by DriveInMovie.com Released : 2023-06-30
1. The Yakuza (1974)
The first big budget Hollywood attempt at an American Yakuza film until Brother (2000). Also was one of the first attempts to respectfully blend Asian and American cinema. Other attempts in the 1980s and 90s like The Protector (1985), The Challenge (1982), and the Big Hit (1998) were box office failures. Black Rain (1989) although a box office success earned mixed reviews. After the Godfather had brought respectability to the mob genre. The great Ken Takakura who was also in Black Rain inspired the project. Lenoard Schrader, the lesser known brother of Paul Schrader, came up with the initial idea while living in Japan. Lenoard spent most of his time in Yakuza Bars and watched multiple Ken Takakura films. Leonard came up with the idea of a westerner involved in the Yakuza. Robert Aldrich originally was brought on to direct and wanted to cast Lee Marvin in the lead. Aldirch and the Schrader brothers did not get along because Aldirch thought the concept was good but hated the script. Lee Marvin demanded too high of a salary so Aldrich recommended Robert Mitchum instead. Aldrich had previously worked with Mitchum on a film in 1959. However, unbeknownst to Aldrich, Mitchum hated him and told the studio he would not work with him. So, the director was replaced with Sydney Pollack who wanted Redford as the lead. Robert Redford and Pollack had already worked on two films together and in 1975 would release Three Days of Condor. Redford was deemed too young for the part and Mitchum was cast. The Schrader brothers also clashed with Pollack who brought in Robert Towne to do rewrites. Prior this this Robert Towne had written Bonnie and Clyde, The Last Detail, and Chinatown. Although at the time the Schrader brothers were furious at being fired, their ideas combined with Towne’s rewrites made for an even better script. The cast is fantastic and Pollack smartly used a whole Japanese crew and shot on location, which brought authenticity to the project. A huge box office flop the film also earned mixed reviews and was largely forgotten. Today, it has developed a passionate cult following and is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films.
2. Bugsy 1991
Bugsy's real name Benjamin Siegel was one of the craziest mobsters ever just like Joe Gallo. The best known Jewish mobster except Meyer Lanksy, multiple films have featured Bugsy or tv shows like Boardwalk Empire. However, this was the best adaptation in which he was the main focus. A man larger than life who lived more like a Hollywood star than a mobster. The film was written by James Toback who wrote other great mob films like The Gambler (1974) and Fingers (1978). One of Warren Betty’s last major roles. The film is more known for what happened when the camera’s weren't rolling. Annete Bennng and Warren Betty had an affair during production of this movie. Their chemistry is off the charts in this film. They would later marry a year after the film wrapped. The movie also stars Ben Kingsly and Harvey Kitel, who were both nominated for the oscar for their work here. The film was nominated for 10 oscars, but barely broke even at the box office making only 49 million against a 30 million dollar budget. The film bombed in America and performed better overseas. Was overshadowed by the mob films that had come out the previous year. Warren Betty gives one of the best mob performances ever as the titular lead in a gangster epic that deserves more love.
3. Prizzi's Honor (1985)
The film was one of the great John Hutson’s last directed projects and starred Jack Nicholson when he was still at the peak of his box office powers. Despite this the film was a slight bomb when including marketing and at best barely broke even. However, it was a critical darling and earned 8 total oscar nominations, including 4 actor nominations, and a best supporting actress win for Angelica Huston. Kathleen Turner should have been nominated for the Oscar, but still won a golden globe for her efforts. Although the film stars one of the most prolific actors of all time and is one of the most critically decorated mob films it is rarely if ever discussed today. Blending Romance, Drama, and even comedy this is a unique mob film that harkens back to old romances of the 1950s. The whole cast is outstanding and the chemistry between the leads is palpable.
4. YEAR OF THE Dragon (1985)
Michael Cimino 1st film after the box office disaster Heaven's Gate (1980). Written by Oliver Stone after he had written another crime epic Scarface and starring Mickey Rorque at the peak of his popularity. The studio was confident in the film and positive it would be a box office success. The film has great posters and one of the best trailers of all time. However, due to polarizing press surrounding the film before it was even released the film bombed at the box office. Cimino initially had Jeff Bridges or Nick Nolte in mind for the lead. But after seeing Rourke in Pope in Greenwich Village (1984) combined with his previous experience of working with him on Heavens Gate. Both Rourke and John Lone give memorizing performances. Some of the most brutal shootouts ever put to the scene. Despite unfair accusations of being racist, a controversial star, poor box office success, and no availability on streaming the film has developed a passionate small cult following. The final shootout in the film is astonishing and has been praised by Quentin Taratino’s as one of the best climaxes ever and it’s also one of his favorite films. The best film about Chinatown except the obvious one. The film was nominated for 5 razzie awards!
5. State of Grace (1990)
Similar to Miller’s Crossing was released in the same year and also was about Irish Italian mob. Both films bombed for the same reason. Gone for a decade, Terry Noonan (Sean Penn) is welcomed back into the fold in his Irish-American neighborhood in New York City. A one-time street tough, Terry is now an undercover police officer who reunites with his best friend Jackie (Gary Oldman), in order to take down Jackie’s older brother crime boss Frank Flannery (Ed Harris). Sean Penn, Gary Oldman, and Ed Harris are all fascinating in this movie. Oldman in particular is a standout as the unhinged brother. Robin Wright is also great as Sean Penn’s love interest and the sister to Jackie and Frank. John C. Reilly and John Turturro also appear in small memorable roles. The film can best be described as a mix between Donnie Brasco and Romeo and Juliet.
6. MILLER'S CROSSING (1990)
Set in Prohibition 1930s the film takes place during a Mob War between the Irish and Italians. The film fully uses its 14 million dollar budget and includes excellent shootouts, costumes, and set pieces. A young John Turturro steals the movie as the slimy Bernie. Like other crime films of 1990 the film was overshadowed by the two big Mafia films that year, Godfather 3 and Goodfellas. The film has that signature Coen Brother’s style and is a must watch for any fan of the mafia genre.
7. Gotti (1996)
John Gotti is one of the most prolific mobsters of all time. Countless movies, TV shows, and documentaries were made about him. The most recent and unfortunately most known John Gotti adaptation is Gotti (2018) which earned a 0 percent on RT and flopped at the box office. In the 90s there was an obsession with gotti in particular with over 10 TV films made about Gotti during this time. Most of them were awful, but one of them was amazing and surprisingly accurate: Gotti (1996). An HBO original film that was the bedrock for the Sopranos, with much of the cast going on to be cast in that show and in some cases play the exact same part. Considered by Michael Franzese, former caporegime of the Colombo Crime family turned youtube personality, as the most accurate mafia film ever. Armand Assante is perfect as Gotti. William Forsythe looks and sounds just like Sammy the Bull. And the great Anthony Quinn also makes an appearance. Since it was released on old HBO the film is forgotten today and hard to find on any streaming services.
8. Cotton Club (1984) Director Cut
Francis Ford Coppola loves to make Director's cuts of his filmography. He’s edited the Godfather before for TV, as well as released Director cuts for the Outsiders, Apocalypse Now, and Godfather part 3. However, while some have argued the merits of his previous Director cuts, that is not the case for Cotton Club Encore. This film restores 35 minutes of the film and rearranges the order. Coppola spent half a million of his own money to restore the film. Cotton Club has an amazing cast of Nic Cage, Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Keaton, Bob Hopskins, and Giancarlo Esposito. James Remar, one of the lesser known names in this film is great as Dutch Schultz and Laurence Fishburne also appears as Bumpy Johnson. A role he was perfectly cast for and would later return to in Hoodlum (1997). Taking place in the 1930s the theatrical cut of the film received mixed reviews and was a disaster at the box office. Making only 25 million to a massive 58 million dollar budget. The film along with One from the Heart would bankrupt Ford Coppola putting him 100 million dollars in debt. This film also stalled the career of Notorious film producer Robert Evans and hurt his relationship with Coppola. Set in the 1930s the film has some of the best production design of all time with glorious costumes and dance sequences.
9. Q&A (1990)
1990 was one of the best years for crime movies ever. This film like many other crime films of 1990 was overshadowed by Goodfellas and The Godfather part 3. This film capped off Syndey Pollack’s New York Corruption trilogy ( Serpico and Prince of the City). The film as the poster shows has three powerhouse performances. Nick Nolte gives the best performance of his career as a menacing racist cop. Timothy Hutton is perfectly cast as the clean cut young assistant district attorney, however this film would be one of his last major leading roles. Armand Assante completely disappears as Bobby Texador, a ruthless drug dealer. The film also has great supporting performances from Luiz Guzman and Charles S. Dutton. Even some guys from Sopranos show up: Dominic Chianese and Vincent Pastore. As well as a young Mike White! Q&A is one of the best mob vs cop movies and a sprawling New York crime epic.
10. Married to the Mob (1988)
Married to the Mob directed by Jonathan Demme is arguably the best Mafia Comedy ever. besides Midnight Run (1988). Despite being a modest box office success the film is largely forgotten today. An excellent cast and assured direction from Jonathan Demme brings this simple premise to life Demme two years prior had directed another underrated crime comedy Something Wild (1986). Michelle Pfeiffer is sweet and relatable as the lead. Mathew Modine is incredibly charming as the leading man and it’s a shame he did not have a bigger career in the 90s. Alec Baldwin in one of his early roles steals the show for what little time he’s in the film. Dean Stockwell plays one of the best Mob Bosses ever and was nominated for Best Supporting actor for his efforts. Besides Karen in Goodfellas, Mercedes Ruehl might be the best Mob wife in cinema, perhaps due to her father being in the FBI. A wacky blend of comedy and crime a must watch for fans of this genre.