Best Mafia Movies - Featured - StudioBinder

Mafia Movies hold a dear spot in the hearts of many filmmakers. Every filmmaker remembers the first time they saw Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather; a type of film that inspires us as cinema fans. But before we rank the best mafia movies of all time, let’s define the key characteristics.

The ranking of these films is in relation to their quality and importance as Mafia movies rather than just general gangster movies. Many of the films from our Top 30 Gangster Movies of All Time list were excluded, with special exceptions for extraordinary impact as Mafia movies.

FILMMAKER DEFINITION

What is a Mafia Movie?

A Mafia is an organized group of criminals whose illicit activities typically operate internationally. The Mafia as we know it today originated in Sicily back in 1860. The Sicilian Mafia or Cosa Nostra came to power after the province unified with Italy. From there, organized crime operations sprouted all over the world. Every film on this list will comply with the following characteristics of Mafia movies.

Mafia Movies Characteristics:

  • Organized Crime
  • Corruption of Morals
  • Drug trafficking, book-making, high-profit trading

Modern Italian Mob Movies

13. Black Souls (2014)

Black Souls Trailer

Black Souls is a quiet film and the story traces back to the origins of Southern Italian crime. It follows a family of three brothers who each represent a unique relationship with the Mafia. 

  • Luigi is a mafioso who wants to expand his criminal business.
  • Rocco is a professional businessman who reaps the benefits of the mafia without getting his hands dirty.
  • Luciano is a goat farmer who wants nothing to do with the Mafia.

Luciano’s son falls victim to the glamorized view of the Mafia and goes to stay with Luigi. This upsets the dynamic of the brothers and eventually leads to catastrophic results.

Black Souls is one of the best new Mafia movies.

IN CONCLUSION

Black Souls

  • “We must be united. And not do anything bullshit.”
  • Tomatometer: 90%
  • Watch Now

Good Classic Mafia Movies

12. Bugsy (1990)

Bugsy Trailer

Look no further for the quintessential American mob movie than Bugsy. This a mafia movie about America. After about ten years with the mob in New York City, Bugsy Siegel was sent to California to develop business relations on the West Coast.

While there, he falls in love with Hollywood and Virginia Hill. The themes of Bugsy are chasing west coast dreams and trying to go legitimate, away from criminal life. Ultimately, as with many great mafia movies, these hopes dry up in a desert heat. 

IN CONCLUSION

Bugsy 

  • “Everybody deserves a fresh start every once in a while.”
  • Tomatometer: 85%
  • Watch Now

Irish Mob Movies

11. Road to Perdition (2002)

Road to Perdition 

Mob movies typically follow the following story formula:

  1. There’s a Mafia presence.
  2. A major character tries to shield their family from their crimes. 
  3. The character dies after being forced to embrace the criminal life in exchange for the safety of their family.
  4. This causes their family to seek revenge and thus creates an endless chain of violence and retribution.

Road to Perdition is different because it bucks trend with the last stage of Mafia movies. Rather than continuing with a life of crime, the protagonists’ son is immobilized by the thought of it, which ultimately makes his father the most proud he could be.

IN CONCLUSION

Road to Perdition

  • “When people ask me if Michael Sullivan was a good man, or if there was just no good in him at all, I always give the same answer... he was my father.”
  • Tomatometer: 80%
  • Watch Now

British Mobster Movies

10. Sexy Beast (2000)

Sexy Beast Clip - No Smoking

This ultra-wild mob movie is a commentary on mob movies as much as it is a mob movie. Sir Ben Kingsley plays a British gangster, ironically named Don who recruits the help of a retired associate for the classic “one last job.” 

The film is set up on these tired conventions. But it’s the outlandish exaggeration of these conventions that make Sexy Beast one of the all time great mafia movies.

IN CONCLUSION

Sexy Beast

  • “But quite frankly your attitude appalls me. It's not what you're saying. It's all this stuff you're not saying.”
  • Tomatometer: 86%
  • Watch Now

Hong Kong Mobster Movies

9. Election 1 and Election 2 (2005-2007)

Election Movie Trailer

Many Mafia movies are about the pursuit of something material; whether that be money, drugs, weapons, or something else. Johnnie To’s Election movies are about the immaterial hunt for control, symbolized by the dragon baton.

The first film is centered around a “democratic” election of a new Triad boss. The second film continues the story and offers resolution as to the way of Mafia-Triad operations.

The nature of organized crime is the ethical crux of the Election and watching it unravel is both fun and haunting.

IN CONCLUSION

Triad Election

  • “We made a deal, and he's a patriot.”
  • Tomatometer: 96%
  • Watch Now

Irish Mob Movies

8. Black Mass (2015)

Black Mass Trailer

Johnny Depp turns in a transformative performance as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. Many Mafia movies are inspired or based on prominent mobsters. Black Mass is the true story of one of the most famous mobsters of all time.

For about 25 years, Whitey Bulger ran the Irish Mob called Winter Hill Gang, in South Boston. This film does a great job of recreating this period of time while also showing Whitey’s role as an informant for the FBI.

IN CONCLUSION

Black Mass

  • “I thought it was a family secret.”
  • Tomatometer: 73%
  • Watch Now

Japanese Gangster Movies

7. Drunken Angel (1948)

Drunken Angel Fight Scene

Akira Kurosawa is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. And his early mobster movie Drunken Angel, is one of his best.

The film follows an alcoholic doctor who becomes involved with the criminal world after treating a young Yakuza. Drunken Angel is not only a foundational film for Japanese mob movies, but also for mob movies around the globe.

IN CONCLUSION

Drunken Angel

  • “You told me to come here, so I’m here. A Yakuza never breaks his word. When I make a promise, I keep it.”
  • Tomatometer: 88%
  • Watch Now

Great Italian Mafia Movies

6. Mafioso (1962)

Mafioso Movie Trailer

The comedy-turns-tragedy Mafioso, is one of the most subtly influential gangster crime movies ever made. The Mafia began in Sicily, which created a strong cultural divide between the North and the South. The North developed into a commercially global enterprise, while the South embraced traditional roots and a more isolationist view of the world.

Mafioso is a film that’s very much about this struggle between the North and the South of Italy. It’s about who controls power, where they control it, and what they do to spread it. In Mafioso, the main character played by Alberto Sordi, falls victim to the Mafia and becomes a pawn for their power game.  

IN CONCLUSION

Mafioso

  • “I may live in Milan, but I'm still Sicilian.”
  • Tomatometer: 96%
  • Watch Now

Japanese Mob Movies

5. Sonatine (1993)

Sonatine I (Act of Violence) - Joe Hisaishi (Sonatine Soundtrack)

Sonatine is a stylish and captivating film about the Japanese Mafia, the Yakuza. The infectious synth beat classical composition soundtrack was made by the incomparable Joe Hisaishi. 

Writer, director, and lead actor Takeshi Kitano, envisioned Sonatine as a film version of a Sonata; a story told in distinct parts. The ending of Sonatine is one of the all time greats and offers a harrowing glimpse into the fate of a mobster.

IN CONCLUSION

Sonatine (1993)

  • “When you’re scared all the time, you reach a point when you wish you were dead.”
  • Tomatometer: 88%
  • Watch Now

Russian Mafia Movies

4. Eastern Promises (2007)

Eastern Promises - Thawing the Corpse Scene

Eastern Promises is the definitive film about the Russian Mafia. It takes place in London, but most of the film is shot in a Russian restaurant in the city. This is a ruthless movie about the mafia.

The primary illicit trade for the Russians in this film is sex trafficking. It’s a dark, twisted, perspective on the world of gangster crime, anchored by Viggo Mortensen’s excellent performance.

IN CONCLUSION

Eastern Promises

Top Italian Mafia Movies

3. Gomorrah (2008)

Gomorrah Movie Trailer

It’s nearly impossible to talk about modern Mafia movies without including Gomorrah. This ever-important film is perhaps the single most comprehensive deconstruction of mobsters ever made.

In Gomorrah, nothing is for granted, and the Mafias’ power is absolute. By the end, the romantic view of the Mafia disintegrates like shoreline-sand after a full moon tide.

IN CONCLUSION

Gomorrah

  • “You’ll have to buy your life.”
  • Tomatometer: 92%
  • Watch Now

New York Italian Mafia Movies

2. Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas Movie Trailer

It’s hard to remember that Goodfellas is nearly 150 minutes long, because every minute of the film is so full of detail and exuberance. Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic is the most fun gangster movie ever made. That is, for the first half of it at least.

From nights on the town at Copacabana, to Sunday potlucks in prison; every detail in Goodfellas is expressive. Here are the three main reasons why Goodfellas is a perfect Mafia Movie:

  1. The Production (costume design, makeup, set dressing) is top tier.
  2. Extraordinary performances from the cast, including Pesci, De Niro, and Liotta.
  3. There is a clear arc. Gangsters find identity within their gangs. They get rich and idolized — and they get caught and condemned.

It’s really a simple narrative. With that said, it’s incredibly hard to pull off. Goodfellas is a great example of doing all the little things correct. The result is one of the greatest Mobster movies of all time.

IN CONCLUSION

Goodfellas

  • “Jimmy was the kind of guy who rooted for the bad guys in the movies.”
  • Tomatometer: 96%
  • Watch Now

Top Mafia Movie of All Time

1. The Godfather 1 and 2 (1972-1974) 

The Godfather: Part One Ending Scene

There’s a reason why The Godfather is one of the most revered films of all time; It’s emotionally complex, expertly crafted, and thrilling to watch. The Godfather: Part One and Part Two are really one film that is separated into two parts. On the Top 30 Gangster Movies of All Time list, I put Part Two ahead of One because it’s the former is the film that finds resolution on the themes of the Mafia.

What’s more important? Individual success or family loyalty? Is a man capable of changing his character? Is it the responsibility of the Mafia to give back to the poor? These are the questions that pervade The Godfather. From Sicily to Havana to New York City, these questions and more, haunt the soul of Michael Corleone. The Godfather is a demanding film that doesn’t tell you what to believe about the Mafia. It just leaves you with the face of a man who lost everything to it. 


IN CONCLUSION

The Godfather 1 and 2

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