The gangster movie came into being as a distinct genre in Prohibition America of the 1920S, when alcohol was banned and racketeers flourished. The crime films of the late 1920s and 1930s were updated to dramatic effect in the mob movies of the 1970s and 1990s. There were complaints that these films endowed gangsters with a certain kind of a glamor. Gangster films were, however, Hollywood most profitable movies.
What to watch:
Little Caesar (Mervyn Leroy, 1931)
Public Enemy (William Wellman, 1931)
Angels With Dirty Faces (Michael Curtiz, 1938)
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
Scarface (Brian De Palma, 1983)
Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)
GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Snatch (Guy Ritchie, 2000)
Road to Perdition (Sam Mendes, 2002) (Bergan, R. 2011. The Film Book: A Complete Guide To The World Of Cinema.)
since you've just answered that question about books, what are some of your favorite movies?
This post will probably be much longer (I’ve seen more movies than read books). I’ll see if I can narrow it down to my very favorites…
Casablanca (1942): This movie is nearly perfect. Things that could be changed to make it perfect: (1) Ilsa refers to Sam as “that boy playing the piano” (could so easily have been fixed); (2) Rick never says goodbye to Sam (after all those years?!); and (3) when Rick tells Victor at the end that Ilsa came to him that one night…majorly awkward. Why not just let it be? Otherwise, terrific. Love the use of actual non-English languages in this one.
About Time (2013): Heartwrenching. May be my favorite by Richard Curtis.
Labyrinth (1986): One of my all-time favorite films featuring one of my all-time favorite artists—or two, actually: David Bowie and Jim Henson. (Also features a score by Trevor Jones, who would go on to score another favorite—Notting Hill—by none other than Richard Curtis!)
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938): Extraordinary. Powerful ending. I’ll never forget the first time I saw it.
Harvey (1950): If there’s one I’d have to recommend out of this entire list, it’s this film. (Having now written the entire list, I stand by this pick. If there’s one to see, it’s Harvey.)
Edward Scissorhands (1990): Tim Burton’s best. Only sour note in this movie is Anthony Michael Hall—or at least the dialogue that was written for him.
Swing Time (1936): The “Mr. Bojangles” number was supposed to be a loving tribute (times were different). Otherwise, what a bizarre, otherworldly story. Fred Astaire appears to be some sort of demigod that can do whatever he wants. This was the first Astaire film I saw, and I’d never seen anything like it before.
Ratatouille (2007): My favorite Pixar (for Remy’s storyline. For me, this movie is all about Remy and Peter O’Toole).
Dr. Strangelove (1964): Waiting for a time for this movie to cease being relevant.
Brazil (1985): Movie had a huge impact on me. The best dystopian ever.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989): May not be Miyazaki’s best or most important, but it’s my favorite. I saw this movie only when Disney re-released it; wish I could’ve seen it and grown up with it as a kid.
The Thin Red Line (1998): Like Brazil, this film also had a huge impact n me when I was younger.
Last Year at Marienbad (1961): The opening sequence to this film absolutely mesmerized me. One of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life.
Harakiri (1962): Man, this movie. Major mindfunk. Shocking.
El Topo (1970): One of the best protest films ever made.
You Can’t Take It With You (1938): Capra’s best.
Flashdance (1983): All the way up to the last scene. There is NOOOOOO reason she should be happy to see that loser.
The Karate Kid (1984): Sorry; too formative.
Top Gun (1986): TOO FORMATIVE!
Blood Sport (1988): I know it’s not good, but… I mean, come on! “What’s the difference if Bruce Springsteen is his shidoshi?!”
High Noon (1952): A western, in a sense, but a truly amazing allegory. Outstanding film.
Drowning by Numbers (1988): Stunning and not too tough to watch. Upon reflection, I think it’s Greenaway’s best. Certainly the one I always want to watch.
Cool Hand Luke (1967): Man, what a movie…
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001): Wes Anderson’s best. This one has it all.
To Sir, with Love (1967): Teaching movies are often too much for me. For example…
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939): Can’t believe how much I cried at the end of this movie.
The Third Man (1949): Amazing film; amazing use of music.
Sullivan’s Travels (1941): If you like meta, this one takes the cake.
My Man Godfrey (1936): May not be the best movie, but such a delight. I’ve seen it over 100 times, thanks to thisallegra.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010): This is basically the story I wanted to write in college—but 10,000 times better. So glad it exists.
D.E.B.S. (2004): Shocking to me how underappreciated and unknown this movie is. “Open to what?”, “Open to love!”
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939): Yeah, it’s that good.
Purple Rose of Cairo (1985): Can an immoral man tell a moral tale? It’s a damn fine film.
Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956): Couldn’t believe how much I laughed at how crazy this movie was. I saw it once, and I’ve been dying to see it again. Reminds me of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, but it’s based on a true story. Just wild.
Smoke Signals (1998): Great performances; great story; bad wig. (But you can forgive the wig.)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): I know there hasn’t been enough time gone by to have the appropriate critical distance, but I really can’t think of a better action film.
So…yeah. That’s some of them. I’ve seen a lot of good movies, and more keep coming by the bucketful. It’s a good era to be alive, that whole 20th-21st century period.