Thursday, March 19, 2009

Top Ten Thursday: Gangster Movies

With the tough economic times getting tougher, and the potential for low-down dirty greed and graft growing, I figure it's a good time to come out with my list of Top Ten Gangster Movies.

After all, they say the economy in New York is so bad that the Mafia had to lay off 50 judges.

Anyway, I'm sure I don't have to explain the category. The name pretty much speaks for itself. But as always this kind of thing is highly subjective. So if you disagree with my final list, say so in the comments. I might actually change the line up if you make me an offer I can't refuse.

Top Ten Favorite Gangster Movies

10) Scarface:
Aside from Al Pacino's ridiculous accent, remains one of the only Oliver Stone movies I really like. Full of irredeemable characters and brutal violence, it's a parable of how drugs and corruption will lead only to the firing of fully automatic machine guns in your Miami mansion.

9) Carlito's Way:
Pacino plays a much more likable character in Carlito Brigante, who is trying desperately to go straight. The opening and closing shots are particularly memorable as Pacino gets another great death scene.

8) Snatch:
The elaborate plot punctuated by quick cut editing made this film a real treat. Guy Ritchie might have questionable taste in women, but he can spin a right good yarn. It's worth watching if for no other reason than to learn this valuable lesson: Never trust an Irish gypsy.
7) Reservoir Dogs:
A tremendous cast delivers great dialog in Tarrantino's freshman effort. The nonlinear story telling packs enough humor to balance the brutal violence, and the dialog makes the characters seem real and even sympathetic at times.

6) The Usual Suspects:
One of my all time favorites films of any genre (despite the presence of Stephen Baldwin). The complex plot was executed (so to speak) so well with great writing, directing and acting that the view is pulled in to the story rather than lost. Again, compelling dialog makes the viewer sympathetic to the characters, and it has probably the best surprise twist endings in cinema history.

5) The Departed:
Another great cast in a film with an excellent story. I appreciate Scorsese going all the way to the end on this movie. Staying true to the title, all of the principal characters reap the ultimate wages of a duplicitous mob life. My only gripe was the overly obvious metaphor at the end as a rat scrambles across the balcony ledge.

4) On The Waterfront:
Probably the original gangster film staring Marlon Brando at his best as a has-been boxer Terry Malloy who decides to stand up to the corrupt, mob-controlled labor union. This has one of the best scenes of Brando's career when, as Malloy, the tells his brother that he "coulda been a contender."

3) Goodfellas:
Another brilliant work by Scorsese with another amazing cast. We watch as Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) climbs the ranks of New York's underworld, only to be done in by the double dealing of friends and his own self-destructive tendencies. One of my favorite scenes was the single shot of Hill introducing the denizens of the Copacabana club.

1) The Godfather & The Godfather: Part II
We've got a two-way tie for first place in the category, and it should be no surprise it's the first two installments of The Godfather Trilogy (it should also be no surprise that the third installment didn't make the list at all). It's the epic story of how Michael Corleone gets pulled in to run the family business and then slowly becomes consumed by it, losing everything he struggles so hard to hold on to in the process. This is the apotheosis of the genre, with strong writing, amazing photography and some of the best actors of the generation with Brando, Pacino, De Niro, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton and others.

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  1. No.......
    Once upon a time in america?
    No Jimmy Cagney.......White Heat?

  2. Miller's Crossing is a good one

  3. You forgot Casino...One of the absolute best...

  4. As I was scrolling down to #1 I thought for sure I'd see Pulp Fiction. One of the best.

  5. American Gangster? Not really.

    Actually, the reason I wanted to comment was because I think that Scarface is perhaps one of the most overrated pieces of crap I've seen. I cannot for the life of me figure out why these morons canonize it like it's Citizen freaking Kane. I mean...HE IS A MORON WHO RUINS PEOPLES LIVES AND GETS SHOT THE EFF UP. Why is this appealing to people?


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