Of all the genres of film, there may be none more beloved by American moviegoers than the organized crime drama. For well over a century, film fans have flocked to theaters to see extraordinary tales of people living outside the law.
One of the very first plot-based films to tell a full story was 1903’s “The Great Train Robbery,” a tale of outlaws robbing train passengers and the posse that seeks to bring them to justice. It is hailed as one of the most influential movies of all time. Since then, hundreds of films following the exploits of gangsters have hit the big screen. The best of these gangster flicks are now acknowledged as some of the best movies in Hollywood history — and these are the greatest movies of all time.
To determine the best gangster films of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, current as of December 2021. All ratings were weighted equally.
Only movies classified in the crime genre tagged with the keyword “gangster” on IMDb, or those that were nominated by the American Film Institute for their 2008 list of top 10 gangster films, were considered. We excluded films that did not explicitly center on organized crime or criminals in the context of a larger organization.
Movies released in every decade rank on this list — from the 1920s to as recently as 2019. Several are praised not just as top-tier gangster movies, but rank among the very best movies of all-time, according to critics.
Though the best gangster movies of all time center around organized crime, they are all very different movies. Some are grisly, violent power struggles, while others are farcical comedies following bumbling criminals and their exploits. In fact, one of the best gangster movies also ranks as one of the funniest American movies of all time.