Countless gangster flicks have influenced our culture and society, drawing interest because of their depictions of crime, violence, sex, and constant action. It’s understandable that the bar has been set high these days for directors, since onlookers have witnessed some iconic scenes of violence in blockbuster movies, which ultimately helped make them so popular.
There have been loads of gangster movies over the past four decades regarded as the best films ever made. Some of them are on this list, while other selections are forgotten classics with a whole lot of blood to boast about.
Without further ado, here are 10 unforgettably violent gangster flicks. Be warned, some spoilers may follow!
10 Blood In, Blood Out
This three-hour epic certainly isn’t the most violent film ever made, yet the movie consists of specific scenes that are highly discomforting and displeasing.
The most violent sequences happen in the last hour, when Miklo comes up with the idea to shift the drug trade from prison. Bloody hangings, stabbings, explosions and inmates setting inmates on fire round up the landscape of the final hour, but it’s the rival gang that breaks Cruz’s back on a fire hydrant at the beginning of the movie that really opens everyone’s eyes to how brutal some moments in this film could be.
Apart from that, the acting is pretty atrocious, and you keep on wondering how inmates get the slickest shades in prison.
9 The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola’s timeless classic was certainly violent for its time. It also made similar gangster films possible for the future (as well as spoofs like Jane Austen’s Mafia), along with television series like The Sopranos.
Some memorable scenes of violence include when Michael (Al Pacino) kills McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) and Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) in a restaurant, as the camera focuses on a gunshot wounds to the forehead. Fans will also remember the Baptism scene, where a number of men (and a woman) who lead the five families are murdered, while a baby is brought into the hands of God. The powerful scene is regarded as one of the best in the history of cinema on many lists.
Also, don’t forget the car explosions, Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo) beating his wife Connie Corleone (Talia Shire), and the bullets that rain on Sonny Corleone.
This is arguably the most realistic depiction of crimes committed by the Mafia, and how wars among crime families really happen. This film isn’t filled with explosions or shooting battles you’d see in a Western, but instead, the acts of violence in this movie are severely depressing and heartbreaking.
The film uses multiple stories to bring the topics full circle. Examples include when Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato), a middleman who delivers money to families of imprisoned gangsters, merely survives a mass shooting he helped orchestrate when rivals find out about his business.
Another is when 13-year-old Toto (Salvatore Abruzzese) is forced by his gang to lure Maria (Maria Nazionale), a woman he delivered groceries to regularly, out of her apartment to be shot since her son joined the rival gang who killed one of Toto’s Scampia-based gang’s members.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking scene of all comes at the end, when two young teenagers who envision themselves as gangsters are murdered in a trap because of their foolish errors.
7 City of God
This exceptional film of Brazil’s toughest ghetto is full of ups, downs and in-betweens. The murder scenes in this film aren’t too hard to handle, but it’s the inability to avoid the firing of a gun for more than five minutes at a time. What makes this film so unique and sets it apart from the others on this list is that kids and adolescents mostly take part in the violent sequences, with the drug lord of the slums being 18 years old (Li’l Dice).
Scenes of extreme violence, like Li’l Dice’s rape scene and mass killings weren’t over glorified, but it was the killing of a child that really appall onlookers. When Steak and Fries (Darlan Cunha), who can’t be more than 11 or 12 years old, wants to be a part of the clan, he’s summoned to kill one of the Runts (a group of young kids terrorizing business owners and others), and shoots him right in the chest.
You don’t know violence until you’ve seen a character played by Joe Pesci stab the living life out of someone. There were some shootouts in this film, however, scenes using other weapons of choice were quite intense for your average gangster movie, including disciplining the casino cheaters by crushing their hands with hammers. Another horrific moment was seeing Tony Dogs’ eye pop out of his head, which is in a vice, before he gets his throat slit.
If you compare this film to a classic like Goodfellas, the moments of barbarity are a lot more severe. Since both films are compared to one another because they star Pesci and Robert De Niro, along with the fact that both films were released not too far apart from each other, Casino is a little tougher to watch if you’ve got an easy stomach. Goodfellas did have the Billy Batts incident, yet there were more dead bodies in this movie, as well as the beating Nicky Santoro (Pesci) and his brother endured with baseball bats.
5 Eastern Promises
Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg is mostly known for his classic horror films, however, the director has been venturing off into other territories. Eastern Promises was released in 2007, gaining critical acclaim immediately, even though the film attained a little more popularity when it was put on the shelves as a DVD.
Viggo Mortensen dazzles in the role of Nikolai Luzhin, a driver for one of London’s biggest organized crime families with Eastern European origins. Naomi Watts is as good as ever, and amongst them are fantastic actors such as Armin Mueller-Stahl and Vincent Cassel.
The violent scenes that come to mind are the cutting fingers off a dead body, throat slitting (we see one in the opening minute), and Mortensen’s nude scene in the steam room where he brutally kills two hitmen in the buff.
4 Reservoir Dogs
This instant classic isn’t filled with violence, but there’s one sadistic scene that could keep you up at night.
It’s not a long film, and it’s got the perfect flow, as the movie commences with someone lying in the back seat of a car while covered in blood. The amount of red liquid leaking out of Freddy Newandyke’s (Tim Roth) body was grotesque, along with one of the most notorious dance-followed-by-torture scenes in modern cinema.
Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) will forever be remembered as not only Vincent Vega’s (John Travolta in Pulp Fiction) dead brother, but for his slick moves when Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You” came blaring on the speakers. He then proceeds to slash policeman Marvin Nash’s (Kirk Baltz) face, who he kidnapped in the trunk of his car, and then slices his ear off.
Not for the weak at heart.
3 Boondock Saints
The MacManus brothers begin a conquest to kill gang members after accidentally killing Mafia thugs. Their associate Rocco is also a riot during the entire film, screaming his head off while shooting everything in sight during the restaurant scene and the peep show-style strip club scene (and don’t forget when he accidentally killed a cat). Not only do they light someone on fire while his body is put on a bar, they also send a toilet bowl crashing on an adversary’s head.
The gunshot wounds in this movie are also pretty special, since the holes are quite large, with thick amounts of blood spewing out of the victim’s body. There are also standoffs like the last scene, when the brothers trade shots against Il Duce, who happens to be their father. Call it what you will, but the most nauseating moment of this entire film stems from that very incident, when Rocco loses his finger. When they return back home, Rocco must heal the wound by torching his finger with an iron press.
You can say the older films on this list were violent for their times, but this one takes the cake. The chainsaw scene in this film is downright shocking, leaving viewers to witness Angel (Pepe Serna) dismembered in a pool of blood before Manny (Steven Bauer) rescues the beloved Tony Montana (Al Pacino).
The movie is filled with killings, by guns and even unfortunate souls being hung by helicopters, or stabbed by Tony himself (Rebenga should come to mind).
The ending scene is one of the most prolific conclusions to any film. When Tony kills Manny for being involved with his sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), it sets off a plethora of violent events, as Tony’s sister is killed by the men ambushing her brother. Tony then goes to war, getting shot multiple times while on mountains of cocaine until the hitman sent to finish the job murders the Cuban refugee.
1 Pulp Fiction
Say what you will about Quentin Tarantino’s style and his over-the-top mantra of brutality, but if it weren’t for this amazing film, some of your favorite movies wouldn’t exist.
Pulp Fiction was hilarious at times, but often difficult to watch. If Vega (Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) weren’t shooting up people in their apartments, they often found themselves in unbelievable situations, like when Vega almost had his boss’ wife Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) overdose on him for sniffing heroin, or when he killed Marvin (Phil LaMarr) in his car and bluntly says, “Aw man, I shot Marvin in the face.”
Other violent moments include when boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) eventually kills Vega in his own apartment, after the gangster was ordered to wait for Coolidge at his place and murder him.
Although, the most infamous scene in this film has to be when Zed (Peter Greene) and Maynard (Duane Whitaker) bring out The Gimp, and proceed to rape Marcellus Wallas (Ving Rhames), until Coolidge (who Wallace wants dead because of a broken deal) uses a sword to kill Maynard. Before he can get to Zed, Wallace shoots him in the crotch, with his penis flying in the air.
Man, you've got to love stuff like that.