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Movie Reviews

The 10 Best Crime Movies Of All Time

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best crime movies

The allure of the crime genre in cinema is timeless, captivating audiences with tales of moral ambiguity, complex characters, and thrilling narratives that often blur the lines between right and wrong. From the early days of noir to the contemporary era of neo-noir, the best crime movies of all time have remained at the forefront of film culture, offering a mirror to society’s underbelly.

This article aims to celebrate the ten best crime movies of all time, showcasing a diverse range of stories that have defined the genre. These films, lauded for their engaging plots, remarkable performances, and innovative filmmaking techniques, have left an indelible mark on cinema. They explore the human condition through the lens of crime, challenging viewers to question their own notions of morality and justice. Whether it’s the ruthless world of gangsters, the intricate workings of a heist, or the psychological depth of a serial killer, these movies delve into the darker side of human nature in the most compelling ways. 

Join us as we journey through cinematic history, revisiting these masterpieces that continue to inspire filmmakers and captivate audiences around the world. Maybe you want to find action crime films, crime thrillers, or perhaps even a crime comedy movie or a crime drama. Well, you have come to the right place!

History of the Best Crime Movies of All Time

History of the best crime movies

The history of crime films stretches back to the early days of cinema. Initially inspired by the hardboiled detective stories and gangster tales of the 1920s and 30s, crime films have always provided a gritty, unflinching look at the underbelly of society. The genre truly came into its own in the 1940s with the advent of film noir, a style characterised by its dark, cynical mood and complex, morally ambiguous characters. 

The 1970s saw a resurgence of the crime genre with films like “The Godfather” and “Chinatown”, which combined intricate plotting with a deep exploration of their characters’ psychologies. In the 1990s, crime films embraced a more stylised, often violent aesthetic, as seen in the works of directors like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. Today, crime films continue to evolve, exploring a wide range of themes and styles, from the darkly comic to the brutally realistic. 

Despite their diverse approaches, all crime films share a fascination with the darker side of human nature, providing a compelling, often disturbing look at the motivations and consequences of criminal behaviour.

Top 10 Best Crime Films Of All Time

So, Tommy guns at the ready, here is our list of the best crime movies of all time. 

Stay tuned to see if we included your favourite!

10. Lawless (2012) – Best Prohibition Crime Movies

Based on the book “The Wettest County in the World” by Matt Bondurant and with a screenplay written by Nick Cave, “Lawless” had all the ingredients of a great movie from the outset. The critically-acclaimed film ranks among the best crime movies based on true stories

Tom Hardy, Shia Le Beouf, and Jason Clarke play Forrest, Howard, and Jack Bondurant, three brothers who run a moonshine business at the height of prohibition laws in 1930s Virginia. Added into the mix are Hollywood heavyweights Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, and Guy Pearce, who plays a particularly mean Charley Rakes, a lawman bent on finding out if the Bondurant legend is true.

“Lawless” explores themes of family loyalty, lawlessness, and survival amidst violence and corruption. Despite their illegal endeavours, the brothers’ resilience and tenacity make them local legends, challenging the authorities who aim to dismantle their operation.

The compelling movie is one of the best true crime movies of all time. Moreover, the fact that it is true makes it all the more worth the watch. 

9. In Bruges (2008)

In what might not be the most obvious setting for a comedy, this movie picks up with hitmen Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson arriving in the Belgian town of Bruges following their murder of a priest that went wrong.

But a comedy this is, and a hilarious one at that! It also involves a movie star addicted to ketamine (Jordan Prentice), his drug dealer (Clémence Poésy), and Farrell and Gleeson’s crime lord boss, Ralph Fiennes. 

The film is renowned for its blend of dark humour, poignant moments, and exploration of guilt and redemption, all set against the backdrop of Bruges’ medieval architecture and canals.

8. Snatch (2000) – Best Comedy Crime Movies

It would be hard not to feature one of Guy Ritchie’s films in a list of top crime movies. Many alternative top 10s will probably include the likes of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Rocknrolla”, and the modern-day adaptations of “Sherlock Holmes”, starring Robert Downey Junior and Jude Law. However, for us, “Snatch” will always be one of the great comedy crime movies.

Stuffed full of quotable lines (“Do you like Dags?”) and an ensemble cast that includes Brad Pitt, Vinnie Jones, Jason Statham, Jason Fleming, and Benicio Del Toro, it is easily one of the best crime movies on Amazon Prime. It intricately weaves two plots: one involving a stolen 86-carat diamond and the other, illegal boxing matches. 

Known for its fast-paced, witty dialogue and complex, intersecting narratives, “Snatch” is a blend of dark humour, memorable characters, and unpredictable twists. Its distinctive style and energetic storytelling have made it a cult favourite among fans of crime and comedy cinema.

7. The Irishman (2019)

The newest of the films in this collection of the best crime movies of all time, “The Irishman” stars some of the most famous crime actors ever. Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, and Al Pacino all appear, and Martin Scorsese directs the movie. 

The film, which runs for 3 hours, was a Netflix exclusive and is a fictionalised re-telling of the true story of the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. Based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt. 

Arguably one of the best crime movies on Netflix, the film cleverly jumps between different periods in Frank Sheeran’s life to illustrate his long and complex relationship with crime boss Russell Bufalino. Moreover, the plot highlights how the relationship influences Sheeran’s moral compromises in service to Bufalino.

6. Taxi Driver (1976)

Sticking with De Niro and Scorcese, number six in our list of the best crime thriller movies is “Taxi Driver”. Released in 1976, many expected the movie to win the Oscar for best film, but Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” pipped it to the post. 

De Niro plays Travis Bickle, a 26-year-old Vietnam War veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress and living a lonely life in New York. As his mental health deteriorates and he finds it harder to engage with normal life, Bickle becomes increasingly violent, battling between his moral code and anger. When he meets a child prostitute during his taxi shifts, he turns his life around and focuses on trying to save her from the life she is living.

“Taxi Driver” is renowned for its gritty portrayal of urban alienation and De Niro’s intense performance. The film’s iconic line, “You talkin’ to me?”, and its haunting score by Bernard Herrmann have become integral parts of cinema history.

5. Drive (2011)

This dark and compelling movie starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and Bryan Cranston is a masterpiece. The story depicts an almost mute Hollywood stuntman and mechanic who moonlights as a getaway driver. He is balancing his boss’s demands, who has taken a loan from a gangster to fund a new racing team, with a new relationship with his neighbour and her son. All whilst her former partner returns from prison.

The film is famous for its stylish direction, minimalist dialogue and Gosling’s stoic performance. Also of note is the memorable 80s-inspired soundtrack, which features College, Riz Ortolani, and the Chromatics. “Drive” blends elements of noir, action, and romance, creating a moody, atmospheric cinematic experience that has been widely acclaimed.

4. City Of God (2002)

Titled “Cidade de Deus” in Portuguese, this Brazilian movie was released in 2002 in Brazil and 2003 worldwide. It depicts the struggles of two kids from the slums of Rio de Janeiro. One looks to become a photographer and the other a kingpin. 

Loosely based on real-life events, the plot demonstrates the growth of organised crime in the Cidade de Deus favela of Rio. The climax of the movie is the war between kingpin drug dealer Li’l Zé and vigilante-turned-criminal Knockout Ned. 

The film presents a gritty, visceral depiction of life in the favelas, marked by poverty, violence, and crime. Its raw narrative, dynamic editing, incredible cinematography, and powerful performances have garnered international acclaim. Additionally, most of the movie’s actors were residents of favelas, such as Vidigal and Cidade de Deus itself.

 “City of God” is a poignant exploration of the struggle for survival and the cycle of violence in marginalised communities.

3. Scarface (1983)

“Say hello to my little friend!” is one of cinema’s most famous movie quotes. Up there with “I am your father” and “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re going to see some serious sh*t”.

The movie is actually a remake of a 1932 film of the same name. It features Al Pacino playing Tony Montana, a role based on real-life mobster Al Capone. The story depicts a Cuban refugee who arrives penniless in 1980s Miami and becomes a powerful drug lord. 

Known for its graphic violence and explicit language, “Scarface” presents a grim view of the American Dream, showing the destructive effects of ambition and greed. Pacino’s intense performance, coupled with memorable dialogue, has cemented the film’s status in pop culture. Despite initial mixed reviews, “Scarface” is now regarded as a classic in the gangster film genre.

2. The Godfather – Part II (1974) – Best Mafia Crime Movies

The entire “Godfather” trilogy is a masterpiece, but Part II has an allure that stands out amongst the franchise

Francis Ford Coppola directed the movie, which featured a screenplay co-written by Mario Puzo. Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, and Talia Shire are all in fantastic form, with De Niro winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. 

“The Godfather – Part II” is both a sequel and a prequel. The film depicts the 1958 story of Michael Corleone, the new Don of the Corleone crime family, protecting his business after an attempt on his life. At the same time, we see the 1901 – 1941 journey of Michael’s father, Vito Corleone, a Sicilian immigrant and the founder of the family’s enterprise. 

Of course, you can watch the film in isolation. However, it’s even better in the context of the first and third instalments.

1. Goodfellas (1990)

 “You think I’m funny? Funny how? Funny like a clown? Do I amuse you?”

Starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci and directed by Martin Scorcese, “Goodfellas” is the best of the best crime thriller movies. It depicts the rise and fall of mob associate Henry Hill. 

The film has an exciting feel and flow, as the actors improvised lines during rehearsals. Scorcese then took the lines he liked the best and included them in a revised script. As a result, there is a natural flow and feel to the dialogue. 

As relationships between aspiring gangsters change over time, the fascinating plot ebbs and flows as the story unfolds.

Best Crime Movies of the Future

Future of the best crime movies

The future of crime movies is poised to evolve in exciting ways, influenced by both technological advancements and societal changes. With the rise of streaming platforms, there’s potential for more diverse and complex narratives to reach wider audiences. This could result in films that delve deeper into the psychology of criminals or explore the nuances of law enforcement. Furthermore, movies could portray crime from perspectives often overlooked, such as victims or marginalised communities. 

Technology will also play a significant role. High-quality home cinema systems and virtual reality could create immersive experiences that heighten the tension and drama inherent in crime films. Furthermore, advancements in CGI and special effects will allow for more realistic and thrilling action sequences.

In terms of content, crime movies may become more global due to the increased interconnectivity of the world. This could mean more films exploring international crime, cybercrime, or cross-cultural conflicts. Additionally, as society continues to grapple with issues like systemic corruption, racial injustice, and economic inequality, crime films are likely to reflect these themes, offering commentary and provoking discussion.

The genre’s core appeal will remain: the exploration of morality, the allure of danger, and the thrill of the chase. These timeless elements will continue to draw audiences to crime movies, even as the genre evolves and adapts to the future.

That Was Our List of the Top 10 Best Crime Movies!

best crime movies of all time

There we have it! Our list of the best crime movies of all time!

With so many amazing options, picking out a top ten of the best crime mystery movies is hard! Several other notable releases still deserve mention, such as “Donnie Brasco”, one of the best crime movies on Hulu. 

The crime genre is vibrant, with hundreds of incredible films to check out! So, what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a crime movie and enjoy!


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