The 10 best American crime movies paint unique portraits of the world on the other side of the law.

  1. "Pulp Fiction." This is Quentin Tarantino's best film, a pioneer of non-linear storytelling. It focuses more on what leads up to the crimes than the crimes themselves, creating a fleshed-out L.A. sub-culture and sympathetic characters despite their unsavory natures on the job. Snappy dialog and darkly comedic scenes add to the unique flavor of this American crime movie.

  2. "The Professional." An Italian hitman becomes the unlikely guardian of a twelve-year-old girl after her family is murdered by a crooked, unhinged cop. The girl teaches the reclusive hitman about the joys of life while he reluctantly helps her seek revenge. Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman give nuanced performances that help this crime movie portray the gray areas between good and evil.

  3. "Ocean's Eleven." Based on the original Rat Pack film, this American crime movie is about robbing two big Las Vegas casinos and love and revenge. The team of criminals, led by George Clooney and Brad Pitt, are mostly suave and classy. At times the movie has almost James Bond-like excess. But despite being less than realistic, its a very fun movie. The actors give life and energy to characters that on paper could be one-dimensional.  

  4. "The Boondock Saints." Two Boston Iris brothers have an epiphany that their mission is to take out mobsters. With the help of their friend, a goofy low-level package boy for the Italian mafia, they set to work. The three aren't hardened criminals so the movie is about them finding their way and tangling with an unorthodox FBI agent, played by Willem Defoe. This crime movie is darkly humorous.        

  5. "Catch Me If You Can." This American crime movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, tells the true story of Frank Abagnale, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Starting in his late teens in the 1960s, Abagnale starts to forge checks. To stay ahead of the law, principally in the form of an FBI agent played by Tom Hanks, he has to lose himself in multiple fake identities. This movie is about what makes an individual who they are. 

  6. "Traffic." This crime movie explores all the facets of the drug trade between the US and Mexico. It starts as a series of interweaving vignettes as the characters' lives begin to intertwine. Heroin and cocaine link dealers, users, cops, kingpins, politicians and gangsters. The cinematography expertly creates a unique feel for each setting.

  7. "Gangs of New York." Set right before the start on the American Civil War, this crime movie illustrates a long-running conflict between Irish and American gangs. The smoldering unrest between the gangsters is a good allegory for the upheaval sweeping the US in the 1860s. The best part of this movie, second only to the brilliant acting of Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher, is the expansive period sets that feel lived in.

  8. "Batman Begins." The namesake superhero in this crime movie is best when he's portrayed in a raw, gritty way. Gotham City is corrupt, and billionaire heir Bruce Wayne decides to clean up the city he loves. The villains are very human for a superhero movie, from mob bosses to crooked cops. Even the more fantastical ones, like a secret society leader and a psychiatrist with a fear-inducing gas, have basis in reality. Christopher Nolan's Batman films feel real. 

  9. "25th Hour." Directed by Spike Lee, this crime movie tells the story of a drug dealer who may face prison time after being ratted out. He tries to reconnect with his old friends and figure out where his life went wrong. The movie presents itself in a cerebral manner, illuminating the different paths people take in life and the death of the American dream. 

  10. "The Green Mile." Based on the Stephen King serial novel, this crime movie takes place on death row in a Southern prison in the 1930s. A bond between a gentle man with amazing healing powers, accused of rape and murder, and a corrections officer ensues. The Southern gothic magical realism in this movie give a unique view of prison life and work.