To celebrate the release of the award-winning Brazilian gangster flick Boca, which is out this Monday 14 February on Blu-ray and DVD, we take a look at the Top 10 gangster movies based on real events, and famous gangsters.
This film adaptation of the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese, follows the rise and fall of Lucchese crime family associates Henry Hill and his friends over a period from 1955 to 1980. The Lucchese crime family was at the height of its reign in 1978 after the famous Lufthansa heist. The character of Jimmy Conway was based on real-life mobster Jimmy Burke who was still alive when the film was released in 1990. He would have been eligible for parole in 2004, but he died of lung cancer in 1996, while still in prison.
Greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two mobster best friends and a trophy wife over a gambling empire. Set in Las Vegas, Martin Scorsese shows the glamorous and cruel faces of the city as the details of the mob involvement in the casinos of the 1970’s and 80’s are revealed. Robert De Niro’s character, Ace, a smooth operator of the Tangiers casino, is based on the life of Frank ‘Left’ Rosenthal. While the movie begins by stating it is based upon a true story, it never names the actual casino involved. The Tangiers casino is fictional. The story is actually based upon the history of the Stardust casino, a fact well documented in the Vegas history books. Martin Scorsese discreetly documents this fact via the soundtrack, in which the song “Stardust” is heard three different times. An instrumental version plays during Ace and Ginger”s wedding and a vocal version is heard during the scene where Remo asks Marino if Nicky and Ginger are having sex and also during the very end of the final credits.
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In the 1960’s and 70’s, Frank Lucas was the king of drug trafficking in Manhattan. Denzel Washington portrays the infamous drug lord in the Ridley Scott directed film. Frank Lucas followed in the footsteps of his mentor Bumpy Johnson and established himself as the number one importer of heroin in the Harlem district of Manhattan by purchasing the substance directly from the source in South East Asia. He accomplished this by using U.S. military planes returning from the Vietnam War to ship the drugs into the country and selling them for a lower price than his competitors.
The newly formed FBI tries to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s. Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger who spent a majority of his life robbing banks and running from the law. As a result of all of the increased crime in Chicago, J. Edgar Hoover assigned agent Melvin Purvis, played by Christian Bale, the task of tracking down and bringing in John Dillinger and his gang of historical crime figures.
A thrilling film based on real-life events adapted from the autobiography of gangland boss Hiroito Joanides de Moraes. Hiroito was infamous as The King of Boca do Lixo (an area in downtown Sao Paula that was notorious for its nightclubs, strip joints, prostitution and drugs in the 1950’s). Boca charts his journey through violence, women and drugs on the way to becoming one of the most successful and dangerous criminals in Brazil.
Set in Boston, two men lead undercover lives on opposite sides of the law. One is a mole in the Massachusetts State Police and the other is an informant in Francis “Frank” Costello’s gang in the Irish mafia. Betrayal and bloodshed set in when discoveries over real identities are made and each man tries to find a way to reveal the other before his own cover is blown. Frank Costello is based on organized crime figure James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger, Jr., not the famous Italian mobster from New York who is also named Frank Costello.
A Bronx Tale
With no son of his own, gangster Sonny, the big man in the Bronx neighbourhood, takes a young Italian boy named Calogero under his wing. However his father, a bus driver named Lorenzo, disapproves of the mentorship. The boy’s journey into a young man is a battle between the advice that Sonny gives him and his personal beliefs. A tragedy in the neighbourhood hits close to home and makes Calogero learn the most important lesson of his life. Chazz Palminetri wrote and starred in A Bronx Tale, which he partially based on his own childhood experiences in New York City.
City Of God
If you run, the beast catches you and if you stay, the beast eats you- welcome to the City Of God. In Cidade de Deus, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, organized crime is a normal part of daily life. For best friends Li’l Ze and Bene, the road to success is very different. Li’l Ze becomes a drug dealer and engages in a war with a criminal known as Kockout Ned. Bene finds a way out of the turmoil and goes on to become a photographer. Writer Paul Lins’ 1997 novel of the same name is based on his experiences growing up in Brazil and serves as inspiration for the film’s plot.
Federal agent Elliot Ness assembles a personal team, nicknamed The Untouchables, of mob fighters to bring Chicago crime boss Al Capone to justice using unconventional means during the mob wars of the 1920s. Ness’ efforts to bring Capone to justice during the prohibition era in Chicago have long been a popular topic and the film gives an insider perspective to some of the tactics that were applied. Capone brutally kills two of his most feared hit men, Albert Anselmi and John Scalise, during a party scene in the film, replicating how they actually died in real life.
Bonnie And Clyde
Who says crime can’t be romantic? A notorious couple, known for their robberies and criminal acts, travel through the central region of the United States during the Great Depression. Their antics make newspaper headlines as a small-town girl and inexperienced bank robber leave their hometown and embark on a spree of crimes while somehow managing to fall in love. Like most couples, they may have many differences, but being passionate and adventures are not among them.