Top 10 Gritty British Gangster Movies

Top 10 Gritty British Gangster Movies


Moody goods, villainous eyes and porkie pies. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll
be counting down the Top 10 Gritty British Gangster Films. For this list, we are focussing on those films
that feature a plethora of British actors or characters as well as a theme of the criminal
underworld – and all the provocative slang and chauvinistic bravado that goes with it. Well, let’s av it then! Our first entry chronicles the rise of Paul
Bettany’s Young Gangster character, who after following in his mentor’s footsteps
for a while, decides he wants a bigger slice of the cake. Whether it’s his calm and collected persona
or the fact that he could snap at any minute, there is something intoxicating about Bettany’s
performance throughout. There’s also other magnificent performances
from Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis, Jamie Foreman and Eddie Marsan. Although “Gangster No. 1” was released
in the year 2000, there’s something incredibly visceral about this gangster flick that makes
it feel like a 70’s classic. And its close-quarters camerawork makes it
rather uncomfortably, yet undeniably endearing to watch. A film that blurs the lines between cinema
and reality, “Rise of the Footsoldier” tells the true story of the Rettendon Murders
aka the Essex Murders, from the mid-90s. Football hooligans and top-tier gangsters
come together for drug deals, brutal violence and tense showdowns. Unlike many other British gangster films,
there is almost an unparalleled realism to the way it is filmed, almost as if the whole
thing has been caught by a bystander on a camera phone. Combine that with Craig Fairbrass’ spine-chillingly
terrifying portrayal of Pat Tate and torture scenes that give “Casino” a run for its
money, and you have one of the murkiest, most realistic crime films ever. Another gangster epic based on a true story,
“The Krays” tells of the infamous empire built up by brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray
in the East End of London in the 1950s. Although remade in 2015 featuring Tom Hardy
and retitled “Legend”, the 1990 version, which featured real-life brothers Gary and
Martin Kemp, shines as being the more eerie, and therefore the more true-to-life adaptation,
of the gangster’s lives. Whether it’s watching psychopathic Ronnie
give someone a chelsea grin, or Reggie try to claw together what he can of a normal life,
this unique tale is as much about crime as it is about the complex relationship between
two brothers. Pre-James Bond Daniel Craig playing a drug
mastermind… what’s not to like. Largely regarded as one of the best gangster
films of the noughties, “Layer Cake” helped put Daniel Craig and then first-time director
Matthew Vaughn on the map. Highly stylised, it nicely bridges the gap
between grit and glamour when it comes to gangster flicks, with a perfect concoction
of violence and sophistication. Whether it’s watching someone get baptised
with a teapot, hung off a building or have awkward phone sex, there’s humour, action
and drugs, drugs, drugs. Plus you get to see Q and 007 go clubbing
together. You knew it was coming – and for a very good
reason. Many British writers and directors try to
toe the line between violence and humour, but nobody does it with quite the same finesse
as Guy Ritchie. “RocknRolla” and “Snatch” are amazing
example of his writer/director prowess, but we feel that Lock Stock encapsulates the swagger
of British gangsters better than anything he’s ever penned. Crammed with memorable quotes, personas and
put downs, Lock Stock has so much texture to its world that each of its plot lines and
colourful characters could easily have their own spin-offs. And just look at that cast; Jason Statham,
Vinnie Jones, Lenny McLean. Even bloody Sting is in it. It’s easy to forget what this film is actually
about, given its cultural significance, funky Mini Coopers, kick-ass soundtrack and, well,
Michael Caine spitting out timeless, quotable gold. But at its core it is about a gang of thieves
and gangsters getting together to pull off an elaborate heist. Watching the film’s eclectic personalities
slowly piece together the perfect scam is wildy entertaining to watch and you can’t
help but feel like part of the crew by the end. And speaking of the end, the film builds to
one of the most iconic getaway scenes in cinema history. Not to mention its quite literal cliffhanger. This is one of those films where you remeber
the individual performances rather than the actual plot. Starring the brilliant Ben Kingsley and iconic
Ray Winstone as two ex-criminal associates, the film revolves around Kingsley’s character
trying to convince Winstone’s to return to a life of crime. What follows is a series of heated encounters
between the two, where we get to see some volatile chemistry between two criminal heavyweights. What’s most entertaining is Kingsley’s
unpredictable portrayal of Logan, a man whose temper can boil like mercury in a matter of
seconds. Think Ben Kingsley is a reserved thespian? Well, watch “Sexy Beast” and get back
to us. Onto another surprisingly dastardly performance
now with a young Richard Attenborough portraying unhinged small-time gangster Pinkie Brown,
a man constantly trying to cover his tracks after committing a murder. “Brighton Rock” is as engrossing as it
is controversial. Essentially helping build what is now the
unglamorous framework for classic British gangster films, it helped push previously
unknown horrors of the criminal game into the spotlight – which at the time were met
with distaste, but were revolutionary all the same. A blank-faced, trilby-wearing Attenborough
rampaging like a man possessed makes for one of the best gangsters to ever grace the silver
screen. Want to see Michael Caine portray an unstoppable,
vengeful, Terminator-like cockney? You’re in luck. Kicking down doors and taking names, Michael
Caine’s Jack Carter will do whatever it takes to find his brother’s killer. It’s a fairly simple revenge story, but
the way in which Caine topples each pawn in a network of hoodlums makes for brilliant
cinema – be it throwing them off a balcony, forcing them to down a bottle of scotch at
gunpoint or chasing them down and knifing them in an alleyway. If you ever had doubts of Michael Caine’s
acting chops when it comes to being a hard man, then just watch “Get Carter”. Before we reveal our top pick, here are a
few honourable mentions Yes, the film that solidified Bob Hoskins’
name in the annals of gangster history. Hoskins’ Harold Shand is a man trying to
build a property empire when an unexpected attack from the IRA slows things down. This transforms Hoskins into a hungry rottweiler. Watching Hoskins’ fired-up Harold refusing
to back down from anyone is entertaining in itself, but the real charm of “The Long
Good Friday” is just how effortlessly it manages to tackle so many issues – be it the
IRA, the free market or the property boom – and still make for an entertaining crime
epic. And this is all narrated by an electrifying
soundtrack, reminiscent of Tubular Bells on acid.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. They all have one thing in common Cockneys. LONDONERS are the best Gangsters. Now days its an Immigrant shithole.

  2. I like how allot of people from theThe Long Good Friday ended up almost like they would have been years later in snatch and lock stock ^^

  3. Fantastic title list! Thanks! 🙂
    If Martina Cole's 'Dangerous Lady' (Jason Isaacs, Susan Lynch, Sheila Hancock, Roy Marsden, Owen Teale) had been a higher budget theatrical feature film screened at cinemas internationally rather than being broadcast only on English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish and Northern Irish television as a mini-series, it would have surely been included in this list. If you haven't screened it but ever have the opportunity to do so please take it. If you have screened it but haven't done so in years please give it another viewing. 🙂

  4. Long good Friday is def number one love the film with great cast most of whom went on to other gangster and gritty films like scum and lock stock.

  5. As for realism layer cake is obviously some middle-class interpretation of a world they know nothing about.Now lock stock and two smoking barrels has realistic,though comic storyline.It has been researched authentically.It is the most realistic in he sense of its characters and what makes em what they are.Also the stories are based on real situations.Obviously egsageration of characters.but also there are peaple like this.Guy Ritchie has been advised by peaple who live in that world.Makes a change from peaple influencing films subjects when they haven't got a clue and give an uneducated and false impression of Britain's criminal World.Another well researched film is the business.

  6. 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead' with Clive Owen and Malcolm McDowell. It's a cross between a gangster film and a revenge film but so was 'Get Carter'. Also 'The Reckoning' with Nichol Williamson is a very underrated flick.

  7. The list in my opinion:

    1. Snatch
    2. Lock, Stock

    3. Layer Cake

    4. In Bruges

    5. Get Carter

    6. Sexy Beast

    7. Croupier

    8. Legend

    9. Rocknrolla

    10. 44 Inch Chest

    Bonus: 11. The 51st State

    Honourable mentions:
    12. The Football Factory
    13. The Bank Job

    14.The Business

    15. The Firm

    16. Dead Man Running

    Also Peaky Blinders, not a film but too awesome to miss off the list.

    Haven't seen Gangster No 1 or Brighton Rock (both on my list), so they may deserve to be up there as well.

    Italian Job is a top film, but neither gritty nor a gangster movie- it's a comedy heist movie.

  8. Totally spot on! TLGF is my fave Brit-flick ever, not just in crime films , in all films. Also Francis Monkmans theme is out there on its own. A classic.

  9. I totally agree with the No. 1 being 'The Long Good Friday'. Stunning movie full of great acting by Hoskins and Mirren and such classic and memorable dialogue. My No. 1 film of all time.

  10. 1: Snatch
    2: Layer Cake
    3: Lock Stock
    4: Rocknrolla
    5: Sexy Beast
    6: Legend
    7: Long Good Friday
    8: The Business
    9: Get Carter
    10: Gangster no.1

  11. the long good friday and get carter deserve to be number 1 & 2 both amazing brilliant films if you haven't seen them definitly watch them

  12. SHUT UP!
    Why the hell does youtube when on autoplay come up with this crap and by the way, I detest your whingy bloody voice.
    Please block me?

  13. The hood series "Kidulthood" "Adulthood" and "Brotherhood" should've been on this list strictly because of the insight (even as exaggerated as it is) that the films give into the lives of modern British street kids/ gangsters if you want to call us that, I prefer roadmen.

  14. Replace The Italian Job (not a gangster flick nor gritty for that matter) with Snatch and you got a good list.

  15. Gangster no.1 was one of the most terrifying movies I've ever seen . The most underrated gangster classic .

  16. Omitted from the top of the list; 'Performance' (by a mile, the daddy man of all Brit gang movies), "Cook, Thief, Wife, Lover '(too arty for the Guy Ritchie children), and 'The Blue Lamp' with good old George Dickson…you did recognize the nastiness of "Brighton Rock', and unquestionably 'Get Carter' and 'Long Good Friday' are gilt edge classics. Richard Burton is great in "Villian', but overall it's not a great film. Your other commentators are right, 'Italian Job' is not a gangster film, it's a heist/caper.

  17. Ben Kingsley portrayed Meyer Lansky in the film “Bugsy” so, Ben has been involved in crime epics on both sides of the fence, British and American

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