15 Killer Crime Movies of the 21st Century

    Get your thrills.

    Ever since the earliest days of the cinema, audiences have been enamored with crime movies. From the expressionist shadows of early crime noir films to the luridly-colored Italian giallo shockers that eventually gave rise to the modern slasher film, crime has always found a way into the heart of movies and moviegoers.

    That’s no less true in the 21st century than it was in the century preceding it. So here are a few of the best crime films that have been released since 2001:

    1. Infernal Affairs

    2002

    killer crime movies
    Photo Credit: Media Asia Films

    Remade in America in 2006 as The Departed, the original is still the superior version of the tale; a lean, beautiful, and tense film about a cat-and-mouse game between a gangland mole within the police department and an undercover cop. 

    Related: 11 Pulse-Pounding Thrillers You Can Watch Right Now 

    2. Layer Cake

    2004

    best crime films
    Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

    Take the producer of Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, give him a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig (and Michael Gambon, recently cast as Dumbledore’s replacement), and you’ve got one of the best British crime movies that most people haven’t seen. 

    3. A History of Violence

    2005

    best crime movies
    Photo Credit: New Line Cinema

    While arguably one of David Cronenberg’s more “approachable” movies, A History of Violence stands out by making the violence in question incredibly uncomfortable, even for viewers long jaded to movie violence. (See also some of the best uses of sex scenes to establish character you will ever see on film.) 

    4. Brick

    2005

    best crime films
    Photo Credit: Berman Lustig Productions

    What happens when you take a film noir detective story—complete with archaic dialogue and plenty of slang—and plop it into a modern-day high school? You get Rian Johnson’s spellbinding directorial debut. 

    Related: No Beast So Fierce: The Book That Got a Man Released from Prison 

    5. Kiss Kiss Bang

    2005

    best crime films
    Photo Credit: Warner Bros

    Shane Black’s love letter to pulp detective novels also manages to be one of the most razor-sharp film noirs of the modern era and one of the funniest buddy comedies ever made. 

    6. Zodiac

    2007

    best crime movies
    Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

    David Fincher’s masterpiece and one of the finest true crime films ever made, Zodiac reminds us of the power of movies (and the price of obsession), while taking us on a mind-bending tour through the pursuit for one of the most famous uncaught killers in history. Zodiac is currently on Netflix

    7. No Country for Old Men

    2007

    best crime movies
    Photo Credit: Paramount Vantage

    You can’t really make a crime movie list and not include at least one Coen Brothers title, right? It doesn’t hurt that Javier Bardem made his name playing Anton Chigurgh, one of the all-time great film villains, in this haunting tale. This modern classic is also available on Netflix

    8. In Bruges

    2008

    best crime movies
    Photo Credit: Blueprint Pictures

    By turns hilarious and tragic, Martin McDonagh’s film about two hitmen lying low in Bruges, Belgium isn’t to be missed, featuring fantastic performances from Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and a particularly foul-mouthed Ralph Fiennes. 

    Related: 10 Best Crime Novels About Deadly Secrets 

    9. The Raid 2

    2014

    best crime movies
    Photo Credit: XYZ Films

    Sure, The Raid is an action classic, but its sequel keeps all that action intact while opening up the palette to create a sweeping generational epic. Think The Godfather, but with lots of people getting kicked, punched, stabbed, and murdered with hammers. 

    10. Cold in July

    2014

    best crime movies
    Photo Credit: BSM Studio

    Leave it to Joe Lansdale and Jim Mickle to create a crime saga that’s hilarious and disturbing at equal turns. And if you like this, check out their TV series Hap & Leonard for more of the same, done even better. You can watch Cold In July on Netflix

    11. Nightcrawler

    2014

    best crime movies
    Photo Credit: Bold Films

    This isn’t Jake Gyllenhaal’s first appearance on this list, but it might be his best work, as he turns in one of the eeriest performances you’re likely to find outside of a horror flick, helped along by Dan Gilroy’s portrait of the nighttime world of the City of Angels. You can stream Nightcrawler on Netflix

    Related: The Most Exhilarating Thrillers of the Last Decade 

    12. Sicario

    2015

    best crime movies
    Photo Credit: Lionsgate

    Before Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve directed this searing tale about the war on drugs, which feels just one supernatural occurrence short of being a Laird Barron story put on film.

    13. The Nice Guys

    2016

    killer crime movies
    Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

    Shane Black gets the distinction of being the only director to make this list twice, and while The Nice Guys may not be quite as successful as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it’s a lot more ambitious to make up for it. 

    14. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore

    2017

    best crime movies
    Photo Credit: Netflix

    This Netflix original about a woman and her eccentric neighbor who track down the burglars who broke into her home feels like the orphaned sibling of a Coen Brothers classic.

    15. Baby Driver

    2017

    best crime movies
    Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures

    A musical in which the characters listen to the songs rather than sing them may not seem the most likely candidate for one of the best crime movies of 2017, but that’s just because you may not have seen Edgar Wright’s infectious caper flick yet. 

    The list could go on and on. The 21st century has already proven a fertile ground for the crime film, as various directors take the reins of the film noir and run with it in just about every direction you can imagine, from the humor of Shane Black to almost elegiac tales like No Country for Old Men.

    If I hadn’t been restricted to 15 entries, I might have mentioned Nicolas Winding Refn’s oddly stylized cult hit Drive, horror superstar James Wan dabbling his toe into the Death Wish remake pool with Death Sentence a decade before Eli Roth would make it official, or Ben Wheatley’s 1970s-style shoot-em-up Free Fire. (For that matter, if you’re looking for a crime film that takes a decidedly more bizarre turn in its final reel, check out Wheatley’s Kill List.)  

    No matter how many movies I list, though, I’m bound to miss some, so tell us your favorite crime movies of the 21st century in the comments!

    Featured still from "No Country for Old Men" via Paramount Vantage

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