From classic gangsters to extravagant heists, crime movies are some of the best movies of all time. They are able to show us the ugly details of the criminal world, but at the same time they also manage to show us that most of these criminals are just like us.
Today I’m here to countdown the greatest crime movies that the genre has to offer. Some of these will hopefully bring back some great memories, as well as reminding you why movies about criminals are so f#@%#!$ entertaining. With that being said, crime movies tend to take elements of many different genres so, if there are some missing from this list, it may be because I’ve got them on another upcoming list.
As always, before I start the countdown, I have some honourable mentions to give out. Although these are great movies, they just missed out on making the top 10.
Zodiac (2007): An intense and scary look into the search for the infamous Zodiac killer from the mind of David Fincher. Some scenes seem like they are straight out of a horror movie and I love that.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998): A funny British crime comedy that put Jason Statham on the map.
The Usual Suspects (1995): A noir style crime thriller that demands multiple viewings from the viewer. Also has the greatest twist in all of cinema.
Hell or High Water (2016): A modern-day western about bank robbers that managed to be one of the most criminally under-watched movies of last year.
L.A. Confidential (1997): A twist filled crime mystery that manages to get more entertaining after each viewing.
Fargo (1996): How could a movie about a husband hiring two criminals to kidnap his wife be this great? Also managed to have one of the best TV anthology shows based off this Coen Brothers classic.
Casino (1995): A Martin Scorsese epic filled with memorable performances and one of the most brutal gangster executions ever put to film.
The Untouchables (1987): Easily one of the better prohibition set movies out there, with a great portrayal of the infamous Al Capone.
Snatch (2000): Another great British crime comedy that has Brad Pitt put on one of the best accents ever. Seriously, it’s hilarious to watch.
In Bruges (2008): One of the darkest comedies that I’ve ever seen, as well as a modern-day classic. I never expected a movie filled with so much dark subject matter to actually be as funny as it was entertaining.
Now, let’s begin!
10. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The debut feature film from Quentin Tarantino, is one hell of a crime movie. This unconventional heist movie follows a group of criminals after a heist gone wrong, as they start to suspect that one of them is a police informant. Now, ‘Reservoir Dogs’ was one strong, hard hitting way for Quentin Tarantino to get into the movie industry and it’s one of the best independent movies out there. With terrific performances from a great cast (Michael Madsen as Mr. Blonde is one of my favourite performances/characters ever), a violent and funny script and lots of blood, this is a crime movie that you’ll never forget.
9. Baby Driver (2017)
Another unconventional crime movie on the list and oh, how great it is! This stylish crime thriller follows a young getaway driver as he falls in love with a girl and struggles to escape the criminal life he has lived in for so long. Now, this is so far the best movie to come out this year, in my opinion and there are many reasons why it is on this list. It manages to have a glorious script that is as funny as it is dramatic, that also manages to make its characters relatable and it also has the stylish direction that Edgar Wright is known for. His use of music and little CGI is a glorious ode to the classics of the genre. ‘Baby Driver’ is a modern-day crime masterpiece and is definitely a stand out in the genre. Also, hands down the best movie soundtrack in a long time.
8. Heat (1995)
Arguably the greatest cops and robbers movie out there, ‘Heat’ manages to exceed the huge expectations that surround this engrossing crime epic. ‘Heat’ follows a small group of professional robbers who start to feel the heat of the law enforcement and how it affects their personal lives. With one of the greatest and most realistic shootouts in all of cinema and incredible performances, especially from the two leads (Al Pacino and Robert De Niro), this is a crime epic that is well worth your time.
7. Se7en (1995)
Probably the most disturbing crime movie on this list, ‘Se7en’ is a dark, creepy and gritty take on the crime genre. It follows two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, as they attempt to catch a serial killer, who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives. This film manages be a terrifying look into what it takes to be a detective in this hellish version of New York City and oh, how magnificent it is. One of the main reasons ‘Se7en’ is on here is because it isn’t afraid to show us the dark side of humanity and because of that, it managed to be one of the most successful movies of the 90s. It also manages to have one of the most insane endings that will leave you wondering what’s in the box? I also love the fact that they didn’t even put the name of the actor who portrayed the killer in the credits, which I love.
6. Scarface (1983)
The incredible rise and fall of the fictional Tony Montana is a gem in the movie world. ‘Scarface’ manages to be both a fictional biopic and crime epic all in one and it still manages to be as exciting today as it was over 30 years ago. This is arguably Brian De Palma’s magnum opus and it’s filled with great, over-the-top performances, ultra-violent scenes and it also has one of the best character studies ever put to film. This is an 80s classic and it’s also happens to be one of the most quotable crime movies on this list. If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely say hello to this cocaine filled epic.
5. The Departed (2006)
Martin Scorsese sure knows how to make a crime movie! ‘The Departed’ follows two different people, a police informant who infiltrates a Boston mob and a career criminal who infiltrates the Boston police department, who try to identify each other and tell their superiors who the mole is. Now, this is an intense crime drama to watch and easily one of the best from Martin Scorsese. With a smart and witty script, amazing performances from its all-star cast and enough twists and turns to make M. Night Shyamalan look like an amateur, ‘The Departed’ is a crime thriller that I encourage everyone to see. Besides, you will probably end up loving it as much as me.
4. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Oh, Quentin Tarantino, you have done it again! The first time I watched this masterpiece from one of the greatest modern directors of all time, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that such a dialogue driven movie could be one of the most entertaining and darkly funny movies that I have ever seen. ‘Pulp Fiction’ follows four different, intertwining stories which revolve around two hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife and a Bonnie and Clyde inspired couple. Arguably the most quotable crime movie to ever exist, ‘Pulp Fiction’ also happens to be a magnificent tour de force that never loses its charm. With a typical witty, Tarantino script, great characters/performances and enough quotable dialogue that turns into a second language for you, ‘Pulp Fiction’ is a great crime movie and gets even better after every viewing.
3. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
The last movie to be made by the great Sergio Leone, ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ is an almost four hour crime epic, which is also a damn fine masterpiece. Set over a period that spans a lifetime, this western inspired crime epic follows a Jewish prohibition gangster and his childhood friends as they become powerful criminal figures and how he starts to confront the ghosts and regrets of his life as an older man. A epic tale set around greed, corruption, betrayal and revenge, ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ is an overlooked gem as the next two on this list seem to overshadow it. Being an underappreciated movie and although many may be turned off by its almost four hour run-time, you should check this masterpiece out as soon as you can. Seriously it has amazing performances (especially from Robert De Niro and James Woods), unbelievable cinematography and an orgasmic score. This is a movie that everyone should see and talk about. Simply amazing!
2. The Godfather Part I & II (1972 & 1974)
Now, some may call me out on this by saying: “Why do you have two movies as one pick?” Well, since both of these movies are just as great as each other and have a story that spans over each movie, it’s basically a six-and-a-half hour crime epic that manages to be an amazing crime movie as well as an amazing family drama. ‘The Godfather Part I & II’ follow the Corleone family from the early 1900s to the 1960s as drama, betrayal, love and murder surround their lives. With the first ‘Godfather’ having a slightly more simple plot (compared to the prequel/sequel that is part II), these are both as great as each other. Marlon Brando shines as the head of the family dynasty in ‘The Godfather Part I,’ which leads to his youngest son, Michael (the great Al Pacino) taking over the family business towards the end and becoming a completely different man in ‘The Godfather Part II.’ With some of the greatest acting ever put to film, an epic story, amazing direction and enough violence to make you wonder why anyone would want to be apart of the mafia business, ‘The Godfather Part I & II’ are some of the best movies in the history of cinema and are still relevant today. Seriously, some of the best six-and-a-half hours you’ll ever have, just avoid part III.
1. Goodfellas (1990)
Easily the greatest mob movie and crime movie to ever exist, ‘Goodfellas’ is a Martin Scorsese classic which proves that he is a master of the crime genre. Chronicling the true story of American mobster Henry Hill, ‘Goodfellas’ manages to show us both the good and ugly side of what it’s like to work as a criminal in the mafia. With great performances from it’s amazing cast including Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro (Yet another crime movie with him) and Joe Pesci (In his most psycho role ever, I think), the acting is just a little thing that makes this such a great crime movie. Martin Scorsese knows how to make a movie about the mob and his telling of a true story makes you wonder yet again, why anyone would want to be apart of this world? The direction, cinematography and fast paced style of film-making makes this a very enjoyable movie and a re-watchable one at that. So, with the great acting, direction and even better telling of a true story, this is not just one of the greatest movies of all time, but it is also the greatest crime movie out there.
There it is, my top 10 crime movies. I hope you enjoyed reading it and hopefully I’ve persuaded you into watching some of these great movies. As always, tell me if I’ve left a movie off the list as I’m curious to see what your taste in this genre is like.