Viggo Mortensen in a scene from Eastern Promises Image Credit: Supplied picture

Millers Crossing (1990)
A Coen Brothers classic, this 1990 film will be best remembered for Gabriel Byrne’s turn as Tom Reagan, the laconic anti-hero who plays an enforcer for an Irish mob boss played by Albert Finney. Great script and cinematography.

Eastern Promises (2007)
Ruthless Russians embroiled in the London vice trade, a scene that turns a Turkish baths into an abattoir and a protagonist covered in hardcore prison tattoos. Gangster flicks don’t come grittier than Eastern Promises, a film that leaves a nastier taste in the mouth than a gulag soup.

Scarface (1983)
Brash, uncouth and self-destructive, Al Pacino’s compelling Cuban mobster Tony Montana was everything Michael Corleone wasn’t in the Godfather. But still we rooted for him, especially in that climactic coke-fuelled scene when he single-handedly tries to take on a South American hit-squad.


Mesrine (2008)
The two-part biopic of French gangster Jacques Mesrine is our top pick from Europe. Vincent Cassel is outstanding in the title role, playing Mesrine as an enigmatic, yet ruthless gangster. Highly recommended.

The Krays (1990)
In the 1960s, the East End of London was run by The Kray twins, two amateur boxers who rose up through the criminal underworld until they were hobnobbing with celebrities and aristocrats. Brothers Martin and Gary Kemp played the terrible twosome with menacing aplomb.

Carlito’s Way (1993)
Fresh out of jail, legendary Puerto Rican drug dealer Carlito Brigante wants to go straight, but before he can retire to a tropical island he has to court the criminal underworld of New York’s Harlem one more time. Italian mobsters play the bad guys, but this movie has an overwhelming Hispanic flavour.

City of God (2002)
Fernando Meirelles’ mesmerising portrayal of life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro brought us some of the most dangerous – and youngest – gangsters in cinema history. The apathy with which gang-leader Lil Ze dispatched his victims hammered home the cheapness of life in the lawless favelas.

The Departed (2006)
Having built his reputation on Italian gangster films, Martin Scorsese finally won an Oscar with a film about the Boston Irish. Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio play cops with plenty to hide in this taut thriller with a rousing soundtrack.

Company (2002)
Gritty and darkly moody, Company was a huge commercial success in India. Based loosely on the lives of Mumbai gangsters Dawood Ibrahim and Chota Rajan, this remains one of the best gangsters flicks to have come out of the subcontinent.

State of Grace (1990)
Sean Penn, Gary Oldman and Ed Harris star in this tale of fraternal double-crossing and gangland supremacy in the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of New York. The film was inspired in part by the real-life American-Irish gang known as The Westies.