Hollywood was always intrigued by the Mafia and several of their best pictures have been about the mob. They bring the savagery, greed and big business of the underworld to life on the big screen. They tell the tales of easy money and fast living. In life the mobsters became part of the real Hollywood scene by taking over unions, and rubbing elbows with famous actors. Here is a list of some of the best Mafia themed movies made that I recommend you watch if joining one of our tours (or just for your pleasure).
The Godfather – 1972 starring Marlon Brando. Considered one of the greatest films of all times. Based on the book by Mario Puzo. With a growly voice Brando portrays Don Vito Corleone whose family gets involved in a cylcle of violence and betrayal. The Corleone family is based on a NYC Mafia Family and their lifestyle. The last scene of the baptism was filmed in the Old St. Patricks Cathedral on Mott St. that we visit on our tour.
The Godfather 2 – 1974 – starring Al Pacino – the blockbuster sequel to The Godfather portrays the contrasting life of Micheal Corleone and his father Vito Corleone. The character of Hyman Roth is based on the real life mobster Meyer Lansky. We discuss Meyer Lansky in depth on the tour.
Pay or Die – 1960 – starring Ernest Borgnine the early 1900s, New York City mobsters known as “the black hand” intimidate local businesses in Little Italy, pressing their owners to pay protection fees or else risk injury to themselves, their family and property. Police Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino (Ernest Borgnine), an honest detective, heads the police Italian Squad, a team devoted to bringing these thugs to justice. We start our tour at Petrosino Sq. named after Joseph Petrosino.
Murder Inc. – 1960 – starring Peter Falk – During the great depression mobsters stop at nothing to keep their business going. Based on a true group of thugs that work out of a candy store in Brooklyn in the 1930’s and kept on retainer by the mob to kill anyone they request. This movie launched the career of Peter Falk. We talk about this group of murderers on the tour.
Goodfellas – 1990 – Starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. Tells the story of the rise and fall of the Luchese crime family and associate Henry Hill. Checkout our blog about the movie.
Donnie Brasco – 1997 – starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino – Based on the true story of the infiltration of FBI agent Joseph D. Pisone into the Boanano Crime Family. Donnie or the “jewel man” manages to gain the trust of aging hit man Lefty Ruggiero that he is true to the “family”. Scenes from this movie filmed in the streets of Little Italy that we walk on the tour.
Once Upon A Time In America – 1984 – starring Robert De Niro and James Wood – Growing up in the Jewish slum of New Yorks Lower East Side as a tough kid in the 20’s – 30’s David “Noodles Aaronson revisits his life with flashbacks. It shows a life journey of betrayal, violence and remorse. Trying to resolve his in the underground with his partner in crime Max. We go into Chinatown to see the opium dens that open and close this movie.
Gangs of New York -2002 – starring Daniel Day Lewis and Leonardo Di Caprio – Movie portrays the slums of the Five Points and the Irish Immigration to New York City during the Civil War. Depicts the violence between the Irish gangs and the Nativist gangs to gain territory is this decayed part of NYC in the 1860’s. Not filmed here in NYC but we visit the Five Points that were here on our tour.
Most of the film takes place in 1863. The two principal issues of the era in New York were Irish immigration to the city and the ongoing Civil War. The story follows Bill “the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) in his roles as crime boss and political kingmaker under the helm of “Boss” Tweed (Jim Broadbent). The film culminates in a violent confrontation between Cutting and his mob with protagonist Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his allies, which coincides with the New York Draft Riots of 1863.