The world of crime has, often, been a thing of fascination for the people who aren’t in it. We wonder about the gangsters, their lifestyle, about how they get where they get, about the power and danger that their position brings them, and how they’re able to sleep after having all the blood on their hands. These questions have led the filmmakers to make up stories, often deriving from the real ones, to shed some light on how the other side fares. In these stories, we meet with convoluted characters who are driven by all sorts of motivations. Among other things, these films become a source for the study of human nature, serving the tales of power struggles, and, in some cases, acting as a lesson, because things don’t generally end on a high note for the protagonists of these stories. Preaching apart, the audience loves these stories.
Thrill, mystery, anticipation and characters that you can dote on, what more can we want from a tale? When in need of a good old story about the rise and fall of a man who changes the world of crime, Netflix is there to serve you with the best ones ever. The following is the list of really good gangster movies on Netflix. You can also watch many of these crime movies on Hulu or Amazon Prime. The list includes black gangster movies on Netflix.
10. Live by Night (2016)
Based on the book of the same name by Dennis Lehane, set in the second half of the 1920s, ‘Live by Night’ tells the story of a man’s rise in the criminal world and then his subsequent downfall. Ben Affleck stars as Joe Coughlin, who is a war veteran and is in love with the mistress of a gangster. Even though he is warned by his father, who is an officer in the Boston police force, Joe pursues his love for the woman and this eventually leads him into the world of crime. From the beginning, he starts out with the intent of getting out, as soon as possible. His first act of robbery is supposed to help him run away so he can live in peace, but like every plan, it backfires on him and he gets more and more involved in the world of crime. Apart from Affleck, the film also stars Elle Fanning, Brendon Gleeson, Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana.
9. Gangster Squad (2013)
Mickey Cohen was another gangster who got his name written in the history of criminals as one of the most ruthless ones. He mostly ruled over Los Angeles and was the boss of the Cohen crime family. With all this money and power, he had control over the law as well, because he could easily bribe any official and threaten, or kill, anyone who would testify against him. To counter his growing power, Chief Bill Parker puts together the idea of a secret team that could succeed in putting Cohen to rest. Reaching out to a decorated war veteran, Seargent John O’Mara, Parker carefully handpicks the team. This team was called ‘Gangster Squad’. The film follows their efforts to completely sabotage Cohen, one blow at a time. Sean Penn played the role of Cohen, while Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Anthony Mackie played the part of the Squad. Emma Stone played the role of Cohen’s girlfriend who later becomes one of the factors for his downfall. While ‘Gangster Squad’ is not a perfect gangster-crime film, you can relive the suave and the charm of those times in the performances of the actors.
8. We Own the Night (2007)
‘We Own the Night’ is quite different from others on this list, mainly because it shows a distinct character arc which actually gives a substantial conclusion, and perhaps even a moral, to the audience. Set in the late 1980s, this film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Bobby Green. Bobby’s father and younger brother are in the police force. If there was one way for him to keep himself distanced from them, it was to follow the life of crime and that is exactly what he has been doing lately. He is the manager of a nightclub that is a hangout place for Russian mobsters. For long, Bobby thinks about spending his life in a lavish way and tries not to get involved with the police. But when you are involved in something that your family is, literally, legally against, there is bound to be a clash, and someone will have to lose something. Bobby soon learns this and tries to fix the error of his ways in the only way he thinks possible. Alongside Phoenix, the film starred Mark Wahlberg in the lead role.
7. The Infiltrator (2016)
No matter what role Bryan Cranston plays, he will never be able to shrug off the influence of Walter White. ‘Breaking Bad’ is one of the best shows ever, and Cranston portrayed the good-guy turned criminal-overlord in a very convincing manner. And perhaps, this is why you will have trouble accepting him as the man of the law in this film. ‘The Infiltrator’ is based on the real life of a man called Robert Mazur. Mazur worked for U.S Customs Service, and he first-hand witnessed the growing influence of Pablo Escobar. So, when the chance came to bring down the man, he took it. Under the alias of Bob Musella, he infiltrated the criminal world as a corrupt businessman and offered to launder the money for these people. He slowly gained reputation and got to come in contact with Escobar himself, and finally helped in destroying his empire. I might have summarised the story in three sentences, but the job was much, much harder and more dangerous than it sounds. Diane Kruger, Amy Ryan, Joe Gilgun and Jason Issacs star alongside Cranston, in this film.
6. Gun City (2018)
If you are a fan of the British gangster-drama series, ‘Peaky Blinders’, then this is the film that you just can’t miss. It is set around the same time as the series but in a different part of Europe. This Netflix original tells the story of a man who walks the fine line that separates criminals and cops, and gets a peek into the best of both worlds, or should I say, the worst of both. The year is 1921, and the city is Barcelona. The police are getting tense because some notorious forces are gaining power over the city and are planning something that can change the history of the country. They send one of their own to infiltrate the local mafia. The job of this double agent is to figure out who is the mastermind behind the stealing of military weapons. If he doesn’t figure it out soon, the country could very well be thrown into a civil war. Full of action and intrigue, and the dapper style of the 1920s, ‘Gun City’ will not let you down.
5. Legend (2015)
Tom Hardy is one of the best actors of this generation and he plays his roles with complete dedication. If you have seen ‘Peaky Blinders’, then you know how perfect he had been in the role of the intimidating Alfie Solomons who drained the colour from the face of even Tommy Shelby. Hardy was pretty damn good there, and he is the only reason why you should watch ‘Legend’. The Kray twins were the kings of organised crime in the East End of London during the 50s and 60s. There was not a crime that they weren’t involved in, and while they were in power, things were as bad as they could be. This film stars Tom Hardy as the Kray twins, two faces but completely different personalities. It begins with the time that saw their arrival in the world of crime, and the events that finally lead to their downfall. This film belongs to Tom Hardy as he gives a very rare, if not one of the best, performance of his career. He fits like a glove in the role of the charismatic Reggie and plays the role of mentally trouble Ronnie with equal ease.
Read More: Best Dramas on Netflix
4. The Iceman (2012)
One of the most common things in the criminal world is the use of hitmen. Once they are in power, the bosses don’t like to get their hands dirty, unless they absolutely have to. But they still have to kill people, and for this, they hire hitmen. While the stories of gangsters have propagated over the years, the stories of their special hitmen have taken shape, too. The Iceman was one of those hitmen. He worked for the American Mafia, and made a reputation for himself, by killing people and then freezing them (or was it the other way around!) to mask the time of actual death. A very clever trick, by the way! For sure, you want to know more about this person, now that you know what a dangerous psychopath he had been. ‘The Iceman’ is here for just that purpose. Michael Shannon played the role of the Iceman, real name being Richard Kuklinski, and the film shows how he got into the business of being a hitman and what became of him by the end.
Read More: Best 4K Movies on Netflix
3. Layer Cake (2004)
Daniel Craig might be the crime fighting British spy now, but before that he fit himself in the role of a man who worked in the drug business. We never get his name in the film, so we can call him X. X has been working as a successful and professional distributor of drugs, mainly cocaine, but now, he deems the time fit for retirement. He has some money stashed away, he has no bad blood, he can make it out. But before that, he is entrusted with two tasks. And as you can imagine, they are what bring it all down for him. The first thing is finding someone’s addict, runaway daughter. And the other is to oversee the consignment of ecstasy tablets. The film is a great watch and you will absolutely love Craig in this role. Also, if you want to know where Tom Hardy got his taste for portraying gangsters, you must know that he plays a small part in this film, as well.
Read More: Best Stand-Up Specials on Netflix
2. Casino (1995)
The combination of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro has delivered some great movies. ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Taxi Driver’, and ‘Cape Fear’ are just a couple of names in about a bunch of collaboration of this actor-director pair. This film was the eighth time that they had made a movie together. Also, this is the second time that Scorsese worked with Nicholas Pileggi on a screenplay, having before worked in ‘Goodfellas’. Based on the non-fiction book, ‘Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas’, and set in the early 1970s, this film tells the story of a man named Sam “Ace” Rothstein who oversees the operations in a Las Vegas casino for the Chicago Outfit. It starts from the point where Sam is just starting out and charts his trajectory as he rises to power, only to be brought down because of his own mistakes. Providing protection to him is the made-man, Nicky Santoro; and adding to further tension is Ace’s narcissistic wife, Ginger McKenna. The film was a great success in both critical and commercial circles, and Sharon Stone was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the film.
Read More: Best Movies Based on True Stories on Netflix
1. The Untouchables (1987)
If you are a fan of the genre, then there are a couple of names that you must be very familiar to now. Al Capone should be one of those names. This notorious criminal has been the object of study for a lot of filmmakers and has been a subject of a couple of movies. While Tom Hardy’s rendition of him is in the making, which will most probably be released this year, ‘The Untouchables’ is the best film centred around his time that you can watch on Netflix. Made by Brian De Palma, who gave us films like ‘Scarface’ and ‘Carrie’, this film focuses on the story of the officer, named Eliot Ness, who puts together a team to bring down Capone, once and for all. However, it is not so easy, considering that Capone already has whole Chicago under his thumb and his influence extends to some high places. Ness has to be very careful in picking men for this job. Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, and Sean Connery star in the leading roles. The film was very well-received and was nominated for four Academy Awards.
Read More: Best Netflix Westerns