Best of Netflix: Thug Life

Let’s face it — when you want your Gangster Movie fix, you want it now. Luckily, Netflix Instant has plenty of options to get your crime on — here are some of the best gangster movies you can watch, well, instantly.

Watch Casino on Netflix Instant

The only thing really wrong with Casino is that it’s not as good as GoodFellas, though that’s enough of a “weakness” for many to consider it a “lesser” Martin Scorsese movie (especially since they were released only five years apart from each other). However, for just a “pretty great” movie, it’s pretty damn great, as Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci proceed to destroy themselves as they try to make Vegas a home-away-from-home for New York criminals. The three-hour running time flies by (for the most part), and Scorsese manages to juggle at least two different voice-over narrations (De Niro and Pesci) at a given time with his usual confident flair (and with a heavy assist from uber-editor, Thelma Schoonmaker).

Watch Gangster No. 1 on Netflix Instant

One of the best British crime dramas out there, Gangster No. 1 is as batshit insane as its title character, an unnamed loony who will stop at nothing to be… well, Gangster No. 1. Malcolm McDowell plays this psychopath in present day — we then get Paul Bettany in the role as we flash back to the ’60s, with David Thewlis as his high-class, well-dressed boss. A companion piece of sorts to Sexy Beast, at least in terms of sheer energy and bizarre characterization, Gangster No. 1 makes no compromises (or apologies) in its portrait of the criminal as amoral lunatic. If you haven’t seen it, watch it — now, in fact.

Watch Carlito's Way on Netflix Instant

When it was first released, Brian De Palma‘s super-stylish gangster flick seemed a little… well, silly and over-the-top (starting with the fact that the film is being narrated by a dead man, more or less), but Carlito’s Way has actually aged remarkably well and has since become a more than worthy companion piece to the other De Palma/Pacino crime drama, Scarface. Pacino is in fine form here as an aging mobster, and Sean Penn steals the show with his twitchy, coked-up performance as the most corrupt lawyer character in the history of cinema.

Watch The Funeral on Netflix Instant

Abel Ferrara’s fantastic period gangster movie perpetually aches with Catholic guilt, as two mobster brothers (Christopher Walken and Chris Penn) reflect on their own tenuous grip on this mortal coil upon the murder of their younger brother, a Communist sympathizer (Vincent Gallo). The funeral itself is the framework for a series of flashbacks depicting the brothers’ uneasy alliance with a rival gangster (Benicio del Toro), who is the chief suspect in the murder. The Funeral is rough road (and we do mean rough), though it holds many rewards for the patient (and observant) viewer. And the climax is a doozy.

Watch Bugsy on Netflix Instant

Director Barry Levinson‘s sexy-cool portrait of Las Vegas mobster Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel has style and atmosphere to spare, as well as the much-ballyhooed screen team-up of (then) real-life couple Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. It’s not a “great” gangster movie, as far as the genre goes, but it is a “fun” one — the movie is little more than a series of scenes featuring Beatty and Bening flirting, arguing, smooching and preening for the camera, and it pretty much works. You also get Harvey Keitel as Mickey Cohen and a chilling turn by Ben Kingsley as Meyer Lansky.

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