20. Get Carter (1971)
It's grim up north. It's even grimmer when East End gangster Jack Carter (Michael Caine) arrives in Newcastle looking for the bloke who supposedly killed his brother. He meets with a local kingpin and starts leaving a trail of bodies behind him, as he desperately seeks justice. Nice and fluffy Michael Caine, this ain't. Get Carter injects the Brit-flick gangster movie with knuckle-scraping brutality. It's a hard-boiled flick that attracted its star due to the realistic portrayal of violence: director Mike Hodges shows that in real life, each punch grinds some teeth in, and just one thrust of the knife can open someone's heart.
19. Gomorrah (2008)
Gomorra won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, and was selected as Italy’s official entry into the 2009 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film. It's not hard to see why this grungy gangster flick caused such waves at the time of release. Set in the grubby Neapolitan underworld, it taps into the dangerous, violent world of the Camorra crime syndicate, who make a living moving cocaine. Shot in a lo-fi documentary style, director Matteo Garrone borrows a lot of style tips from the Italian neo-realists (c'mon, you've got to have seen The Bicycle Thief!) with naturalistic lighting, untrained actors and slow, real-time pacing. It makes you really feel like you're eavesdropping on a bunch of brutal thugs.
18. The Killer (1989)
Chow Yun-Fat seeks bloody redemption in John Woo's seminal actioner, his Hong Kong hitman showing a twisted nobility as he takes on one last job to prevent the girl he injured from losing her sight. And then he winds up blind-sided by his boss, who double crosses him at the last second. "The killer wants to be good," the director reveals. "He's fed up with killing and he's trying to stop. The problem is, once you pick up a gun its hard to put down..."The Killer was slammed at home for glamourising the Triads, but had a much better reception abroad, launching the international careers of both star and director.
17. John Wick (2014)
The movie that single-handedly relaunched Keanu Reeves' career, John Wick isn't just a gangster movie. It's loads of things. A blistering revenge tale, a tearjerker that tugs on the heart strings, and a bloody actioner. Best of all, it's free of clutter. There's no uneccessary subplots brought in to pad out the running time. The plot moves along nicely, with action focused solely on Wick's mission to wipe out Reek. Sorry, the son of a Russian mob boss played by the guy who plays Reek. He just happens to take out a few of his wannabe-gangstah chums along the way. Director Chad Stahelski proves his time spent on Hollywood sets as a stunt choreographer paid off - this is how you execute a perfect mix of thrills and action. The nightclub scene alone is pure cinematic gold.
16. City of God (2002)
Ferociously kinetic, Fernando Meirelles and co-director Ktia Lund's adaptation of Paolo Lin's non-fiction epic is also propelled by a righteous social agenda.The film rips through three decades of urban deterioration and criminal expansion in the Rio De Janeiro slums - the favelas. It starts with a blackly comic catch-that-chicken scene, flips to the 60s and then forwards to the 80s via turf wars and the drug-terror tactics of one mean cat, Lil Ze.Meirelles and Lund spin mood on a dime, orchestrating the action around a total lack of morality. There's nothing and no-one in these sun-kissed backstreets that's immune to the horrors of this street-turf war. God, you suspect, is dead.