Today’s Hollywood is all about franchise films, comic book heroes, sequels and reboots. They’re fun to watch, but I miss the variety of films that I grew up watching. “Movies I Miss” will be blog series where I reminisce about the film genres that Hollywood has apparently forgotten.
As far back as I can remember I always wanted to watch gangster films.
The gangster world is so elusive to most people that it’s so easy to get fascinated whenever it’s romanticized in films. It’s a world where those who stress loyalty above all are the quickest to betray. It’s where low lifes live the high life and where the very ruthlessness that takes you to the top will ultimately be your downfall. It’s the flip side of the American dream.
So why doesn’t Hollywood make these movies anymore? You think people aren’t interested in them? Fuggedaboutit. It’s true that many mob movies share the same themes and perhaps the common thinking is that there are no more stories to tell. Maybe mob movies just can’t survive when going to the mattresses against blockbuster genres like comic book movies. But it’s all about how creative you can get in telling the stories. Unfortunately, studios appear to have given up trying with just a few gangster flicks such as “Gangster Squad” and “American Gangster” hitting the screens in recent years.
Some of the most memorable films in history are mob films, yet when it comes to creating more of these classics, Hollywood seems to be sleeping with the fishes. But I say there’s still an audience for these films, and I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.
Here are my Top 5 gangster films:
#5 – “Donnie Brasco” (1997)
Whenever I see Johnny Depp and Al Pacino hamming it up with yet another flamboyant, over-the-top performance, I always think about “Donnie Brasco,” a powerful look into the mob lifestyle through the eyes of an undercover FBI agent. Depp and Pacino both deliver subtle, yet powerful, performances that rank among the best in both of their careers.
#4 – “Infernal Affairs” (2002)
You think Oscar-winning “The Departed” is great? Go watch “Infernal Affairs,” the Hong Kong gangster flick it’s based on. With an all-star cast, including Andy Lau, Tony Leung and Anthony Wong, this film tops its American counterpart on all levels and that’s saying a lot.
#3 – “The Godfather” series (1972, 1974, 1990)
You could spend all day quoting these classic films. Director Francis Ford Coppola’s trilogy romanticizes the gangster life like no other, and no true film fan can ignore the immeasurable influence of these films. And who can forget the perfection of this scene from Part I?
#2 – “Scarface” (1983)
There’s so much love for this film because Tony Montana represents the American dream. Well, a really illegal version of it anyway. “Scarface” is the ultimate cautionary tale, yet I’m on board with the hip-hop community who made Tony Montana their idol for the last few decades. Never mind his grisly demise. We all remember Tony Montana for how he lived. Because the only thing in this world that gives orders… is balls. You got that?
#1 – “Goodfellas” (1990)
Director Martin Scorsese is the best when it comes to making gangster movies. He’s given audiences classic films such as “Casino,” “Mean Streets” and “The Departed,” but “Goodfellas” is his best film by far. Based on the true life of gangster Henry Hill, “Goodfellas” takes the audience on a tour of gangster life through Henry’s eyes and ears. The film is just flawless and demands repeat viewings just to appreciate the storytelling and craft. One of the best films ever.