Published date25 July 2021
Publication titlePeople, The
The trip swiftly turned into a vengeance mission as Jack Carter hunted down those responsible - and became one of the most iconic gangsters in screen history.

Get Carter, starring Sir Michael Caine, is still considered one of the best British films of all time.

The 1971 hit would go on to inspire directors such as Quentin Tarantino,

Guy Ritchie and many other gangster movie makers. Yet Caine is just one of many brilliant actors who have turned the baddest boys and girls into film and TV icons.

Here, we take a look back at some of the best mobsters and mafiosos in screen history.

Some are based on real-life villains who committed heinous crimes, but we aren't glorifying violence - just celebrating incredible acting and film-making.

So why not put your feet up, have a read and let us take you on a wander down Mean Street? It's an offer you can't refuse?

Harold Shand Bob Hoskins

The Long Good Friday

Shand is the classic East End gangster - vicious, aggressive and sweary. He is about to pull off one final massive deal with US mobsters before going legit. But the property venture in London's Docklands is stymied by the IRA, and the Americans bail out.

Harold is left high and dry, desperate to hold his crumbling empire together. Hoskins was born to play Harold in this intelligent thriller, which captures the politics of the time. Helen Mirren also gives a blinding performance as his girlfriend Victoria.

Top fact: Pierce Brosnan makes his screen debut as an IRA hitman who confronts Harold in the final scenes.


Cody Jarret James Cagney

White Heat

Made it, Ma! Top of the world!

White Madonna's True was and

Cagney was at his brooding best as Cody, the motherfixated, migraine-addled, psychotic leader of a vicious gang who rob a train and end up murdering four railway employees.

Cody struggles to control his minions while battling his mental demons in jail.

Cagney was 50 when White Heat was made, which only adds to the feel of a big child obsessed with his crooked Ma.

The famous final scene sees Cody about to perish in an inferno, screaming his famous line, "Top of the world!"

Top fact: The track White Heat, on Madonna's 1986 True Blue album, was inspired by and dedicated to Cagney.

Gary 'Gal' Dove Ray Winstone

Sexy Beast

Ex-criminal Gal is happily retired in Spain with his missus DeeDee, played by Amanda Redman, best friend Aitch and his wife Jackie.

But then a former associate and violent sociopath Don Logan (Sir Ben Kingsley) arrives at his villa to strong-arm him into a bank robbery in London.

Kingsley was unexpectedly electrifying as Don in this funny gangster saga. But beer-bellied Winstone in his yellow budgie-smugglers and medallion still stole the show. The sexy beast.

Top fact: Winstone kept the swimming trunks and wore them on holiday until 2015 when they became so worn they were see-through.

I'm sweating in here. Roasting. Boiling. Baking. Sweltering. It's like a sauna. Furnace. You can fry an egg on my stomach. Oh, who wouldn't lap this up? It's ridiculous. Tremendous. Fantastic. Fan-dabby-dozy-tastic

Jack Carter Michael Caine 1971

Get Carter

Caine starred alongside Britt Ekland and Bryan Mosley - later Corrie's Alf Roberts - as the sharp-suited, shotgun-toting angel of vengeance.

Critics were surprised that Caine, a superstar since Alfie and The Italian Job, would play such a nasty character, but the actor told how he identified with the working-class anti-hero.

"In English movies, gangsters were either stupid or funny," he said. "I wanted to show that they're neither. Carter is the dead-end product of my own environment - my childhood. I know him well. He is the ghost of Michael Caine."

The film, which was shot in the North East, also turned a Gateshead car park into a tourist hotspot.

Top fact: Caine's standin in the film was a man called Jack Carter.

Tony Soprano James Gandolfini

The Sopranos

New Jersey's most-feared and insecure Mafioso was played brilliantly by this bear of an actor. Who else could combine macho menace and crippling self-doubt in such a likeable package?

Over the course of six hilarious and horrifying seasons, Tony found himself at the mercy of two families - the one he started with his long-suffering wife Carmela and the DiMeo crime family - and needed the help of a therapist.

Gandolfini, who died in 2013, was praised for giving one of the most psychologically astute portraits of the modern male gangster ever filmed.

His character is loosely based on real-life New Jersey mobster-turned government witness Vincent "Vinny Ocean" Palermo.

They say every day's a gift, but why does it have to be a pair of socks?

Top fact: James Gandolfini's son Michael will play the young Tony Soprano in a prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark, due out in October.

1997- 2007

Tony Montana Al Pacino


Pacino's portrayal of the psychopathic cocaine cowboy was so OTT that it bordered on farcical, but it made the fictional Montana an icon who spawned video games more than two decades later.

He plays a Cuban refugee with a penchant for chainsaws and Hawaiian shirts who comes from nothing to become king of the Miami underworld.

Pacino worked with experts in knife combat and a boxer to get the body type he wanted for the role - which Robert De Niro turned down.

The final scene spawned his most famous catchphrase, but other top lines include "Every dog has its day" and "I always tell the truth. Even when I lie".


Say hello to my little friend!

Top Fact:

In a 1932 film called Scarface, Montana was a

Prohibition-era booze smuggler.

Bonnie Parker Faye Dunaway

Bonnie and Clyde

Women have always been sidelined in gangster movies, usually playing the moll rather than the leading role.


But Bonnie Parker packed some heat of her own in this gangster classic.

It broke cinematic taboos around sex and violence, and the ending became iconic as "one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history".

Warren Beatty, star and producer...

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