Jana B. here,
Some girls are all into sappy romances or heart touchingly saccharine-sweet movies. Movies that sometime contain a troubled family learning to love a curmudgeonly, absent grandparent, or a shattered family recovering from the death of one of its immediate member. Sometimes it’s a pet that waltzes, unexpectedly, into a tumultuous atmosphere that teaches everyone to love more before it’s killed in some unimaginative way.
I hate movies like that. I hate books like that and I hate songs like that. If a member of a family is killed, it better be a mafia family, and I get to look forward to their violent, bloody and evil retribution. I am so fascinated by the inner workings of these ‘families’. I love to see the fronts they use to launder their income and imagine ways I would do it if I was involved.
On the flip side of the pro-mafia coin is to support those that go against them. Sometimes it’s another family. Sometimes it’s not. I can root for the underdog, too. Either way, I want massive amounts of creative bloodshed and a vindictive taste of justice. I drink beer, I love sports and I’m an action movie junkie. Welcome to my top 10 list of Mafia movies.
10. Donnie Brasco – I’m starting my list with a good, solid movie about organized crime and the FBI that tries to bring it down. Johnny Depp and Al Pacino (not his only movie to have a spot on this list) star in a movie that has you pulling for both sides of the law.
“When they send for you, you go in alive, you come out dead, and it’s your best friend that does it”. – Lefty Ruggiero
9. Pulp Fiction – The movie is about the lives that surrounds the mafia head of Marsellus Wallace. His wife, his hit men, his bribed boxer that doesn’t quite take the fall he was paid to take. Watching Vincent Vega blow that back of a dude’s head off in a car is one of the funniest murders I’ve ever seen. John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Ving Rhames are just the tip of the iceberg to this star studded cast.
“Do you know what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in Paris?” – Vincent Vega
8. Scarface – I’m sure the haters are going to jump me for putting the well-loved Tony Montana so far down at #8. But hear me out – I fell in love with Al Pacino as Michael Corleone. Corleone was careful, cold and calculating. He didn’t let anything stand in the way of his love of power. Seeing Pacino playing someone that let his excesses win, just feels wrong to me. Scarface is great for what it was, but I never developed the deep, passionate love for it.
“I kill a communist for fun, but for a green card, I gonna carve him up real nice.” – Tony Montana
7. Next of Kin – Yes, seriously! This one is often overlooked as a genre movie simply because the Kentucky mountain men seem to be what everyone walks away with the most memory of. This is a great movie! This movie has it all, a traditional mountain blood feud, Liam Neeson as a hillbilly, Patrick Swayze as the big city cop, and a 23 year old Ben Stiller. Bonus points for every time I hear the title, the song ‘Brother to Brother’ gets stuck in my head for the next week.
“You ain’t seen bad yet, but it’s coming.” – Truman Gates
6. Reservoir Dogs – The second Quentin Tarantino movie to make the list. A diamond heist gone wrong – honestly, who wants to watch a movie about a heist gone well? The snappy dialogue, false names based on colors and a rat in their ranks, this movie has explosive drama and a really twisted torture scene. These are a few of my favorite things.
“I don’t tip because society says I have to. All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I’ll give them something extra. But this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just doing their job.” – Mr. Pink
5. Boondock Saints 1 and 2 – I’m putting these together as I can’t pick just one. Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus play the roles of Irish brothers turned vigilantes. They begin picking off mafia members while being tracked by an FBI agent, Paul Smecker played by Willem Dafoe. It gets really interesting when the agent starts to think they’re doing the right thing. The second in series sees the brothers out to clear their name when a killing is done with their telltale signature. The MacManus boys take on the mafia in both films and both times they come out on top. These are some of my favorite movies in any genre. Two thumbs way up!
“There was a firefight!” – Paul Smecker
4. The Departed – Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson star in this authentic Martin Scorsese movie. Over the top violence, rats in the police department and in Frank Costello’s Irish gang, each trying to outwit the other to find out true identities are just a few of the layers this movie has. Each character shows their primal survival instinct to come out on top. The trails of deceit converge and the results will shock the hell out of you! This was a perfect American re-make of ‘Infernal Affairs‘ This is another of my all-genre favorites.
“When you decide to be something, you can be it. That’s what they don’t tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” – Frank Costello
3. Goodfellas – Another Martin Scorsese masterpiece. Henry Hill, along with friends, climb the mafia ladder. Betrayal comes from all sides and the bodies start piling up. Ray Liotta is at his all-time acting best as Hill, Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro leave impressions in this movie that do not go away over time. Definitely a classic for very good reason
“For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster. To me that was better than being president of the United States. To be a gangster was to own the world.” – Henry Hill
2. The Untouchables – What would a list of mafia movie greats be without this inclusion? Kevin Costner stars as the unflinching law-man Eliot Ness and Robert DeNiro as the quintessential gangster, Al Capone. Sean Connery is memorable as the experienced voice that helps to bring Capone down, Jim Malone. The Untouchables is Highly stylized, full of gunfights and sheer nerve. This title definitely deserves a listing on ANY mafia movie top 10 list.
“You just fulfilled the first rule of lawful enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson. – Jim Malone
1. The Godfather – As if any other movie would rest at #1. Of course The Godfather is my favorite mafia movie. Marlon Brando gives a remarkable performance that is seconded only by the jowls that hang from his cheeks. In addition to Brando, Al Pacino made history with his portrayal of Michael Corleone, heir to the Corleone family. James Caan plays the hot-tempered Sonny and Robert Duvall is the adopted brother turned lawyer, Tom Hagen. There are so many excellent scenes that make this a classic in every way. Lines like “Leave the gun, take the cannoli”, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” live in history for the scenes you associate them with.
The Godfather sequels deserve their own ranking on this list, but I wanted to push myself to rank only 10. So, now I’m going to mention a few other titles that need attention when we’re talking about mafia movies.
The Sopranos – This series from HBO gave us a look into The Soprano family. Tony Soprano was shrewd not only in his business, but as a father, and especially a husband. The characters that intersect with Tony’s and their actions will stay with me for a long time. I learned that bowling ball bags are not just to tote a ball, butcher shops don’t always only process animals and going for a drive near the Pine Barrens with Silvio should always make you scared.
Shark Tale – The animated tale of the son of a shark mob boss is dead. A vegetarian shark and a fish try to use the situation to exploit their own agendas.
Empire Boardwalk –Another HBO hit with Steve Buscemi in the cast. Buscemi was Tony B. in The Sopranos. Empire Boardwalk is set in Atlantic City in the 20’s during prohibition. Nucky Thompson plays both sides of the fence with politicians and mobsters alike as the treasurer of AC, New Jersey where bootlegging is a way of life.
Oscar – This comedy stars Sylvester Stallone, Peter Riegert, Tim Curry and Vincent Spano with an appearance by the great Don Ameche. Angelo ‘Snaps’ Provolone promises his father on his death bed that he will give up his life of crime and be a legitimate business man. The hilarious antics are a bit corny, but it’s a movie from my childhood and I still love it.
Road to Perdition – Tom Hanks stars as Mike Sullivan, a skilled hit man for crime boss, John Rooney, played by the amazing Paul Newman. Sullivan’s son witnesses a killing of his. Sullivan goes on the run with his son trying to keep him and his son alive while exacting revenge on those who did him wrong.
So there you have it, my top 10 favorite mafia movies and honorable mentions. Feel free to tell me what I got wrong and what I got right.