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The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

We've combed the genre to pull the most memorable mob bosses and enforcers since Coppola's classic.

(Universal)
(Universal)

It's ridiculous to argue stuff like this, but it's also wicked fun. That's why I won't be backing up the following list with numbers or metrics showing you which gangsters offed the most rats, seduced the most twists, or wielded the biggest Tommy gun. What I can tell you is I love gangster movies and, although the genre was ushered into modernity by Jimmy Cagney in White Heat (1949), the true vision of modern gangsters worldwide was realized by Francis Ford Coppola when he made the two best mob movies ever: The Godfather and The Godfather Part II

That's our starting point. I'm counting the first two Godfather films as one so the following list will begin after GF2 was released in 1974. Since these two movies, who are the greatest gangster characters in film? The Corleone family left behind a daunting legacy. But filmmakers from all over the globe have thrown their hat in the organized crime ring. We've seen mobsters from the States, from the U.K., France, and even Brazil.

The gangster movie is a time-honored cinematic tradition and the characters who emerge from these films are typically unforgettable: charismatic personalities who also happen to be psychopaths (mostly). Movie goers will forgive the killings if their (anti) heroes entertain with panache, and these guys do. So without further "to do" (as Carlito Brigante says), here are the greatest gangsters in film since Coppola gave us Vito, Sonny, Fredo, and Michael Corleone. 

  • 1

    Tommy DeVito

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. (Warner Brothers)

  • 2

    Tony Montana

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Al Pacino in Scarface. (Universal)

  • 3

    Nicky Santoro

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Joe Pesci in Casino. (Universal)

  • 4

    Al Capone

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Robert De Niro in The Untouchables. (Paramount)

  • 5

    Henry Hill

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. (Warner Brothers)

  • 6

    Jimmy Conway

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Robert De Niro in Goodfellas. (Warner Brothers)

  • 7

    Bill the Butcher

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York. (Miramax)

  • 8

    Leo O'Bannon

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Albert Finney in Miller's Crossing. (20th Century Fox)

  • 9

    Jules Winnfield

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction. (Miramax)

  • 10

    Don Logan

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. (Fox Searchlight)

  • 11

    Montoya Santana

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Edward James Olmos in American Me. (Universal)

  • 12

    Sonny LoSpecchio

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Chazz Palminteri in A Bronx Tale. (Price Entertainment)

  • 13

    Noodles Aaronson

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Robert De Niro in Once Upon a Time in America. (Warner Brothers)

  • 14

    Drexl Spivey

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Gary Oldman in True Romance. (Universal)

  • 15

    Carlito Brigante

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Al Pacino in Carlito's Way. (Universal)

  • 16

    French

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Ray Winstone in The Departed. (Warner Brothers)

  • 17

    Vincent Mancini

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Andy Garcia in The Godfather Part III. (Paramount)

  • 18

    Frank White

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Christopher Walken in King of New York. (Seven Arts Pictures | New Line)

  • 19

    Whitey Bulger

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Johnny Depp in Black Mass. (Warner Bros.)

  • 20

    Li'l Zé

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Leandro Firmino da Hora in City of God. (Miramax)

  • 21

    Nikolai Luzhin

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises. (Focus Features)

  • 22

    John Dillinger

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Johnny Depp in Public Enemies. (Universal)

  • 23

    Frank Lucas

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Denzel Washington in American Gangster. (Universal)

  • 24

    Yamamoto

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Takeshi "Beat" Kitano in Brother. (Shochiku Co., Ltd.)

  • 25

    Frank Sheeran

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Robert De Niro in The Irishman. (Netflix)

  • 26

    Caine Lawson

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Tyrin Turner in Menace II Society. (New Line)

  • 27

    Harold Shand

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday. (Paramount)

  • 28

    Brick Top

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Alan Ford in Snatch. (Screen Gems)

  • 29

    Dutch Schultz

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Dustin Hoffman in Billy Bathgate. (Buena Vista)

  • 30

    Dickie Moltisanti

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Alessandro Nivola in The Many Saints of Newark. (Warner Bros.)

  • 31

    Jacques Mesrine

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Vincent Cassel in Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One. (Pathé)

  • 32

    Lil Mago

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Tenoch Huerta in Sin Nombre. (Focus Features)

  • 33

    Jackie Cogan

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly. (TWC)

  • 34

    O-Dog

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Larenz Tate in Menace II Society. (New Line)

  • 35

    Gangster 55

    The Greatest Gangsters in Film Since 'The Godfather'

    Paul Bettany in Gangster No. 1. (FilmFour)

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