5 British Gang Movies Where Gangsters Are Proper Villains

Wednesday, March 7 by Joseph Gibson

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The bad guys in Stephen Frears' crime classic "The Hit" (played by John Hurt and Tim Roth) are just doing a job. They have to kill Terrence Stamp. They're pretty frightening, and they'll kill anybody who might be a potential witness to their crime. And Stamp isn't making things easy on them, manipulating them into fighting with each other and getting into all sorts of violent trouble. That's a level of cerebral defense that is solely the realm of the proper British villains.

"Gangster No. 1"

Paul Bettany (and in the "present," Malcom McDowell) in "Gangster No. 1" is a classic movie gangster in every sense. He's charming, funny, and psychotically violent. In one memorable scene, some poor bastard is on the receiving end of The Gangster's torturous instincts, having horrendous pain inflicted of him with a variety of weapons, including an ice pick and a machete. After the messy business is done with, The Gangster does what any proper villain would do: Has a cigarette. If there's ever been a guy who plays a charming-yet-psychotic British villain as well as Malcolm McDowell, we haven't heard of him.

"Snatch."

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Guy Ritchie is probably the most famous director of British gangster movies, and his best movie is "Snatch." Featuring performances from Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro, and a completely unintelligible Brad Pitt, even the good guys in this movie are kind of bad. As for the actual bad guys, yikes: Probably the best that could happen to you if you run afoul of the criminals in "Snatch" is they kill you before feeding you to the hogs, rather than after.

"Sexy Beast"

Ben Kingsley is famous for his performance as Gandhi in "Gandhi," or the kindly accountant in "Schindler's List." Here, though, he plays pretty much the exact opposite of those guys in the form of poisonous, brutal, psychotic gangster Don Logan. But the most memorable aspect of his character is his creative use of profanity, most of which is unable to be reproduced here. Just watch the movie while your parents are asleep, no big deal. Even the saltiest people out there are likely to learn a few new turns of phrase from Kinglsey here.

"Layer Cake"

You might know Daniel Craig now as James Bond or the guy from "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," but his big break came in this Guy Ritchie-produced gangster movie. Back then he was just a guy who looked a lot like Steve McQueen, committing robberies and dealing with not-very-nice people. And the people he works for do not respond to antagonism lightly. Remember: No one in your life is safe when you're dealing with dangerous criminals.