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Celluloid Gangsters

Hollywood has enjoyed a long love affair with the Mob, and many actors, from Edward G. Robinson to Al Pacino, have cemented their reputations by portraying gangsters. Here are some of our favorites.
Shandana A. Durrani
From the Print Edition:
Francis Ford Coppola, Sept/Oct 03

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Robert Shaw as Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting (1973)
Gangsters have even appeared in comedies, such as this classic caper starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman as a pair of cons out to out-con Shaw's Mob boss as revenge for the death of a friend. Full of twists and turns and often-imitated scenes, the film won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.


Robert De Niro as David "Noodles" Aaronson and James Woods as Maximilian "Max" Bercovicz in Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
While most Mob movies deal with La Cosa Nostra, this Sergio Leone epic focuses on the rise and fall of a group of Jewish gangsters. We follow friends De Niro and Woods from their childhood in the gritty New York slums of the 1920s to their ascent during Prohibition and finally to their tragic "reunion" in the 1960s.


Ben Gazzara as Al Capone in Capone (1975)
Capone has been the subject of more movies than any other real-life mobster. Gazzara plays the legendary Chicago kingpin with a swagger and a thirst for vengeance in this mostly fictionalized account of Capone's life. Criticized for being too violent, it also features Sylvester Stallone in one of his first roles.


Al Pacino as Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggerio in Donnie Brasco (1997)
In this gritty drama based on a true story, Pacino gives yet another stellar performance, this time as a world-weary wise guy who mentors new "recruit" Donnie Brasco, played by Johnny Depp. An unlikely friendship blossoms between Depp and Pacino, even though the former is an undercover FBI agent trying to take down Pacino and his Mob cohorts.


Armand Assante as John Gotti in Gotti (1996)
As the head of the Gambino crime family, the late John Gotti was known as much for his crisp Italian suits as for his ruthlessness and rage. Assante portrays the Dapper Don in this HBO biopic pitting the violent crime boss against the FBI, which will do almost anything to take him down.


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