The gun-blazing world of organized crime has long captured the fascination of audiences worldwide. The tales of treachery, ruthlessness, and power struggles have kept us spellbound for generations, and the genre of mafia movies has produced some of the most impressive films in the annals of cinema. From the inception of filmmaking to the present day, filmmakers have delved into the murky depths of the criminal underworld, creating unforgettable characters and intricate storylines that keep us hooked until the very end. With that out there, here are the five best mafia movies ever made.
Without a single fabric of doubt, “Goodfellas,” directed by veteran filmmaker Martin Scorcese, starring Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro in the lead role, is the best mafia-classic ever made. The film chronicles Henry Hill’s ascent through the echelons of the underworld and subsequent fall from grace, during which time he flips against his former colleagues. The film takes premise in the 1950s, with a teenage Henry Hill hooked by the neighborhood gang and their way of life. After striking up a friendship with the veteran mobster Jimmy Conway, he starts doing menial tasks for him. Henry’s recklessness and the scrutiny of the police rise in tandem with the size of his illegal enterprise. He ultimately gets apprehended and is probably never going to see the outside of the prison cell. With no choice left, Henry decides to blow the whistle and share his knowledge of the mafia’s inner workings.
The film’s authenticity and meticulousness to detail make it stand out. The film is very accurate in its depiction of organized crime’s inner workings, capturing the brutality, graft, and allegiance that define the underworld. The film also shows the effect that this way of life has on the protagonists, demonstrating how their arrogance and anxiety overtake them and how their tragic flaw leads to their untimely demise.
“Casino” is a 1995 release, directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring Robert De Niro in the lead role. The film chronicles the ups and downs of gambling mogul Ace Rothstein, who becomes famous for turning the failing Tangiers Hotel and Casino into an enormous multimillion-dollar boom. Nicky, Ace’s pal, is a brutal executioner with links to the underworld. Unfortunately, law enforcement quickly grew conscious and aware of their sudden rise to power and began looking into their actions. As the probe heats up, Ace’s private life begins to fall apart. Ace also develops feelings for Ginger McKenna, a con artist who struggles with substance abuse, which later contributes to his already mounting problems.
The film captures the sparkle and glitter of Sin City while also revealing the brutality and depravity that fuel the city’s prosperity. The film also benefits from excellent acting from its ensemble cast, especially from De Niro, Stone, and Pesci, all of whom offer new dimensions to their respective roles.
The Untouchables (1987)
“The Untouchables,” directed by Brian De Palma, sets the stage in the dark alleys of Chicago during the Prohibition era, where corruption and organized crime run rampant. Elliot Ness is a federal agent tasked with eradicating illegal imports and gambling activities in the city, all of which are under the tight grip of Al Capone. In his quest for justice, Ness enlists the help of a group of trustworthy allies, among them being Jim Malone, a hardened veteran in the art of street fighting who shows Ness the brutal realities of taking on the criminal underworld.
“The Untouchables” is a standout in the genre of mafia films for numerous reasons. The most significant part being the top-notch performances given by the talented cast, with Connery standing out in particular, earning himself an Academy Award nomination for his impressive portrayal of Malone. But what truly sets this film apart is the remarkable character development, largely driven by the captivating interplay between Connery and Costner.
Road To Perdition (2002)
“Road to Perdition,” helmed by Sam Mendes and starring Tom Hanks, chronicles the exploits of Michael Sullivan, a hired gun in the service of the powerful Irish-American crime boss John Rooney, during the harsh times of the Great Depression in the American Midwest. Sullivan has grown up under Rooney’s care, and the two share a bond that transcends the relationship of mere employer and employee. But when Sullivan’s son bears witness to Rooney’s unstable offspring, their once-tight relationship is strained to the breaking point. The inevitable result is a brutal power struggle that leaves no one unscathed and tests Sullivan’s loyalty to the limit.
One could go forever on why “Road to Perdition” is considered a classic among mafia films. To begin with, the movie has excellent acting all around. Tom Hanks, in specific, gives a moving portrayal of a man divided between his allegiance to his employer against his devotion to his loved ones. Newman gives a fantastic portrayal of the aged Mafia leader, rendering the role more nuanced and interesting than a stereotypical mobster.
The Godfather (1972)
“The Godfather,” directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Marlon Brando, and Al Pacino, is the epitome of mafia classics. The movie traces the tumultuous trajectory of the Corleone family’s fortunes in the mid-twentieth century in New York City’s criminal underworld. Vito Corleone is introduced as the head of the powerful family business and a respected figure in the city’s soiled network. Meanwhile, Michael, the family’s oldest son, tries to keep himself separate from the illegal activities of the family, but after his father escapes death at the hands of his competitors, he becomes more involved in the family’s affairs.
The movie’s effects and camerawork are nothing short of breathtaking, with Coppola making effective use of lighting and shadows to establish an exquisite and somber atmosphere. The music, created by Nino Rota, is likewise instantly recognizable and has become an integral part of the movie’s legacy.