In Honor Of ‘Whitey’ Bulger’s Arrest, 11 Classic Depictions Of Gangsters In Cinema

Thursday, June 23 by

After 16 years on the run, the notorious Boston-area mobster James “Whitey” Bulger has been captured by the FBI. Even if you’re not well versed in the mafia underworld, chances are you’ve heard of Bulger, if only indirectly. His life was used as the inspiration for Frank Costello, the character played by Jack Nicholson‘s in The Departed.

Although Nicholson’s role is arguably one of the most memorable depictions of a gangster, it is far from alone. Throughout the years, Hollywood has repeatedly turned to the underworld in search of inspiration. In fact, some legendary careers have been made while attempting to bring these criminal characters to the big screen. So in honor of ‘Whitey’ Bulger’s arrest, here are 11 classic depictions of mobsters in cinema.

Johnny Depp as James Dillinger

In 2009’s Public Enemies, Johnny Depp took on the role of “public enemy number 1,” James Dillinger. The Michael Mann film followed Dillinger’s depression-era crime spree, his legendary jai break, and ultimately, his less than heroic death outside a Chicago movie theater.

Andy Garcia as Charlie “Lucky” Luciano

In the 1997 film Hoodlum, Andy Garcia plays the notorious New York city crime boss Lucky Luciano. To be honest, this film is easily the worst on the list. But Garcia does a good job, all things considered. Film quality aside, both he and Luciano deserved a mention.

Michael Badalucco as Baby Face Nelson

While Michael Badalucco’s take on Baby Face Nelson in O Brother, Where Art Thou? is far from accurate, it certainly is memorable. Then again, maybe I’m just a softy when it comes to the senseless shooting of cows.

Warren Beatty as Bugsy Siegel

In Bugsy, Warren Beatty gives a compelling performance as the gangster, wannabe actor and father of Las Vegas, Bugsy Siegel. In fact, his performance was nominated for an Academy Award. Unfortunately, 1991 was the same year that Anthony Hopkins was nominated for The Silence of the Lambs, so in the end, much like Bugsy, Beatty didn’t have a chance.

Do you like this story?


  1. June 23, 2011 2:26 pm

    Alberto Martinez

    This is a great list, don’t think you left anyone out. Maybe, George Jung/Johnny Depp, but that was not a great movie, role and Jung was more of a trafficker then a Gangster.

  2. June 23, 2011 2:26 pm



  3. June 23, 2011 2:26 pm


    What you say about Nitti is completely wrong as has been explained in detail in the only two biographies on him, one by Mars Eghigian and the other by Ronald D. Humble.  You are just perpetuating this figurehead thing because that is what it says on some websites.  Read the biographies – Nitti did a lot of stuff, made a lot of money and was the boss pretty well to the end, but for the last couple of years of his life Paul Ricca, his underboss, took on more repsonsibility due to Nitti’s poor health…  

$this_cat_breadcrumbs = get_the_category(); $this_cat_name_breadcrumbs = $this_cat_breadcrumbs[0]->name; $parent_cat_id_breadcrumbs = $this_cat_breadcrumbs[0]->category_parent;