Face it, ladies… we’re suckers for the bad boy – especially if he’s using some of those ill-gotten gains to buy expensive presents. If you’re looking for a few good gangsters to hang out after you’re done with Johnny Depp’s John Dillinger, look no further than these five.
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.” Any list of top-line movie wiseguys has to begin with that quote. Henry Hill’s (Ray Liotta) rise through and fall from the Lucchese crime family is one of director Martin Scorsese’s crowning achievements. The first half of the film is an intoxicating look at a life of organized crime, draping the life of a gangster in an appealing aura of mystique. Then Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) shows up and reminds you just how precarious that life can be.
When we meet Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen), he’s a bottom-feeder in his Russian crime family. He’s also the man who takes care of things, from driving the car to disappearing the corpses of murdered rivals. Respected or not, you know you can trust him from the prison tattoos that decorate his body. His jailhouse souvenirs tell the story of a man whom you shouldn’t mess with, even if he’s unarmed and naked in a Russian bath house.
Love can make you do crazy things… like rob banks! Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) sees Clyde (Warren Beatty) trying to steal her mother’s car, falls head over heels in love and becomes his partner in crime. “Bonnie and Clyde” is a highly romanticized look at the famous bank-robbing couple, but when it comes to the “public enemies” era of the 1930s, the myth almost matters more then the facts. Their tale of anti-hero celebrity was later given an ultra-violent twist by Oliver Stone’s Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) in “Natural Born Killers.”
We’re back to Scorsese, who clearly knows his way around closed communities of sociopaths. Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) is the head of the Boston Irish mob, and you know why within seconds of meeting him in “The Departed.” He recruits youngsters with the lure of comic books — apparently, if the Irish mob buys you an issue of Wolverine, you owe them a lifelong debt — puts them in positions of power and pulls their strings as deep cover operative in the Boston police department. Life in the Irish mob under Costello is tense, sweaty and short, especially if you get on his mile-wide bad side. So don’t piss him off.
Not all gangsters are smooth criminals. While none of the British thugs in Guy Ritchie’s films are very successful, few are as clumsy at crime as “RocknRolla”’s Mumbles (Idris Elba), One-Two (Gerard Butler) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy). It doesn’t even occur to them that the Russian gang they’re stealing from carry very large guns. Clearly, none of them saw “Eastern Promises.”