It's the mark of a great genre that you find yourself struggling to whittle its greatest entries down to just ten.
To mark the 20th anniversary this month of The Usual Suspects' release, we thought we'd go through some of the best crime movies that ever seen the light of the day. Got some of your own that you think we missed it? Let us know in the comments! Just don't send us dead fishes, please.
10. TRAINING DAY (2001)
To date, it's the only film that Denzel Washington has won an Oscar for Best Actor. Honestly, did nobody see Malcolm X? He was amazing in that. Denzel plays Alonzo Harris, a hard-bitten, corrupt narcotics detective who takes Ethan Hawke under his wing on his first day. And what a first day it is. Denzel chews scenery, rocks two handguns and is an all-purposes badass for the entire film. What's fascinating, though, is that he is the villain of the piece. He's shown to be morally corrupt, he shoots his supposed best friend and steals his money and we're completely rooting for him the entire time. This, of course, is down to Washington's spot-on acting and his ability to command attention. Gimme the bitch.
9. SCARFACE (1983)
It's loud. It's long. It's garish. It's insanely violent. And people either love it or hate it. Scarface is the ultimate in cocaine-fuelled decadence and excess. Al Pacino plays Tony Montana, a low-level Cuban criminal who literally guns his way to the top of the business in Miami. It's often dismissed as a playbook for gangster rap, with many artists citing it as a direct influence and its use of elaborate, garish displays of wealth. But underneath, Scarface is really about how money and power are both fleeting and hollow. The final scene really shows this, as (SPOILER ALERT), Montana's bullet-ridden corpse flops into an indoor pool with a statue in it that says, in bright neon, "The World Is Yours".
8. DRIVE (2011)
Aside from Training Day, Drive is the only crime film in the last ten years that's worthy of sitting on this list. What's interesting, however, is that although Drive is very much set in our time, it deliberately harks back to films like Scarface, Bullitt and the works of Paul Schrader and '80s noir. The director, Nicholas Winding Refn, very cleverly cherry-picks visual nods from different eras of film and blends them all together to create something really unique. Ryan Gosling plays the tight-lipped driver who's drawn out of his solitary existence when his neighbours, Carey Mulligan and Oscar Isaac, are threatened by criminals. As well as having a cracking soundtrack, Drive is easily one of the best films Ryan Gosling's made.
7. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)
There are very few films that benefit from repeated viewings, especially considering that plot-holes and bad storytelling can become more apparent the second or third time around. The Usual Suspects is one of those films that improves with repeated viewings, simply because there's so much going on that you'll miss half of it the first time you see it. Five career-criminals are brought together on trumped-up charges and begin to plot their revenge. However, it soon transpires that they themselves have been double-crossed by an unseen criminal mastermind and are then blackmailed into working for him. It's dense stuff and Gabriel Byrne's mangled-Oirish accent is a bit off-putting, but for the most part, The Usual Suspects is a great crime thriller and Bryan Singer's first and best film.
6. DIRTY HARRY (1971)
Aside from his Spaghetti Westerns, this is the role that Clint Eastwood will be remembered for. Inspired by the real-life Zodiac killings, Dirty Harry was the first and best of the franchise that spawned out from this. Eastwood plays Harry Callahan, a brutal San Franciscan cop who squares off against a maniac sniper who leaves taunting letters to the police and newspapers, again very much like the real-life Zodiac. Callahan frequently resorts to excessive force and police brutality to get the job done and the film is just as controversial now as it was in the '70s. The film's strength lies in Eastwood's dead-eyed, 1000-yard stare and his ability to make somewhat corny lines seem cool as fuck. Fun bit of trivia - Ace Ventura's hairstyle was based on Dirty Harry as Jim Carrey got his first acting job on the final Dirty Harry film, The Dead Pool.
5. THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)
For whatever reason, the '70s had some of the best crime films and The French Connection is up there with them. Fans of Breaking Bad will know that Hank Schrader is a fan and there are some comparisons between the TV series and this. To begin with, both are very authentic in how the drugs of choice are made and distributed. In Breaking Bad, it's crystal meth whereas in French Connection, it's heroin. Gene Hackman is Popeye Doyle, a half-deranged cop who's bent on destroying the heroin trade single-handedly in New York. The film has one of the greatest car chases and, what's most frightening, is that it was done without stopping traffic. The director William Friedkin mounted a camera on top of a car and put his stunt driver and told him to drive as fast as he could through a populated area. Yes, really.
4. GOODFELLAS (1990)
If you enjoyed The Sopranos, you have to watch Goodfellas. The film is basically The Sopranos played out over a couple of hours. That might seem reductive, but it's the truth. Not only that, there's a number of Sopranos cast members in small roles in Goodfellas. Chief among them is Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher in The Sopranos. Ray Liotta, in his most well-known role, is Henry Hill who delivers that infamous line - "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster." Backed up by an impressive cast including Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Lorraine Bracco, the film is just a masterpiece of quotable dialogue, great music and an entertaining story. Our favourite scene has to be the Shine-box scene with Joe Pesci and Frank Vincent. The film swings back and forth from crime drama to black comedy, but it absolutely works.
3. THE GODFATHER I & II (1972, 1974)
We might be breaking the rules here, but it's a list feature about crime. So, y'know, it's to be expected. But to get back to it, The Godfather I & II are meant to be watched and enjoyed as one film, broken into two. It's a sprawling epic that spans entire generations of the Corleone family and launched the careers of Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall and reaffirmed why Marlon Brando is one of the greatest actors in film. It's no surprise that these two films are oft described as the two greastest films ever made. And yes, the baby in the baptism scene in the first one is Sofia Coppola. And no, do not mention the third one.
2. LA CONFIDENTIAL (1997)
"Hold your badge up so they know you're a cop." The plot is more than a little convoluted - something to do with drugs and the cops are in on it - but where LA Confidential's strength comes from is the cast and their performances. Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey and James Cromwell are all on top of their game in this incredible crime drama. Not to mention, Kim Basinger rightfully won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It's easily her best performance since, well, Batman. Moreover, if it hadn't been for some film called Titanic at the Oscars that year, LA Confidential would have won in all its categories. And that, folks, was the real crime.
1. HEAT (1995)
"You wanna be making moves on the street, allow nothing into your life that you can't walk out on in thirty seconds." When you look at Al Pacino in Jack & Jill or Robert DeNiro in all those straight-to-DVD films he's been doing with 50 Cent, it's hard to imagine both of them were once respected actors. Even more, that they were both in a decent film together. Anybody remember Righteous Kill? Yeah, neither do we. Heat is the perfect crime film. Robert DeNiro plays an ice-cold bank robber who leads a solitary existence and has no attachments in his life. Meanwhile, Al Pacino plays a detective charged with solving a number of high-line robberies in Los Angeles that are carried out with extreme precision and attention to detail. The Dark Knight pretty much robbed most of Heat's visual shots and some of its cast members – William Fichtner played the bank manager in The Dark Knight whereas he was a criminal financier in Heat. But underneath all the amazing shootouts, incredible photography and fantastic music, Heat is about the cost of being the best at what you do. Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino are both incredible in this, so much so that they dwarf the supporting cast of Val Kilmer, Jon Voight and Tom Sizemore. It's worth the running time, too – ten minutes shy of three hours.
Road To Perdition (2002)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Inside Man (2006)
Point Break (1991)