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August 28, 2012


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David Ehrenstein

How could you possibly have overlooked "Performance"????!!!!!

Glenn Kenny

Not to mention "The Long Good Friday," "Sexy Beast," and "The Hit?"

Obviously I need to pitch this to MSN again with the "British division" categorization.


Wait.... isn't it Gladys George who gets the last line in over the dead Cagney in "Roaring Twenties"?

Glenn Kenny

Could be. I rarely get off one of these without some kind of naming error like that.

John Warthen

I would complain about your elevating MILLER'S CROSSING and GANGS OF NEW YORK above far better films, but scratch that-- would feel ungrateful alongside your honoring THE OUTFIT as you did. And the lovely phrase "seethingly weird" nails Ferrara's entire output for me--exactly so!
Anyone interested in a contemporary writer whose mob-stories feel accurate right down to the inner-soliloquys should check out Bill James' magnificent Harpur-Iles series.

David Ehrenstein

If you're "going British" don't Forget "Love is the Devil" the superb Francis Bacon biopic by John Maybury. Bacon's lover George Dyer was a Kray henchman. In the film he's played by

(wait for it)

Daniel Craig


"But as the movie progresses, every scene in which LaBeouf walks through a door and is not instantly smacked in the face with the blade of a shovel proves to be something of a disappointment."

That Lawless review is as funny as reviews get.

Chris Labarthe

Someone really needs to make a caper film called Lunkhead Amanuensis


I am glad there were so many classic and foreign films on the list (especially Melville films), even though I agree the omission of the British gangster films mentioned in the comments above (to which I'd add THE KRAYS, if only because after watching the Monty Python skit about them I never thought I could watch a serious film about them without having the urge to yell, "Dinsdale!" at the screen). And there are a couple of choices I'd quibble with (never been a fan of THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE - as far as Bogey/Robinson gangster films, I much prefer BULLETS OR BALLOTS - and always thought PETRIFIED FOREST was too stagy), as well as omissions (no ASPHALT JUNGLE? If you're calling THE KILLING a gangster film and not a caper film - and I agree the distinction can be a bit blurry - surely both of them belong). It's the best list like this you've done.

John, I agree with you about THE OUTFIT, which I finally caught up to recently - now one of my top 5 Joe Don Baker performances - but I would elevate MILLER'S CROSSING pretty high on a list of best gangster films.

David Ehrenstein

One of the greatest pieces of acting in the history of the cinema:



Was that in any order of preference, because GET CARTER is way too far down the list.

I do wonder why British gangster movies have protagonists that are so much more psychotic.


I'm on my phone and won't be clicking through that whole gallery until I get home, but i'm glad Gangs of New York apparently made a good showing. So much attention paid to the messiness of the script-by-committee and the post-production interference, but isn't that fitting in such an obvious Leone homage?

Let's focus on what's important: the visuals. Ferretti and Scorsese have rarely been better, with more great scenes than most Hollywood directors manage in a career, let alone in one film. Bonus points for the Chimes At Midnight-inspired battle scene at the beginning, and that appropriately anticlimactic final duel, where the main characters are reduced to insignificant mice squabbling over a piece of cheese, swallowed up by the smoke and history happening around them.

Tom Russell

Great list, Glenn. And it's nice to see some love for CITY FOR CONQUEST, which is a really great film I was obsessed with for quite some time.


A really great list despite the shocking omission of Von Sternberg, who kind of invented the genre in some ways. So happy to see Fuller's UNDERWORLD U.S.A. get a mention.

Bobby Rathbun

Great list Glenn.... There's a few I've never seen(THE OUTFIT)that I'm going to check out soon. I always thought Kubrick's THE KILLING was the best heist movie ever until I saw RIFIFI.


I didn't notice White Heat in there, but I've always preferred it to The Public Enemy.


Holy shit...WHITE HEAT. Yeah. What in the *hell*!?

No, but seriously. It's a great list. I don't think anyone should have to make excuses for GANGS OF NEW YORK, however flawed it is. I remember being relieved by your original review in Premiere, Glenn, because it made me feel like maybe I wasn't crazy.

I also think MEAN STREETS is unquestionable a gangster film -- it just doesn't follow the typical formula. But that film (which somehow took me three viewings before I realized how great it is) wouldn't exist if there wasn't such a thing as the gangster lifestyle, in reality more than in film. Charlie's craven form of Catholicism is a perfect match for that character and that world.

Richard Conte is awesome in THE BIG COMBO. I wish I remembered the film better, but he has some great asshole lines in that.

And Rocky was faking it, for the kids. I thought everyone knew that.

PS - glad to see MILLER'S CROSSING, my personal favorite, make the list.

PPS - do not approve of the Coens being referred to as "pranksters."


Also very happy at the inclusion of Underworld USA, one of my favorite Fullers. And Robertson has that brilliant response when the woman he's been using suggests marriage: "Marry you? You must be on the needle."

Such a brutal, cynical film.

Not David Bordwell

I'm sure Glenn can be taken to task for not including any number of classic gangster films of the 30's, hard-boiled noir, British crime dramas, Japanese Yakuza flicks or Hong Kong actioners...

But can we all agree the truly gross oversight is BUGSY MALONE?

Where's BUGSY MALONE?!?!!!


I definitely miss WHITE HEAT, but I guess you can't put EVERY Cagney gangster film on the list. If you could, I might add LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, too, with Cagney as a version of Mickey Cohen.


That's a good list. It's nice to see Grisbi thrown some love. A couple that I would toss in the pile are The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond and Johnnie To's two Election films. If we are also including loosely gangster-related films, I think Salvatore Giuliano would be a good left field contender. Speaking of Rosi, there is always Lucky Luciano to consider too.

David Ehrenstein


Jason M.

@ David Ehrenstein-

God, I love THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY. A great gangster film with one of the truly great film endings. And one that I can't help thinking was very much in Cronenberg's mind as he shot the final sequence of Cosmopolis.

Very fine list, Glenn. Also, it's been awhile since I laughed harder while reading a review than when I read your fourth paragraph takedown of Shia LaBoeuf.

Yann Heckmann

Ok, I really don't get how "Gangs of New York" and "Public Enemies" ended up on this list - to me they are both failures in that they are totally uninvolving. Does anybody here care about the characters in these two films - really?

As alternatives I suggest: "A Prophet", "Mesrine", "Le Cercle Rouge", "City of God", "In Bruges", "Sonatine"



I kind of wonder if it comes down to whether Glenn considered some of those you mentioned "gangster" films. I'm curious if Pulp Fiction qualifies as a gangster film, after noticing that Reservoir Dogs made the cut.

Tom Russell

I'm a big GANGS booster. I don't think your litmus-- does anyone care about the characters?-- is particularly kosher. A better question is, is anyone fascinated by these characters?, or, the world they inhabit?, the spectacle to which we are witness?, the techniques Scorsese uses to tell his story?

For me, all that's very involving, but YMMV.

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