As you can perhaps guess from the photo above, I'm fairly certain that, unless he somehow monumentally screwed this one up, Ridley Scott's upcoming "American Gangster" will soon find its place on a future edition of this list.
If you want to see a slew of images from it, visit the great froggy film site Cinempire.com. And now, in honor of Mr. Scott and his hopefully great movie, here are 10 of my favorite mob (using the term very loosely) movies. And before anyone jumps on the most obvious omission, I've left out the two clearly greatest mob movies of all time Godfather I and II, because if you haven't seen those already, I probably can't help you anyway. Here goes, and please feel free to pitch in with any you love that I may have overlooked:
1. Internal Affairs
Though I thought "The Departed" was Martin Scorsese's best movie in many years and a deserving Best Picture winner, the real accomplishmen was William Monahan's in capturing most of the style of this Hong Kong crime flick and transporting it to Boston. It plays the game of interchanging identies even better than Scorsese's flick, and the trilogy it developed into has often been compared to "The Godfather."
2. City of God
When pressed to name one favorite movie, this is the title I pull out most often, because my love for this Fernando Meirelles movie knows no bounds. His flick about Brazilian kids and the lure of organized street crime is as visually stunning as it is dramatically compelling.
3. Angels With Dirty Faces
Believe it or not, I was able to do my senior thesis at Catholic University, for a class on political film, about the social implications of the early gangster flicks. Maybe not as easy as it sounds at first, but still a lot of fun. With this flick, my favorite of the bunch, you get James Cagney and Pat O'Brien, childhood friends who go on to become a mobster and a priest (given the actors, I trust you can guess the order.)
4. Little Caesar
Another from my rather enjoyable assignment. James Cagney rightly got the most acclaim back then, but Edward G. Robinson's Rico in this flick was my favorite of the early gangsters, and his death scene ("Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico!) is just perfect.
5. The General
John Boorman may best be known for making that movie where the dudes have to squeal like a pig, but he's made many other great flicks, including this one about the legendary Irish gangster Martin Cahill. This was the first time I remember noticing Brendan Gleeson who, as Cahill, gets in a great cat-and-mouse game with Jon Voight's Inspector Ned Kenny.
6. Ghost Dog
If ever Jim Jarmusch was gonna have a bonafide big hit, this offbeat gangster flick with Forest Whitaker was probably his best shot. Starring Whitaker as a sort of zen hitman who eventually turns on his mafia employers, it gathers in Eastern mythology, Wu Tang philosophy and other ideas for a mix that almost works perfectly (and Isaac de Bankole's ice cream truck driver is extremely funny.)
I can probably get away with omitting "The Godfather," but this list would be a complete failure without this one. It should have garnered Oscars for Martin Scorsese, Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco (but did get a well-deserved one for Joe Pesci, who hasn't come close to being that good since.) Among its many virtues are perhaps the best tracking shot of all time, when Liotta's Henry Hill takes Bracco's Karen out on their big date at The Copa. Just amazing.
8. Once Upon a Time in America
When I was far too young to be seeing this movie, my parents took us to see it in New York, only to have to drag us out just before Robert De Niro's "Noodles" Aronson makes a rather disastrous attempt to win the affections of Elizabeth Perkins' Deborah Gelly (and, failing rather miserably, ends up raping her in a car.) Not exactly family-friendly stuff, but this epic Sergio Leone flick tells a sprawling but mostly spellbinding tale about four friends who grow up to be gangsters, and it is at its very best in its quietest moments at the beginning and end.
9. Miller's Crossing
Forgetting this Coen Bros. flick would be almost as great a sin as omitting "Goodfellas." This one proved that, indeed, Joel and Ethan Coen can do anything they want to on screen, and the Irish-American mob flick contains the best performance from one of my favorite actors, Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar.
10. The Lavendar Hill Mob
OK, maybe not technically a mob movie, but I love to laugh and this one just makes me giggle uncontrollably. It almost made me cry too this morning when I saw listed at the IMDB a potential 2009 remake of this British flick about a meek bank clerk who stages a heist of his employers. Apparently nothing at all is sacred.
And there you have it. I have to wrap this rather quickly so I can go to an 11:15 screening of "The Kingdom" before work, so not many pictures. As I said, please feel free to add any of your favorites, and have a great weekend.