With Martin Scorcese bringing the Irish mob back to the general public's consciousness IrishCentral looks at the top Irish gangster movies of all time... pre The Irishman.
The Irishman has focused attention once again on Irish and the mob. While the Italians own the franchise, the Irish mob has also had its moments both in real life and on the screen.
The Irish mob is recognized as one of the oldest organized crime gangs in the U.S. A sordid past and existence in almost every city across America has resulted in the Irish mob being the source of countless motion pictures. Read on for a look at our top ten gangster movies that were influenced by the Irish immigrants and their corrupt dealings.
1. “The Boondock Saints” (1999)
Starring Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus, Irish Catholic fraternal twins embark on a quest to take down a Boston mob all the while being pursued by FBI special agent Paul Smecker, played by Willem Dafoe.
Written and directed by Troy Duffy, he said personal experiences inspired him to write the film.
2. “The Boondock Saints II, All Saints Day” (2009)
The sequel sees the MacManus twin brothers abandon their quiet lives in Ireland to return to Boston for revenge. The Catholic twins head for the U.S. once they hear that their loyal priest has been killed by the mob forces they once tried to fend off.
3. “Angels with Dirty Faces” (1938)
Directed by Michael Curtiz, this early mob film stars James Cagney and Pat O'Brien as the dead in kids from the slums of New York whose troubled childhood sends them down very different paths in adulthood. After ending up on opposite sides of the law, one turns into a career criminal while the other transforms into a compassionate priest.
4. “State of Grace” (1990)
When Terry Noonan (Sean Penn) returns to his childhood home of Hell’s Kitchen in New York after a 10-year absence, he reconnects with his childhood pal Jackie, who is part of the Irish mob coincidentally run by his brother Frankie. Written by Dennis McIntyre, the film was partly inspired by the real-life Hell’s Kitchen mob known as the Westies.
5. “Southie” (1998)
Southie resident Irish boy Danny Quinn (Donnie Wahlberg) returns home from New York and gets stuck between two rival gangs. When he returns he finds his brothers out of work and his sister out of control. Torn between loyalty and law, family and the streets, he has to make some hard decisions.
6. “The Public Enemy” (1931)
A young hoodlum quickly establishes himself as a fearful character in Chicago’s underworld. This film marked James Cagney’s screen debut in a classic Irish mob movie. The classic gangster versus family tale tells the story of two brothers with very different agendas, one a bootlegger in the mob, the other a do-gooder out to reform.
7. “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973)
When faced with the prospects of a long prison sentence, a gun-runner in Boston contemplates snitching on his friends so he can avoid jail time. Starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle, a dramatic chain of events lead to the murder of Eddie "Fingers" Coyle.
8. “Gangs of New York” (2002)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, this is one of the best gang Irish mob movies of all time. Set in the 19th century in the Five Points district of New York, the all-star cast lineup includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Cameron Diaz. The award-winning picture was inspired by Herbert Asbury's nonfiction book “The Gangs of New York.”
9. “The Departed” (2006)
Two men played by Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio come from different sides of the law and unknowingly go undercover within the Massachusetts State Police and the Irish mafia. The film culminates in a race to discover the other informant’s identity. Also starring Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga and Alec Baldwin, the motion picture won four Academy Awards.
10. “The Town” (2010)
Directed and starring Ben Affleck, the film is set in his hometown of Boston. Four childhood friends rob a Cambridge bank, taking the bank manager hostage as a lifelong thief plans his way out of his criminal fueled life forever, all the while attempting to dodge the FBI agent trying to bring him down.
* Originally published in June 2017.