Gangsters, mobsters, and crime bosses, oh my. A genre born out of the dark world of organized crime, gangster movies have been thrilling audiences for years. Ripe with violence and crime, mobster films never fail to entertain.
With everything from classic mob flicks to international crime fare, here are the best gangster movies on Netflix. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
With an all-star cast and the award-winning direction of Martin Scorsese, The Departed was an instant hit. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) serves in Massachusetts' Special Investigations Unit that specializes in organized crime. Yet Sullivan leads a double life: He secretly works as a mole to ruthless Irish crime boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Meanwhile, Boston cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes undercover to infiltrate Costello's inner circle and bring down his criminal operation. Before long both sides—the police and the criminals—realize they have a mole in their midst, and Sullivan and Costigan must uncover one another’s identities to save their own lives.
Kill the Irishman
An adaptation of To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia, Kill the Irishman is based on the life of Irish-American gangster Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson). Greene, a corrupt longshoreman, is elected to serve as the president of the dock workers’ union, but his rise to power leads to his criminal activities being exposed. After receiving a plea bargain, Greene rises through the ranks of Cleveland’s underworld. Despite his growing list of criminal ties, Greene tries his best to help Irish-Americans in need, earning the nickname “The Robin Hood of Collinwood.” As his list of his allies grows, so does his list of enemies.
Based on Mario Puzo's novel of the same name, The Godfather is the first in a critically-acclaimed series. Named the second-best movie of all time by the American Film Institute, the classic film finally has made its debut on Netflix. In the movie, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), the son of mob boss Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), reluctantly joins the family business. He is soon pulled into the dark world of organized crime and must continue to make dramatic sacrifices in order to protect his family. Will they be enough to save his loved ones, or will his dramatic actions lead him to lose the love of his life?
The Godfather: Part II
Considered by many to be the best in the series, The Godfather Part II is both a prequel and a sequel to its predecessor. Half the film follows Michael’s life after the events of the first film. The other half follows a young Vito (played by Robert De Niro) as he travels from his childhood home in Sicily to the world of organized crime in New York City. As Vito rises in the ranks of organized crime, Michael pays the price of getting involved in his father’s world.
The Godfather: Part III
In the third installment, Michael is older, but continues to struggle with his role in the Mafia. He’s lost too much to stay in the business, but the idea of the Corleone family going legit isn’t sitting well with the rest of the family or the other families with whom they do business. While mourning the end of his marriage and struggling with the idea of leaving the world of organized crime, Michael must consider his nephew’s romantic interest in his daughter. The finale to this phenomenal series is filled with blood, betrayal, and an unforgettable ending.
Welcome to the 70s. Mafia associate Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is sent to Las Vegas to run the Tangiers Casino. Sam soon doubles the casino’s profits. Impressed, the Mafia sends Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) and Frankie Marino (Frank Vincent) as muscle to protect the operation. In the meantime, Sam has fallen in love with Ginger (Sharon Stone), a con artist and a former prostitute and by some miracle, he convinces her to marry him. Sam thinks he has it all, but just as quickly he rose, he begins to fall. There’s a reason they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Riphagen is based on the true story of Dries Riphagen, a Dutch gangster who collaborated with the Nazis. Riphagen was responsible for sending many Jewish people to concentration camps, all while conning them into giving him their belongings in the process. Starring Jeroen van Koningsbrugge as the titular character, the film tells the story of Riphagen’s cons, crimes, and betrayals, following him through the aftermath of the war. Unfortunately, the collaborator and criminal was never brought to justice for the hundreds of deaths he caused. This new addition to Netflix is as entertaining as it is disturbing.
City of God
This critically acclaimed Brazilian film from 2002 tracks the growth of organized crime in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Spanning the 1960s to the 1980s, City of God follows two boys who are born into poverty but choose wildly different paths: one becomes a photographer while the other enters into Rio's criminal underbelly.
One of Quentin Tarantino’s lesser-known films, Jackie Brown is an adaptation on Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch. Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a flight attendant who uses her job as a cover to smuggle money from Mexico to the U.S. for gangster Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). When one of Ordell's lackeys is arrested, he reveals Jackie’s secret to the authorities. She is arrested and refuses to cut a deal. Ordell fears she will turn on him and attempts to kill her but is caught off guard when she pulls out a gun in return. Refusing to take sides, Jackie is thinking only of herself and how she could take off with the money. In Jackie Brown, Tarantino puts his own spin on the classic gangster film.
Based on Nicolai Lilin’s semi-autobiographical novel Siberian Education: Growing Up in a Criminal Underworld, Deadly Code is the story of two young boys, Kolyma (Arnas Fedaravicius) and Gagarin (Vilius Tumalavicius), who are raised by Koylma’s grandfather (John Malkovich). They live in a secluded area of Siberia where a group of criminals lives by their own moral code. In this lawless region, women, children, and animals are off-limits, but basically everything else is fair game. Gagarin is eventually caught and imprisoned. When he is released, he finds that everything has changed–and he is now at odds with Kolyma.
Gangs of New York
Martin Scorsese’s sweeping historic gangster flick Gangs of New York focuses on Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), the son of Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson). Priest is the boss of a Irish Catholic gang. When the patriarch is murdered, young Amsterdam is sent to an orphanage. Sixteen years later, Amsterdam returns to the Five Points district in New York City to avenge his father’s murder. His father’s murderer, William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), is the leader of the rival gang and now controls the entirely of the Five Points. Knowing that the only way to get vengeance is by penetrating Bill's inner circle, Amsterdam develops an elaborate plot to grow close to the dangerous leader. A combination of a classic crime film and a period drama, Gangs of New York tells a grand and gripping story of revenge and weaves in the social issues of 1860s New York City.
Featured still from "The Godfather: Part II" via Paramount Pictures