10. Mean Streets (1973)
Scorsese's homage to the Little Italy of his youth ("I knew all those guys and many of them are still very close friends") lacks the polish of his later works but makes up for it with a raw passion and energy embodied in Robert De Niro's reckless Johnny Boy. The director's alter-ego, though, is Harvey Keitel's Charlie, a tortured Catholic torn between spirituality and crime. It's his journey that drives the story. As he gets deeper into debt with a dangerous loan shark, he vows to do anything to get away from the low-life thug lifestyle. Scorsese made a lasting impression with this piece of gritty New York cinema.
9. Point Blank (1967)
There is no cash - that's the secret of Point Blank. John Boorman's stylish, stylized gangster thriller pits Lee Marvin's ghost-like revenger Walker against the shadowy organisation that left him for dead on Alcatraz.He wants his $93,000, but in ultra-modern LA the Mob only deals in cheques or plastic. Typical. Boorman exploited the complete loss of nerve by the American studios in order to gain total creative control for himself. The resulting movie? It's no slice of regular Hollywood that's for sure. It's a bad trip, packed with deja-vu flashbacks and jump cuts that wouldn't be out of place in a European indie. The first genuine acid-noir gangster flick.
8. Scarface (1983)
Scorsese and De Niro had long wanted to upgrade Howard Hawks 1932 crime classic Scarface. They just couldn't figure out how. As it turns out, you had to go all the way to make it work. Oliver Stone hung out with gangsters to write the script. Brian De Palma dunked Miami Vice headfirst in blood, cocaine and style. Al Pacino became Michael Corleone's monstrous side made flesh. Following Cuban refugee Tony Montana's (Pacino) roaring rise from dishwasher to druglord, Scarface is a terrifying black comedy of lust, wealth, power, destruction and - most of all - excess. Nothing exceeds like it. De Palma's first ever gangster film combines arty flourishes and berserker violence in a way even Scorsese wouldn't have dared to.
7. Once Upon A Time In America (1984)
Sergio Leone turned down The Godfather to make this epic tale of a Jewish gangster (Robert De Niro) who journeys from ghetto to exile in Prohibition-era New York. The resulting masterpiece, alas, was too much for Warner Bros, who criminally removed 90 minutes from his four-hour version. To appreciate this elaborate saga, it's best to seek out the original. Even if it does feature two graphic rape scenes and a persistent opium den motif that convinced some the whole movie is one long, drug-induced hallucination. It's worth it to witness Leone's take on the gangster mythos, in all of its glory.
6. Miller's Crossing (1990)
The Coens 30s-set, Dashiell Hammett-inspired gangster flick is packed with rapid-fire chit-chat and machine-gun violence. It's a perfect medley, which its DoP Barry Sonnenfeld described as "a handsome movie about men in hats" - no bad pitch for many well-upholstered crime movies.The plot thickens fast, as Gabriel Byrne's adviser to Albert Finney's mob boss gets caught up in a lover's triangle and a two-way gang tangle. Naturally, it's about the usual stuff; friendship, romance and ethics. But it's the way the Coens choose to retell this typical tale that makes it stand apart. It wears its inspiration on its sleeve, but the directors' stamp is all over this.