Thursday, March 15, 2012
Top 5 Gangster Movies That Aren't The Godfather
The 40th anniversary of the Godfather's release is today, marking the day that cinema was changed forever. Seriously now, I'm not just bullshitting like James Lipton or something, the Godfather changed everything. Similar to how Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy's DNA is found all over the comedy of every black comedian that's followed them or every songwriter owes something to Bob Dylan, Coppola's masterpiece birthed the style of a million good, not so good, and flat out awful gangster flicks. Even if you've never seen it,you know at least a line or two from the movie, and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say it changed how we view the mafia or even how the mafia itself acts. Most of what we know and how we think about La Cosa Nostra and even some of how they operate comes from the Godfather. They're big fans just like us. So it goes without saying that Godfather 1 and 2 are the 2 best gangster movies of all time (we'll pretend GF3 didn't "exist", much like the Mafia no longer "exists"). But there's still been a few truly great gangster movies since then, as well as the hundreds of straight to dvd wannabe's. What were the 5 best? I also included the most gangster scenes from each.
5) King of New York
Not a Mafia movie really (although there are one or two unlucky Italian gangsters in it), but the sheer gangsterness of this movie puts it in the top 5. Some of the scenes are a little hokey, and it's a real downer (even more so than director Abel Ferrara's other big movie The Funeral despite that film's title) but it features Christopher Walken at his weird, creepy best. It also inspired an entire generation of rappers and was the inspiration for Biggie's Frank White alias. White murdering David Caruso at his partner's funeral might be the most gangster scene in the history of movies.("Hey you"). Also, this was the original KONY.
This one is severely slept on, partly because people think it's exactly the same as Scorsese's other great gangster movie. While there are certainly similarities (DeNiro in a lead role, Pesci fuckin people up, Rolling Stones music), Casino on it's own is a great movie despite shrill overacting from Sharon Stone. Plus, Don Rickles!
3) Donnie Brasco
Remember when Johnny Depp played normal people? Not foppish takes on Keith Richards or Michael Jackson voiced children's story characters? Donnie Brasco was one of those ordinary guys (relatively at least) that we don't see Depp do as much since he's dissapeared into Tim Burton's brain. While not as flashy as some of Scorsese's best, this is still one of the best gangster flicks ever, and even introduced a couple of entries into the gangster lingo: Fugazi and taught us what "Fugheddaboutit" really means.
2) Reservoir Dogs
Ok, so technically Resevoir Dogs and King of NY aren't Mafia movies and I guess would be considered more like crime movies, but Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut holds up to this day. Watching it now, it almost seems cliche until you remember that all those thousands of other sraight to the 5 dollar bin at Best Buy movies were just rip offs of this. In 1992, it was actually new and fresh to hear people having conversations about pop culture and to see horrific violence incongruously matched up with breezy 70s pop songs. Now, every dweeb with a Netflix account and Mac thinks they're the next Tarantino but when this movie came out there was only one.
Was there any doubt? I go back and forth all the time about which is my favorite movie of all time, Goodfellas or the Godfather movies. While both dealing with similar subject matter, they share little else in common. Godfather is a nearly humorless, epic drenched in period seriousness while Goodfellas is just a nonstop, fastpaced tour of a gangster's life from the beginning to the end. Both are pretty much impossible to stop watching, but for different reasons, and depending on my mood I could list either as the greatest gangster movie ever. Take Godfather out of the picture though, and it's a no brainer that Goodfellas is the GOAT.
Honorable mentions: Scarface (blasphemous to some I'm sure that I left this off but these are my 5 favorites), City of God, Once Upon a Time in America.