This article was updated in October 2019.
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.
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.
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.
One of Quentin Tarantino’s less explosive 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.
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.
One of Martin Scorsese's earliest films, 1973's Mean Streets also marks the first time Scorsese worked with Robert De Niro. The gritty picture follows a low-level gangster in New York's Little Italy named Charlie (played by Harvey Keitel). Charlie's dead set on making a name for himself in the criminal underworld. But he's also a man torn between his ambition and personal affairs, from his secret relationship with Teresa and his crisis of faith to his doomed relationship with the erratic Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro).
Twenty-five years after it first exploded onto the screen in 1994, Quentin Tarantino's hyper-stylized, hyper-violent crime movie remains as thrilling as ever. A series of interconnecting vignettes play out across the streets of greater Los Angeles, from a pair of philosophical hitmen on their way to complete a job to a washed-up boxer looking for one last score and two skittish robbers trying to hold up a diner.
This 2004 British film is based off of J.J. Connolly’s novel of the same name. London criminal XXXX (Daniel Craig) is trying to leave his life as a cocaine dealer behind. Before XXXX can gracefully exit his illegitimate career, mob boss Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) gives him one final job: Locate the missing daughter of one of Price’s associates. With millions of dollars worth of ecstasy, the Serbian mafia, and double-crossers in his way, getting out of the drug business is easier said than done.
The dark Netflix original The Outsider centers around the Yakuza gang post-World War II. In 1954, an American soldier, Nick Lowell (Jared Leto), sits in a desolate prison in Osaka, Japan. When Nick stops fellow inmate and Yakuza clan member Kiyoshi (Tadanobu Asano) from being hanged to death, Kiyoshi and the Yakuza repay Nick by orchestrating his release from prison. However, upon gaining his freedom, Nick finds himself immersed in the gang, taking on jobs and adopting their brutal nature.
This intense Martin Scorsese favorite took home four Oscars in 2007. In this film, a Boston Irish mob boss, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), plants Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) as a mole within the Special Investigations Unit of the Massachusetts State Police. Meanwhile, an undercover cop, Billy Costigan (Leonardo Dicaprio), is sent to infiltrate Costello’s empire of organized crime. As Sullivan and Costigan learn of the existence of one another, it becomes a race to uncover the identity of their organization’s respective breach.
Nicolas Cage reprises his role as the sleazy mobster Eddie King from the 1993 movie Deadfall. However, in this film, we follow the brothers Mikey (Johnathan Schaech) and JP Lindel (Adrian Grenier). Throughout their lives, JP has proven himself to be the “good” brother, while Mikey is framed as being the “screw up.” When Eddie King takes Mikey for ransom, JP has to loosen his morals to get his brother back. This action thriller also features John Cusack as a detective and old friend of the Lindel brothers.
The 2019 Netflix Italian-French crime drama The Ruthless tells the compelling and action-filled story of Santo Russo, who is portrayed by Riccardo Scamarcio in the film. Though Russo eventually becomes a notorious criminal in Milan, his journey begins with his start as a rebellious teenager. In the economic excess of the 1980s, viewers follow Russo’s highs and lows within the fearsome ‘ndrangheta Mafia. Full of robberies, kidnappings, and heroin, this film ticks all the necessary boxes for gritty gangster movies.
Revenge of the Green Dragons
Released in 2014, Revenge of the Green Dragons is actually based on a New Yorker article which detailed the New York City gang life of Chinese Americans in the 80s and 90s. In this film, two young Chinese immigrants, Sonny (Justin Chon) and Steven (Kevin Wu), work their way through the ranks of the Chinatown gang “The Green Dragons.” As the two of them are brought into violence and trained to kill, they garner the attention of the New York City police.
New Jersey police detective Nick Cassidy (Dolph Lundgren) is in the middle of investigating an international human trafficking ring when his wife and daughter fall victim to the Serbian crime boss Viktor Dragovic (Ron Perlman). Determined to bring Dragovic to justice, Cassidy follows him to Thailand, where he teams up with Thai agent Tony Vitayakul (Tony Jaa). Meanwhile, Cassidy is viewed as unhinged and is under pursuit by FBI Agent Eddie Reed (Michael Jai White). Balancing personal tragedy and global scale crime, Skin Trade delivers action and intrigue.
Kills on Wheels
This Hungarian film brings elements of comedy into the gritty scape of gangster cinema. The story features two disabled actors— Zoltán Fenyvesi and Ádám Fekete— in the roles of Zolika and Barba, roommates in a care facility who are taken under the wing of paralyzed hitman Rupasov (Szabolcs Thuróczy). Kills on Wheels exhibits a tenuous grasp on reality as it bounces between addressing the very real challenges and pain experienced by wheelchair users and Zolika and Barba’s dubious involvement in the Serbian crime world.
Featured still from "The Ruthless" via BiBi Film