Last Updated: April 6th
A good gangster movie must do two things: Make us want to live a life of crime and, at the same time, make us grateful we haven’t indulged our dark sides like the characters on this list. Most gangster films make the criminal underworld look like a hell of a good time. There’s booze, money, women, expensive cars, everything we’re taught we should want, but the lavish lifestyle often comes with a price, which means a good gangster movie must also show us the downside of running a criminal empire: The violence, the bloodshed, and the very real threat of prison time. As they say, you can’t have your cake and eat it too — but no one told that to the characters in these films.
Here are the 10 most enjoyable films currently streaming on Netflix.
The Irishman (2019)
Run Time: 209 min | IMDb: 8.7/10
Martin Scorsese delivers another cinematic triumph, this time for Netflix and with the help of some familiar faces. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino team up (again) for this crime drama based on actual events. De Niro plays Frank Sheeran a World War II vet who finds work as a hitman for the mob. Pacino plays notorious Teamster Jimmy Hoffa, a man who frequently found himself on the wrong side of the law and the criminals he worked with. The film charts the pair’s partnership over the years while injecting some historical milestones for context. It’s heavy and impressively cast and everything you’d expect a Scorsese passion-project to be.
Uncut Gems (2019)
Run Time: 135 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
This adventurous mindf*ck starring Adam Sandler finally landed on Netflix, and our only advice before watching this criminally-good romp is this: prepare yourself for a wild, over-the-top ride. Sandler gives one of his best performances as a diamond dealer who gets in deep with some unsavory people and risks everything on a rare gem, and the Safdie Brothers prove they’ve got a knack for crafting thrillers textured with grit and a realness that just can’t be beaten.
Imperial Dreams (2014)
Run Time: 87 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
John Boyega stars in this stirring drama about a recently released convict caught up in the terrible cycle that people often face after prison. Boyega plays Bambi, a 21-year-old who gets a taste of freedom after spending time behind bars for some kind of crime involving a weapon. Bambi’s determined to live right and do right by his son, but the system is set against him. He makes numerous attempts to live the straight and narrow, even as family members and friends in the projects where he used to live continually pressure him to get back in the game. Bambi’s just one of so many hopeless cases, and the film does a good job of immersing us in the relentless cycle of violence and crime that even the most well-intentioned ex-convicts face outside of prison.
The Town (2010)
Run Time: 125 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Ben Affleck writes, directs, and stars in this gritty heist film set in his hometown of Boston. Affleck plays Doug, a master thief planning his greatest, and last heist who becomes distracted by a romantic relationship with a bank manager he met on his last job (Rebecca Hall). As Doug and his crew orchestrate a heist involving Red Sox stadium, a dogged FBI agent played by Jon Hamm closes in.
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Run Time: 99 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
The early aughts action-comedy borrows elements from famous Kung Fu films of the ’70s and pairs them with a completely ridiculous plot and some impressive cartoon-style fight sequences to produce a wholly original flick that we guarantee you’ll marvel at. The film follows the exploits of two friends, Sing and Bone, who impersonate gang members in the hopes of joining a gang themselves and inadvertently strike up a gang war that nearly destroys the slums of the city. Of course, the real draw here is the absurdist, over-the-top comedy that takes place during some of the film’s biggest action sequences. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, but only if you check your brain at the door.
Run Time: 116 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, and Shia LaBeouf star in this period gangster drama about a family of moonshiners who go up against a deranged lawman. Hardy plays Forrest, the eldest Bondurant, who operates an illegal liquor delivery service during prohibition times. His brothers Jack (LaBeouf) and Howard (Jason Clarke) provide the muscle, but when a dogged special deputy Guy Pierce) comes to town to shut the business down, things get bloody, quick.
Mean Streets (1973)
Run Time: 112 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
No one does mobster movies better than Martin Scorsese which is why the director pops up more than once on this list. Here, he gives a less-polished, just-as-gripping account of gangster life with Robert De Niro once again playing his leading man. A small-time criminal, De Niro’s Johnny Boy wants to crawl his way up the ranks to mob status but he’s too reckless to be a good henchman. Harvey Keitel’s Charlie is the nephew of a big-time mafioso and best friends with Johnny, two relationships that bring him all sorts of trouble. When Johnny angers a loan shark ready to collect on his debts, it’s Charlie who has to figure a way out of town for them both.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
Run Time: 97 min | IMDb: 6.2/10
Brad Pitt plays a hitman-for-hire in this star-studded gangster flick about a trio of thieves who make the mistake of stealing from the mob. Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn play two of the idiots who decide to rob a mafia poker night. They get away with the cash before Pitt’s Jackie is recruited to hunt them down and use them to set an example. Along the way, he deals with crooked mob bosses and washed-up assassins and though the plot of this movie leaves a lot to be desired, it’s filled with enough big-name talents — think Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini — to warrant a watch.
Run Time: 109 min | IMDb: 6.4/10
This hip-hop drama set in Chicago carries some strong Straight Outta Compton vibes but injects a bit more heart into the tale of a kid, traumatized by gang violence who finds an outlet in music. Khalil Everage plays August Monroe, a kid who witnesses his sister shot point-blank by a gangbanger in the film’s opening sequence and over a year later, suffers from PTSD that prevents him from attending school or even leaving the house. Instead, he makes beats on his keyboard as his overprotective mother (Uzo Aduba) looks after him. When Anthony Anderson’s Romelo, a former music manager-turned-security-guard at the kid’s high school comes looking for him, the two bond over their love of hip-hop and their rough upbringings.
Run Time: 132 min | IMDb:6.9/10
Tom Hardy pulls double duty playing two real-life gangsters, identical twins Ronald and Reginald Kray, who terrorized London during the 1960s. Reggie is the handsome, smooth-talking swindler, the face of their budding criminal enterprise which sees them controlling nightclubs and gambling rings all across the city. Ron, his twin brother, is a paranoid schizophrenic with a violent streak whose erratic behavior ultimately leads to the pair’s downfall.