The Best Gangster Movies on Netflix [Summer 2020]
Gangster movies have long enjoyed a special status in American culture, even before such blockbusters as The Godfather trilogy and Scarface brought millions of Americans to the cinema. Whether you enjoy the action and conflict, or the sometimes skewed take on history, or the often touching stories about devotion to and protection of family, you probably like gangster movies. These elements always combine in the best gangster movies, and sometimes the bad guys seem so chivalrous that you may even find yourself rooting for them. So grab a bowl of popcorn and settle in to watch some of the great picks on this list.
A Netflix original film, The Outsider is set in 1954 and follows Nick Lowell (Jared Leto), the only non-Japanese inmate in a prison located in Osaka, surrounded by Yakuza criminals and other inmates in the group. Nick saves a Yakuza named Kiyoshi from being hanged to death, whose Shiramatsu Yakuza clan repays his debt by arranging Nick’s release. He is also offered a job: Anthony Panetti, an American copper tradesman with a deep hatred for the Japanese, has refused to negotiate a deal with the Shiromatsu clan, but has agreed to a deal with a different clan because they sent an American to talk to Panetti. When Nick sets out to end the relationship with the other group, he ends up murdering the other American in cold blood by dropping a typewriter on his head.
Toro is a young con-man who used to be the right hand man of a brutal crime boss, Romano. When Toro decides to get out of crime and go straight, he makes the mistake of taking on one last job. That operation goes bad and that’s how he ended up in jail. Five years later he’s out of jail and is trying to live crime free. Unfortunately his older brother Lopez works for Romano and has been stealing from him. In retaliation, he orders the kidnapping of Lopez’s daughter Diana. Lopez calls Toro to ask for help.
A Gang Boss dubbed Samurai wants to create a Las Vegas style gambling paradise in a small town near the sea in Rome. He leaned hard on the harbor area land owners to force them to sell out to him. He wheeled and dealed with rich mafia families to help fund the project, and he worked over politicians to get everything approved. He even forced changes to legislation to help get what he wanted. But then the politician in his pocket got caught in a career ending position and everything starts falling apart. Samurai struggles to keep the mafia families from turning on each other and to keep everything rolling towards finalizing his dream.
The Irishman arrived in theaters and on Netflix with a deluge of great reviews and even more controversy, as director Martin Scorsese found himself in the hot seat after delivering a critique on superhero films. Mixed press aside, nothing could stop The Irishman from becoming one of the best-reviewed films of the year, and now that it’s finally streaming on Netflix, those who didn’t get access to it in their local indie theater can finally stream it for themselves. The film follows truck driver Frank Sheeran starting in the 1950s, as he begins to work for Russell Bufalino and his crime family in Pennsylvania. Sheeran becomes one of their most reliable hitmen, and things get even more complicated when he goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa, the powerful, popular Teamster tied to organized crime. Scorsese teams up with Robert De Niro, his most frequent collaborator, along with Joe Pesci and Al Pacino.
Based on John Pearson’s book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins, Legend tells the story of the Krays, two men living in London in the mid-20th century. Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) is suave, charming, and volatile, able to make his way through life in London with little stopping him. His brother Ronnie (Tom Hardy) can’t quite say the same; an unstable, mumbling man as vicious as he is hard to understand. Using violence, the two men set out to enter the underworld of London, orchestrating robberies and murders while running a nightclub on the side. With a detective after the two brothers, the Krays are pushed harder than ever to gain power and tabloid notoriety.
With Bad Boys for Life now continuing the saga, it seems like as good a time as any to return to the original film. Bad Boys didn’t just cement Will Smith as an action star—it also allowed director Michael Bay to jump from making music videos to creating some of the biggest, flashiest Hollywood blockbusters ever seen. Bad Boys follows Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith), two Miami detectives and lifelong friends, who are tasked with investigating $100 million of seized Mafia heroin, once held in a secure police vault, that has since been stolen. Internal Affairs suspects an inside job, and the entire narcotics department is threatened to be shut down unless the drugs are recovered within five days. They’ll have to rely on a call girl (Téa Leoni) in order to solve the case. The 2003 sequel, Bad Boys II, is also streaming.
In 1931, the Bondurant brothers of Franklin County, Va., run a multipurpose backwoods establishment that hides their true business, bootlegging. Middle brother Forrest (Tom Hardy) is the brain of the operation; older Howard (Jason Clarke) is the brawn, and the youngest, Jack (Shia LaBeouf), works as the lookout. Though the local police have taken bribes and left the brothers alone, a violent war erupts when a sadistic lawman (Guy Pearce) from Chicago arrives and tries to shut down the Bondurant’ss operation.
A remake of the 2011 French action film, Sleepless follows undercover Las Vegas police officer Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx), who finds himself caught in a high-stakes web of corrupt cops, internal affairs and murderous gangsters. When a failed heist leads to the kidnapping of his teenage son (Octavius J. Johnson), Downs must race against time during a wild and restless night to save him and bring the criminals to justice.
Former Special Forces operatives reunite to plan a heist in a sparsely populated multi-border zone of South America. For the first time in their prestigious careers, these unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for themselves instead of the country. But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties, and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival. The film features an all-star cast, including Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garret Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal.
Michael Mann is no stranger to crafting incredible action flicks, and 2009’s Public Enemies is a fantastic addition to his filmography. The film adapts Bryan Burrough’s non-fiction book Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34. Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger’s (Johnny Depp) charm and audacity endear him to much of America’s downtrodden public, but he’s also a thorn in the side of J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and the fledgling FBI. Desperate to capture the elusive outlaw, Hoover makes Dillinger his first Public Enemy Number One and assigns his top agent, Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), the task of bringing him in dead or alive.