Mafia movies, a subcategory of movies on gangsters, are also a subgenre of crime films dealing with organized crime mafia. Particularly in the early films, there is substantial overlap with the noir movie. Popular variants of the genre include Italian Poliziotteschi, Chinese Triad films, japanese movies of the Yakuza and also films of the Indian abyss of Mumbai. In the genre of mafia movies some of the masterpieces to see absolutely.
What Does Mafia Mean
Mafia” is a term that is used to define criminal organizations that have a resemblance to the Italian mafia. The main task of such organizations is to generate profit through illegal trade and crimes with the use of violence. Mafias often participate in illegal activities such as gambling, financial scams, drug trafficking, extortion, blackmail and fraud. Today, the ‘Ndrangheta, originating from the southern Italian area of Calabria, is considered the richest and most powerful mafia in the world. The term “mafia” it was initially used only for the Italian mafia and derives from Sicily, but has actually expanded to incorporate various other similar organizations, e.g. “the Russian mafia” or “the Japanese mafia”.
The term is used informally by the press and the public; criminal companies themselves have their own terms: for example, the Sicilian mafia and related Italian-American mafia describe their companies as “Cosa Nostra”; the “Japanese mafia” calls themselves “Ninkyō dantai” but are much more commonly referred to as “Yakuza” by the public; the “Russian mafia” usually calls itself “Bratva”. The term “mafia” commonly describes the Sicilian mafia or the Italian-American mafia, as well as in some cases Italian organized crime in general: Camorra, ‘Ndrangheta, etc…
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The First Mafia Movies
The American film The Black Hand (1906) is believed to be the first mafia movie. In 1912, D. W. Griffith filmed The Musketeers of Pig Street, a short crime film on the streets of New York City that is said to actually consist of real mobsters as a supporting cast. Some film critics have mentioned Regrowth (1915) as an early mob film.
mafia movies originated in the silent film era but the genre developed in the very early 1930s. The success was due to the financial and social instability caused by the Great Depression, which increased the mafia subculture in the United States. The failure of direct efforts and financial investments to secure some economic protection has led to situations that are mirrored in the wave of mafia movies in Hollywood and also their appeal in a society disillusioned with the American way of life.
Mafia Movies in the 1930s
The years 1931 and 1932 saw the style spawn 3 classic mob films: Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, starring Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, and also Scarface by Howard Hawks with Paul Muni. These films chronicle the rapid growth, as well as the rapid failure, of 3 young mobsters, and also represent the category in its purest form. The mobster in each film faces a ferocious failure told to warn the public of the repercussions of the crime, like a real propaganda for the formation of the masses through cinema. Target markets were usually able to relate to the charming anti-hero. Those who have experienced Depression have had the ability to connect to the personality of the mobster who strives to achieve his position and success, only to subsequently lose everything he has won.
Such films had to consistently end with the main mobster character dying in a storm of bullets in the film’s finale starting with the production code. The main character of the film constantly somehow “deviated” from the standards of American culture. In Little Caesar, it is clearly hinted that Caesar Enrico Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) is gay as he is clearly envious when his handsome friend Joe Massaria (Douglas Fairbanks Jr) seductively dances with his fan Olga (Glenda Farrell), which prompts him to make his first significant mistake which causes his failure. In The Public Enemy, the main character Tom Powers (James Cagney) is a misogynist. In Scarface, Tony Carmonte (Paul Muni) has a thinly veiled incestuous interest in his sister Cesca (Ann Dvorak), which results in her death. Some suggest that mafia movie in its purest form only existed until 1933, when production code limitations conditioned films that didn’t have the same power as their predecessors.
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Here is a list of mafia movies to see, with a clarification: often mafia movies and gangster films are confused and overlapped by both audiences and critics, especially outside Italy, and perceived as a single genre. Even if we insert some American films of the 30s that are more attributable to gangster films for their importance in the origins of the film genre, the mafia movies are something different. Mafia movies focus more on the most famous criminal organizations and their internal dynamics rather than the life of an underworld gangster. Mafia movies focus on the Italian or Italian-American mafia, the Camorra, the Ndrangheta, or the Chinese and Japanese mafia. There is therefore a subtle difference between gangster films and mafia movies.
Little Caesar (1931)
It is a 1931 American pre-Code mafia movie released by Warner Brothers, directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Edward G. Robinson, Glenda Farrell and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The film tells the story of a mobster who rises through the ranks of society until he reaches its upper echelons. The story was adapted from the book of the same name by William R. Burnett. Little Caesar was Robinson’s debut role and immediately established him as a major movie star. The film is often regarded as one of the very first full-fledged mafia movies and continues to be well received by critics. In 2000, Little Caesar was included in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry’s annual selection of 25 films as being considered “culturally, traditionally, or visually noteworthy”.
The Public Enemy (1931)
It is a 1931 American pre-Code mafia movie produced and distributed by Warner Bros. The film was directed by William A. Wellman and starring James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Donald Cook and Joan Blondell. The film tells the story of a boy’s rise in the mafia in Prohibition-era metropolitan America. Supporting actors are Beryl Mercer, Murray Kinnell and Mae Clarke. The screenplay for the film is based on an unpublished book – Beer and Blood by 2 previous journalists, John Bright and Kubec Glasmon – who had actually seen some of Al Capone’s murderous gangs in Chicago. In 1998, The Public Enemy was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as “culturally, traditionally, or visually substantial”.
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Scarface is a 1932 American mafia movie directed by Howard Hawks and produced by Hawks and Howard Hughes. The film’s screenplay, by Ben Hecht, is loosely based on the 1929 book Armitage Trail, inspired by Al Capone. The film stars Paul Muni as Italian immigrant mobster Antonio “Tony” Camonte, a gangster who rises strongly through Chicago’s organized crime, with a supporting cast consisting of George Raft and Boris Karloff. Camonte’s rise to power coincides with his relentless pursuit of his employer’s fiancée, while his sister falls for his best hitman. In clear connection with Capone’s life, a scene portrays a variation of the Valentine’s Day massacre.
In the Name of the Law (1948)
Sicily, 1948: a young magistrate from Palermo is sent as magistrate to Capodarso, a small Sicilian village and, out of love for justice and legality, he finds himself called to fight against numerous social oppressions. His passion will lead him to clash against a notable, Baron Lo Vasto and against the mafia, represented by the farmer Turi Passalacqua and his men. All surrounded by an extremely distrustful and complicit community that prevents its work. Alone against everyone, flanked by the marshal of the Carabinieri regional station and his young friend Paolino, whose barbaric killing will convince him to give up his resignation, will he carry out his fight to the end which consists not only in using the law, but also in teaching its value. A work fascinating in its spectacularity but extremely ambiguous from an ideological point of view, it is an energetic action film, the leader of the Italian civil cinema of the Sixties and the very first western of post-war Italian cinema.
The Magistrate (1959)
The Magistrate is a 1959 mafia movie directed by Luigi Zampa and played by Alberto Sordi, who plays the role of an investigating judge in Milan. The film is a satirical comedy that explores the world of Italian justice at the time.
The plot follows Judge Del Popolo (played by Sordi), who is transferred to a small town in Southern Italy where he has to investigate a murder case. The judge faces many difficulties in trying to get justice due to the corruption and mafia influence on local politics.
The film highlights the contrast between legality and illegality, between justice and injustice, and between Northern and Southern Italy. Del Popolo’s character represents honesty and integrity in justice, but he has to fight against a corrupt system and against the provincial and traditional mentality of Southern Italy.
Il magistrate was a great success in Italy and received several awards, including the Silver Ribbon for best screenplay in 1960. The film is considered one of Alberto Sordi’s masterpieces and helped to increase his reputation as one of the greatest Italian actors of all time.
Mafioso is the film that started the American success of mafia movies. Alberto Sordi provides a remarkable proof of an integrating actor comedy and dramatic. At nearly 60 years old, Mafioso’s themes still resonate today. In the preliminary part of the film, the social and cultural distinctions between North (Milan) and South (Sicily) are effectively represented. From the outfits to the dialogues, everything is masterfully done. In the 2nd part, a tonal change unleashes anguish in Sordi’s character, haunted by the ghost of a life of crime. In Mafioso, the mafia puts an individual into the trap of an evil system.
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Salvatore Giuliano (1962)
Salvatore Giuliano is a 1962 mafia movie by Francesco Rosi. The film examines the circumstances that led to the death of the Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano, discovered in Castelvetrano in the early morning of July 5, 1950. The film was chosen among the 100 Italian films to be preserved. 1950: the body of the infamous outlaw Salvatore Giuliano is discovered in Castelvetrano. A long flashback begins in which the very first post-war years in Sicily are retraced, the birth of the request for independence of Sicily and the first “exploits” of Giuliano, his cousin Gaspare Pisciotta and their criminal gang. Montelepre, Giuliano’s birthplace, is protected by the Carabinieri’s anti-banditry units in an attempt to capture him and Pisciotta. The outlaws strike once again: in 1947 the massacre of Portella della Ginestra takes place and then the narration of the film returns to the discovery of the body of Salvatore Giuliano. Pisciotta was arrested, tried together with his cronies and sentenced to life imprisonment.
We Still Kill the Old Way (1967)
“To Each His Own” is a 1967 Italian mafia movie directed by Elio Petri. The plot of the film takes place in a small town in southern Italy and follows the story of a middle-aged pharmacist, Arturo Manno, played by Gian Maria Volonté, who tries to solve the mysterious murder of three citizens of the town.
The first victim is a lawyer who opposed the construction of a new cemetery, the second is a farmer who had had an affair with the wife of a friend of Arturo’s, while the third is a young man belonging to a local mafia family. Arturo, obsessed with the case, investigates the three murders and tries to find the culprit.
The film deals with themes such as justice, corruption, friendship and revenge, and offers a social critique of the small southern Italian community. The film was appreciated for the direction of Elio Petri, for the photography by Luigi Kuveiller and for the performances of the actors, in particular by Gian Maria Volonté. “To each his own” won the prize for best film at the 1967 Berlin Film Festival and is considered a classic of Italian cinema.
The Day of the Owl (1968)
The Day of the Owl is a 1968 film directed by Damiano Damiani, with Franco Nero and Claudia Cardinale, based on the homonymous book by Leonardo Sciascia. The film, shot in Partinico, used a large international cast, with stars such as Lee J. Cobb, Serge Reggiani and Nehemiah Persoff.
Sicily, 1961. Carabinieri officer Bellodi, from Parma and former partisan, serving in a small town, investigates the murder of Salvatore Colasberna, killed for refusing to accept an agreement with a protected company of the mafia. The murder took place near your home where Rosa Nicolosi, her partner and their child live. Rosa Nicolosi’s husband also disappeared on the same morning. The head of the municipality, don Mariano Arena, organizes a maneuver to sidetrack the investigation into the Colasberna murder: in practice it would have been Nicolosi who eliminated the impresario as his wife’s lover. The captain searches for the body of Nicolosi, who he thinks has been disposed of as a “troublesome” witness.
Machine Gun McCain (1969)
It is a 1969 Italian mafia movie directed by Giuliano Montaldo and starring a stellar cast that includes Gian Maria Volontè, Florinda Bolkan, Peter Boyle, Anthony Dawson and Mariangela Melato.
The plot of the film revolves around a team of corrupt cops who deal with the mafia drug racket in the city of Genoa. The leader of the gang is played by Gian Maria Volontè, who gives life to an extremely ambiguous and intriguing character, capable of going from being a successful man to a ruthless criminal in a few moments.
The story unfolds through a series of twists and dramatic situations, involving both the cops and the criminals trying to thwart them. The pace of the film is fast and engaging, thanks to the skilful direction of Montaldo and the photography of Silvano Ippoliti, who manages to perfectly capture the murky and oppressive atmosphere of the city of Genoa.
The film was a huge hit at the Italian box office upon its release, thanks to its gripping storyline and top-notch cast. The film was also appreciated by critics for its ability to investigate the dark side of Italian society in the 60s, through a ruthless analysis of the corruption and violence that characterized many cities in the country at that time.
It’s a film about the mafia that stands out for its ability to mix suspense, action and social denunciation, resulting in a complete and enthralling work.
The Sicilian Clan ( 1969)
It is a 1969 film directed by Henry Verneuil and starring Alain Delon, Jean Gabin and Lino Ventura. The film is mainly set in Paris and tells the story of a group of Sicilian criminals who plan the theft of a jewelry collection in an important Parisian jewelry store.
The main character is Roger Sartet, played by Alain Delon, a jewel thief who was caught by the police and detained in prison. However, the Sicilian mafia boss, Vittorio Manalese, played by Jean Gabin, has a plan to free Sartet from prison and use him for the theft of the jewels. To do this, Manalese also involves Commissioner Le Goff, played by Lino Ventura, who has an old rivalry with Sartet.
The plot of the film is full of twists and turns and action but the strong point of the film is the portrayal of the conflict between the old and new generation of criminals. Gabin plays an old-fashioned mafia boss with a sense of honor and a respect for tradition, while Delon is the ambitious young thief who wants to make it big in the world of crime.
The film is considered one of the best French mafia movies and offers a good representation of the Sicilian criminal underworld and its ties to the French mafia. The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone was also particularly appreciated and contributed to the success of the film.
The Mattei Affair (1972)
The Mattei case is a 1972 film directed by Francesco Rosi and inspired by the life of Enrico Mattei, a prominent Italian businessman who was president of ENI (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi) until his mysterious death in 1962.
The film tells the story of Mattei, played by Gian Maria Volonté, from his rise to leadership of ENI until his death. The story develops through a series of flashbacks, interspersed with scenes in which Mattei’s death and the circumstances surrounding it are investigated.
The film deals with important issues such as the struggle for control of energy resources and corruption in the business world. Rosi uses a complex narrative structure, alternating documentary sequences with moments of fiction, to reconstruct the life of Mattei and the complex dynamics of the oil world.
The film was critically acclaimed for its innovative direction and performance by Volonté, who won the Best Actor Award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. The Mattei Case is considered one of Francesco Rosi’s best films.
The Godfather (1972)
The cinematic artwork of Francis Ford Coppola is an adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name. Marlon Brando offers among his best performances as Don Vito Corleone, the patriarch of the mafia in Corleone.
This is the most popular mafia movie ever made. Any movie buff will recognize the image of Don Vito holding the feline or Michael closing the door to his former life. The Godfather incorporates some of the most significant minutes in cinematic history. Puzo and likewise the splendid screenplay of Coppola’s film are an ideal basis for an epic and important film production, of great figurative and pictorial value. It is a film where action and crime take a back seat to make way for a great family saga and the complex relational dynamics between mafia families.
Lucky Luciano (1973)
Lucky Luciano is a 1973 film directed by Francesco Rosi. The film focuses on the figure of Salvatore Lucania, known as “Lucky Luciano”, the gangster of the Italian-American mafia in New York who returned to Italy in 1946. The film is a sort of biography of Salvatore Lucania, alias Lucky Luciano, undisputed boss of the Italian-American underworld since 1931, when he took power getting rid of about forty opponents. In 1946 Governor Thomas E. Dewey sent him to Italy. Since that day Lucky has lived a relatively peaceful life in Naples, however there are new charges for international drug trafficking. Charles Siragusa, head of the European Narcotics Office, tries in vain to unmask him. In a dispute at the United Nations, Inquisitor Harry J. Anslinger and the Italian delegate clash over Luciano. Prompted by world popular opinion, the Guardia di Finanza subjects Lucky to tailings, interrogations and searches. No one discovers a single piece of evidence against him. Lucky Luciano dies of cardiac arrest at the Naples airport, taking the mystery to his grave.
Mean Streets (1973)
The third film directed by Martin Scorsese Mean Streets is among the most important in his filmography. Scorsese said he was attracted to the idea of making a film about him and his friends. He even challenged De Niro’s character Johnny Boy, the film’s reckless lunatic. The film takes place in the location of Little Italy, New York, in addition to telling the experiences of Scorsese, there is the mafia, the corruption of the cops, crime. The packaging is still the same from indie movie low budget, shot in 16mm: this makes this mafia movie even more realistic and fascinating.
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The Godfather Part II (1974)
Another one cinematic artwork, with Michael Corleone played by Pacino. Memorable tunes swell and catastrophe from both Godfather movies sweeps you over like a storm. Quite possibly no character displays the phrase “power wears out” more than Michael Corleone. Through 2 films, we see how his growth as a mobster is directly related to his family lineage. Both films are works of art, however The Godfather II takes the very first position for its extraordinary depiction of the world of the mafia.
The 1974 film “Yakuza” is a Japanese mafia movie directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura.
The plot revolves around Harry Kilmer (Mitchum), a former American soldier who is called back to Japan by his childhood friend George Tanner (Brian Keith), who owns a company that has business dealings with the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. Tanner asks Harry to help him free his kidnapped daughter from the yakuza and, despite initially reluctant, Harry agrees.
In an attempt to save the girl, Harry must confront members of the yakuza and their leader, Tanaka Ken (Takakura), who had been one of George Tanner’s best friends. Harry’s history with Tanaka Ken and his romance with Ken’s sister Eiko (Keiko Kishi) also emerge throughout the film.
The film is known for its attention to detail in its depiction of Japanese culture and yakuza, as well as the performances of Mitchum and Takakura, who have been praised for their ability to explore the complexity of their characters. The soundtrack was composed by Dave Grusin and the main theme, “Harlem Nocturne”, was performed by Takakura himself.
“Yakuza” is an immersive and intense film that mixes elements of crime, drama and psychological thriller, and is considered a classic of the genre.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)
It is a 1976 mafia movie directed by John Cassavetes. The plot follows a nightclub owner named Cosmo Vitelli (played by Ben Gazzara), an ambitious businessman who tries to keep his place afloat despite financial problems.
Cosmo’s situation worsens when he gets involved with gangsters who force him to pay off a $23,000 gambling debt. To pay off the debt, Cosmo agrees to kill a man on behalf of the gangsters, but the plan goes awry and Cosmo is seriously injured.
The film was praised for its realistic take on the underworld, its somber cinematography, and the performance of Ben Gazzara, who received widespread critical acclaim for his portrayal of the character Cosmo. However, the film was not a huge box office success, but has been re-evaluated over the years as one of the masterpieces of the independent cinema American 70s.
In 1978, Cassavetes directed a second version of the film, which was shortened by approximately 20 minutes and received positive response from audiences and critics. This version is often considered the better of the two, although both are prized for their emotional strength and for their ability to depict the complexity of human nature.
The 1978 film “Corleone”, directed by Pasquale Squitieri, is a mafia drama that chronicles the life of notorious mafia boss Salvatore Giuliano, played by Giuliano Gemma.
The plot focuses on the life of Giuliano, from his childhood until his mysterious death in 1950. The film follows the young Salvatore as he joins the group of local bandits, becomes a hero of the fight against the powerful and ends up becoming a mafia boss with full rights.
The character of Giuliano is represented as a man torn between his will to fight oppression and injustice and his desire to earn money and power. Its history is intertwined with that of post-war Sicily, a period marked by poverty, corruption and violence.
The film was widely criticized for its portrayal of Giuliano as a romantic hero rather than a ruthless criminal. However, the film was lauded for its performances, especially that of Gemma in the title role.
Overall, “Corleone” is a film that explores the complexity of the Sicilian mafia and its roots in the island’s history and culture. Although controversial, the film has helped to renew interest in the figure of Salvatore Giuliano and in the history of the mafia in Italy.
Year of the Dragon (1985)
It is a 1985 Chinese mafia movie directed by Michael Cimino based on Robert Daley’s novel of the same name. The film is set in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York City during Chinese New Year 1983, and follows the story of Stanley White (played by Mickey Rourke), a police officer who tries to bring down the Chinese mafia that controls the neighborhood.
The film features strong racial and cultural tension, with White trying to do justice his way, but ends up in conflict with the Chinese community and some members of his own police force. Throughout the story, White falls in love with Tracy Tzu (played by Ariane), a young Chinese-American, but their relationship becomes complicated due to conflicts between their communities.
The film was well received by critics for its direction and Rourke’s performance, but was also criticized for its formulaic portrayal of Chinese characters. Despite this, the film is considered a classic of 80s action cinema.
The Repenter (1985)
It is a 1985 Italian mafia movie directed by Pasquale Squitieri and starring Franco Nero, Claudia Cardinale and Tony Musante.
The plot of the film follows the story of Tommaso Buscetta, a famous penitent of the Italian mafia who decides to collaborate with justice to reveal the secrets of the criminal organization. The story takes place in the 1980s and follows Buscetta’s life from his escape to Brazil to his handing over to the Italian authorities, up to his trial in Palermo in 1986.
The film deals with important issues such as organized crime, corruption, justice and the value of one’s word. Thanks to the skill of the actors, especially Franco Nero in the part of Buscetta, the film manages to convey a sense of tension and drama, without losing sight of the importance of the subject matter.
The film was a success with audiences and critics, receiving numerous awards, including the Silver Ribbon for Best Actor for Franco Nero. The film is considered one of the best by director Pasquale Squitieri and one of the best cinematic representations of the Italian mafia.
Prizzi’s Honor (1985)
It is a 1985 American mafia movie directed by John Huston, starring Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner as 2 skilled mob killers who, after falling in love, work to eliminate each other. The film screenplay co-written by Richard Condon is based on his 1982 book of the exact same name. The supporting cast of the film consists of Anjelica Huston (daughter of the director and then girlfriend of Nicholson), Robert Loggia, John Randolph, CCH Pounder, Lawrence Tierney and William Hickey. Stanley Tucci appears in a small part. It was the last of John Huston’s films to be released in his lifetime. The film garnered 8 nominations at the 58th Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay) with Houston’s Daughter winning Best Supporting Actress. The film also won four Golden Globes.
The Sicilian (1987)
It is a 1987 historical drama mafia movie directed and co-produced by Michael Cimino. The film was adapted by Steve Shagan and an uncredited Gore Vidal from Mario Puzo’s 1984 book of the same name. Christopher Lambert plays Salvatore Giuliano, the notorious outlaw who attempted to liberate early 1950s Sicily from Italian leadership . The film also stars Terence Stamp, Joss Ackland, John Turturro and Barbara Sukowa.
Salvatore Giuliano, notorious outlaw, together with his band of guerrillas, tried to liberate early 1950s Sicily from Italian rule and make it an American state. Giuliano steals from wealthy landowners to give resources to peasants, who in turn hail him as their savior. As her fascination with him grows, so does her ego, and she eventually believes she is beyond the power of her backer, mobster Don Masino Croce. Don Croce, in turn, sets out to eliminate him by convincing his cousin and closest adviser Gaspare “Aspanu” Pisciotta to assassinate him.
The Untouchables (1987)
Starring extraordinary stars and directed by Brian De Palma, The Untouchables is among the most popular mob films ever made. Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and Robert De Niro give us remarkable performances. The Untouchables is a crime film from the Prohibition period that integrates drama, crime and thriller in an outstanding way. Despite having a classic and mainstream package, the film slowly reveals a hidden soul of avant-garde cinema: the ballistic genius of De Palma in the final scene of the shooting at the Chicago station, inspired by the masterpiece film by Russian avant-garde Eisenstein’s battleship Potemkin, is moving picture art to the nth degree.
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The Godfather Part III (1990)
It is a 1990 American mafia movie produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola from the screenplay of the film written in collaboration with Mario Puzo. The film stars Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy García, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, Bridget Fonda, George Hamilton and Sofia Coppola. It is the last and third part of The Godfather trilogy. A sequel to The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), it concludes the fictional story of Michael Corleone, the patriarch of the Corleone family who seeks to legitimize his criminal empire. The film also contains fictionalized accounts of two real-life events: the death of Pope John Paul I in 1978 and the papal banking scandal of 1981-1982, both connected to the affairs of Michael Corleone.
The Godfather Part III garnered favorable reviews, though not quite on the same level as the first 2 films; critics applauded Pacino’s skill and the film’s screenplay, however, criticized the complicated plot and Sofia Coppola’s performance. The film grossed $136.8 million and was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In December 2020, a recut variation of the film, titled The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, was released to accompany the initial variation’s 30th anniversary.
King of New York (1990)
“King of New York” is a 1990 mafia movie directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Christopher Walken, David Caruso, Laurence Fishburne, Wesley Snipes and other talented actors.
The plot of the film follows Frank White (Christopher Walken), an ex-con who, after being released from prison, becomes the head of a criminal organization in New York City. White, a complex and ambiguous character, tries to balance his criminal role with a desire for social justice and to help the city’s poor.
The film is known for its dark and violent atmosphere, reflecting the dark side of New York City’s criminal underworld. The character of Frank White, masterfully played by Christopher Walken, is the centerpiece of the film and his charisma and magnetic presence made the character an icon of 90s cinema.
‘King of New York’ was critically acclaimed for its direction, soundtrack, cinematography and the performances of the actors. However, the film was also criticized for its excessive violence and its use of drugs as a central theme of the plot.
Goodfellas is one of the great masterpieces of mafia cinema. Martin Scorsese used an adaptation of Nicholas Pillegi’s novel Wiseguy for the film’s screenplay. The adrenaline-pumping and spectacular director’s style explodes in this film with continuous fireworks. There are so many memorable scenes and the counterpoint between romantic songs and violence is an exceptional invention.
The film begins with Liotta as the narrator stating “as far as I can keep in mind, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.” From there, the film takes you on an adventure into the world of the Italian Mafia in Brooklyn, and by the time you watch it, you most likely wish you were a mobster yourself. There is sex, drugs and addictions aplenty. At the end of the film, Scorsese gets rid of the attractive view of gangsters and shows his main character with something that every gangster detests: a trapped rat.
Carlito’s Way (1993)
Carlito’s Way is a 1993 mafia movie directed by Brian DePalma and starring Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo, and Viggo Mortensen. The plot follows the story of Carlito Brigante (played by Al Pacino), a Puerto Rican ex-con who tries to rebuild his life after being released from prison.
Carlito pledges to get out of the crime ring, but his ex-girlfriend Gail (played by Penelope Ann Miller) lures him into a scam against the district attorney. Meanwhile, his friend Dave Kleinfeld (played by Sean Penn) becomes increasingly involved with the mob and takes Carlito with him.
Tensions mount when Carlito learns that Kleinfeld has betrayed his trust and is trying to make business with mob boss Benny Blanco (played by John Leguizamo). Carlito tries to escape his criminal past, but is ultimately confronted with his destiny.
The film is known for Al Pacino’s performance as Carlito, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. De Palma’s direction is equally remarkable, with some breathtaking action sequences and intense cinematography. “Carlito’s Way” is considered one of the best gangster films of the 90s and one of De Palma’s most significant works.
“Casino” is a 1995 mafia movie directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci. The film is inspired by the true story of the Stardust casino in Las Vegas in the 70s and 80s.
The plot of the film follows the character of Sam “Ace” Rothstein (played by De Niro), a skilled casino manager who is sent to Las Vegas to manage the mob-owned Tangiers casino. Rothstein soon becomes one of the biggest casino managers in the city, but his position is threatened by various problems, including his friendship with his old friend and associate Nicky Santoro (played by Pesci) and his volatile wife Ginger (played by Stone).
The film is known for its gritty and realistic depiction of Las Vegas casino life in the 1970s and 80s, with violence, drugs, gambling, and corruption all being major themes in the storyline. “Casino” was well received by critics and received numerous film award nominations, including the Academy Award for Best Actress for Sharon Stone.
Overall, “Casino” is a complex and immersive film that explores the dark side of the gambling industry and the mafia in Las Vegas. Scorsese’s direction, together with the stellar performances of the cast, make this film a must-see for fans of crime cinema and American culture of the 70s and 80s.
Donnie Brasco (1997)
“Donnie Brasco” is a 1997 film directed by Mike Newell and starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp. The film is based on the true story of Joseph D. Pistone, an FBI agent who undercover infiltrates New York’s Bonanno crime family in the 1970s.
The plot of the film follows the life of Donnie Brasco (played by Depp), the alias used by FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone, as he infiltrates the mob to gather evidence against the boss of the Bonanno family, Sonny Black (played by Pacino). The film shows Brasco and Black’s growing friendship, their involvement in organized crime, and Brasco’s difficulty balancing his life as an FBI agent with that of a member of the Mafia.
The film received great critical and commercial success for its faithfulness to the true story, the direction of Newell, the screenplay by Paul Attanasio and the performances of Pacino and Depp. The film was also lauded for its accurate depiction of the mafia world and the power dynamics that govern it.
“Donnie Brasco” is a movies on gangsters emotional and well-crafted that has been able to capture the attention of the audience with its true story and the strong performances of the cast.
To Die for Tano (1997)
“Tano da Morire” is a 1997 Italian mafia movie and musical directed by Roberta Torre. Unknown movie. The plot focuses on the life of the community of a Sicilian town and on the death of Tano Guarrasi, a man who worked as a laborer in the fields and who is killed at the beginning of the film.
Tano’s wife, Grazia, is desperate for his death and tries to find out who committed the crime. However, the local community is heavily influenced by the mafia and the culture of omertà, and most people don’t want to talk to you or the authorities.
Grazia joins a group of women trying to get justice for Tano’s death, but their fight is difficult and they often put their own lives at risk. Meanwhile, Tano’s brother Ciccio tries to protect his family from the mafia, but ends up getting involved in dangerous matters himself.
The film explores the themes of the mafia, silence and violence that permeate life in Sicily, and shows how these realities influence relationships and dynamics between people. Roberta Torre’s direction is very particular and creates a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere, which emphasizes the symbolic dimension of the film.
The film was critically acclaimed and was selected for the Cannes Film Festival in 1997. It also won numerous awards, including the David di Donatello for best new director.
In the 2000s world film production expanded to produce mafia movies as a spectacular genre. Famous mafia movies got a lot of appreciation. Gomorrah is based on a book of the same name about a Neapolitan Camorra family but in reality it is an anti-spectacular film, shot with extreme rigor and unconventional direction. Gomorrah is an indictment of mafia movies that pushed young people into a life of crime and is a gallery of unforgettable characters. Shot from Matteo Garrone with handheld camera with a realistic style and extraordinarily effective actors, it is a slice of life of the Camorra in the extraordinarily powerful Naples area. Probably the best film about the Camorra in the history of cinema.
Sicilian Ghost Story (2017)
Sicilian Ghost Story is a 2017 Italian mafia movie directed by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza. It is based on the true-life narrative “The White Knight” in Marco Mancassola’s book We Won’t Be Confused Forever. The film was selected in the International Critics’ Week at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. It was the first time ever that an Italian film opened the Critics’ Week, receiving a ten-minute standing ovation.
In a Sicilian village on the edge of a forest, Giuseppe, a 13-year-old boy, disappears. Luna, his schoolmate in love with him, doesn’t accept his strange disappearance. He rebels against the silence and complicity that surrounds him, and to discover the mystery he descends into the dark world that has in fact swallowed him up and which has a lake as its magical entrance. Only their unbreakable love will have the ability to bring him back to life.
Small independent film little known and with difficulty distributed, it is actually a real masterpiece. Outstanding cinematography, underwater scenes and beautiful storytelling, the co-directors found an amazing dark fairy tale tone to tell a terrible story based on real mafia crime. A superb technical work that transforms the harsh truth into a myth with numerous implications, enhancing the meaning of events in a limbo between real and ghostly dream. Unmissable.