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Gangster movies are one of the most interesting and most widely debated genres of film, and this is for a number of reasons. Ranging from one’s favourite actors, to the types of gangster you prefer, everyone has a good reason for favouring one film more than another. There have been a number of fantastic gangster movies made in the last century, and to celebrate the release of A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms from May 18, 2015 courtesy of Icon Film Distribution, we will take a look at the Top 10 Gangster Films…
10. Casino (1995)
Casino follows the character of Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a gambler the Mafia places in charge of the Tangiers casino in Las Vegas. It is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Nicholas Pileggi, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film with Scorsese. The two previously collaborated on the 1990 hit film Goodfellas. The film was a box-office success, making $116 million worldwide on a $40–50 million budget. A fan favourite the world over, Casino earns its place in this top 10.
9. The French Connection (1971)
One of the first real urban crime thrillers to grace the big screen, The French Connection had its viewers immersed in the film for its duration, mainly as a result of the films focus on hyper realism. New York City cops Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider) are conducting an undercover stakeout in Brooklyn. After seeing a drug transaction take place in a bar, Cloudy goes in to make an arrest but the suspect makes a break for it. After catching up with their suspect and severely beating him, the detectives interrogate the man who reveals his drug connection that reaches all the way over to France.
8. Sexy Beast (2000)
Arguably the best Gangster film to come out of the UK in the past 20 years, Sexy Beast made a cult hero out of the main villain, Don Logan (Sir Ben Kingsley). Directed by Jonathan Glazer, the film centres on Gal (Ray Winstone) and the lengths his arch nemesis will go to get him back to London from Spain to carry out one final job.
7. The Untouchables (1987)
Directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet, The Untouchables is based on the autobiographical memoirs of the same name. Starring Kevin Costner as government agent Eliot Ness, it also stars Robert De Niro as gang leader Al Capone and Sean Connery as Irish-American officer Jimmy Malone (who was based on the real life agent and member of the “Untouchables” Irish-American Marty Lahart). De Palma displays his filmmaking genius in this film, and it deservedly earns its place in this top 10 list.
6. No Country For Old Men (2007)
Meticulously scripted, excitingly tense, violent beyond measure and yet maturely sorrowful , No Country For Old Men marks the first time the Coen brothers have faithfully adapted somebody else’s work to their own liking and considerable strengths. Cormac McCarthy’s incredible, best-selling 2005 novel of the same name describes a contemporary American West (the action is set in 1980) where drug trafficking is the new Gold Rush, and Josh Brolin becomes caught up in one of the most dangerous games of cat and mouse ever seen. A true masterpiece.
5. Scarface (1983)
One of the most popular films in cult history, Scarface earns its place on this list with ease. After getting a green card in exchange for assassinating a Cuban government official, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) stakes a claim on the drug trade in Miami. Viciously murdering anyone who stands in his way, Tony eventually becomes the biggest drug lord in the state, controlling nearly all the cocaine that comes through Miami. But increased pressure from the police, wars with Colombian drug cartels and his own drug-fuelled paranoia serve to fuel the flames of his eventual downfall.
4. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Quentin Tarantino’s trendsetting movie that took us on a ride with five criminals put together for a heist that goes wrong—each character was aptly named after a color and to top things off the cast were all A-List talent. Tarantino tells the story the way only he can, and even after being released over 20 years ago, the film carries the same knockout punch it did back then.
3. Goodfellas (1990)
If a film can go on to inspire arguably the greatest TV show ever made in The Sopranos, then it goes a long way to emphasising the effect this film had on millions of film lovers around the world. Goodfellas is one of the most influential films of the last 25 years, and could well be one of Michael Scorcese’s finest. Goodfellas tells the story of the true-life descent into big-time crime of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), and the colourful group of friends he fraternised with.
2. The Godfather Part II (1974)
It is often debated whether The Godfather II is better than the first of the Godfather trilogy as it wouldn’t exist without the first, but this author feels that this is the greater of the two films. The time-hopping structure allows Francis Ford Coppola to flesh out the Michael Corleone’s world in violently fascinating new dimensions, yet somehow, the brutal drama of the original is sustained effortlessly across half a century.
1. A MOST VIOLENT YEAR (2014)
Jessica Chastain alongside Oscar Isaac, demonstrate why they are currently two of the most in-demand actors on the planet with their excellent portrayal of a family involved in business that pushes the boundaries of the law to the limit. At a time when New York City is experiencing a spike in criminal activity, small businessman Abel Morales (Isaac) fights to make himself a living, support his wife Anna (Chastain) and protect his interests. Always looking for a way to expand his business, Abel nevertheless strives to keep things honest and to do things by the book. However, when he becomes the target of opportunistic thieves, he takes matters into his own hands to track down those responsible. But, in doing so, he also attracts the attention of the Assistant District Attorney (David Oyelowo) who takes an unwelcome interest in Abel’s business practices…
Honourable mentions – Boyz N The Hood, The Departed, The Long Good Friday, The Godfather, Gomorrah, Fargo, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layercake, Once Upon a Time in America, Miller’s Crossing, Leon, King of New York, Bonnie and Clyde, The Killing, Pulp Fiction
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR comes to Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms from May 18, 2015 courtesy of Icon Film Distribution.