My Top 15 Crime Movies of All Time

Paul Doiron here—

So, first off, I cheated. I sat down intending to make a list of my ten favorite crime movies. I started with the easy ones for me, the no-brainers, but quickly found myself arguing with myself, “Blade Runner is the first cyberpunk noir,” said one part of my brain. “Yeah, but it’s really more of an action sci-fi movie. What does it have to say about crime?” Not much, I realized. Then again, many of my favorite “crime” movies resist categorization.

Even when I tried to be strict with myself, I started backsliding. Ten became eleven, eleven became twelve. I probably could have come up with my own “101 Greatest Films of Mystery and Suspense,” like the good folks at the MysteriousPress.com are currently doing. That way I could have added my runners up (movies like Memento, The Big Sleep, Zodiac, The Conversation). I probably wouldn’t have left Hitchcock off my list altogether, although in truth I have always admired Vertigo more than I’ve actually enjoyed it. And I wouldn’t have felt so bad about omitting all those classic film noirs movies that inspired me as a kid—The Big Sleeps and the Lauras—or such counter-cultural mainstays as Bonnie and Clyde and The French Connection.

Your mileage can, and almost certainly will, vary. That’s why we make lists: to start a conversation (or even an argument). And so without further ado, here is my highly personal, sure-to-be-controversial top fifteen:

15. Heat A bit too languorous for my tastes (and it marked the start of Pacino’s unfortunate shouting phase), but that shoot-out in the streets of L.A. and the stare-down between DeNiro and Pacino in the diner (the first scene they ever shared on-screen)—masterful.

14. Rashomon In college I went through a Kurowasa phase in which I came to believe that Toshiro Mifune might be the greatest movie star of all-time. I’m not sure I was wrong about that.

13. Goodfellas A film I admire the hell out of—and that is charged with electricity every time Joe Pesci comes on-screen. Bravura movie-making from start to finish.

12. Double Indemnity Love this one, just love it. Barbara Stanwyk at her platinum best. And Fred MacMurray cast against type. Edward G. Robinson’s last line: one of the best in film history.

11. Chinatown There’s a reason this is Robert Towne’s script they always teach you in screenwriting class.

10. The Departed You know who’s great in this? Mark Wahlberg. And note to Matt Damon: more sociopathic villains and fewer long-locked zookeepers in the future, okay?

9. The Usual Suspects Gimmicky? Sure. So what?

8.  L.A. Confidential The movie that launched Russell Crowe’s and Guy Pearce’s international careers, gave Kevin Spacey his first patented “man in moral conflict with himself” role, and earned Kim Basinger (of all people) an Oscar.

7. Murder on the Orient Express The all-star cast is distracting, yes. But it’s fun! And Albert Finney is a hoot as Poirot (sorry Suchet). Plus, there’s a murder on a train stuck in the snow. Watch this one again with some popcorn on a snowy night.

6. Fargo I might feel differently if I hailed from Minnesota, but what an amazingly entertaining motion picture. Great performances all around.

5. The Maltese Falcon In college I went through a John Houston phase in which I came to believe that Humphrey Bogart might be the greatest movie star of all-time. I’m not sure I was wrong about that.

4. Pulp Fiction Head-spinning, genre-bending. Tarantino takes every expectation you have during every scene and plops it upside down, the nut.

3. No Country for Old Men Lots of people dislike the ending of this one because of the off-stage murders. Try thinking of it this way: it’s not Javier Bardem’s story, or Josh Brolin’s—it’s Tommy Lee Jones’s.

2. The Godfather, Part II There aren’t many sequels that are as good as the films that inspired it. This one might even be better.

1. The Godfather, Part l What can I say? I’m a guy.

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3 Responses to My Top 15 Crime Movies of All Time

  1. MCWriTers says:

    When we’re talking Coen brothers, I have to add Miller’s Crossing. Maybe because of Gabriel Byrne.

    To Catch a Thief?

    The Lavender Hill Mob or any of the other Ealing Studios Alec Guinness movies like Kind Hearts and Coronets?

    Kate

    Like

  2. Gordon Kaplan says:

    Rear Window?

    Like

  3. Paul, I’m from Minnesota and I agree that Fargo is one of the best movies. I might place it at third or forth. The Minnesota accent is one of the most entertaining aspects for me. I have two sisters who have the accent, although not to the exadurated degree we hear in the movie. Although I have lived over forty years in Maine now, at heart I’m still a Minnesotan. I guess I’m a little biased. Go Twins!

    Like

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