Many famous actors have portrayed mob bosses in many fine films. Godfather, Godfather two, Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in America, Chinatown and Scarface all rank among the best gangster movies ever made. Many film critics consider Godfather 1 and 2 to be the best movies ever made, regardless of genre. One of the most important aspects to mob movies is the lead gangster. If that role is not played well, then the entire movie will be a failure. Here are the top five gangster actors of all time:
5: Joe Pesci. Pesci generally played lower level mobsters. The 5 foot 4 inch Pesci played in his first mobster role in “Once Upon a Time in America” where he played the local gangster, Frankie Minaldi. He also played Robert DeNiro’s enforcer in “Casino”. His most memorable gangster role, however is the low level two bit criminal, Tommy DeVito in “Goodfellas”.
4: Robert DeNiro. DeNiro’s most famous role is as a young Vito Corleone. He starred in Godfather 2 and portrayed Corleone during his rise to power in the 1920’s. He also played a small time hood in “The Score”, the casino manager in “Casino”, a mid level gangster in “Goodfellas” and Al Capone in “The Untouchables”. In a comedic role, he played the mob boss in Analyze This” and its sequel, “Analyze That”.
3: James Cagney. Cagney played numerous gangsters in the 1930’s and 1940’s. His most memorable gangster roles are in the movies: “Public Enemy”, “White Heat”, “The Roaring Twenties”, and “Angels with Dirty Faces”.
2: Marlon Brando. Brando’s most famous role was that of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather”. His superb acting drew the viewer into the movie and never let them leave. The evil of don Vito, coupled with his tender love of his family created a very unique character and excellent story line. Brando also played in the 1954 movie “On the Waterfront”.
1: Al Pacino. Pacino is one of the few main characters to play in all three Godfather movies. He played Michael Corleone, the son of Vito Corleone and eventually took control of the family. In Godfather 3, he is guilt ridden and tries to repay society for his past sins. Pacino also played the role of an extremely violent Tony Montana in “Scarface”. Other gangster movies include Carlito’s Way” and “Donnie Brasco”.
Other gangster actors who get an honorable mention include Humphrey Bogart, Harvey Keitel, John Travolta and James Gandolfini.