The world has always been fascinated with the world of organized crime, ever since the days of Bonnie and Clyde and Al Capone. Long before there were TV series depicting all the drama behind the scenes of the world’s crime organizations, there were newspaper publications that people followed to see what the big heists were and who the big names were in the mob. Throughout the years, there have been numerous portrayals of different mobsters seen on both the small and big screen, with many having their own favorites of who played each person the best. While some prefer the Charlie “Lucky” Luciano from Boardwalk Empire, others prefer old school depictions that starred some of Hollywood’s favorites from long ago. While there are those that feel that nothing could top The Godfather series, there are others that are still pining for The Sopranos.
Regardless of which stars were able to do their best mobster interpretation onscreen, no one can deny that mobster movies have become an icon of cinema over the years. While there are those that have definitely fallen short, there are others that have been engrained in the minds of the public. From the films to the characters to the actors who portrayed them, some people have started to wonder what has happened to these actors since they were seen as the favorite mobsters. Check out our list of the 15 greatest onscreen mobsters and see what they’ve been up to recently since the world became fascinated with their gangster ways.
15. Vito Corleone / Marlon Brando
When the first film in The Godfather film series was released in 1972, the actor that played Vito Corleone, Marlon Brando, was 47-years-old. Brando had already starred in a number of hugely successful film roles prior to transforming into the world-renowned Godfather character. Yet, the role of Vito Corleone is arguably the character he is best known for portraying. The skilled work of the makeup artist, Dick Smith, was responsible for being able to transform his look to create the aged character on the big screen. After the release of this iconic film, Brando continued to act in other films with continued success. He starred alongside Johnny Depp in the romance film, Don Juan DeMarco, and even played the biological father of Superman, Jor-El, in Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Unfortunately, Brando suffered from a number of health issues towards the end of his life, including pulmonary fibrosis and congestive heart failure. He ultimately died of respiratory failure in July of 2004.
14. Charlie “Lucky” Luciano / Christian Slater
Christian Slater is an actor that first achieved fame in the late ‘80s, with one film in particular gaining a cult following, Heathers. Unlike other actors that seemed to take on roles that were all a bit similar, Slater has had a wide array of roles from different film genres and different character portrayals. In 1991, Slater took on the role of Charlie “Lucky” Luciano in Mobsters. While the film was thought of as mostly a fictitious account, it was based on the hugely successful book, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, and brought in many real-life accounts from the days of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. After the release of this film, Slater went on to appear in the heartbreaking romance film, Untamed Heart, in 1993 and starred alongside Academy Award-winning actress, Marisa Tomei. He was also the reporting journalist in the 1994 film, Interview with a Vampire, and continued to star in a number of films on the silver screen. Nowadays, he is best known for his current role on the drama-thriller TV series, Mr. Robot.
13. Sonny LoSpecchio / Chazz Palminteri
When many people think of the iconic 1993 film, A Bronx Tale, they tend to give all of the credit to Robert De Niro. While it’s true that De Niro developed and directed the film, it was actually Chazz Palminteri that was the true genius behind the story. Palminteri played the role of Sonny LoSpecchio in the film adaptation but it was actually created from the autobiographical one-man show that he wrote as a play in 1988. De Niro later championed it and got it developed for the big screen and Palminteri was able to play the role of the big mob boss, Sonny LoSpecchio. The film was a huge success, which led to Palminteri getting a number of roles in other films (many in the same mob genre). Yet, he never forgot about the story that brought him the most notoriety. A Bronx Tale: The Musical was announced in April of 2016 and co-directed by none other than Robert De Niro. The role of Sonny was taken on by Broadway alum, Nick Cordero, while Palminteri could delve into other passion projects. The Chazz Palminteri Ristorante Italiano was opened in mid-town Manhattan and he even branded a vodka imported from Sicily, BiVi Vodka.
12. Peter Clemenza / Bruno Kirby
The actor, Bruno Kirby, first began appearing in films during the early ‘70s and had the good fortune to appear in the second installment in The Godfather film series in 1974. He played the role of Peter Clemenza during the flashback scenes with the much younger, Vito Corleone. While it was probably inevitable that Vito would have went onto a life of crime after being replaced at the grocers, it was Clemenza that first introduced him to a more dishonest lifestyle. Kirby went on to star in a myriad of other roles that ensured he wouldn’t be typecast as a mobster character in Hollywood. He had a memorable part in the 1989 iconic film, When Harry Met Sally, and was able to star alongside Billy Crystal again in City Slickers. He even played alongside Al Pacino in the 1997 mobster film, Donnie Brasco. Sadly, Kirby died at the age of just 57-years-old from complications related to leukemia.
11. Sonny Corleone / James Caan
James Caan started his career on the big screen back in the early ‘60s but it wasn’t until his role as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather film series that he truly solidified his role as a Hollywood heartthrob. Women swooned over Caan both as Sonny, the eldest son of Vito Corleone, and on the red carpet. He continued to act in his later years and portrayed characters in some memorable films like Dick Tracy and Misery. He even returned to the mobster genre in films like Mickey Blue Eyes and This Thing of Ours but nothing could top his role in The Godfather. In the meantime, his son has started to make a name for himself in the entertainment industry as well. Scott Caan has had a successful career on television with roles in HBO’s Entourage and Hawaii Five-O and has also starred in a number of films on the big screen like the Ocean’s Eleven film series. James Caan seems to be content with being seen more as Scott’s father in recent years since reportedly he’s been forced to take on some not so stellar roles due to financial struggles following a messy divorce in 2016.
10. Genco Abbandando / Frank Sivero
As one of his earliest roles on the big screen, Frank Sivero played the role of Genco Abbandando in The Godfather Part II during the flashback scenes with a younger Vito Corleone. The actor continued his career in acting but didn’t get any memorable roles until he reprised a mobster persona in the 1990 film, Goodfellas, when he portrayed the role of Frankie Carbone. His character was so memorable as a mobster that Sivero claimed that the writers of The Simpsons ripped it off to base one of their characters on for the TV series. Sivero filed a lawsuit against Fox Television for $250 million. He alleged that the cartoon character, Louis, was based on his mobster persona, which the writers were aware of since they were living in the same apartment complex as Sivero during the time when he was cultivating his character. Sivero even claimed that The Simpsons’ producer, James Brooks, led him to believe that they would work together on an upcoming film but that it was just a ruse to steal his persona for the TV series. Ultimately, Sivero lost his lawsuit and the judge in the proceedings dismissed the case entirely.
9. Meyer Lansky / Patrick Dempsey
Prior to Patrick Dempsey’s role as Meyer Lansky in the 1991 gangster film, Mobsters, he hadn’t really appeared in anything that was truly noteworthy. While the 1991 film, Run, tried to get audiences to see him as a leading man in Hollywood, it wasn’t until he starred alongside Christian Slater in Mobsters that people really sat up and took notice. If viewers notice a bit of a something peculiar in photos of Dempsey in Mobsters, it might be due to the fact that Dempsey actually broke his nose while filming. There were accounts that Dempsey and Slater had difficulties working together onset and there was even a rumor that Slater broke his nose during one of the scenes. However, Dempsey reported that it was actually a stunt man who did it during another scene where there was an accident in filming the fight sequence. Whatever the case, it’s interesting that Dempsey has also had rumors swirling around him regarding difficulties working with him on the set of Grey’s Anatomy. Ultimately, Dempsey is no longer a cast member for the Shonda Rhimes series and is now focusing on his new role as the co-owner of Dempsey Proton Racing.
8. Tom Hagen / Robert Duvall
Robert Duvall is an actor that first appeared on the big screen in 1962 and had some memorable roles before he became Tom Hagen, the adopted son of Vito Corleone in The Godfather series. While Hagen wasn’t directly part of the crime portion of “the family” the way Michael or Sonny was, he was involved in all of the business and legal dealings throughout the film series. He also acted as consigliere and had the respect of everyone in the Corleone family, as well as others from “the Five Families.” Regardless of how memorable his role was in The Godfather, Duvall was never typecast as a mobster in his film career. In fact, his character portrayals had almost the widest range that an actor could hope for in the entertainment industry. He’s acted in some hugely popular films since his time as Tom Hagen, including such films as Apocalypse Now, A Civil Action, The Road, and the critically acclaimed 2014 film, The Judge. His most recent film was released in 2015, Wild Horses, which he starred alongside Josh Hartnett and James Franco. Nowadays, he seems to have slowed down in regards to acting but that shouldn’t come as a surprise since he’s 86-years-old.
7. Tony Soprano / James Gandolfini
When The Sopranos first aired on HBO, people didn’t know whether or not a modern day mob storyline would fare well with audiences. Yet, the acting prowess of James Gandolfini as the new mob boss, Tony Soprano, was a selling point that only continued to draw in viewers each week. That combined with Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano and a long list of mobster favorites from the big screen and the rest is history. While Gandolfini had become a huge success as a TV actor, that didn’t deter him from branching out to completely different roles on the big screen. In 2010, he starred alongside Kristen Stewart in Welcome to the Rileys and won over hearts in the 2013 film, Enough Said, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. At the age of 51-years-old, Gandolfini was traveling in Europe in June of 2013 when he suffered a heart attack in Rome. He was slated to accept an award at the Taormina Film Fest in Sicily but sadly, he was never able to accept and the world lost one of their favorite actors in Hollywood.
6. Moe Greene / Alex Rocco
Alex Rocco first appeared on the big screen in 1965 in the film, Motorpsycho, but didn’t become a true onscreen Hollywood actor in the eyes of many in the general public until his 1972 appearance in The Godfather. Rocco played the role of Moe Greene, who was a fictitious character but had many characteristics based on real-life Las Vegas mobsters. Audiences didn’t react well to the Greene character onscreen but that was probably just because he didn’t exactly have a likable character. Not only was he slapping around Fredo but he didn’t seem to give Michael Corleone the respect he deserved. In the meantime, things didn’t end well for his character and even The Sopranos referenced “the Moe Greene special” as a way to “whack” someone off. Rocco continued his acting career in films like Get Shorty and The Wedding Planner and even returned to Vegas in the Starz series, Magic City. Unfortunately, at the age of 79-years-old, Rocco passed of natural causes in 2015.
5. Silvio Dante / Steven Van Zandt
When HBO went out in search of an actor to play Silvio Dante, the consigliere to Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, it was ultimately Steven Van Zandt that got the part. Regardless of the fact that he had never acted before, they must have seen something in him that proved he would be able to convey the character accurately. Not only did he win over audiences but he became one of the favorite characters on the series, with viewers absolutely heartbroken when he was ultimately gunned down. In 2012 he returned to the mob genre in a Norwegian mobster portrayal, which is available on Netflix. However, his true passion has always been in the music industry. He has been a longtime friend and guitar player for Bruce Springsteen and member of E Street Band. He has collaborated for numerous endeavors in the music industry, whether it was his hugely successful run on Broadway or his philanthropic work. While people may love the quirky characters he had as Silvio Dante, it’s his real-life quirks that make him truly unique.
4. Paulie Gualtieri / Tony Sirico
Tony Sirico is an actor that has portrayed numerous different characters on the big screen but first made an appearance as a mobster in the 1990 film, Goodfellas. He continued to play mobster characters over the years with roles in films like Mickey Blue Eyes and Smokin’ Stogies. It seemed like only a natural progression for him to be cast in the HBO series, The Sopranos. His role as Paulie Gualtieri was far more successful than any film he’s ever appeared in and still remains his most memorable character. After the conclusion of the series, he continued to star in different roles here and there but nothing that even came close to the success of The Sopranos. Sirico turned to voice acting in the popular series, Family Guy, and portrayed himself in an angry rant about how Family Guy was joking around about Italians. He also provided the voice for Vinny and was a very likable voice actor.
3. Tommy DeVito / Joe Pesci
Joe Pesci has been appearing in films since his first role on the big screen in 1961 but is best known for the mobster characters he’s portrayed. From Goodfellas to his cameo in A Bronx Tale to his stellar performance in the 1995 hit, Casino, no one can play a true sociopathic mobster the way Joe Pesci has been able to do over the years. In 1999, Pesci apparently retired from acting and has only starred in six films in the last 20 years. While there was a report that Pesci was retiring from acting to pursue a career as a rapper, that really was seen as a pipedream by the general public. In the meantime, there are new reports that Martin Scorsese has been trying to get Pesci to come out of retirement in order to star in his upcoming mob film, The Irishman. Robert De Niro has also tried to help convince Pesci to take on the new role. As of yet, Pesci hasn’t accepted the role. Fans can only hope that they will once again see him on the big screen again.
2. Vito Corleone / Robert De Niro
When Robert De Niro first appeared in The Godfather Part II, he had only starred in two previous roles on the big screen. Yet, The Godfather Part II was the favorite film in the series by many mobster film fans. The world loved seeing the story of a younger Vito Corleone, played by Robert De Niro, and couldn’t wait to see more acting portrayals by this heartthrob actor. He went on to star in a myriad of other iconic films from Taxi Driver to The Deer Hunter to Raging Bull. While De Niro went on to play in other mobster films like The Untouchables, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, and Casino, he is still not thought of as a typecast actor that can only play a gangster. In fact, the Analyze This and Analyze That films were met with pretty harsh criticisms and people preferred to see De Niro outside of the stereotypical character. The Meet the Fockers series became a huge success and fans loved seeing the onscreen chemistry between him and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook and Joy. Nowadays, De Niro doesn’t seem to be slowing down in the least and is currently in talks with Martin Scorsese for his upcoming film, The Irishman.
1. Michael Corleone / Al Pacino
Typically, an actor is lucky if they can just get one role that achieves iconic status in the world of Hollywood. Yet, Al Pacino has proven that lightning definitely does strike twice, or in his case, six or seven times. He had the privilege of portraying Michael Corleone in The Godfather film series, became the iconic gangster in Scarface, was the underdog everyone rooted for in Carlito’s Way and played Lefty Ruggiero in Donnie Brasco. Yet, those mobster flicks weren’t the only Al Pacino films that led him to become known as Hollywood royalty. Pacino was able to convince everyone he really was the devil in Devil’s Advocate, he expertly told the story of a blind man in Scent of a Woman and he’s even played law enforcement characters throughout his long career as an actor. Nowadays, it doesn’t seem like he’s taking a break from acting anytime soon. He is slated to appear in a number of films in 2017, including The Trap with Benicio del Toro and a crime thriller called Hangman.