Cinema’s fascination with the gangster genre spans almost a century and has allowed some of history’s greatest acting talent a pedestal to showcase their skills. To celebrate the release of Gangster Squad (in cinemas 10th January 2013), we invite you on a journey through the greatest gangster performances ever.

James Cagney as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy
James Cagney’s loose-lipped, tight-fisted Tom Powers is the celebrated actor’s most ruthless screen incarnation. As Powers rises up through the gangster ranks, he becomes more brazen in what he is willing to do, and more obstinate and violent against those who either disagree with him or cross him.
Memorable quote: “… I didn’t ask you for any lip. I asked if you had a drink”

Lee Marvin as Vince Stone in The Big Heap
One of cinemas most iconic hard-men plays the role he was made for in Vince Stone, who will casually throw hot coffee in his girlfriend’s face and uses violence to hide his human inadequacies. A true sadist riddled with major character deficiencies all combine to create one of cinema’s greatest bad guys of all time.
Memorable quote: “Hey, that’s nice perfume”

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas
Ruthless criminal? Violent wannabe? Whistle-blower? Liotta will never top his sensational performance as real-life mafia gangster Henry Hill. The gangster had it all, but his growing paranoia reaches boiling point when he finds himself on the wrong side of his supposed friends.
Memorable quote: “As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster”

Christopher Walken as Frank White in King Of New York
Christopher Walken shows his trademark eccentric style in creating the ultimate modern-day Robin Hood. The actor plays New York drug lord Frank White who, after being released from prison, becomes determined to wipe out the competition, yet instead of keeping the profits he distributes them to poor New Yorkers. Controversial director Abel Ferrara gave Walken free reign which allowed one of his best performances to date.
Memorable quote: “From now on, nothing goes down unless I’m involved. No blackjack no dope deals, no nothing. A nickel bag gets sold in the park, I want in. You guys got fat while everybody starved on the street. Now it’s my turn.”

Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas
A pint-sized, foul mouthed, out-of-control villain, Pesci’s real-life gangster Tommy DeVito is not one to mess with. It’s easy to laugh along with his insane antics on screen but audiences learn very quickly not to crack a smile at the man in person. Only Pesci and Ray Liotta knew about the famous “you think I’m funny?” scene when it was shot as legendary director Martin Scorsese wanted genuine reactions from the rest of the cast.
Memorable quote: “Funny how… How am I funny? Funny like I’m a clown… like I amuse you?”

Turn over for more memorable movie gangsters

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