American productions like The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Untouchables, and Casino are often linked with gangster cinema. Gangster movies first appeared in the 1930s with classics like Scarface and The Public Enemy, which featured anti-heroes, violent climaxes, and a grim portrayal of society. The focus of the filmmaker and the ideas presented changed as the genre did.
To demonstrate the popularity and diversity of the rapidly spreading genre, this list offers the best gangster films produced outside of the United States. These films, which range from classics like La Haine and A Better Tomorrow to lesser-known gems like Election and Suburra, transport you to the grimy streets of Paris, Rome, or Hong Kong and demonstrate that there will always be gangs or lone criminals operating outside the reach of the law wherever you go.
Table Of Content
A Better Tomorrow
Ti Lung plays Sung Tse-Ho, a well-known senior triad member, in this iconic gangster film co-written and directed by John Woo. Typically, Mark Lee, his security, is with him. The younger brother of Tse-Ho is pursuing a different career route and is pursuing police academy training. Sung Tse-Ho desires to put his criminal past behind him and make amends with his brother, but this is easier said than done.
is one of John Woo’s best films and a landmark in Hong Kong filmmaking. The action sequences are technically sound, the script centers on themes of honor and brotherhood, and the ensemble gives excellent performances. A Better Tomorrow is still relevant today as it was in 1986 when it was first produced, teaching viewers about action sequences and the use of slow motion.
Tahar Rahim plays Malik El-Djebena, a young guy who is jailed for assaulting police officers, in Jacques Audiard’s co-written and directed film A Prophet. He is adopted by the Corsican mafia, which is run by César Luciani (Niels Arestrup), who imposes his authority with extreme violence. He will gradually gain the mobsters’ trust after being first mistreated by them. One of the best contemporary gangster films to date, A Prophet is gritty and extremely thorough in its portrayal of the illicit life.
The film shines for its accurate depiction of prison life and for Audiard’s astute direction, which is essential in keeping the viewer riveted to the screen despite the lengthy running time. However, Tahar Rahim does a great job at portraying Malik and capturing the complexity of the character’s emotions. A Prophet develops through time and is eventually viewed as a masterpiece.
City of God
Based on the same-titled novel by Paulo Lins, City of God was co-directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund. The film, which portrays the neighborhood’s organized crime, is set in Rio de Janeiro’s Ciudade de Deus and takes place between the 1960s and the 1980s. The plot revolves around Rocket, a budding photographer, and the ups and downs of neighborhood thug Zé Pequeno. Four Academy Awards were nominated for City of God, which has subsequently gained cult status.
The film City of God is not just another gangster flick. Despite its action scenes and gory mood, this Brazilian film has a political undertone that is hard to miss. The portrayal of the favelas, the racist police, and the protagonists’ everyday despair are what the film’s true message is. One cannot argue against City of God.
Election co-written and directed by Johnnie To, starring Tony Leung Ka-fai and Simon Yam as Lok and Big D, two Wo Ling Shing members who want to take over as the only leaders of their triad when the current chairman’s term ends. Election is a display of Johnnie To’s cinematic vision and a fantastic Hong Kong gangster film with a large ensemble cast.
It’s challenging to put elections into words. The movie fascinates and mesmerizes the spectator from the elegant and understated opening credits onward with its sharp cinematography and directorial composition. The screenplay is simultaneously brilliantly crafted with its ongoing intrigues and machinations. Election is a classic milestone in the gangster genre, vicious and funny at the same time, and the prolific Hongkonger director never misses a beat. Don’t pass it up.
Infernal Affairs, a suspenseful and artistically spectacular film directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, follows the tale of Lau Kin-ming (Andy Lau), a criminal who is sent by his boss to the Hong Kong police academy in order to join the force. On the other hand, Chan Wing-yan (Tony Leung) is covertly selected by police superintendent Wong Chi-shing (Anthony Wong) to work as an undercover officer in Lau Kin-ming’s gang. Scorsese reworked it as The Departed in 2006, four years after its initial release.
The Departed may be more well-known, but Infernal Affairs is better. Words alone cannot explain how expressive, flashy, and engaging the cinematography is—especially in the night scenes—or how brilliant the directing by the Lau-Mak team is. At the same time, Andy Lau and Tony Leung brilliantly capture the taut and dramatic storyline without missing a beat. pure movie.
Vinz (Vincent Cassel), Hubert (Hubert Koundé), and Sad (Sad Taghmaoui) are three young men from a Parisian banlieue who are the subjects of the film La Haine, which was written and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, who also has a cameo appearance in the film as a neo-nazi. La Haine is regarded as a 1990s cult classic with memorable language and a political undercurrent, and it has an incredible soundtrack performed by the French conscious rap duo Assassin.
La Haine astounds you with a sincere and rebellious representation of social inequity and racism in France, shot with amazing black-and-white graphics. Kassovitz is also fantastic in front of the camera, giving us spectacular cinematic moments. One of the three primary characters does a better job than the other of letting us into their daily life. La Haine is a brazen demonstration of the potential for fusing crime films with a conscious mind. It is protest cinema with a capital P. Mandatory.
Le Cercle Rouge
Alain Delon plays Corey, a gangster who is released early from prison, in the Jean-Pierre Melville film Le Cercle Rouge. A prison guard gives Corey a heads-up about a potential hit at a Parisian jewelry store before he is released. Corey organizes the hit along with escaped murderer Vogel (Gian Maria Volonté) and heavy-drinking ex-cop Jansen (Yves Montand).
The indisputable king of noir and a masterful gangster storyteller is Jean-Pierre Melville. Le Cercle Rouge is a stunning film with the French director’s signature aesthetic: sleek and fashionable cinematography, elaborate costumes with waterproof mackintoshes and elegant suits, and an alluring mood. As usual, Delon, Volontè, and Montand all exhibit outstanding performance. Le Cercle Rouge is a masterwork of the gangster genre and one of the best ways to introduce yourself to Jean-Pierre Melville’s cinematic universe.
Milano Calibro 9
Milano Calibro 9 is the classic poliziottesco film, an Italian criminal subgenre that involves mobsters, brutal violence, and a view into the chaotic 1970s. It was written and directed by Fernando Di Leo. The small-time criminal Ugo Piazza (Gastone Moschin) is being followed after being freed from prison by his old associates, who believe that Piazza stole a significant sum of money before to being apprehended. No one, not even the cops or his girlfriend Nelly Bordon, believes him.
The filmmaker and undisputed master of the poliziottesco subgenre is Di Leo. The spectator is better able to imagine themselves in the gritty streets of Milan thanks to his signature slow-paced rhythm, which also perfectly complements the tense plot. The progressive and groovy soundtrack provided by the Italian cult band Osanna is also excellent. The performance of Moschin, who is flawless in his role as the lone mobster, is the cherry on top.
Takeshi Kitano wrote, edited, and directed the film Sonatine, in which Kitano plays an elderly yakuza named Murakawa who wishes to give up the mafia lifestyle. His commander sends him to Okinawa to settle a conflict between two related gangs, but while he is there, his gang is ambushed and his offices are blasted. Sonatine masterfully blends serene and tranquil passages with dramatic explosions.
Sonatine is a standout in Kitano’s oeuvre and a distinctive yakuza picture. Murakawa’s nihilistic outlook is wonderfully balanced by the Japanese director’s extreme violence aesthetic, which is combined with a dreamlike setting and lighthearted undertones. At the same time, Kitano demonstrates his skill as a director by creating a film where each frame appears to be a painting. Sonatine abandons the gangster genre’s loud and action-packed growth in favor of decompressing it with poetry.
Suburra, a film directed by Stefano Sollima that explores the murky political seas of Italy, is based on the same-named novel by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo. The crooked politician Filippo Malgradi (Pierfranceso Favino) is linked to the 1970s neo-fascist militant Roman criminal lord Samurai (Claudio Amendola). A construction bill that benefits Samurai must be passed with Malgradi’s assistance, but soon problems and violence will make things difficult.
Suburra is a loosely based on actual events gangster film with neo-noir elements. The elegant and powerful direction of Sollima, which is appropriate in the stressful situation as well as in the rush of action that occasionally invades the screen, is what makes this Italian film stand out. The soundtrack and cinematography perfectly complement the cast’s outstanding work in portraying the various characters and their sense of social belonging. a must watch.
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