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.
Robert Scorese’s epic based on the mob memoir I Heard You Paint Houses is a must-watch for any gangster movie fan. Starring some of crime drama’s most beloved actors (De Niro, Pacino, Pesci) plus more recent up-and-comers like Jesse Plemons and Bobby Cannavale, this three and a half hour film follows the supposed crimes of Frank Sheeran. Although some of the claims made by Sheeran seem wildly untrue, the ride through mob history is one well worth the watch.
This 2015 films stars two Tom Hardys as Reggie and Ron Kray, twins that ruled London’s East End in the 1950s and 60s. Leaders of “The Firm”, the film focuses on the two as they begin to lose touch with their humanity. Unusually focused on character for a gangster movie, Legend is a showcase for Hardy’s acting abilities.
Loosely based on real-life Mexican-American mob boss Rodolfo Cadena, American Me explores over 30 years of Chicano gang life. As violent as it is heartfelt, this movie is not only interested in portraying the horrors of gang life, but also in pleading with its audience to make social change.
The Shadow of Violence
This Irish crime family drama often feels like it may drift into pat observations, but manages to remain thoughtful and surprising thanks in equal part to its script and its stars, Cosmo Jarvis and Barry Keoghan. After leaving prison, former boxer Douglas “Arm” Armstrong is hired by a drug-dealing family to dispense what they call justice. But as he gets further into the crime-ridden world, Arm finds himself faced with difficult choices.
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.
The Drug King
This South Korean crime drama centers around the real story of Lee Doo-Sam, a massive drug smuggler in Busan during the 1970s. Violent, funny, and well-crafted, exploring gangsterdom through South Korean eyes will put a new twist on the familiar for American viewers.
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.
Featured still from "The Ruthless" via BiBi Film