10 Crime Movie Masterpieces You’ve Probably Never Seen
There are many crime movies throughout the years that don’t get the credit they deserve. Here is a look at 10 of them.
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One of the oldest and most respected genres in Hollywood is the crime and gangster genre. From the era of silent films, with early efforts like Regeneration and ’30s era classic like Public Enemy and Scarface to some of the biggest crime movies of all-time like The Godfather and Goodfellas, Hollywood has some true masterpieces in the crime genre.
Men like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola made their name thanks to the crime and gangster movie genre. These movies have won Oscars and introduced the world to actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. However, there are many crime movies throughout the years that don’t get the credit they deserve. Here is a look at 10 crime movie masterpieces you’ve probably never seen.
10 LITTLE CAESAR
While everyone was falling in love with James Cagney during the early era of crime films, Edward G. Robinson was right up there as an equal to the star of The Public Enemy. Released the same year as that seminal film, Little Caesar starred Robinson as Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello, a man who rose up the ranks of organized crime from a small-time criminal to the top of the mafia chain.
Considered the first full-fledged gangster film, Little Caesar made Robinson a massive star. In his later years, Robinson starred with future crime movie icons in films like Double Indemnity and Key Largo.
9 WHITE HEAT
James Cagney was the face of the gangster genre in the ’30s, starring in some of the earliest iconic crime films. In The Public Enemy in 1931, he starred as a rising star in the criminal underworld during the prohibition era. He closed out the decade with another seminal gangster film in The Roaring Twenties with Humphrey Bogart.
In 1942, Cagney won an Oscar for a musical in Yankee Doodle Dandy. A decade later, Cagney was back in a crime film and one that stands up well with his earlier efforts. In this movie, Cagney plays a psychotic gang leader that created the template for gangsters for years to come.
8 A BRONX TALE
Robert De Niro has appeared in some of the best crime movies of the past 40 years, but one that people don’t talk about nearly enough is his 1993 movie A Bronx Tale. This movie not only featured De Niro as a great actor but had him behind the camera as the director as well.
The film, based on a Broadway play, tells the story of a hardworking father (De Niro) who realizes that his son (Lillo Brancato Jr.) is getting involved with a local mob boss (Chazz Palminteri). The film shows the boy’s coming of age, torn between his worried father and the man who has taken him under his protection.
7 MILLER’S CROSSING
The Coen Brothers have several crime films in their past, from the straight forward Blood Simple to more eccentric No Country For Old Men. However, out of the brothers’ long list of fantastic films, one that seems to get overlooked is Miller’s Crossing.
Gabriel Byrne stars as Tom Reagan, the right-hand for an Irish mobster portrayed by Albert Finney. John Turturro stars as the mobster’s brother who is afforded protection when an Italian mobster puts out a hit on him. This film might be one of the Coen Brothers’ best looking.
6 DONNIE BRASCO
Donnie Brasco tells the true story of Joseph D. Pistone, an FBI agent who went undercover in the New York City criminal scene using the name Donnie Brasco. He ends up befriending an aging hitman named Lefty Ruggiero and receives his help in getting involved in one of the top mafia families at that time.
Johnny Depp plays it straight as Donnie Brasco in this film by Mike Newell while Al Pacino is there to take on the role of Lefty. The movie picked up an Oscar nomination for the screenplay and remains a fantastic rewatch to this day.
5 THE ASPHALT JUNGLE
Fans can go back and relive the brilliant John Huston movie The Asphalt Jungle, thanks to it being part of the Criterion Collection. Huston directed some of the best crime movies in history in The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Prizzi’s Honor.
The Asphalt Jungle sits up there with those films as one of the best crime movies of all-time. The movie tells the story of a jewel robbery gone wrong. Sterling Hayden, one of the crime cinema’s most underappreciated stars, leads the cast as Dix Handley.
4 LE SAMOURAI
Jean-Pierre Melville is one of the top crime filmmakers in world cinema history and possibly the greatest in the genre during the French New Wave. He has masterpieces under his belt, including Bob le flambeur, Le Doulos, Le Cercle rouge, and Le deuxieme souffle, but it is Le Samourai that might be his best.
Le Samourai stars French icon Alain Delon as a hitman named Jed Costello. Costello is a hitman who always has an airtight alibi thanks to a girlfriend, but when a hit garners numerous witnesses, the men who hired him then put a hit out on Costello, and he sets out to get revenge.
3 ROAD TO PERDITION
Road to Perdition is a crime movie based on a graphic novel. Sam Mendes followed up the award-winning American Beauty with this movie based on the 1988 comic book by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner.
Playing against type, Tom Hanks portrays an enforcer for the Irish mob named Michael Sullivan Jr. The man he works for is John Rooney (Paul Newman), who looks at Sullivan as another son. When Sullivan’s partner (Daniel Craig) kills a man in front of Michael’s son, he then kills Sullivan’s wife and second son, sending Michael and his son into hiding as another hitman (Jude Law) is sent to clean up matters.
Everyone who loves crime movies needs to seek out Rififi. This movie is about an aging gangster (Jean Servais) who sets out to commit what is considered an impossible heist — the robbery of an exclusive jewel shop. The film has one of the best real-time heist scenes in film history.
Jules Dassin directed this masterpiece, which is significant for the time. Dassin was one of the filmmakers on the Hollywood blacklist when Joseph McCarthy started his witch hunt to try to bring down Communist sympathizers. He went to France, and that is where he directed the film.
1 IN BRUGES
When it comes to crime films that dip their toes into the realm of black comedy, Martin McDonagh is right up there at the top along with names like the Coen Brothers. McDonagh has three fantastic crime movies under his belt, including In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
The best of those was In Bruges. Colin Farrell is a rookie hitman named Ray. He is sent to kill a priest but accidentally kills a young boy, as well. His boss then sends him to Bruges with his mentor Ken (Brendan Gleeson), where they are to await instructions. When Ken can’t bring himself to kill Ray, their boss (Ralph Fiennes) heads to Bruges to do it himself.