Gangsters, Spies, Cops, Freedom Fighters

by Dashiell F.

Created 07/16/12

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AKA men with guns putting it all on the line. 4 of the best gangster films on Criterion, followed by four of the best spy films, 4 of the best cop films, and finally four of the best films about freedom fighters. While tone, period, and country of origin vary, there is a common element: each is undeniably brilliant.

  • Although many might disagree, for me this is Melville's masterpiece. It's a gorgeously shot, beautifully told gangster movie, with great characters, plenty of action, and one of the best heist scenes ever filmed. It's perfect!

  • If Le Cercle Rouge doesn't have the best heist scene ever, Rififi just might.

  • Charming and funny, Dearden's heist flick actually tells a much deeper and more serious story about war and honor and the way society views the people caught up in those fraught concepts.

  • Insanely cool. This is the best of the completely stellar Nikatsu Noir boxset, one of my favorite Eclipse collections. While the whole movie is great, the climactic shootout along makes it worth watching.

  • Absurdly entertaining, Night Train to Munich will bring joy to any Bond fans heart. It may lack the gadgets, but Carol Reed couldn't be cooler, or his Nazi enemies any more nefarious.

  • RoboCop is an absolute blast, a techno-noir masterpiece from maverick Paul Verhoeven. Verhoeven actually has a lot to say with RoboCop, exploring themes of capitalism, gentrification, and corruption. All while a murdered cop brought back to life in largely robot form kills fools.

  • A spare, superb thriller. Stay away from the Nolan remake, a far more garish and ultimately grating take on this story.

  • A devastating look at the men, women, and children who fought against fascist rule in Italy during World War 2. Rife with symbolism, Rome Open City invites serious study but can also be enjoyed as a great war film without all the academic musings, if you're so inclined.

  • Edge-of-your-seat may be one of the most overused and obnoxious phrases devised to describe movies. Nonetheless, it totally applies to Pontecorvo's best movie, The Battle of Algiers. It's brutal and at times horrifying and delves deeply into the idea that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Not only is it fantastically entertaining and intense, it's one of those movies that feels relevant no matter when you watch it.

1 comment

  • By Russell Fry
    November 18, 2012
    11:33 PM

    Cool list. I've seen and love all but three titles on here. A Colt is My Passport sounds great, I'd love to get my hands on that box set. Rome Open City is on my 'to see' list, but Che I think I can live without. Rififi tho... definitely best heist scene ever.