The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Gangster Movies

The "grapefruit scene". Cagney shove...
The "grapefruit scene". Cagney shoves half of a grapefruit into his girlfriend's face in The Public Enemy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 The films that I'll be listing in my April postings will not necessarily be films that I'd call my favorite films, but they will be favorites in the genres I'll be naming.   The A to Z genres are very specific micro genres as opposed to the broader genres like action, romance, or comedy.

        Okay, so we'll start by clarifying some glaring omissions in this category before I go into a few of my favorites in this broad genre.  First of all, though I've seen many of the great gangster films of the 1950's and the preceding years, I don't remember them so well.  I'm leaving out gangster film greats like James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart.  Travesty I know, but sorry I just can't recall the films that well.

      Some biggies missing here will be the Godfather series.  Can you believe it?  I've never seen a one.  I keep meaning to, but just haven't yet.   Another that many of you may disagree with is Al Pacino's Scarface (1983).  I hated that film--too much unnecessary profanity and violence and nothing redeeming or fulfilling about it.  I may be in the minority on this one, but we'll see what goes in the comments.

        So let's see where we are in agreement on this favorites list:


Goodfellas (1990) -- Perhaps the most traditional old school in the cast of characters, but less so in story.  These are the real life type of gangsters who might live in your neighborhood.   Just gangsters doing what they do.

The Departed (2006) -- The film that asks "Who can you trust?"   If you're a gangster it's always a good idea to watch your back.   An Oscar winning film that is critically regarded and for good reason.

A History of Violence (2005) -- If you've been a gangster, the past will catch up with you eventually.  The mob is relentless and will stop at nothing to get revenge.   In this award-winning film a family man's violent past is uncovered.

No Country For Old Men (2007) --  Gangsters ain't what they used to be and old school lawmen like  Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) lament the olden days when there was a sort of code among the bad guys.  In the modern age of Mexican drug cartels and the underworld that exists in the United States, there is no discretion when it comes to killing.  The randomness of who dies may be no more than the whim of a coin toss.  This dark film explores the enigma of the new era gangsters and the evil of that culture.  We may be helpless if we can't figure out who our enemies really are.  This is a great film by the Coen Brothers and I don't think much more than that need be said.

The Usual Suspects (1995) -- "Who is Keyser Soze?"  Watch this film and see if you can figure out the answer.   This is another great film well worth the time of anyone who likes gangster movies that dig deeper into the roots of why gangsters exist.

Bugsy Malone (1976) --  If you've managed to watch all of the previously mentioned films, you may need to lighten things up a bit with this film.   Bugsy Malone is a gangster inspired musical featuring the talents of an all children cast playing adult roles.  It's pure fun where tommy guns are replaced by splurge guns, weapons that fire custard cream instead of bullets, and the cars are nifty pedal-powered jobs.  No one gets killed and the worst that ever happens to anyone is a pie in the face.  The film features Scott Baio (remember him from the TV show "Happy Days") and a 13 year-old Jodie Foster.  This G-rated film is fun for the entire family and is perhaps my overall favorite of the bunch I've listed here.  It is a film with a very positive and uplifting message.

         Which of these films have you seen?  What other gangster films would you recommend?    Do you think the image of America is best conveyed by gangster films, westerns, or some other film genre?

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59 comments:

  1. I've seen most of these movies but I would have to say that Infernal Affairs,the original Hong Kong version of "the Departed" was better. How did you manage to avoid seeing the grand daddy of all gangster movies "The GodFather"! :)

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  2. The Usual Suspects is one of the best films ever made and that line about the devil rocks.

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  3. I haven't seen any of these films, I used to and still do enjoy musicals.
    I do recall seeing Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney when young but can't remember the films.

    Yvonne.

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  4. The Usual Suspects is an AMAZING film. Love me a good twist.
    Goodfellas is on my watch over and over again list, it was the first DVD I ever watched on my very first DVD player.
    I don't know why I find gangster movies so intriguing..but I do. Still haven't seen Scarface, but I feel like I should. So many quotes come from it...
    Great picks, Arlee.

    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
    @TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

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  5. I thought No Country for Old Men was a pretty scary movie. A couple of the others I think I saw, but don't really remember. Can't believe you never saw The Godfather. I didn't think much of the second and third films, but the first one was great. You should see it in a theatre though.


    JO ON FOOD, MY TRAVELS AND A SCENT OF CHOCOLATE

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  6. I have the same topic for G today. All your choices are excellent, but the only movie from your list that's on mine is Goodfellas.

    I haven't seen The Godfathers either.

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  7. No Country is one of those films that I loved but couldn't watch again. Too hard on my emotions, I think.
    CD Coffelt ponders at Spirit Called
    And critiques at UnicornBell

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  8. always enjoined the vintage films, would you consider the bowery boys...

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  9. No Country for Old Men was one of my favorite BAD GUY movies. None of my friends understood why, but there was more to it than the horror of the killing, so it had my attention and I haven't forgotten it as I do so many movies soon after seeing them.

    That Cagney grapefruit punch had to hurt!

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  10. Gangster movies ain't one of my favorite genres but, yep, 'GOODFELLAS' and 'THE USUAL SUSPECTS' were good - I've seen both of them two or three times.

    It's been a long, long time, but I remember liking 'BUGSY MALONE' when I was young. (Great novelty idea of having little kids playing the parts.)

    I hated 'NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN'. Not a big fan of 'THE GODFATHER' either.

    DiscConnected will probably make an appearance here at some point and mention the movie 'A BRONX TALE'. Listen to the man, because he's right - it's one of the all-time best gangster movies (in my op.)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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  11. I avoid movies with violence. Used to watch them sometimes, but can't anymore.

    I think modern comedies maybe do the best job of expressing who we are as a culture, but to really do that honestly, I think you might be looking at a documentary. :)

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  12. Greetings to all and thanks for stopping by. The "Godfather" movies were long and I guess that's part of the reason I haven't seen them. Gangster and mob movies are typical a favorite genre for me to watch so I don't rush to see them.

    For me the best part of No Country for Old Men was that them that is so well represented by the Tommy Lee Jones character. The nature of criminals is changing for the worse and that's a really bad sign. I liked that there is no easy wrap up of this film, but mostly a resignation.

    Lee

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  13. I haven't seen any of these--not even The Godfather--but boy, "Bugsy Malone" sounds hilarious! I'll have to see that one! :)

    Jaimie
    Living in the Light

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  14. Oh no, you've cut out all the ones I've seen! But I never was a Cagney fan... unless it was Cagney and Lacy. Remember those gals?

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  15. Oh man, The Usual Suspects was AMAZING. Can't say enough good things about that movie.

    I saw about half the films on your list... plus the first 2 Godfathers.

    Will have to check out No Country for Old Men.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog this weekend! It's hard to tell what's a "deal" until you get used to how insane pricing is here.

    madhaus
    Burbed: SF Bay/Silicon Valley Real Estate, Housing, Mortgage & Bubble Price Insanity

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  16. Hey Lee!
    The summary for your blogging workshop is up and running!
    http://www.thewritingnut.com/ramblings/march-30-2013-42nd-meetup-blogging-workshop-arlee-bird/

    thanks again for agreeing to speak to our group!

    hugs,
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  17. I still enjoy watching old movies on Saturdays and Sundays. Reminds me of when I was a kid. Black and Whites are the best. On TV too. Something about it being on TV is a retro feel I like.

    KaTy Did at: Life's Ride As I See It
    A-Z Challenge

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  18. I can't believe the only films on your list I watched was the Godfather. I've seen a lot of black and whites with Cagney and Bogart. Must admit I preferred Bogart to Cagney.

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  19. The only two on your list that I have seen are Goodfellas and The Usual Suspects. Both were great. I really liked The Usual Suspects. I would add Public Enemies (with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale), The Untouchables, and even Bugsy (the remake) was very entertaining. I loved the soundtrack for that movie.

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  20. I've never been a big fan of gangster flicks, but The Usual Suspects was a stand-out. Only one I'd add to the list is The Untouchables.

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  21. I am a girly girl who hides her face throughout most gangster movies so is better off not investing her time in them. I have only seen Godfather 3 (because I was begged to when it first came out) and didn't like it and never went to watch the other two which I heard were much better.

    I did see Good Fellas, again, begged to go. All I can see in my mind is Ray Liotta. Was he even in that movie?

    Love your theme, Lee - always happy to see what you are up to and forever grateful for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. This year has been a great year for me, especially.

    3's a charm, eh?

    Happy A to Z-ing!
    Julie Jordan Scott
    Our Literary Grannies from A to Z:G is for Gail Hamilton
    tweet me - @juliejordanscot

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  22. Strangely enough watched 'Goodfellows' last night, good movie, it's years since I've seen ' The usual suspects' another great. I also haven't for some reason watched all of the 'Godfather' movies. As a child I loved watching any Edward G. Robinson movies, good days.

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  23. I'd be on board with watching the Godfather movies again. Too bad you don't live close. I think that'd be a fun activity and then to discuss the movie afterward.

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  24. I actually really like some of the films on your list! I loved Goodfellas, the Usual Suspects and No Country for Old Men. And the Godfather is outstanding! When I was in film school we studied Brando, (of course!) and I totally loved him and most everyone else in this. I saw it in the theatre during it's original release in 1973 (I think)at a theatre on Graville St in Vancouver...I remember the line up was way up the street and around the block...it was a different era for sure. I still love the movie, and I don't like violent films generally. I can't believe you haven't seen it...I agree with the person who said you should see it in the theatre, or on as big a screen as you can.
    I loved how Goodfellas was done, with Henry Hill telling the story, I thought it was amazing, and No Country for Old Men scared the shit out of me...Javier plays one scary dude.
    I saw the Departed once, a long time ago. I promised my son I'd watch it with him...I remember thinking it was really well done, but I actually don't remember much about it.
    The Usual Suspects was amazing! I love Kevin Spacey. The whole thing was such a surprise...great list Lee!

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  25. You've never seen The Godfather I or II???? Oh man, you gotta get on that. They are THE supreme mob movies. I've never seen that version of Bugsy, and I hated No Country. But the rest are fantastic. I loved Scarface, but yeah, it does have a lot of profanity. Still, pretty cool film. A History of Violence is not widely known but an excellent movie.

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  26. What no Cagney no Bogey
    can't say I've seen any that are in color (except Godfather)

    Gangster seems to be so 30s


    my post for today is about a Great event winning the Twitter Shorty Awards

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  27. I love Usual Suspects and Goodfellas. Mobster/Gangsters are some of my favorites as well.
    I highly recommend these, if you haven't already seen them:
    Casino, Blow (it has the "rise to power" and "everything goes to shi-" qualities that so many gangster movies have) and Heat (though it may fall under Heist movies)

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  28. I will definitely have to remedy not having the The Godfather etal.
    Michael, I like the idea of having other film fans to watch a film with and discussing them afterwards--it would be like college again.

    I think No Country... resonated with me so well is because the original book is by one of my favorite authors (Cormac McCarthy) and I read the book before seeing the movie. I was happy that the Coen Bros. stayed so close to the source material.

    Lee

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  29. I have seen them all. The one I hated the most was the James Cagney film, his utter cruelty to women.

    History of Violence stunned me. Didn't expect such horrific violence.

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  30. While it's very "Goodfellas"-esque in it's cast, I have to throw "Casino" in the mix as one gangster film I really liked.

    "The Usual Suspects" was also very good. Very well written and imaginative.

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  31. Sorry, you say gangster movie to me and my mind is having too much fun wallowing in memories of Cagney, Bogie, and the gang to read about these new kids.

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  32. I can't believe you've never seen the Godfather! They, all wonderful movies. The next rainy day you really should pop some popcorn and fire up the CD's.
    All the movies on your list are wonderful Lee, my favorite is Unusual Suspects.

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  33. Cagney's a great gangster and everyone in the Godfather scares me to death--so I think you picked all the good ones. Warren
    Beatty was never convincing as a gangster.

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  34. Hi Arlee, the only one on your list I hadn't seen was Bugsy Malone. You have got to see The Godfather films just so you no longer have to say you haven't. Feel free to skip 3 though.
    Shawn at Laughing at Life 2

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  35. I really liked A History of Violence and No Country for Old Men was disturbing.
    The Departed had so much bad language it distracted me from the story. I could hardly stand to watch it.

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  36. I guess I'm weird too. I actually agree with you. I don't like really high levels of violence and such. I didn't even like Goodfellas! People actually get mad at me about that one.

    From A to Z, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com

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  37. No Country For Old Men is such a film, honestly takes you on such a viewing trip which I absolutely love. I quite like this genre in honesty, great selections as well Lee!

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  38. My husband cannot resist watching Goodfellas every time it's one.

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  39. Ditto, My husband will never pass a Gangster movie.

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  40. Gosh, I don't remember the profanity in The Departed. Must have been better written than Scarface or I was in a very tolerant mood when I watched it.

    Lee

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  41. I still get upset to this day about the ending of No Country For Old Men!! :)

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  42. Good post for G. I have seen all but Busgy and History. At least I don't think I have seen History.

    You have to see Godfather Parts I & II. They are really good movies. Part II being the best.

    Goodfellas is a classic for me. Pecshi is so good. And I have to respectfully take the other side on Scarface. Everything you hated about it is what made the movie for me. It was raw and Pacino was awesome in it.

    I have a poster of Pacino sitting in that big bathtub with the quote "Who do I trust? Me, that who" at the top.

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  43. I've seen nary a one. Gangster is not my cup o' tea, or is that cup o' gee?

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  44. Hey Lee,

    Interesting choices for American gangster movies.

    Here are a few British gangster films you might have seen.

    Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
    Get Carter
    The Krays
    Layer Cake
    Sexy Beast

    Happy alphabeting.

    Gary

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  45. LEE ~
    I said above that 'Gangster' ain't one of my favorite film genres - and that's true.

    But I see a big separation between 'Gangster' and 'Noir' - as in "Film Noir".

    There are a number of 'Film Noir' masterpieces that I really dig big time! Of course not all "Noir" includes gangsters, but many of the Noir greats ARE gangster-related.

    The reason I mention this is because someone above mentioned Edward G. Robinson, who played a gangster in one of my favorite 'Film Noir' works, 'KEY LARGO'.

    It then dawned on me that the gangster-related Noirs that I love, I think of first as "Film Noir", not as "gangster movies".

    I hope to hell your film genre for the letter "N" is "Noir". If not, I'm done wid ya.

    [Psst... 'SUNSET BOULEVARD' is my "N"oir #1.]

    Alright, get on wid it...

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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  46. Love The Usual Suspects. Id add Pulp Fiction to this list.

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  47. You had me at "The Usual Suspects" - best gangsta film ever!! I swore to watch every Kevin Spacey film from then on:)
    Cheers!
    Sam
    WriterlySam

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  48. Finally! Someone else who remembers Bugsy Malone! I was seven years old when it came out and I wanted one of those pedal cars (maybe with Jodie Foster in the passenger seat) in the worst way.

    Really enjoying the Challenge.

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  49. DL -- Did you read the book? I thought the Coen Bros. did well translating it to screen.

    Chuck -- I don't know if I'll ever be convinced about Scarface, but since I own a copy it'll be easy for me to watch again someday. Well, maybe not easy, but convenient.

    Gary --I saw Sexy Beast. I remember liking it, but that's about all I remember about it.

    StMc -- Please be forgiving since Noir is not my 'N'. It's too broad of a category I think, but it is one of my favorite categories. However, I do need to see Sunset Blvd as I have never seen it yet.

    Jer -- Bugsy Malone is the most fun of the lot of these. I'm due to watch it again I think--it's been too long.

    Thanks to all for your comments on this post.

    Lee

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  50. Somehow I enjoyed more reading Godfather than watching the movie. Somehow I had watched Scarface, maybe because of Al Pacino, but I had yet to watch all the one you have listed, Arlee. We will see ...

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  51. I haven't seen Bugsy Malone in years, but I remember loving that film. Perhaps I should get onto iTunes and see if they have it.

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  52. You're not alone. I slept through the Godfather series -- one of the best naps I ever had. And I have yet to see Scarface, though I -- like everyone else -- know the quotes. I loved Usual Suspects. It took me forever to see that movie and then when I did I was sad I had waited so long.

    Great post

    ~ Renee

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  53. Good Fellas, The Departed and The Usual Suspects are all great films. I haven't seen Bugsy Malone since I was a teenager, and would love to see it again. Thanks Lee!

    Julie

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  54. Thanks for the additional comments. I did see that Bugsy Malone is apparently available on YouTube or some such service if you're up to watching it on the computer.

    Lee

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  55. While I did agree with your list, I am curious as to why "The Godfather" didn't make your list. As for additional ones, "Scarface" is a great movie in my opinion. ALso, "Lucky Number Slevin". Maybe not a classic but I thought it was well written and had a great plot.
    Elliot
    We Are Adventure

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  56. This is what I get for reading your list before the post itself. Well I still stand by what I said about "Lucky Number Slevin." :)
    Elliot

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  57. Usual Suspects and No Country for Old Men are two of my faves on this list.

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  58. History of Violence was a good pick.

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  59. Someday I will see The Godfather. I have heard good things about Lucky Number Slevin.

    Sydney and Jagoda -- Thanks for stopping by.

    Lee

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