one of Bucho’s henchmen.
6 Road To Perdition (2002)
Sam Mendes, director of James Bond’s Skyfall and wartime drama 1917 is at the helm here. Sam’s latest war movie is a hit with critics but it isn’t the only good film in his catalog. In 2002, he made Road To Perdition, a film about the Angel of Death – a hitman for the Irish mob in the Depression-era.
The Angel of Death, whose real name is Michael Sullivan, also happens to be a devoted family man. But soon, the effects of his work stain his family, His wife and younger son are murdered, leaving him alone with his older son Michael Jr. Angered by the incident, Sullivan and his son decide to revenge.
5 Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
David Shayne (John Cusack) is a playwright who happens to be a perfectionist. However, he doesn’t have the money to grow his vision so his producer offers to help. The producer finds an investor that’ll back Shayne’s show and make it get to Broadway.
However, the backer happens to be a mobster with selfish interests. He intends to use Shayne’s play to kickstart an acting career for his girlfriend Olive (Jennifer Tilly). Shayne is thus put in a dilemma because he doesn’t see Olive as a great actress. He also gets the shock of his life when discovers that Olive’s henchman, Cheech (Chazz Palminteri), is a more talented playwright than him.
4 Public Enemies (2009)
Johnny Depp’s popularity might have decreased lately but when Public Enemies was released, he was in the form of his life. In it, Depp starred as notorious bank robber John Dillinger who terrorized America during the Great Depression. The movie was adapted from Bryan Burrough’s novel Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI.
In Public Enemies, the ever-brilliant Christian Bale played Melvin Purvis, an FBI agent who had dedicated his life to pursuing Dillinger. And with Michael Mann directing it, we were treated to an amazing gangster flick. Mann hasn’t directed plenty of movies lately but we sure hope he makes a comeback.
3 Sexy Beast (2000)
Retired gangster Gary (Ray Winstone) has made tons of money from crime so he retires with his beautiful wife Deedee (Amanda Redman) to the lush countrysides of Spain. He lives a blissful life until a former associate by the name Don shows up.
Don has been tasked with assembling a team of skilled criminals to rob a bank and he believes Gary is among the best. However, Gary isn’t interested. He prefers to continue living his current life. This angers Don who begins intimidating and manipulating Gary. The intense battle of wits that ensues is what makes this Jonathan Glazer film a masterpiece.
2 American Gangster (2007)
A rise from a nobody to a notorious somebody, American Gangster chronicles the real life of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington). Lucas starts out as a driver to mob boss Bumpy Johnson before rising to become a drug baron after the death of his boss. Through wit and brutality, he manages to rule the New York underworld in the 70s.
Frank sells drugs that are of better quality hence manages to eliminate the competition. He also learns how to smuggle opium from Vietnam by stuffing it into coffins of dead American soldiers. However, Richie Roberts (Russel Crowe) is a dedicated cop who will stop at nothing to take him down.
1 Donnie Brasco (1997)
Why hasn’t Johnny Depp taken more mob roles? It’s a mystery because whenever he does, he fits right into them. With a few more mob films, he could have easily been in the same league as Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Speaking of Al Pacino, he is here too.
Directed by Mike Newell, Donnie Brasco tells the true story of Joseph Pistone (Depp), an undercover FBI agent who manages to infiltrate the mob and work with them for years. While with the mob, he goes by the name Donnie Brasco. Donnie befriends mob member Lefty (Al Pacino) who ends up vouching for him to the bosses. The two become friends but their worlds soon turn upside down.
NEXT: 10 Great Gangster Movies To Watch If You Love The Sopranos