Gangsters have been featured in many movies. However, serious gangsters are not portrayed as frequently on television as they are on the big screen. One of the primary reasons for this is the often colorful language that most most mobsters use can't be heard on a primetime network television series. However, mobster shows have frequented high-end cable channels because there are no language or violence restrictions and HBO's iconic series "The Sopranos" gave one of the most intimate portrayals of dangerous gangsters that has ever been seen on television.
Tony Soprano, "The Sopranos"
The leader of the New Jersey-based organized crime syndicate, Soprano (James Gandolfini) could be charming when he wanted to be. However, he could also be vicious. When neighbor Davey Scatino decided he wanted to play in the "executive" poker game and he ended up losing money that he didn't have, Soprano did not cut him a break. After beating him up and making him cry, he then took over his business and bankrupted it in order to get his money. Soprano would kill when he had to in order to get what was his and he never had regrets.
Nucky Thompson, "Boardwalk Empire"
Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) ran Atlantic City during the time around prohibition and he tried to portray a benevolent and caring image to the public. However, you did not want to cross Thompson or he would have his underlings kill you if it suited his purposes. In the case of his prodigy Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) who turned on him, Nucky did the killing himself and he enjoyed it. Though at times it seems as if Nucky is good at heart, it's not long before his tendencies belie his true nature.
Richard Harrow, "Boardwalk Empire"
Richard (Jack Huston) was Jimmy Darmody's first assistant and best friend. Richard's face had been damaged in the war and he was forced to wear a mask that covered up the gruesome injury. Harrow was an incredibly accurate shot with a gun or a rifle and when he went after you, you ended up dead. Despite his abilities to end a life, Harrow is often a thoughtful and sympathetic character. But try telling that to the group of brothers he blasted with a shotgun at the end of season one!
Avon Barksdale, "The Wire"
Barksdale (Wood Harris) is the king of the Baltimore drug scene. He has to keep his own gang in order, handle the police and keep rival gangs from going after his territory. Barksdale has his work cut out for him and he knows he has to enforce the rules to show that he is boss. If he has to order his top henchman to hand out a beating he does it. If he has to order a killing, he does it. If he has to wipe out all of his enemies, he will do it in order to retain control of his business.
Phil Leotardo, "The Sopranos"
Leotardo (Frank Vincent) took over the New York faction of the mob after Johnny "Sack" Sacramoni (Vincent Curatola) was sent to prison. Leotardo had a grudge against Tony Soprano and tried to wipe out his mob family in a string of vicious murders. Leotardo was ruthless and unforgiving. When his cousin's husband revealed that he was living a double-life and was actually gay, Leotardo personally tortured him before he finally killed him.
Bugs Moran, "The Untouchables"
Moran (Robert J. Wilke) has been in hiding since Al Capone eliminated his gang in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. He finally is ready to make a move when he is visited by Eddie O'Gara (Sean McClory), another gang member who is ready to help Moran regain his control over the rackets. Moran will do anything to gain control and turn Chicago back into his town again. FBI agent Elliott Ness (Robert Stack) is trying to stop Moran and O'Gara from regaining control. "The Untouchables" was a popular series that ran from 1959 through 1963.