1)The Godfather (1972)
For me, it is the greatest film ever made. It is simply flawless. Director Coppola paints a chilling portrait of the Sicilian clan’s rise and near fall from power in America, masterfully balancing the story between the Corleone’s family life and the ugly crime business in which they are engaged.
2) The Godfather-II (1974)
The continuing saga of the Corleone crime family tells the story of a young Vito Corleone growing up in Sicily and in 1910s New York; and follows Michael Corleone in the 1950s as he attempts to expand the family business into Las Vegas, Hollywood and Cuba.
3) Taxi Driver (1976) (click for my detailed review)
Martin Scorsese exposes the fascinating, mysterious and violent underworld of New York’s Mafia families through the life of insider Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) as he rises from small time thug to mobster under the guidance of Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) in this searing, epic crime drama based on the chilling true-life best seller Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi.
5) Casino (1995)
Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci star in director Martin Scorsese’s riveting look at how blind ambition, white-hot passion and 24-karat greed toppled an empire. Las Vegas, 1973, is the setting for this fact-based story about the Mob’s multimillion-dollar casino operation, where fortunes and lives were made and lost with a roll of the dice.
6) Bronson (2008) (click for my detailed review)
7) Heat (1995) (click for my detailed review)
8) Thief (1981) (click for my detailed review)
Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones star in this powerful epic drama from Steven Soderbergh about the high-stakes, high-risk world of the drug trade.
10) The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
Aging Boston gunrunner Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum) is looking at several years of jail time for a hold-up if he doesn’t funnel information to Dave Foley (Richard Jordan), an ATF agent. Eddie buys some guns from another gunrunner, Jackie Brown (Steven Keats), then gives him up to Foley, but the agent isn’t satisfied. Conflicted, Eddie decides to also give up the gang of bank robbers he’s been supplying, only to find that Foley already knows about them, and the mob believes Eddie snitched.
11) Le Samourai (1967)
Hit man Jef Costello (Alain Delon) goes through an elaborate set of rituals before carrying out a hit on a nightclub owner. Always thorough and cool in his job, Costello is disconcerted to discover a witness to the killing, the club’s female piano player. But before he can act, the police arrest him in a sweep of suspects. Released when the main witness does not come forward, Costello goes from being the hunter to the hunted, trailed by the determined police as well as his crime bosses.
12) Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
When French criminal Corey (Alain Delon) gets released from prison, he resolves to never return. He is quickly pulled back into the underworld, however, after a chance encounter with escaped murderer Vogel (Gian Maria Volonte). Along with former policeman and current alcoholic Jansen (Yves Montand), they plot an intricate jewel heist. All the while, quirky Police Commissioner Mattei (Bourvil), who was the one to lose custody of Vogel, is determined to find him.
13) Le Doulos (1962) (click for my detailed review)
An escaped con (Lino Ventura) becomes involved with a double-crossing gang planning to steal two tons of gold from an armored truck. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.
15) Le Trou (1960)
Four prison inmates (Michel Constantin, Raymond Meunier, Jean Keraudy, Philippe Leroy) have been hatching a plan to literally dig out of jail when another prisoner, Claude Gaspard (Marc Michel), is moved into their cell. They take a risk and share their plan with the newcomer. Over the course of three days, the prisoners and friends break through the concrete floor using a bed post and begin to make their way through the sewer system – yet their escape is anything but assured. Directed by Jacques Becker.
16) Touchez pas au Grisbi (1954)
Gentleman gangster Max (Jean Gabin) and his partner, Riton (René Dary), pull off their last, most successful heist and find themselves comfortable enough to retire in the style they enjoy. However, Max confides the details of the theft to his younger mistress, Josey (Jeanne Moreau) — who has secretly taken up with ambitious young rival gangster Angelo (Lino Ventura). Angelo then has Riton kidnapped and demands the stash of gold as ransom, which threatens Max’s dreams of the perfect retirement. Directed by Jacques Becker.
17) Nine Queens (2000)
Nine Queens is the story of two small-time swindlers, Juan (Gastón Pauls) and Marcos (Ricardo Darín), who team up after meeting in a convenience store and become involved in a half million-dollar deal. As the deceptions and duplicity mount, it becomes more and more difficult to figure out who is conning whom, and we begin to ask ourselves, “Who isn’t a thief?”
18) Pickpocket (1959)
Michel (Martin La Salle) takes up pickpocketing on a lark and is arrested soon after. His mother dies shortly after his release, and despite the objections of his only friend, Jacques (Pierre Leymarie), and his mother’s neighbor Jeanne (Marika Green), Michel teams up with a couple of petty thieves in order to improve his craft. With a police inspector (Jean Pélégri) keeping an eye on him, Michel also tries to get a straight job, but the temptation to steal is hard to resist.
19) Drunken Angel (1948)
The chaotic worlds of the Japanese Mafia (Yakuza) and an alcoholic doctor collide in this film noir classic from Akira Kurosawa. Gangster Toshiro Mifune visits doctor Takashi Shimura, after an unfortunate incident with a bullet. The doctor, who despises the Yakuza, discovers the young man is suffering from tuberculosis, a disease symbolic of what is happening to the doctor and the community he serves. Facing his own anger and fear, the doctor aligns himself with the gangster’s world.
20) Elevator to the Gallows (1958)
Florence (Jeanne Moreau) is married to the wealthy arms dealer Simon Carala (Jean Wall), but is carrying on a torrid affair with one of her husband’s employees, Julien (Maurice Ronet). Julien daringly climbs into Simon’s office on a rope, kills him and leaves unnoticed. However, Julien accidentally leaves the rope at the crime scene and realizes he must retrieve it. On his way out, he becomes stuck in the building’s elevator. But he soon finds that his bad luck is just beginning.
21) Les Tontons Flingueurs (1963)
In this French gangster-comedy, former criminal Fernand Naudin (Lino Ventura) must leave his peaceful existence behind after being contacted by a dying friend, a renowned gangster with some unfinished business. Reluctantly drawn back into the mob world, Naudin inadvertently incurs the wrath of local thugs, including the imposing Raoul Volfoni (Bernard Blier), and must return to his gun-toting, law-breaking ways in order to survive a series of attempts on his life.
22) City of God (2002)
In the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s, two young men choose different paths. Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) is a budding photographer who documents the increasing drug-related violence of his neighborhood. José “Zé” Pequeno (Leandro Firmino da Hora) is an ambitious drug dealer who uses Rocket and his photos as a way to increase his fame as a turf war erupts with his rival, “Knockout Ned” (Seu Jorge). The film was shot on location in Rio’s poorest neighborhoods.
23) Pulp Fiction (1994)
Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) are hitmen with a penchant for philosophical discussions. In this ultra-hip, multi-strand crime movie, their storyline is interwoven with those of their boss, gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) ; his actress wife, Mia (Uma Thurman) ; struggling boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) ; master fixer Winston Wolfe (Harvey Keitel) and a nervous pair of armed robbers, “Pumpkin” (Tim Roth) and “Honey Bunny” (Amanda Plummer).
24) Mean Streets (1973)
A slice of street life in Little Italy among lower echelon Mafiosos, unbalanced punks, and petty criminals. A small-time hood gets in over his head with a vicious loan shark. In an attempt to free himself from the dangers of his debt, he gets help from a friend who is also involved in criminal activities.
25) Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
The most successful foreign language film of 2014 to date in the U.S., Gangs of Wasseypur is director/writer/producer Anurag Kashyap’s ambitious and extraordinary blood-and-bullets fueled two-parter crime saga that charts seventy years in the lives and spectacular deaths of two mafia-like families fighting for control of the coal-mining town of Wasseypur, India. Inspired by the real-life exploits of local gangs and beginning with the bandit-like career of Shahid Khan (Jaideep Ahlawat) in the 1940s, the film follows the ruthless rise of his son Sardar (a brilliant Manoj Bajpayee) and his offspring, the surreally-named Danish, Perpendicular and Definitive Khans and their numerous wives and girlfriends. I would call it India’s answer to City of God.