The mafia and its people have captivated our interest for years now. And movies that tell their stories—inspired by real life or fictional—have a dedicated audience. There is a certain thrill in watching absolute underdogs work their way into a gang, slightest provocations leading to gang wars, the fear (and maybe respect) in the eyes of the people for the gangster, and the intense drama that comes with it all. In spite of them being on the wrong side of the law, we want to know the stories of these mafias and gangsters, and cinema has many gripping gems in the genre.
So, if you’re looking for a mafia movie that rides high on action and drama, we’ve got the perfect list.
The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part 2 (1974)
This is the gangster movie series to watch. Such was The Godfather’s effect on cinema, that they released another movie—The Godfather Part II—just two years later. The Godfather revolves around the lives of the members of the Corleone family with Don Vito (Marlon Brando) at the helm of affairs. Seeing how his son, Michael (Al Pacino), an unexpected candidate to follow the don's footsteps, becomes his successor and the new Godfather, makes this film a cinematic masterpiece. Whether it is for the dialogues, the cinematography, or knowing what ‘family business’ could be, this movie must be on your list.
And those who thought that the best movie of all time couldn’t be topped, they must watch The Godfather: Part II. It gave the audience the best of both worlds—it showed how Don Vito (Robert De Niro) rose to power and how Michael ran the show. The only sad part about the series, though, is that De Niro and Pacino have no scene together.
When it comes to the mobster genre, few directors have made better masterpieces than Martin Scorsese, and Goodfellas is, by far the greatest of the lot. The film revolves around the life of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), a young criminal, who has just one dream—to be a gangster. Little does he know that his wish will put his life at risk as it takes one dangerous turn after another. Add to this, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci deliver one of the finest performances of their careers. The movie also boasts of excellent production design and well-scripted character arcs.
Once Upon a Time in America
Yes, we know this is starting out to be a Robert De Niro list as we feature another movie starring the legendary actor. This epic crime movie revolves around the life of Jewish gangster, Noodles, during New York’s Prohibition era. With the story being narrated in anything but a linear format, we see his rise from a street thug to a professional gangster, and also witness how he keeps his friends close but enemies closer.
This movie is a double delight as it features two stellar actors—Al Pacino and Johnny Depp. We see Depp as Joe Pistone, an FBI agent working undercover using the alias Donnie Brasco. All that he has to do is get the dirty and dark secrets of how a powerful family operates. In the process, he befriends Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino). It isn’t easy for Brasco to choose between his duty and his undying loyalty to Ruggiero. Watching the two men, on different sides of the law, who started off as strangers only to become the best of pals, makes for a movie that depicts friendship, law, and crime at its best.
After the resounding success of Goodfellas, Scorsese, De Niro, and Pesci team up once again to give fans a classic. The film sees Ace (De Niro), a mafia associate, primed with the task of overseeing the mob’s casinos in Las Vegas, only to see him triple their income in absolutely no time. His success is the object of envy to many a rival gangs that threaten to eliminate Ace from his powerful position.