The 2010s will be remembered as a great decade for gangster movies. It was a return to form following the largely fallow period following the turn of the millennium. Fans may not have realized it at the time, but this was the era when gangster movies got their groove back.
While filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Guy Ritchie returned with a bang, the decade also saw gangster movies get more creative. There were inspired takes on familiar genre tropes, movies told from chronicling the life of crime from fresh perspectives, and a few brilliantly realized biopics thrown in for good measure.
10 Legend (2015) – 6.9
Tom Hardy had already delivered a string of powerhouse performances prior to Legend – his performance in 2008’s Bronson being a particular highlight – but the movie saw him double down by playing notorious London gangster twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray.
The film chronicles their rise through the criminal underworld. Like any good gangster movie, it balances the glitz and glamour of life at the top with the dark, seedy underbelly of the Kray’s violent ascent to power. Hardy is superb as the volatile Ronnie alongside his calmer yet no less despicable sibling Reggie, while writer Brian Helgeland does a brilliant job of capturing 1960s London.
9 Black Mass (2015) – 6.9
The documentary Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger might do a better job of showcasing the sheer breadth and depth of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger’s real-life reign of terror but Black Mass still provides a fascinating portrait of how he was able to operate in the Boston criminal underworld.
While Johnny Depp grabbed the headlines with his transformative turn as Bulger, Black Mass is more of an ensemble piece than the hype suggest with the likes of Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Kevin Bacon helping to bring to life this story of crime and corruption at the highest level.
8 Kill The Irishman (2011) – 7.1
Kill the Irishman earned mixed reviews and a disappointing box office return upon release but has garnered a cult following since. It’s not difficult to see why. Filmmaker Jonathan Hensleigh’s movie is a classic rags-to-riches affair in the grand tradition of Goodfellas, albeit with an Irish twist.
It stars the underrated Ray Stevenson as Danny Greene, an impoverished Irish-American dock worker who ends up rising through the ranks of the Cleveland criminal underworld in the 1970s and waging war on the Mafia. He’s a modern-day Robin Hood, fighting back against the mob and surviving a string of attempted hits in the process.
7 The Drop (2014) – 7.1
Author Dennis Lehane penned the script to this sharply written yet understated mob drama centered on a Brooklyn bar that serves as one of several “money drops” set up to covertly funnel cash to local gangsters.
Tom Hardy stars as introverted bartender Bob Saginowski, a seemingly simple man who finds himself in over his head following a robbery gone wrong at the bar where he works. Boasting an impressive cast that also includes Noomi Rapace and Matthias Schoenaerts, it’s the late James Gandolfini, as Bob’s increasingly agitated bathroom robe-wearing cousin Marv, who steals the show in one of his last ever film roles.
6 Animal Kingdom (2010) – 7.3
Ben Mendelsohn established his penchant for playing psychopaths with Animal Kingdom, an atmospheric Australian gangster movie that later spawned a US TV show. It stars James Frecheville as Joshua, a withdrawn teen who, following the passing of his mother, ends up moving in with his uncles and grandmother.
He soon learns that his new family is part of a mid-level crime syndicate under police surveillance. Mendelsohn plays Pope, the oldest and unscrupulous of the three siblings in a film inspired by the real-life exploits of the Pettingill crime family. Joel Edgerton and Guy Pearce also feature in this intense thriller.
5 The Town (2010) – 7.5
Ben Affleck banished lingering memories of Gigli by writing and directing this Boston-set crime thriller. He stars as Doug MacRay who, along with his three friends, has pulled off a string of bank robberies under the direction of Irish mobster Fergie Colm, played by the late Pete Postlethwaite.
Things get complicated, however, when Doug strikes up a relationship with Rebecca Hall’s Claire Keesey, a witness in their most recent heist. Throw in Jeremy Renner on scene-stealing form as Doug’s psycho best friend and Jon Hamm as the FBI agent hot on the gang’s trail and you have the makings of a modern classic.
4 Baby Driver (2017) – 7.6
Edgar Wright demonstrated a flair for subverting genre tropes with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Baby Driver is no different with Wright taking on the familiar gangster movie in a film that mixes visual styles and an eclectic soundtrack to fine effect.
Ansel Elgort stars as Miles ‘Baby’, a music-loving getaway driver enlisted by Kevin Spacey’s crime kingpin ‘Doc’ to ferry a band of not-so-merry criminals that includes Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx from heist to heist. He soon finds himself dreaming of one day escaping his life of crime however after meeting the woman of his dreams.
3 The Gentleman (2019) – 7.8
Fresh from dabbling in a bit of Disney-led fun with the live-action remake of Aladdin, Guy Ritchie went back to his roots for this London-set action-comedy. There’s an American twist to proceedings though with the action centered on the exploits of Matthew McConaughey’s Mickey Pearson, an ex-pat pot dealer looking to sell up his empire and retire.
Unfortunately, his rivals have other ideas, prompting an all-out gang war packed with surprising turns, standout action set pieces, and a memorable appearance from Hugh Grant as a sleazy journalist. Featuring hitmen, an unsavory Chinese dining experience, and some unfortunate encounters with a pig.
2 Drive (2011) – 7.8
Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn combined to create something close to neon-soaked perfection in 2011 with Drive. Gosling stars as the unnamed Hollywood stunt driver moonlighting as a getaway man for hire.
Things get murky when he takes a liking to his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and ends up serving as a getaway driver for her troubled husband (Oscar Isaac) who hits upon the idea of robbing a pawnshop to help pay off a debt to an Albanian gangster. The job goes awry, leaving the titular hero firmly in the sights of another mobster, Albert Brooks’s terrifying Bernie Rose.
1 The Irishman (2019) – 7.9
Martin Scorsese reunited with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, who came out of retirement to star in this epic retelling of the life and times of Irish mobster and union associate Frank Sheeran.
Al Pacino also stars as ill-fated union boss Jimmy Hoffa in what is a brilliantly realized period piece that cost somewhere in the region of $250 million to make due to the state-of-the-art computer graphics used to de-age the principal cast. Scorsese shows why he remains the master of the genre from his masterful direction to the casting, editing, and all-around feel of a film worthy of comparison with his very best.
NEXT: Jack Nicholson’s 10 Most Successful Movies, Ranked According To Box Office Mojo
5 Actors Who Enjoy Working With Steven Spielberg (& 5 Who’ve Turned Him Down)