The 10 best crime drama films have the distinction of tackling serious question of ethics, morality, justice and subjectivity while also being vastly entertaining. Here you will find chases, gun play, malevolent villains, damaged heroes and femme fatales aplenty.

  1. “The Godfather Parts I and II” The two best crime drama films of all time qualify as one for our purposes on account of their tremendous cohesion and convergence of vision. These films combine to tell one enormous tale of organized crime and the American dream that is harrowing, measured and stunning.

  2. “The Departed” “The Departed” trumps “Goodfellas” as Scorsese’s entrance into the cannon of best crime drama films. The films are equally good, but “The Godfather” outweighs “Goodfellas” in terms of Italians, so why not a little Irish guilt and rage? “The Departed” is tense, economical, operatic, violent and darkly comical.

  3. “Stray Dog” “Stray Dog” delves into the underground crime scene of post-war Tokyo. The story involves a young detective who loses his gun and his quest to find the petty thief who stole it. It’s a dark and twisty noir that shows Tokyo in an unexpected light.

  4. “The Conformist” Italian New Wave masterpiece “The Conformist” is one of the ten best crime drama movies. The film is a highly allegorical political thriller about fascism, subversion, sexual identity and state-sponsored crime with one of the most enigmatically assembled plot structures of modern film. You won’t know what the hell is going on until the very end, but it’s worth it.

  5. “City of God” “City of God” ignores glamorized tales of mafia gents and dignified criminal organizations to tell instead a horrifically violent, morally bankrupt, ethically nihilistic tale of petty theft, murder, drugs, rape and gang activity in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. It is a phenomenally directed film that is one of the best crime dramas.

  6. “Election and Triad Election” This pair of Hong Kong crime films possesses a stunning dramatic arc that incorporate many of the social and historical quandaries facing modern Hong Kong and the ethics of crime and law. They are entertaining films with larger existential concerns. However, these concerns never damage the pure cinematic pleasure of Johnny To’s direction.

  7. “Pusher Trilogy” The “Pusher Trilogy” is a series of Danish films about organized crime, small time hoods, drug dealers and immigrants in Copenhagen. Each film involves a different lead character, though each of these characters knows one another and the same principal group of criminals move in and out of one another’s stories. It’s a tense, often grotesque portrait of crime. 

  8. “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” examines petty crime in Boston. The film is more a sociological portrait of the city’s Irish working class and the ease with which they transition to a life of crime than it is a thriller. As such, it’s a great movie and one of the best crime dramas.

  9. “The Long Good Friday” “The Long Good Friday” is a British crime film with a number of topical concerns, including the IRA, the changing face of organized crime in 1970 Britain and the laundering of mafia money through legitimate businesses. It’s also a really fun, taut and thrilling movie.

  10. “The Maltese Falcon” “The Maltese Falcon” is classic Hollywood crime drama. The film boasts a number of eccentric characters, a femme fatale, the defeated, war-era detective work of Humphrey Bogart, lots of plot twists, countless shadows and one very priceless bird.