The moment I mention the word Gangster, the first picture that pops up in your head would be that of a group of men dressed in black leather jackets, with gold chains and those cool shades on their eyes.
Add a gun and some cocky confidence with it and you have successfully imagined a perfect gangster. Hollywood has gone on to make some amazingly ‘cool’ gangster movies. Here we’re going to look at the best 90s gangster movies which will help you unleash your inner badass!
15 Best 90s Gangster Movies of All Time
1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
- Cast: Quentin Tarantino, John Travolta, Uma Thurman
- IMDB Rating: 8.9/10
Featuring at the numero uno spot of this list, Pulp Fiction has been set in the realms of the dark mafia world and deals with the lives of two hitmen namely- Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield who have a thing for philosophy. Their lives take a sharp turn when a series of incidents interconnects their lives with two LA goons, a boxer, and a gangster’s actress wife.
This film features everything stereotypical of an underworld that involves guns, drugs, and sex. To add to that, the expert and precise vision of Tarantino and some smashing performances is what makes this film one made for the badasses!
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2. Goodfellas (1990)
- Cast: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci
- IMDB Rating: 8.7/10
Don’t go by the title of the film, for there aren’t a good bunch of fellas in it! This film is about the rise of three young men named- Henry Hill, Jimmy, and Tommy who ascend the ladder from being petty criminals to becoming the biggest gangsters and drug peddlers on the streets of New York City.
The film primarily focuses on the journey of the three pals and their meteoric rise and success in the underworld, so much so that they become New York City’s most feared names. With a gory and realistic narration of the mob life and some spine-chilling action, these Goodfellas will make sure you tap into your bad side too!
3. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
- Cast: Quentin Tarantino, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi
- IMDB Rating: 8.3/10
Here’s bringing to you another classic 90’s gangster film by Quentin Tarantino. The movie’s plot revolves around six criminals, Brown, White, Blonde, Blue, Orange, and Pink who have been hired to execute a robbery of diamonds. The catch is that none of them is known to each other. On executing the robbery, the police ambush them and are made to believe that one of the thieves is an undercover cop.
The film further goes deep into the theme with the mission of finding out the so-called undercover cop and the constant bloodshed omnipresent in it. The combination of a refreshing gangster robbery plot and some serious killing makes this a good pick of any 90’s gangster movies. Watch it only if you have a strong heart!
4. The Usual Suspects (1995)
- Cast: Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne
- IMDB Rating: 8.5/10
As the title of the film suggests, it focuses on the lives of Verbal, a hitman, and four other criminals who meet during a routine police round-up. They’re eventually released with the help of influential power and decide to plot a plan to steal emeralds worth three million dollars.
The Usual Suspects further narrates the insights and the execution of their ambitious heist with a serious twist towards the end. Boasting a well-written screenplay and some compelling and entertaining action, this flick will ensure that you keep guessing as to what happens next!
5. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
- Cast: Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones, Nick Moran
- IMDB Rating: 8.2/10
5th in the list of best 90s gangster movies, this 1998 gangster flick involves the combination of two opposite genres of crime and comedy. This story is about Eddy, a petty criminal who persuades his three mates to lend him money for a poker match against a powerful mobster Hatchet Harry. Eddy loses the match and is given only a week to repay Harry’s 500,000 pounds.
What makes this film all the more interesting is how they try to collect the money. Ranging from bank robberies to acquiring shotguns worth millions of dollars, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels provides an unusually interesting combination of gangster comedy taking this film to heights unimaginable.
6. Donnie Brasco (1997)
- Cast: Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Anne Heche
- IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
Set in the backdrop of the New York mafia regime, this film deals with the life of Donnie Brasco, an undercover FBI agent who successfully infiltrates one of the top five mafia families of New York City. He takes rapid strides in his ranking and raises so high that eventually brought about the death knell of the Mafia in New York City.
Donnie Brasco’s stealthy and smooth entry into the Mafia world will surely have your jaw drop in awe. Not to mention, the series of destruction plotted by him against the mafia regime and a spunky twist towards the tail-end of the film is what makes this a must-have on your 90s gangster movie bucket list!
7. Casino (1995)
- Cast: Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci
- IMDB Rating: 8.2/10
The Casino is a film which has a lot to do with the gambling of fates and destinies. This Hollywood flick describes the tale of Ace, a good mafia associate and rises to power by opening a chain of casinos in Las Vegas. However, things go downhill as he indulges in fights with his close aide, Nicky, and his lover, Ginger which creates heaps of complications between the three of them.
Casino further explores the reason behind the downfall of Ace and how the presence of the wrong company and the effect of the arguments leads to the downfall of his casino empire, eventually him returning to a decent life. With the focal themes of overconfidence, crime, and the downfall of evil, this mafia-oriented movie can teach you a lot more about life than an average textbook.
8. Carlito’s Way (1993)
- Cast: Al Pacino, Penelope Ann Miller, Sean Penn
- IMDB Rating: 7.9/10
If you’re looking for a great blend of a mafia-oriented theme and a classic drama, Carlito’s Way has to be your pick. The movie depicts the plight of Carlito Brigante, a criminal, who decides to live a peaceful life, after his stay at the prison. However, his fate collides with a whirlwind of destruction when he unknowingly becomes part of a drug cartel with no route of escape available.
Carlito’s Way is set with a gory yet pitiful undertone which has crime, helplessness, and drug peddling as the focal themes of the film. It happens to be one of those few mafia films which can bring a tear to your eye.
9. A Bronx Tale (1993)
- Cast: Chazz Palminteri, Robert De Niro, Lillo Brancato Jr.
- IMDB Rating:7.8/10
A Bronx Tale is a story of Calogero, a teenager from the town of the Bronx who goes on to become friends with Sonny, a local goon, who teaches him the nitty-gritty of the gangster ways. He ends up falling in love with his classmate, Jane but little does he know the consequences of doing so.
While the movie may not be a stereotypical gangster plot, it brings about a beautiful comparison between the lives of the gangsters and that of normal people. The emotional bond between Calogero and his father is a major highlight of this film. With killer performances and the effective direction of De Niro in the kitty, A Bronx Tale is a tale worthwhile a watch.
10. Bugsy (1991)
- Cast: Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Harvey Keitel
- IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Based on the real-life story of American mobster Bugsy Siegel, this biography describes his life and his steady rise in the underworld. He ends up in a relationship with a Hollywood actress Virginia Hill and decides to set up a chain of casinos after a brainwave struck him while gambling in the Nevada desert.
While this biography is mainly centered around his affair with Hill, there are a few scenes that can raise your hair and move you out of your seat. If biographies are your thing, Bugsy is simply made for you!
11. Boyz n the Hood (1991)
- Cast: Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr, Laurence Fishburne
- IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Are you the cool kid who loves a typical gangster plot with some rough hood action? If yes, Boyz n the Hood is simply perfect for you! This 1991 release describes the story of three friends namely- Darrin, Tre, and Ricky who struggle to adapt to the notorious and perilous environment of the hood in Los Angeles and how their lives go on to be impacted due to the exposure to this rough environment.
Boyz n the Hood goes on to question a lot of things, especially on race, relationships, and the impact of violence on humans. While the content may be slightly graphic to watch, that shouldn’t take away much from a film that neatly describes the harsh realities of the ‘hood’.
12. American History X (1998)
- Cast: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Ethan Suplee
- IMDB Rating: 8.5/10
Directed by Tony Kaye, American History X is the account of Derek, a neo-nazi skinhead who has just finished his prison sentence of three years for a hate crime. His brother Danny is unduly influenced by his path and decides to follow him. Derek tries his best to change his mind with all his efforts ultimately going in vain.
On giving it a good watch, it has a moral undertone to it were following the wrong path would always take you to destruction. The fraternal relationship is well-captured along with a fascinating portrayal of hatred. This one is not to miss at any cost!
13. Heat (1995)
- Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Ashley Judd
- IMDB Rating: 8.2/10
If you give this 90’s gangster plot a miss, consider yourself unlucky! Heat refers to the story of Neil McCauley, a pro-criminal who decides to execute a robbery for one last time before heading into the twilight for good. Lieutenant Hanna comes in to be the potential party pooper for Neil and his folks as they begin to feel the heat from the cops.
This film is all about the cat and mouse chase between Neil and Lieutenant Hanna and the thieves on an escape from Los Angeles to New Zealand. A racing action plot along with some seasoned performances turns the heat up on this one!
14. Sonatine (1993)
- Cast: Aya Kokumai, Takeshi Kitano, Ren Osugi
- IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Having Tokyo, Japan as its backdrop, Sonatine is a gut-wrenching narrative of a group of yakuza (a member of an organised crime syndicate) who are sent to Okinawa to finish a gang battle. With time, the situation worsens and the yakuza get a lot more than they expected.
The thing that stands about Sonatine is that it eliminates the usage of stupid dialogues and continuous action and strikes the perfect balance between the crime theme and exhilarating action. Overall, this is one such film that offers you a sleek, bold, and punchy narrative.
15. Pusher (1996)
- Cast: Nicolas Winding Refn, Mads Mikkelsen, Zlatko Buric
- IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
Under the direction of Nicolas Winding Refn, Pusher is a high-octane drama about Frank, a heroin dealer, who isn’t necessarily the most sought-after dealer but earns relatively well to do a good job. He decides to expand his business and seeks the help of a drug lord named Milo who offers him the money on the condition of instant repayment. But that’s when the twist begins to kick in.
Just as Frank is about to strike a deal, the police bust him and he needs to let go of the drugs. The threat of the police and Milo looms over his head which is what makes this an exciting flick to indulge in!
Now that you have the list of the best gangster movies of the 90s, it’s time you bring out your hidden badass and indulge in some adventure, for it’s the only time when the bad is good!
Lights, Camera, and watch the bad guys in action!