Mafia: Definitive Edition releases later this month, and it got me thinking about all the great gangster movies that have shed a stylistic light on mobsters and the way they live. The lure of these movies is simple. Gangster movies allow us to revel in the danger and excess of these outlaws, without facing the consequences. With that said, let’s look at five mobster movies you need to watch before playing Mafia: Definitive Edition.
Considered by ex-mobster, Michael Franzese, to be the most realistic portrayal of Mafia life, the movie charts the rise and fall of Gambino family boss, John Gotti. Perhaps no crime boss (Al Capone excluded) has gained as much notoriety. Set between the early 70s and 90s, we see just how a thug climbs the ladder through murder, loyalty and betrayal. Embodied by veteran actor Armand Assante, with a standout assemble cast including William Forsyth, Anthony Quinn and Tony Sirico, Gotti is a must-watch for any budding mobster movie buff.
The entire movie is available on YouTube for free.
4. Once Upon A Time In America
Directed by the spaghetti western master Sergio Leone, Once Upon a Time In America shines a light on a little-explored aspect of American gangsterism – that of the Jewish gangster. The films epic length isn’t for the faint of heart and deals with themes that few of its genre dare to contemplate. It’s an indictment of not only real-world organised crime but also the countless gangster movies of the 20s and 30s which glamorised it. Robert DeNiro and James Woods deliver career-defining performances with leave an indelible mark on you after watching. If you can watch the ending without tearing up, rewatch it and try again.
Once Upon A Time In America is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Goodfellas may be more widely adored, but it was Scorsese’s 1995 Casino that cemented his position at the top of the genre. Adapted from a book of the same name, Casino tells the tale of Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a casino manager struggling to keep his corrupt life as a Chicago Outfit associate in balance with his public and private life. As Ace tries to save his position, his old outfit friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) is out to take over Las Vegas, taking the desert town for all its worth. Casino combines everything that makes Scorsese a great director – Fantastic cast, setting and soundtrack, all wrapped up in a narrative dripping with Marty’s signature style.
Casino is available on YouTube for free.
2. The Godfather
Although the sequel is arguably the better movie, there’s something about The Godfather that makes it cinematic comfort food. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather stays away from the typical rise and fall plot, replacing it with a twisted coming of age tale, centred around Michael Corleone. When Michael returns from the war, he finds his family on the Back-foot of a burgeoning mob war. When his father is attacked, Michael must learn quickly with the help of his hot-head brother and lawyer step-brother Frank.
The Godfather is the quintessential mobster movie, picking up the baton of the 1930s films and modernising the genre for a new generation. The story behind the making of the movie is as entertaining as the film itself, but it’s a masterclass in filmmaking. It doesn’t get much better than The Godfather… except for one.
The Godfather is available to buy on Amazon Prime.
You knew this would come first, didn’t you? Directed by a true master of the genre, Goodfellas is simply the best gangster movie ever made, and regularly finds itself in the top ten films of all time. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is lured into the outwardly glamorous life of mobsters at a young age. The sheen of that life slowly begins to rust as the years go on, finding that his closest friends are truly psychopathic murderers. Like so many of these movies, it is a rise and fall story.
The genius of Scorsese’s directing is his ability to get us on the side of these main characters, despite knowing they’re awful people. He understands that lure of being your own boss, doing whatever you want and plays on it to devastating effect. Goodfellas offers a movie experience you can’t refuse. Just watch it and thank me later.
Goodfellas is available to buy on Amazon Prime.
These movies may not have made the top five, but are still fantastic films…
- The Irishman
- Kill the Irishman
- American Gangster
- The Untouchables
- Donnie Brasco
Mafia: Definitive Edition is shaping up to be an excellent remake and a thrilling ride through prohibition-era America. Just remember. Crime doesn’t pay, but these five movies will pay off in hours of entertainment value.