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The American Film Institute defines “gangster films” as a genre that centers on organized crime or maverick criminals in a twentieth century setting. By that awful and vague definition, even a movie like Point Break or Hannibal would be considered a gangster film. The AFI needs to do a better job with its genre definitions.

AFI Top 10 Top 10

AFI's Top 10 Gangster Films

The Godfather

1. The Godfather

Of course The Godfather was going to be at the top of the list. Americans love this movie and with good reason. It’s very good. AFI has previously recognized this movie as #3 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list, #11 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills, #2 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes, #5 on its 100 Years of Film Scores and #2 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

Goodfellas

2. GoodFellas

A lot of people love this overrated, self-indulgent movie by hack Martin Scorcese. Then again, a lot of people voted for George W. Bush twice, so there you go. Must be the same people. This movie does feature a riveting performance by Ray Liotta. Too bad you have to sit through all the gratuitous violence and masturbatory camera movements to watch it. AFI has previously recognized this piece of crap as #94 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list and #92 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Ediition.

The Godfather Part II

3. The Godfather Part II

A rare sequel to a good movie that’s even better than the original. The Corleone family saga continues as does the corruption of the American dream. AFI has previously recognized this movie as #32 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list, #11 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains, #58 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes and #32 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

White Heat

4. White Heat

“Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” Classic James Cagney at his best in one of the great gangster films . AFI has previously honored this movie as #26 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains list and #18 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes list.

Bonnie And Clyde

5. Bonnie and Clyde

Critically reviled at the time because of the extremely violent shoot out at the end, this movie went on to become a big hit and is now considered a classic. Look out for an amusing performance by Gene Wilder and a brilliant one by Gene Hackman. AFI has previously honored this movie as #27 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list, #13 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills list, #65 on its 100 Years…100 Passions list, #32 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains, #41 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes and #42 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

Scarface (1932)

6. Scarface: The Shame Of A Nation (1932)

The Al Pacino movie may be more quotable, but this 1932 Howard Hawks film loosely based on the life of Al Capone is the better movie. Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library Of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant, AFI has previously honored this movie as #47 on its list of 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains.

Pulp Fiction

7. Pulp Fiction

This movie introduced the world to Quentin Tarantino‘s pulpy, pop culture dialogue and revived John Travolta’s career. AFI has previously recognized this film as #95 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list, #53 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills and #94 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

The Public Enemy

8. The Public Enemy

This is the movie that launched James Cagney to stardom and forever typecast him to the public as the tough guy. This movie was also selected to be preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry. AFI has previously honored this movie as #42 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains list.

Little Caesar

9. Little Caesar

“Is this the end of Rico?” Never. This is the third movie on this list to be selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the United States Film Registry. AFI has previously honored this movie as #38 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains and #73 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes.

Scarface (1983)

10. Scarface

One of the most influential movies of all time in the world of hip hop music, this endlessly quotable movie starring Al Pacino as Cuban drug dealer Tony Montana was written by none other than Oliver Stone. AFI has previously honored this movie as #61 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes list.

COMMENTS

Out of all the AFI’s Top 10 Top 10 lists, this is perhaps their best list with only a few blatant mistakes. The Moose would only make a few changes to this list. First, I would eliminate all numerical rankings. Then I would combine The The Godfather and The Godfather Part II into one entry. This would make room for the excellent masterpiece Angels With Dirty Faces. Then finally, the Moose would replace GoodFellas and Pulp Fiction with Donnie Brasco and the David Mamet written The Untouchables.

The gangster genre is a rich genre filled with many great films. Here is a list of great movies that barely missed a spot in the top ten: Touch of Evil, The Sting (by AFI’s definition of a gangster film), Once Upon a Time in America, Black Rain, Get Shorty, and the David Cronenberg movies A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.

Let the Moose know if I’ve missed any great gangster films.










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