The Mafia/Gangster Movie Genre
Last week while on Twitter, somebody tweeted they were watching Donnie Brasco for the first time. We briefly tweeted back and forth about how amazing that movie is and realized just how great mafia movies are. Today we would like to mention some of our favourite movies of that genre.
1. The Godfather is considered to be the best mafia/mobster/gangster movie ever made. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, James Caan, & Robert Duvall are just a handful of the spectacular cast in this movie. With a running time of 175 minutes, (five minutes short of three hours!), The Godfather is simply a masterpiece. Marlon Brando plays Victor Corleone who is the “don” of the Corleone family. Al Pacino plays Michael Corleone, Victor’s son who then takes over for the family after Victor passes away. The Godfather showed everyone how the mafia operates from the gangsters perspective. Critics love this movie and consider it to be the best of its genre and to some, the best movie ever made. There were two sequels, The Godfather: Part 2 & The Godfather Part 3 all which follow the family as it changes leaders and all the trials and tribulations of the mafia lifestyle. All three movies are a must see.
2. Scarface also stars Al Pacino playing the role of Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee that takes over the underworld of Miami. This is a remake of the 1932 movie with the same name. Tony Montana and his best friend, Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer) overtake the criminal world in Miami in a short amount of time. They arrive from Cuba without any money and work there way up the underground ladder. They start off as dishwashers in a small restaurant and quickly go from carrying out hits on people to having their own empire. Scarface shows the rise and fall of a crime lord. He loses his wife, best friend (which Tony shoots), his workers, and in the end, he loses his life. Scarface runs for a total of 170 minutes, just ten minutes shy of three hours.
3. Pulp Fiction written by Quentin Tarantino was a surprise hit when it was first released. Starring Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Travolta (who’s career was rejuvenated because of his role as Vincent Vega). Pulp Fiction is structured around three different stories that all tie in together however since Quentin Tarantino favours a non-linear narrative, each story is out of sequence. Violence, suggestive language, and humour all play a vital role in this movie. The banter between Vincent Vega (Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Jackson) leaves you laughing uncontrollably, ironic since they are both hitmen. There is so much going on in this movie one has to watch it to understand how brilliant it really is. The soundtrack, the funny one-liners, and the characters will instantly make this one of your favourite movies. Most of us learned what a “quarter-pounder with cheese” is called in France because of Pulp Fiction.
4. Donnie Brasco, based on a true story, stars Johnny Depp as Donnie Brasco, (real name Joe Pistone) who is an undercover FBI agent sent to infiltrate the New York Bonanno crime family. Donnie is a jewel “expert” and wins the respect of Lefty Ruggiero, played by none other than acting legend, Al Pacino. Lefty vouches for Donnie and is allowed into their network. As the story unfolds, Donnie becomes more intertwined in the underground world and becomes more like Donnie the gangster than Joe the FBI agent. The FBI decide they have enough evidence to charge the Bonanno family with crimes of extortion, gambling, and murder. They abruptly stop the undercover sting and get Joe out of harms way. The acting and the story in Donnie Brasco is so intriguing and so intense, you will feel sorry for Lefty by the end of the movie.
5. Carlito’s Way also stars Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante. Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo, and Luis Guzman star alongside Al Pacino is this mafia movie classic. Carlito is a Puerto Rican ex-con that vows to lead a clean lifestyle. Once he is out of prison, Carlito decides to own a night club from money he took from a drug deal that went wrong and finds himself back in the life of crime. Carlito reluctantly assists in a prison break that also goes the wrong way. He then decides it’s best to leave town with his girlfriend, Gail, (played by Penelope Ann Miller). A chase ensues as Italian gangsters go after Carlito. We don’t want to give the ending away so we will stop here but it is highly recommended to watch this movie. Al Pacino gives another great performance.
There are so many great mafia movies to watch in your home theater. These five are just some of our favourites of this genre. If you have not seen any of these or have only seen a few, we recommend a night in with any of these five choices.