Not very far from casino films, mafia movies make us dive into crime and suspicion. Let’s see (again) or discover the 5 best ever.
The Godfather (1972)
For the purposes of this list we have counted the two sequels as part of The Godfather because they also received top reviews when they came out, and even today. The basic plot is about an aging Italian Godfather, who must help his son make the transition to boss of his organised crime ‘family’. His son does not want to take this responsibility on, and the elderly Godfather comes from a different generation than his son, so it is a culture shock as the transition begins to occur.
This movie stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan and more, and was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The Godfather won many awards : an Oscar for the Best Picture; Best Actor in a Leading Role to Marlon Brando; Best Writing, Screenplay based upon a book went to Mario Puzo.
Goodfellas was directed by Martin Scorsese. It starred Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and others. At the Oscars, Joe Pesci won Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Goodfellas. Goodfellas is about Harry Hill, who is considered a small-time gangster. Hill joins a robbery with two other gangsters – Jimmy Conway and Tommy De Vito. These two are the yuppies, or upwardly mobile, of the mafia world. They’ve got their eyes on bigger things and with them Hill begins to advance through the mob’s powerful and complicated hierarchy.
Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, James Woods, and others, Casino is nearly three hours long. It takes place inside the Los Vegas world of gambling and casinos, highlighting how they are a power unto their own. One of the ‘morals’ of the film showcases the glitz and glamour of Vegas compared to its jaded and cruel side just under the surface of all that ‘entertainment’ and gambling.
The film is about two mobsters named Ace Rothstein and Nicky Santoro who want to make their new life in Vegas where they can live and work in the gaming industry. Set in the 1970s and 1980s, Casino shows Rothstein operating the (fictional) Tangiers casino and Santoro as an enforcer and strongman. It is their own personal demons which may be their eventual downfall. Sharon Stone was nominated for Best Actress through the Academy Awards, and Casino won Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.
Donnie Brasco (1997)
The FBI sends agent Donnie Brasco undercover. It was directed by Mike Newell and stars Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen, Burno Kirby and others. Donnie Brasco is based on the true story of FBI agent Joe Pistone. Set in New York, Pistone’s undercover alias Donnie Brasco makes friends with the likes of Lefty Ruggiero, Sonny Black, and other notorious mafia names.
While inside the mafia world, Ruggiero and Brasco become close friends, and Brasco helps collect money for the bosses of the Sonny Black faction. He also collects evidence. The conflict is man against self as much as man against man, and along the way his marriage falls apart. The mafia begins to suspect there is a mole, and you’ll have to watch the rest to find out how it ends.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
A gangster from the prohibition era returns to his home grounds of Lower East Side Manhattan thirty years after his prohibition days. This top mafia movie was the work of director Sergio Leone. Main cast members included Joe Pesci, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, and Robert De Niro. Once Upon a Time in America was passed on by the Oscars but won a dozen smaller awards, including the BAFTA awards and took home five prizes in the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists.