Best Gangster Films (1)

1. ICHI THE KILLER (2001).

As a sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer named Kakihara searches for his missing boss, he stumbles across Ichi, a repressed and psychotic killer who may be able to inflict levels of pain that Kakihara has only dreamed of. Straight off the bat, if you have a weak stomach or are easily shocked, this may not be the film for you. This is as explicitly violent and extreme a film as you are ever likely to see. Then again, it is a Takashi Miike film so you should be expecting the worst. This has real cult status now. If you want real grit and a no-holds-barred rollercoaster, watch THIS! Good luck.

 2. KING OF NEW YORK (1990).

A former drug lord returns from prison determined to wipe out all his competition and distribute the profits of his operations to New York’s poor and lower classes in this stylish and ultra violent modern twist on Robin Hood. This film must just be a personal favourite of a select few (including me), as its average rating is surprisingly quite poor on IMDB. Nevertheless, this is Christopher Walken at his subtle, yet superb best. He is blistering as usual.

 3. NEW JACK CITY (1991).

A crime lord ascends to power and becomes megalomaniacal while a maverick police detective vows to stop him. If you are expecting Wesley Snipes to steal this show, you’ll be in for a surprise. This film is 99% about Chris Rock’s performance. If there are any doubters as to his acting ability, I dare you to say that after watching New Jack City. He single-handedly dominates this picture with the best drug-induced performance I have ever seen.

 4. A PROPHET (2009).

A young Arab man is sent to a French prison where he becomes a mafia kingpin. It is difficult to know what foreign films are worth watching, especially when it comes to the crime genre, as Hollywood exhausts every possible storyline. I read up on A Prophet and it really was worth the 2 1/2 hour watch. Tahar Rahim (protagonist) is one to look out for in the future. To start off with, you don’t think he will last 5 minutes in this prison. Soon after, your opinion certainly changes. He becomes cool, calm and a person not to be fucked with.

 5. CARLITO’S WAY (1993).

A Puerto-Rican ex-con, just released from prison, pledges to stay away from drugs and violence despite the pressure around him, and to lead a better life. I can safely say this is currently and has been my favourite gangster film for some years now – not so much due to the storyline but rather the characters and performances of Pacino and Penn. We are talking here about two actors who are in the elite list of acting talents. Pacino is very collected, yet you know he can unleash his ferocious side at any time; Penn is untouchable in his lawyer-turns-aspiring-gangster role. He is the devil on your left shoulder.

 6. THE KILLER (1989).

A disillusioned assassin accepts one last hit in hopes of using his earnings to restore vision to a singer he accidentally blinded, only to be double-crossed by his boss. This is my first of two films in the John Woo/Chow Yun-Fat series. He may be the master of action. He doesn’t hold back as per usual. If you require a million bullets and a million squib effects, watch all of their collaborative films. You feel like you have been in the gun battles yourself.

 7. HARD BOILED (1992).

A tough-as-nails cop teams up with an undercover agent to shut down a sinister mobster and his crew. Need I say more than it being a John Woo/Chow Yun-Fat epic where over 100,000 rounds of ammunition are fired!

 8. BOYZ N THE HOOD (1991).

Saga of a group of childhood friends growing up in a Los Angeles ghetto. I still am yet to visit Los Angeles but I believe this is an area of some notoriety – “The Jungle”. By god, I don’t want to visit there but film portrayals I find fascinating, as I believe it really is that bad. Films, such as Menace 2 Society and Training Day, can’t be helping the area. Nevertheless, this film is powerful, dramatic and I’ve seen it maybe 50+ times. It is a must-see for any film buff wanting to gain knowledge of new culture.

 9. WHITE HEAT (1949).

A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and leads his old gang into a chemical plant payroll heist. Shortly after the plan takes place, events take a crazy turn. Without a doubt the oldest film on my list, this is the definition of a timeless classic. James Cagney is relentless and a true crime figure. He has the voice, the attitude, the salty wit and unlike the majority of actors today, he doesn’t have the all-American chiseled looks.

 10 . A BITTERSWEET LIFE (2005).

A loyal hotel manager/enforcer is asked by his crime boss to kill his girlfriend’s lover. Daring to defy him, his actions lead to terrible personal consequences and set in motion a cavalcade of blood, violence and mayhem. This is an absolute gem from the masterful yet diverse director, Jee-Woon Kim. Regarding the enforcer, Byung-Hun Lee, I see this guy, and I want to be this guy. He is the epitome of cool.

Written by Conley Low

2 thoughts on “Best Gangster Films (1)

  1. Once dubbed, “the coolest actor in the world”, many of the roles and on-screen personas undertaken by Chow Yun Fat have helped popularize numerous Hong Kong films in the West, bolstering the reputation of Asian cinema as a whole. Proving himself to be a versatile performer, Chow has twice won ‘Best Actor’ at the Golden Horse Film Festival, once in 1984 for Hong Kong 1941, and again in 1987 for An Autumn’s Tale.

  2. I would have thrown ‘Miller’s Crossing’ and ‘State of Grace’ in there but regardless this is amazing. I am beyond impressed that ‘Ichi the Killer’ and ‘A Prophet’ get the proper notice. Whoever made this list is the real deal

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