Goodfellas turns 30: looking back at 8 gangster movies that we couldn't refuse

Goodfellas turns 30: looking back at 8 gangster movies that we couldn't refuse

As far back as we can remember, we've always loved Goodfellas. Martin Scorsese's masterpiece has not aged a day since it was released on 19th September 1990. Routinely cited as one of the best films of all time, its cautionary tale of the seemingly irresistible life of organised crime tackled all the tropes of the gangster genre with a sardonic sense of dark humour, and cemented its place in cinematic history in the process.

To celebrate Goodfellas' 30th birthday, we've added it to some infamous company, presenting 8 gangster films that wise guys and girls should definitely not miss.  


1. Goodfellas (1990)

Starting with Henry Hill's (Ray Liotta) wide-eyed dreams of the gangster lifestyle in 1950s Brooklyn, and ending in drug addiction, court cases and witness protection in the 1980s, Scorsese's film is a masterful journey into the most glamorous and vulgar elements of the crime lifestyle. Vastly overshadowing 1990's other supreme gangster flick Miller's Crossing, Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Lorraine Bracco put in portrayals for
the ages.

While all the gangster ingredients are there, the film is more than the sum of its enviable parts, where deep emotional attachments are forged with despicable characters, and a lifestyle that is based on avarice, violence and few morals is made to appear, albeit briefly, like the only goal worth striving for.



2. The Godfather (1972) The Godfather II (1974)

Though influential black-and-white classics Scarface, The Public Enemy and Angels With Dirty Faces established the gangster movie as a Hollywood staple, The Godfather's supremacy seems to make everything that came before it redundant by comparison. Iconic scene follows iconic scene, each exceptional performance is upped by another, and the film is seemingly only bettered by its second act released two
years later.

Based on Mario Puzo's novel, the epic saga of the Corleone crime family's rise from obscurity in a Sicilian village to prestige in New York and tyrannical power in Nevada covers six hours of the most majestic and absorbing cinema every created. With all-time great performances from a veteran Marlon Brando and new blood Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola's creations really are the quintessential movies you
cannot refuse.



3. Scarface (1983)

Swapping the composed, calculating Michael Corleone in The Godfather for the brash and barbarous Tony Montana, Al Pacino's cocaine-ravaged crime lord is another unforgettable icon of the gangster genre. Brian De Palma's retelling of the 1932 Howard Hawks movie is another rags to riches tale of the American Dream going horribly wrong, with the violent, bloody finale seeing Montana's come crashing down.

Met with confusion upon its release but gaining colossal cult status since, the film packs in the jolts and quotes as the Cuban criminal ascends through the Miami underground only to be undone by his own greed
and power.



4. Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

An epic on the scale of the first two Godfather films combined, Sergio Leone's final piece is both beautiful and brutal, clear and confusing. Told in four hours that briskly skip by, Once Upon A Time In America follows a quartet of Jewish gangsters from their formative years during Prohibition-era New York to an unlikely reunion in 1968. Told through the eyes of Robert de Niro's Noodles, who starts and ends the film in an opium haze, the film leaves you questioning whether his memories of fighting the police, bootlegging, and committing robbery and sexual assault alongside his friends were all just a dream.



5. Boyz N The Hood (1991)

Alongside New Jack City that appeared to great acclaim in the same year, Boyz N The Hood turns the crime genre's focus towards black American communities with revolutionary results. A coming-of-age drama rather than a gangster flick centring on South Central Los Angeles' notorious gang culture, John Singleton's film follows a young man (Cuba Gooding Jr.) as he looks to escape the harsh environment through furthering his education and appreciating the value of respect.

While dodgy dealings and bullets are all part of the tapestry, the film adds a sense of compassion to the oft-demonised hood and the people hoping to escape its clutches, with rapper Ice Cube launching his film career in solid fashion.



6. City Of God (2002)

America doesn't have a monopoly on gangster films, with directors from around the world portraying their own country's issues with organised crime in often spectacular fashion. We could have chosen Italy's Gomorrah (2008), Indonesia's explosive The Raid 2 (2014) or Hong Kong's Internal Affairs (2002), but we've opted for the Oscar-nominated City Of God that came out of Brazil to take the world by storm.

Our storyteller is Rocket, an aspiring photographer who sees the twists and turns of crime in Rio de Janiero from the late 1960s to 1980s, along with the rise and fall of its main players. The documentary style is further enhanced by the fact that the cast is primarily made up of residents of the Cidade de Deus favela from where the film takes its name. An authentic, visceral experience.




7. The Departed (2006)

Adapted from the Infernal Affairs series, The Departed finally saw Scorsese winning the Best Director Oscar on his sixth attempt. Although at the time it was seemed to be a conciliatory gesture for the veteran filmmaker, time has verified The Departed's initial praise. Following the fortunes of moles Matt Damon and Leonardo Di Caprio after they're placed in the police and Irish mob respectively, the action and intrigue unfolds gradually on the streets of Boston, with the law trying to keep up with Jack Nicholson's hilarious but ruthless Frank Costello.

With memorable showings from the main trio, as well as the supporting cast of Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg and Vera Farmiga, the constant tension and releases that punctuate the 151-minute running time never dull with repeated viewings.



8. Legend (2015)

British cinema is overflowing with great gangster flicks, particularly those based around London's meanest streets. But this story of the capital's most famous criminals the Kray twins trumps the other frontrunners, including Get Carter, Sexy Beast and Guy Ritchie's best. Starring as both the stylish, charming Reggie and his volatile, challenged twin brother Ronnie, Tom Hardy flourishes in his portrayal of the infamous brothers, who dominated London's shady underground during the 1960s.

Often hilarious but at other times harrowing, Brian Helgeland's modern classic embodies all the traits and poisoned chalice themes of the genre with a nostalgic swinging '60s vibe.



What's your favourite gangster film? What have we missed off the list? Let us know by tweeting @Cineworld