Netflix: The Best Gangster Movies, Shows, and Documentaries

Men in a standoff
Men in a standoff | Live Entertainment

Let’s take a look at the best mafia, mob, and gangster movies, TV shows, and documentaries available for streaming on Netflix. Anyone with a Netflix subscription knows the inconvenience of going in search of a film and coming up short with the “not available for streaming” message and the offer to order a DVD by mail. This is 2017; mail is only used for straight-to-the-garbage ads, Bank of America credit card offers, and that one relative that actually does remember when your birthday rolls around. That’s why it helps to have a heads up when it comes to some of the best movies that are on Netflix. This way, when movie night rolls around you don’t have to dig around for the right film.

Netflix has a strong selection of mob movies and gangster flicks, but they aren’t necessarily the ones you’d expect.

1. Gangsters: Faces of the Underworld

This U.K. series aired for two seasons on Discovery’s Quest Channel. A documentary show hosted by crime author and former gang member Bernard O’Mahoney, it depicts various cities and individuals within the myriad crime circles through England. A total of 12 episodes make up the seasons, which aired in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

2. Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger

This biographical documentary film narrates the trials of gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger and explores the corruption within the highest levels of law enforcement. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and received positive reviews from critics. Joe Berlinger directed and produced the 2014 crime documentary.

3. Narcos

Narcos, the Netflix crime series, follows Pablo Escabor, arguably the most famous kingpin of all time, and leader of the Medellín Cartel. The series, which has aired two seasons with a third and fourth on their way, is a terrific blend between the protagonists (the DEA agents hunting Escobar) and the drug lord himself, who is very well humanized. Though everyone starts off as relatively redeemable, this soon changes, and it becomes difficult to decide who to root for and against.

4. No Country for Old Men

Directed by the Coen brothers, this dark crime thriller based on a Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name features a plotline that revolves around a botched cross border drug deal with a Mexican cartel. In the film, working class Vietnam War veteran Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon millions of dollars left amid a group of massacred drug dealers in west Texas. After absconding with the money, Moss is pursued by Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a psychotic hit man who will stop at nothing to ensure that Moss pays for his fateful decision.

No Country for Old Men was a critically acclaimed hit that went on to win four Academy Awards in 2008, including Best Motion Picture of the Year; Best Achievement in Directing; Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay; and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Javier Bardem). The film currently has 93% Certified Fresh rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

5. Gomorrah (2008 film)

Gomorrah is a film based on a book by Roberto Saviano, adapted for the screen. The film looks at the Italian mob and how it affects all the different kinds of lives woven into its large network in today’s day and age — from the very young to the very old. The film was nominated for a number of awards and was generally loved by film critics and the audience in general, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Over the course of this sprawling mosaic about the world’s most fearsome Mafia organization, the Neapolitan Camorra, [director] Garrone makes the business look like a beast of many tentacles, spreading misery and death to everyone it touches,” wrote AV Club’s Scott Tobias.

6. Crips and Bloods: Made in America

The conflict between the Crips and Bloods is one that’s become both infamous and iconic in American culture. The origins of this battle date all the way back to the late-’60s and early-’70s, and even today it rages on in the streets of Los Angeles. Crips and Bloods: Made in America tracks that history, explores its roots in our country’s latent institutional racism, and paints a picture of just how deep this rivalry goes.

7. Lilyhammer

This Netflix Original Series tells us what happens if you put a New York gangster in the middle of a snowed-in area of Norway, then leave him to his own devices and queue the local charm. After Frank Tagliano — played by Steven Van Zandt (Sopranos) — rats out a major crime boss, he’s relocated to Lillehammer, Norway, where he quickly discovers he’s out of his element. That doesn’t stop him from wreaking havoc and bringing back some of his old habits however, despite the best intentions of those keeping an eye on him.

Though not as well reviewed as Better Call SaulLilyhammer still scored an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ellen Gray from the Philadelphia Daily News perhaps said it best when she said: “I wouldn’t say Lilyhammer is worth signing up for Netflix to see, but if you’re already paying for it and you like Van Zandt — and Norwegian knits — it’s certainly worth a look.”

8. Cartel Land

The Mexican Cartel is known for being a ruthless, violent operation. It terrorizes citizens on both sides of the border, while the Mexican government leaves many small towns to fend for themselves. Cartel Land shows us the stunning true story of vigilantes rising up to battle the Cartel. These militias arm and protect their villages, and operate with a swift, merciless brutality to protect their homes. The documentary itself is a breathtaking affair, putting the filmmakers right in the middle of what amounts to a war zone.

9. Sons of Anarchy 

This FX TV show follows the lives of a close-knit outlaw motorcycle club in California. The show stars Charlie Hunnam as Jax, the club’s vice president. It follows as Jax begins questioning the group and his involvement in the brotherhood. Sons of Anarchy‘s third season was FX’s highest rates series ever, and all seven seasons are currently available on Netflix.

10. Gomorrah (2014 TV series)

Netflix has some excellent international offerings, including Gomorrah, the TV series that, like the 2008 film, was based on the book by Roberto Saviano. Set in Naples, Italy suburbs, the series draws comparisons to U.S. hit The Wire. Season 1 received favorable reviews, and has a 76/100 Metacritic rating. Season 2 has already aired in Italy, and is set to premiere on SundanceTV on April 26.

Some additional reporting by Nathanael Arnold, Sarah Schweppe, Evie Carrick, and Becca Bleznak.

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