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Classic Mob Movies: 4 Movies That Helped Shape the Genre

Image: Classic Mob Movies: 4 Movies That Helped Shape the Genre
The Public Enemy, 1931. (wikimedia/commons)

By    |   Thursday, 16 Apr 2015 12:44 AM

First defined by the likes of James Cagney and Paul Muni in the early 1930s, and fully realized by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino in the early 1970s, several mob movies have made offers to moviegoers that they couldn't refuse. Here's a look at four of the films that helped define the genre.

1. "The Public Enemy" (1931)


While other classic mob movies like the original "Scarface" (1931) starring Paul Muni garnered more acclaim, the genre simply would not be the same if not for the overwhelming presence of screen giant James Cagney. Ranked No. 8 in the American Film Institute's list of Top 10 mob movies, Cagney's "The Public Enemy" – about a Prohibition Era gangster's rise and fall in the ranks of organized crime – was Cagney's breakout role.

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The film forever cemented Cagney's stature as leading man, and his subsequent gangster roles likely led to one of film history's greatest misquoted lines, "You dirty rat." Those words were never said verbatim by Cagney in any film, according to Filmsite, but likely were derived by a line delivered by the legendary actor in the movie "Blonde Crazy," which like "The Public Enemy," was released in 1931. In it, Filmsite says, Cagney utters the line, "Mmm, that dirty, double-crossin' rat."

2. "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967)


Featuring passion, thrills and villainy, the mob classic "Bonnie and Clyde" had it all, thanks to the undeniable big screen chemistry between Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Depression Era gangsters Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Based on the real-life criminal couple that died in an ambush in Louisiana in 1934, director Arthur Penn spared no gory details when it came to the depiction of Bonnie and Clyde's bloody demise.

The film has been celebrated in many different ways through the years by the American Film Institute, landing No. 5 on the industry organization's list of the 10 all-time greatest mob movies, and No. 27 on its overall greatest movies list titled "100 Years … 100 Movies."

3. "The Godfather (1972)
4. The Godfather: Part II" (1974)


Considered the greatest gangster movie ever made by the American Film Institute and third-greatest movie of all time by the organization, "The Godfather" is only rivaled in greatness to its sequel, "The Godfather: Part II" (No. 3 in the top 10; No. 32 in the top 100). Writer-director Francis Ford Coppola's organized crime opus about a 1940s New York crime family don who reluctantly passes on the "family business" to his son. "The Godfather" starred Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in arguably one of the most iconic performances in movie history, and introduced audiences to a fresh-faced actor named Al Pacino as Vito's youngest son, Michael – the heir-apparent to the criminal empire.

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The film, which won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 1973 (as well as statuettes for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor – which Brando refused), pulled off the rare feat two years later with a Best Picture win for its sequel. More than 981,000 users of the Internet Movie Database collectively voted "The Godfather" No. 2 on its list of the site's top 250 movies, and 659,000 users voted "The Godfather, Part II" No. 3. Standing in the way of the Corleone family at the top of the heap is the prison epic "The Shawshank Redemption."

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First defined by the likes of James Cagney and Paul Muni in the early 1930s, and fully realized by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino in the early 1970s, mob movies have made offers to moviegoers that they couldn't refuse. Here's a look at four films from the genre.
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Thursday, 16 Apr 2015 12:44 AM
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