From the Silent Era to the Golden Age and the new millennium, gangster movies have remained a staple in Hollywood. There’s always something intriguing about seeing hoodlums plan crimes and backstab each other as bullets, fists, and shady burns are traded. However, Hollywood isn’t the only place for such awesomeness.
While the British film industry might not have a Goodfellas orScarface, it has churned out a couple of memorable gangster flicks over the past few decades. Many of these movies are also humped by famous actors and award-winning directors, making them undeniably magnificent.
10 Interview With A Hitman Is A Low Budget Masterpiece
Interview with a Hitman carves its own space in the gangster movie field by laying out its story using a flashback format instead of direct narration. In a way, it also qualifies as a great movie about filmmaking since it features a Romanian mob enforcer telling his story to a struggling director, so a movie about his life can be made.
The plot is full of Eastern European mafia tropes, but neatly constructed action sequences involving the B-movie king, Luke Goss, help erase any absurdities. The assassin and director’s desperation is relatable too, and in addition, the twist in the closing moments is guaranteed to leave viewers slack-jawed for quite some time.
9 Guy Ritchie Maintains His Form In The Gentleman
The green-lighting of a spinoff often confirms that a movie or TV series is good, and The Gentlemen has one in development. Contrary to the title, the movie has anything but gentlemen as it is packed with endless violence stemming from a marijuana distributor’s decision to sell his business.
As is the norm with Guy Ritchie’s films, The Gentlemen is stylish, featuring characters that mind their fashion sense and ensure their speech is flowery. A star-studded cast which includes Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, and Jeremy Strong, also means there is enough talent to patch up places where the director slumbers.
8 The Veteran Blends Crime And Espionage
Brian Cox is better known as the billionaire Logan Roy from one of HBO’s most critically acclaimed dramas, Succession, but he has swum in film waters a couple of times too. So far, the most recommendable project in his big screen catalog is The Veteran, where he plays a government operative.
Cox’s two-faced character is the movie’s greatest asset. He initially comes off as a savior willing to prevent a retired paratrooper from joining the violent South London Heygate Estate gangs. However, it’s soon revealed that he has his own selfish agenda, a discovery that unlocks cat-and-mouse games between him against the protagonist.
7 Layer Cake Sacrifices Gore For a Better Plot
Multi-year contracts in the James Bond and Knives Out franchises mean Daniel Craig is restricted to playing protagonists nowadays, but he was quite good as a gangster in his pre-007 days. In Layer Cake, his weird name character XXXX deals cocaine in London’s underworld.
XXXX has the Walter White dream of making enough money before quitting, but fans know it doesn’t always work out that way. The harder he tries to leave, the more he gets pulled back in, and therein lies all the fun. Unlike other gangster movies, there’s minimal violence here, too, because XXXX prefers to use the Cali Cartel template of doing business like a Fortune 500 company rather than a gang.
6 Brighton Rock Covers Religion And Morality
Tommy Shelby’s exploits in Peaky Blinders are hard to match, but anyone searching for an antihero that’s half as awesome as him can press play on Brighton Rock. Much like Tommy, the psychotic Pinky Brown leads a gang that has heavily invested in race tracks in the ‘30s.
Far from just a shoot-em-up adventure, Brighton Rock analyzes the themes of religion and morality through its characters. Some are very remorseful of their actions, while others deem it okay to both engage in prayer and revel in barbaric adventures. Lessons regarding gambling and debt are provided, too, via the racetrack scenes.
5 A Crime Lord’s Woes Pile Up In The Long Good Friday
Everything that can go wrong does indeed go wrong for a crime boss in The Long Good Friday. The movie, which gets hoisted by a great performance from a young Hellen Mirren, sees a London gangster work around the clock to figure out who is targeting him.
It’s the classic plot of visitors being on the way, yet a house isn’t in order. This is because the crime boss happens to be expecting mafia dons from America for a deal signing, yet someone is blowing up everything he owns. Audiences thus get to share in his anxiety as they wait to find out whether he’ll sort out his messes.
4 Get Carter Pushes The Boundaries Of Violence
In the recent past, some filmmakers have ignored the advice to leave the classics alone. One of those is Stephen Kay, who decided to make a modern version of Get Carter starring Sylvester Stallone, but it ended up being one of the worst movie remakes. This means the original version starring Michael Cain remains the most appreciated one.
A major reason the gangster flick is widely appreciated is because of its extreme violence, which was rare for British movies in the early ‘70s. The decision to keep the events faithful to those of the Ted Lewis novel Jack Returns Home was wise since the book has no story flaws. Most importantly. Michael Cain is in fine form, dominating every scene through charisma and charm.
3 Snatch Keeps The Plot Simply But Pumps Up The Fun
Guy Ritchie has faced accusations of overstuffing his movies with stars, but the most interesting character in Snatch is actually played by the least famous person in the cast. That’s the villain Brick Top (Alan Ford), who wants a boxing match fixed, by the process becomes rather complicated.
Top has one of the most unforgettable villain monologues, where he explains how to get rid of a dead body by feeding it to pigs. What’s impressive is how he has grasped all the numerical details, stating that a 200-pound body would be consumed in 8 minutes, for example. As such, the characters played by Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro, and Jason Statham feel weak compared to the villain.
2 Sexy Beast Has A Formidable Villain
The inspiration for a plot largely determines whether a movie will be good or bad, and in Sexy Beast, Ben Kingsley bases his character Don Logan on his grandmother. According to the actor himself, his grandmother was despicable, so he found it appropriate to create a gangster that has her mannerisms.
Logan’s decision to force a retired gangster to take part in a heist paints him as quite the annoying character, and he keeps himself unlikable by dishing out quotes such as “Pass me the gravy, you greedy slag” and “I’ll ram those f*** spuds down you cake-hole.” Kingsley’s Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Oscars for this role thus feels very much deserved.
1 Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels Is Guy Ritchie’s Magnum Opus
It’s the movie that made one of the greatest action stars, Jason Statham. But, interestingly, he doesn’t cock many guns in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Instead, he is caught up in a scheming plot involving four gangsters planning to rob drug dealers in order to clear debt owed to a crime boss. It’s a classic tale of taking from Peter to pay Paul, but things don’t go exactly as planned.
There are other strong pillars apart from the plot too. From a magnificent classic soundtrack to a Sting cameo, the Guy Ritchie project has plenty of euphoric moments. Furthermore, genre fans would be hard-pressed to find other offerings that better capture the comical inexperience, desperation, Machiavellian ambition, and sheer avarice of younger gangsters better than Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.
NEXT: 10 Underseen Gangster Masterpieces