The Best Mafia Movies

Everybody likes a good mafia movie, one that has romance, regret, and it's fair share of violence. They make you want to be part of the family living like they do, afraid of no one and using other people's money as your piggy bank.

Pretty much any offer she would make me, ever, I couldn't refuse.

I just liked this cartoon.

Just The Facts

  1. All Capone once shot himself on accident in the groin, but is still more feared (even in death) than Plaxico Buress.
  2. Gangs of New York is not as cool as everyone says. Mostly because of Leo. Leo or, Pacino? I'm just saying.
  3. My Cousin Vinny just barely missed the cut.

These are just my favorite picks, you wise guys.

Who remembers sitting for hours in front of a TV screen while a hot spaghetti dinner with meatballs and Italian sausage that grandma cooked lured you into the kitchen periodically, it's aroma drifting into the den?Your father invited you and your cousins to sit around and enjoy everybody's favorite family movies "The Godfather, parts one and two". (Don't even mention part three to him.) Anybody? Well I sure do. There are a number of fine gangster movies that make you want to simultaneously be part of the gang; head of the family and punch out your brain for even thinking something so goddamned dangerous and stupid. (Were you seriously thinking you could be Michael Corleone? You are a dumb-ass. You're not even head of your Jelly of the Month Club.)

10. Mad Dog and Glory

This is a fun movie because in it typical gangster tough guy Robert DeNiro plays a nice guy; a mild mannered police photographer while Bill Murray plays a dangerous mobster. Who happens to want to be a stand-up comedian. DeNiro gives him this awesome line "My wife thinks Cook-ing and Clean-ing are two cities in China." In the scene above, Bob D wishes you his best whilst discovering a body in a trash can. That may or may not have been left there by Bill Murray.

"Scrooge - the Original Gangster"

It also stars Uma Thurman as the girl DeNiro falls in love with and if you ever want to see an awkward sex scene, well this movie is for you. The thing that really makes this movie fun to watch is the imminent threat of violence keeps you on the edge of your seat rather than an all out gore-festival. It also stars one time "NYPD Blue" Bad-Ass and "CSI:Bullshit Hard Nosed Dick" David Caruso.

The truth about David Caruso

This was actually a good film role for Caruso, albeit not much of a stretch, but a significantly better movie all around than "Jade".

9. The Untouchables

There are a lot of good things about this movie. Number one, it stars, Robert DeNiro as Al Capone. Number two, it stars Sean Connery as a fictional cop named Malone, who tells our Elliot Ness he has to fight the mob the way they fight you - with FIRE! Or shotguns. As you can see Andy Garcia also stars with Charles Martin Smith. What, did I forget someone? Oh yes, that's right, Kevin "The Postman" Costner. A few of the most memorable scenes include a baby cart rolling down the stairs in the middle of a gun fight and Capone beating a fellow mafioso to death with a baseball bat for not being a "team player" (get it? Good thing his favorite game wasn't Scrabble.) This movie is directed by Brian DePalma and is pretty freakin' good. I also read somewhere, I think it was Entertainment Weekly, that while preparing for his role as Frank Netti, a real life mob enforcer, Billy Drago was entertained around Chicago like the real Netti was, by Netti's family, with people paying mad amounts of respect to him wherever he went. However, Costner also took his role a little too seriously when on his honeymoon he jerked off in front of a massage therapist who also, apparently, thought him "untouchable".

DeNiro's Capone would have paid for this kind of dirt

8. Casino -

"No, really Nicki, I'm telling you. It's ALL THE POPCORN SHRIMP YOU CAN EAT!"

This movie even though it's about as fast paced as a roadrunner on meth it is like two hours long. (Think 2 VHS tapes! I know, VHS, right?) Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro are perfect as a made man and a casino manager who make shit-loads of money and come at odds, even though they are really the best of friends. I mean, Joe Pesci stabs a guy in the neck with a pen. If that doesn't say "loyalty and friendship" I don't know what does. Also it starred James Woods as a lovable, wacky, drug-addicted pimp and Sharon Stone as his lady friend.

"James Woods: Pimp"

This is a great movie and the only reason I didn't give it a higher rating is because it's so fast paced upon watching it again I realized the development is done more through action than dialogue. That's for those of you who give a shit. On the other hand, this is a classic movie with classic, scary gangsters. Everyone wants to live high and fast like DeNiro and Pesci in this one, but no one (spoiler alert) wants the end that comes to them (let's just say it's not quite Vegas Vacation).

7. Miller's Crossing -

This is a good one for the wanna-be Irish gangsters, like me. It is based on Dashiell Hammet's first and most brilliant novel, Red Harvest. (Hammett's most famous novels are The Maltese Falcon, and The Thin Man)

A beautiful period piece it includes the great Gabriel Byrne and Albert Finney and was directed by the Coen Brothers before they reached their greatest stride (Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, the Big Lebowski) and became totally over-exposed ( I mean, really, you thought that was scary? He was carrying a FREAKING CATTLE PROD or SOMETHING down the street and you weren't the least bit suspicious? You wouldn't think of maybe, not talking to the guy? Or getting away? oh forget it, Aunt Mary and all you goddamned ass-kissers.)

6. Chinatown -

Jack's Back

"Smile, I wasn't home when Polanski was there."

Well, here is a movie that really will depress you. Unlike No Country for Old Men, which is just a piece of unrealistic shit and depresses you for buying the ticket. Did I mention that I hate that movie and how much fucking hype it got? I mean ten dollars for a night show? Really? I should have just got it on fucking video. Anyways Chinatown is as bleak as they come. Jack Nicholson (shown above at about the same time the movie was made, probably) plays the gritty, hard-boiled detective in this film that features the unforgettable line "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown". This movie is so dark it makes The Big Sleep and the Maltese Falcon look like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. This one may be stretching the mafia thing, but let's just say that our main antagonist "keeps it in the family". Not only does he not go against the family, he kind of "comes into the family". Do you get it? Incest? Ok, I'm done.

5. Pulp Fiction

"Xenu is lord and master." "What did you say, motherfucker?"

Like the movie before, technically I'm not sure if this is a purely mafia movie or just a kick-ass movie but I'm pretty sure when Harvey Keitel shows up as the cleaner and take care of that dude from Mad TV whose head just got blown away you can call it a gangster movie.

"Oh Shit, I just got shot in the face." Phil Lamarr, ladies and gentleman.

This movie is so fun because it takes several different points of view during several different chapters. You've got all the things a Mafia movie should have - a slick gangster hit-man (John Travolta), a couple of sassy Bettys (Uma Thurman again, hey! and Maria de Medeiros) a washed up boxer (played by Bruce Willis) and of course, Harvey Keitel. Really if you haven't seen this movie, you are missing out even if you don't like gangster movies. It is single handedly responsible for making John Travolta marketable again to Hollywood and it was a Quentin Tarantino movie that really shows the director at his best. The story arc is amusing and nail-biting and it's not totally ridiculous like some (all) of his movies that came later. The discussion between Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta about cheeseburgers in France is much better than hearing Mace Windu scream about "Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane". All the actors and actresses are in the peak of their game, including TIm Roth and a host of others. So yeah, it's a pretty kick-ass mafia movie. But it's also probably the one that your mom saw because your aunt told her that John Travolta looked great doing the twist and he's "such a good dancer" but they "just thought it was so violent". Funny, but by todays (lack of) standards in Tarantino films the violence is pretty tame. (think Uma Thurman flying over fourty four ninjas and chopping off their arms or a couple of Basterds shooting a movie theatre full of people while it's on fire).

4. Goodfellas -

While some internet databases and your best friends on Facebook rank this movie as number one, I'll tell you one reason why I don't. It's because if I hear Martin Scorsese play "Gimme Shelter" in one more goddamned gangster movie, I'm going to start to think it's overdone. "Listen, Marty, it's a great song, we know. Are you sure you want to use it in Goodfellas, Casino, and the Departed? You are? O.k....you're the boss". Don't get me wrong, it's a great, great mafia movie and it deserved the Oscar for best Picture probably before The Departed. After all, The Departed was just a remake of a Chinese Gangster film called Infernal Affairs. So in that respect it is not as original as Goodfellas. Another problem I have with Goodfellas, though, is that like Casino, sometimes it just feels like a bunch of action sequences strung together with flashy clothes and really good music. Again, don't get me wrong, this is one of the best mafia movies ever made. No other movie makes prison so appealing, as when Paulie is cooking for you and slicing garlic SOO THIN! It also includes the often parodied Joe Pesci asking a kid why he thinks he's funny like a clown. And it's scary as shit. The murder sequence in this movie, when DeNiro starts bumping off everyone who gets in his was is wild too. You'll never want to get into the back of a meat truck again. And who can forget the discussion Joe Pesci has with his beloved mother about the "paws" of a deer that he needs to cut off his bumper.

3. On the Waterfront

"The black hand reaches everywhere. Even in the upper left hand corner at young Brando's beautiful mug."

Remember how I said washed up boxers were important in mafia movies? Well here is the ultimate movie about that topic. A young Marlon Brando moves like passion incarnate through a San Francisco waterfront that is plagued by corruption and mobsters. It includes the memorable line "I could have been somebody...I could have been a contender" (not the actual line). A line that I used, by the way, as a monologue to audition for a part I GOT - playing a gay baker who has a fetish for chocolate chip cookies....never mind. It's magnetic Brando and a moving performance with classic themes of good versus evil. The mafia controls the shipping "On the Waterfront" and Brando is torn about what, if anything, he can do. It may not make you want to be a gangster, but you will sure wish you were Brando back in his hay day. This is a movie that even your parents can enjoy, and if they are like mine, probably did. It won 8 academy awards, including best picture. There is some violence, but this was a time when they told the stories through the threat of violence and in some ways, that was even scarier.

He was somebody.

and speaking of Brando...

2. The Godfather (pt. 1)

You knew it was coming. This movie was so awesome that James Bond gave Marlon Brando an Oscar for it and he had a beautiful Native American woman in Apache dress turn it down. If that's not gangster, I don't know what is.

Brando refuses an offer they tried to make

It is the stuff of legend, and even more so when you consider that the part of Vito Corleone (played later as a younger man by none other than Robert DeNiro) was almost given to Danny Thomas. You know, the star of the hit comedy sitcom "Make Room for Daddy" and whose other roles included "Jerry Dingle" and an alien named "Colac, lord of the planet Twylo" from the Dick Van Dyke Show. That would have given a whole new dimension to the role.

"Look what they did to my boy, Sonny."

Here seen: the original Vito Corleone punishing Sonny for being too head strong.

This movie is so full of great lines to the effect of "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes." and "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" it's hard to imagine another mafia movie more emulated. Al Pacino is the reluctant third son who takes care of his ailing father and eventually the "family business".

And finally...

1. The Godfather (pt. 2)

Listen, you could really flip a coin about which is better, the Godfather I or II. I just happen to like this one a little bit more because we get to see a young Vito Corleone played by DeNiro struggling on the streets of old New York and getting revenge in Sicily. Also, we get to see Michael disowning his wife. (You know it's a movie because the man gets custody of the children.) Finally, it has one of the most horrifying scenes in mafia movie history. A senator wakes up in a hotel with a beautiful dead prostitute who has been tied to the bed. As he stumbles to remember what happened, saying "It was just a game" the great Robert Duvall, Corleone family lawyer, assures him not to worry. It's so terrifying because, how many times has that happened to us, right? And we NEVER have a mafia lawyer there to help us out. See, I told you that you wanted to be a gangster.