The Best Mob Movies Since 'The Godfather'

While Francis Ford Coppola's 'The Godfather' wears the mob movie crown, these mafia films are vying for its throne. Can any of them live up to the greatest

Mob Movies
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Mob Movies

When it comes to mob movies, 1972's opus The Godfather is practically untouchable (no pun intended). It wasn't the first movie about the Mafia, but when we think of how a mob movie is supposed to look and feel, we're thinking of The Godfather. The thing is, that was 45 years ago; things change, and new creators emerge. And while we can all agree that The Godfather set the blueprint, some amazing contenders for the best mob movie throne have been released since its debut.

In setting out to properly rank modern mob classics, we had a number of movies we had to sift through. Sadly, that meant setting parameters. They had to be mob-centric, whether that meant the Sicilian Mafia, the Irish Mob, or the Russian Bratva—more precisely, the protagonist had to be involved in the mob in some way, shape, or form. After a number of sit-downs with the heads of the Complex family, we finally agreed on this ultimate look at the best mob movies since The Godfather changed the entire game.

19. Public Enemies

Public Enemies

Year: 2009
Director: Michael Mann
Stars: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard 

Largely unremarkable, Public Enemies is nevertheless a masterclass in how watchable a movie can be when you have four experts at their craft coasting. That'd be veteran crime auteur specialist Michael Mann behind the camera, and Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard on-screen. The legend of John Dillinger deserves better than a B-film that's just another mark on Depp's spin cycle tour around the drain—at the very least he brings some measure of effort to one of history's greatest gangsters. But imagine what we could've gotten if he, Mann and a sleepy Christian Bale (because to be honest, Marion never coasts) were on their A-game. —Frazier Tharpe

18. Kill the Irishman

Kill the Irishman

Year: 2011
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh
Stars: Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Linda Cardellini

In Cleveland, during the summer of 1976, 36 car bombings took place, most of them planned by ambitious gangster Danny Greene. Based on true events, this film follows Greene (Stevenson), aka the Irishman, who transitions from corrupt union boss to henchman for a slicked-back loan shark (Walken) to running his very own outfit with aims to take over Cleveland. Eventually his Italian rivals demand a 30 percent tax on all his earnings in exchange for not killing him. He refuses. So they put a $25,000 bounty on his head. He dodges death until he doesn’t; his murder implicates the Five Families of New York, bringing down organized crime's scaffolding in every major American city. It’s a more interesting real-life story than realized in this film, but still, this is a passable mob flick, especially for fans of character acting and big fireballs.—John Flynn

17. A Bronx Tale

A Bronx Tale

Year: 1993
Director: Robert De Niro
Stars: Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Lillo Brancato, Francis Capra​

A coming of age story wrapped up in an NY mafia story? Sign me TF up. The 1993 drama stars Robert De Niro (who also directed the film) as the straight-laced bus-driving father of young, impressionable Calogero, which was a twist. It’s almost as if De Niro’s winkingly showing the audience that his history of film violence makes him more than qualified enough to teach the youth a thing or two. Chazz Palmintieri, who wrote the one-man A Bronx Tale play, stepped up as the unforgettable Sonny, teaching C about the benefit of being feared versus being loved. In the end, this film has a heart that most mafia movies don't. —khal


16. Bugsy


Year: 1991
Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley

Bugsy tells the story of Las Vegas’ early inception. Warren Beatty plays legendary New York gangster Bugsy Siegel as he makes his way to Los Angeles to take control of gambling rackets from crime boss Jack Dragna. While Bugsy wheels, deals, and kills his way to the top, he ends up falling for both Virginia (Annette Bening) and the idea of building a legal gambling empire in Las Vegas. Barry Levinson does a good job telling this story while also giving it some old school mobster movie flair. Bugsy gives you sex, money, and murder—a romance for the streets. —Angel Diaz

15. Gomorrah


Year: 2008
Director: Matteo Garrone
Stars: Gianfelice Imparato, Salvatore Abbruzzese, Toni Servillo

The Camorra in Naples makes the Mafia look like a bunch of froofy, attention-seeking wannabes. Pulling down $250 billion a year, they have their tentacles in everything from the government to construction projects to drugs, yet they remain completely anonymous. To maintain their stronghold, the invisible leaders recruit from the housing projects of the ancient Italian city, promising desperate children glamour, women and riches in exchange for a shorter life expectancy. This film is about the young men who learn that those promises are a lie; all they have to look forward to is a short, bleak existence ended by an unexpected bullet. Stripping away any of the romanticism encouraged by The Godfather or the first half of Goodfellas, it’s a bleak, stripped down documentary-style feature that took top honors at Cannes Film Festival in 2008. It cuts through all the bullshit and gets to the truth: Being a gangster sucks.—John Flynn

14.American Gangster

American Gangster

Year: 2007
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor

There's nothing quite as enthralling as crooked Denzel. American Gangster is to mob movies what Hidden Figures is to period piece feel-good dramas. So many Italian and Irish mobsters have had their mythology immortalized in grand fashion on the big screen for decades—why did it take until 2007 for the legend of Frank Lucas? At least Scott, Denzel and Crowe did more justice than Frank's cousin did his alpaca rug. Scott's epic is so potent—charting Frank's rise from the hood to plush butter minks at ringside seats before his inevitable downfall—it inspired Jay Z to create arguably his best late-career album. —Frazier Tharpe

13. The Long Good Friday

The Long Good Friday

Year: 1980
Director: John Mackenzie
Stars: Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Paul Freeman, Leo Dolan

After 10 years of peacefully lording over crime in London, all Harold Shan (Hoskins) wants is to build a lucrative casino, facilitated by millions in American mafia dollars. Unfortunately, during the weekend when he’s lining this up, the IRA decide to start bombing him for reasons he can’t figure out. To save his pet project, he spends the rest of the flick gritting his teeth, hanging his enemies in meat lockers during interrogations, and eventually whacking a bunch of people—only to find that the American mafiosos don’t care for the violent fashion in which he resolves conflicts. In this vivid portrayal of a flawed man, Bob Hoskins somehow generates sympathy for his sadistic, beyond-petty character by juxtaposing stunning brutality with tenderness towards children and his mistress played by Helen Mirren, showcasing a grace and talent that would age like wine. In the end, after a rousing monologue that lauds the Brits and denigrates the Americans, Harold gets a taste of what he’s been serving up to everyone else for years. And all he can do in response is grimace over the film’s hypnotizing, quintessentially 80’s synth theme.—John Flynn


12. Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises

Year: 2007
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Josef Altin

When I found out freak show director extraordinaire David Cronenberg directed this phenomenal crime drama, I was wild confused. Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) is a savage Mafia boss running a prostitution ring, among other illegal activities, with a taste for underage girls. His son, Kirill (Vincent Cassel), is a spoiled brat drunk with power he doesn’t even have yet. Along with the god Viggo Mortensen and the underrated Naomi Watts, they pump out stellar performances. Mortensen put on a thick Russian accent as tatted-up gangsta Nikolai Luzhin, proficient in the art of making evidence and bodies disappear. Anna Ivanovna Khitrova (Naomi Watts) was a nurse at the wrong place, at the wrong time. All hell breaks lose as both Nikolai and Anna try to finesse their way through their dealings with a ruthless Russian Mafia. The acting, the directing, the London backdrop, and the famous bathhouse knife fight—put them together and you have a classic. —Angel Diaz

11. Donnie Brasco

Donnie Brasco

Year: 1997
Director: Mike Newell 
Stars: Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby​

While 1997’s Donnie Brasco might ride the same “undercover agent becomes real crook” story we’ve seen time and again, it’s the performances of Johnny Depp and Al Pacino (alongside everyone from Chazz Palmintieri and Michael Madsen) that elevates this from your run-of-the-mill “deep cover” tale to something, well, deeper. Depp sinks his teeth into the role of Brasco, showing us how real shit can be when you’re doing your job a little too well. Especially when, in the end, you’ll just end up with the guiltiest of consciences thinking about all of the dirt you did.—khal

10. A History of Violence

History of Violence

Year: 2005
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt

Do not fuck with Viggo Mortensen. I don’t care if he’s rocking a SportClips haircut, wearing Asics and holding down a diner in Indiana under the name of Tom Stall. Don’t do it. And especially don’t come into that diner and start waving a gun around, because let me tell you—people will die, and not one of them will be Viggo Mortensen. In this great film, Mortensen plays Tom Stall—a cover for his former life as ruthless killer in Philadelphia's Irish mob scene. He tired of that life, moved out to the sticks, got married to a small-town lawyer and started raising two kids. But the people he left behind haven’t totally forgiven him. So they start coming after him, threatening his family. He kills them. Then he gets a call from his brother, who ends up trying to kill Stall as well. I’ll let you guess how that turns out. On the surface, it’s a character study of a brutal man trying to move into a tranquil future, and at a broader level, it’s philosophical commentary that asks if you can ever really leave past sins behind. Cronenberg leaves that question unresolved, but Tom Stall’s fists suggest they’re not going away anytime soon.—John Flynn

9. Mean Streets

Mean Streets

Year: 1973
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, David Proval

We used The Godfather to define and streamline this list, but we could've just as easily used Mean Streets, released just a year later in 1973. Martin Scorsese's second film and first masterpiece, Mean Streets set the blueprint for a different kind of mafia movie. Godfather shows the glamorous 1 percent, the mobsters running Vegas and Cuba, blackmailing senators and living palaces; Mean Streets, on the other hand, shows the plebes merely scraping to get by. Scorsese's then groundbreaking signature style—lots of quick cuts and hand-held camera movements interspersed with lots of dramatic slow motion, soundtracked by lots of period rock n roll—is the perfect vehicle for his signature stars-to-be: Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro, as two aspiring mobsters who can't decide if they want to escape the dangers and temptations of old Little Italy or dive in deeper. The result is a bleak but thrilling bender that paved a path for both the mob movies on this list and countless other gritty thrillers in every medium.—Alex Gale


8. Once Upon A Time in America

Once Upon a Time in America

Year: 1984
Director: Sergio Leone
Stars: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci

Titan of the Spaghetti Western, Italian director Sergio Leone made a career out of wrapping stunning violence in pure poetry. In this sprawling epic, we follow Jewish gangster Noodles (De Niro) in an opium-induced flashback of his life. To start, he recalls when he revenge-stabbed the man who killed the youngest of his criminal crew. After 12 years in the can, Noodles rejoins his gang and they proceed to make a killing along the profitable outskirts of Prohibition. But when booze becomes legal, they disagree about their future, which leads Noodles to rat out his friends, who get killed by the police. After 35 years of hazy, guilty exile, Noodles finds out one of his pals ayctuall didn’t die. Quite the contrary: He stole Noodle’s money and girlfriend and now enjoys a position of prominence. An absolute doozy that runs nearly four hours long, Leone’s final picture captures his and De Niro’s unreplicable brilliance as the flute-heavy score of savant composer Ennio Morricone soaks the film with layers of emotion. —John Flynn

7. The Untouchables

The Untouchables

Year: 1987
Director: Brian De Palma
Stars: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Charles Martin Smith

Mob movies almost always crop the image. With the exception of the near-sociological distance found in a film like Gomorrah, which is more interested in the intersection of systems than personal lives, the gangster movie manipulates sympathy by keeping everything outside of the family where it belongs: outside. Brian De Palma, always a director concerned with vantage, expands the scope of his Chicago gangster picture The Untouchables by letting the police into the frame. You spend time with the crack team trying to bust Al Capone—but by spending time with them, you see how their tactics are not always so dissimilar from the criminals they’re chasing. From this framework emerges grandiose set pieces, like De Palma’s riff on Battleship Potemkin, and a gut-wrenching hit that rivals Bonnie and Clyde in terms of spilled shell casings and used handkerchiefs.—Ross Scarano

6. Casino


Year: 1995
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, James Woods

Goodfellas in Vegas? Count me in. Many may knock Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s novel, Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, by saying it’s a bootleg Goodfellas, but one thing they can't say is that it's not entertaining as fuck. Casino is Goodfellas, using the same formula that made the latter the GOAT mob flick. There are many lessons to be learned in Casino: material goods can't buy you love, some friends don't want to be saved and more. Ginger (Sharon Stone) and Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) are garbage humans, while Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is a GD saint. The film also breaks down how the mafia uses Las Vegas casinos to clean their money from Vegas to Milwaukee to New York and back again. Rothstein’s loyalties to Ginger and Nicky led to his desert empire being torn down, effectively running the mob out of town. If you like a good time—and also It Was Written-era Nas—watch Casino as soon as you can. —Angel Diaz

5. Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition

Year: 2002
Director: Sam Mendes
Stars: Tom Hanks, Tyler Hoechlin, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Jason Leigh

"Sons were put on this Earth to cause trouble for their fathers." Three father-son relationships form the spine of Sam Mendes' gorgeous Prohibtion-era gangster tale, which is more an intimate story of parental sacrifice than a crime epic sprawling time and characters. Frank Nitti makes several crucial appearances; the will and decisions of an off-screen Capone factor in. But this isn't about the Chicago syndicate—it's about a Mom & Pop subsidiary elsewhere in Illinois and the ways in which family loyalty ends up tearing it apart.

Perdition may be a Greek tragedy of lineage and legacy in a mob movie shell, but the crime trappings dazzle nonetheless. The typically straight-laced Hanks is frighteningly believable here as a trusted enforcer—he gives himself 17 minutes to grieve a horrific loss before he's on the road aiming to bury his emotions in revenge. An inevitable showdown unfolds in one of the most gorgeously filmed assassinations ever composed, with Hanks' tommy gun lighting an otherwise pitch black rainy night. But the moments that truly linger involve no gunplay: Hanks' Michael and his son Michael Jr. sharing their first honest conversation over bar-top burgers; Michael teaching Jr. how to drive better to facilitate their bank robberies; Newman's patriarch John Rooney's physical assault on his son Connor for his stupid actions abruptly turning into an embrace. That action in and of itself seals everyone's fates; it also sums up the movie's themes in a nutshell. Call your dad after you watch this one.—Frazier Tharpe

4. Miller's Crossing

Millers Crossing

Year: 1990
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Stars: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden

In one of their earlier efforts, the Coen Brothers give us a visually gorgeous, heavily referential gangster drama which tangles around a group of double-crossers tied together by intricate bonds. An aging mob boss falls for a young lady that’s having an affair with his right-hand man, Tom. A rival gang wants to kill a bookie, the brother of that young lady, and the boss refuses, but then discovers the affair, which drives his henchman into the arms of the rival, who then wants him to kill the bookie. The best scene comes between the bookie (John Turturro) and Tom, who marches his victim out into the woods to die; the superstar character actor then sputters that he doesn't to be killed like a “dumb animal.” But perhaps, the Coen Brothers hint, that’s all we are. Because all it takes to unravel a city’s complicated criminal syndicate is a little jealousy. —John Flynn


3. The Departed

The Departed

Year: 2006
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg

After denying him Oscars for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas, the Academy awarded Martin Scorsese a de facto lifetime achievement award for this gripping mob drama about double-crossers. In it, Colin Sullivan (Damon) a fresh-faced, but crooked detective gets assigned to investigate Frank Costello (Nicholson), a ruthless kingpin that’s ruled Boston for decades and has been buying Sullivan’s groceries since he was a boy. So, obviously, the Boston Police Department has had trouble busting Costello with Sullivan tipping him off. To remedy this, Staff Sergeant Dignam (Wahlberg) swears a bunch at Billy Costigan (DiCaprio), a rookie cop with a checkered past, recruiting him to go undercover with Costello’s gang. He’s accepted after getting his broken hand re-broken with a steel-toed boot. For the rest of the film, Sullivan, Costello and Costigan play a violent game of cat-and-mouse that also involves the sale of some cocaine and a sexy, two-timing therapist. He executes with his typical quick-cutting flash, giving his characters plenty of dope things to say over a Rolling-Stones-laden soundtrack. It's bitingly funny, horrifically violent and even sexy—so classic Scorsese.—John Flynn


2. The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather: Part II

Year: 1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro work together for the first time as Francis Ford Coppola uses The Godfather sequel to give us some backstory on the late Don Vito Corleone. The most memorable performance, though, was by the late, great John Cazale, whose brilliant second turn as the fragile, insecure Fredo Corleone was set to catapult him to superstardom—until his untimely death in 1978 from terminal lung cancer. Coppola dances between flashbacks of Vito’s rise to power as an immigrant hooligan in early 1900s New York City and Michael’s various dilemmas as the family’s new Don, giving us some much needed perspective on how the Corleones amassed their influence and power over the years. The second installment to the Godfather saga further provided the prototype for the modern day gangster movie and reminded us: Never go against the family. — Angel Diaz


1. Goodfellas


Year: 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco

The quintessential mafia movie (well, post Godfather) highlighted almost three decades in the life of Henry Hill, one of the illest gangsters to walk the earth and live to talk about it. It's the culmination of Scorsese's legendary talents and techniques, featuring Ray Liotta falling so into the character of Hill that it’s hard to see him doing anything else outside of it. Squad him up with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci and you have the trifecta that all mafia films since have been built on. Everything in the film is top-notch; from Pesci’s Oscar Award-winning performance to the perfectly selected soundtrack, there’s no finer film about the world of organized crime out there. True cinephile shit, with a heavy dose of gore and fucks.—khal​


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