Notorious mobster Henry Hill is also known as ‘The Real Goodfella’, after the Martin Scorsese film that portrayed his life.
In National Geographic Channel’s new Banged Up Abroad series, which starts tonight at 9pm and airs every Tuesday for ten weeks, Henry talks us through his past life of organised crime first hand, showing us just what made the Mafia so notorious.
To celebrate the show’s premiere, we’re taking a look at other gangsters – both fictional and real – who’ve reigned supreme throughout pop culture…
1. Vito Corleone (The Godfather)
Vito was famously portrayed by Marlon Brando in the definitive Mafia movie The Godfather, featuring a performance of a lifetime from Marlon Brando. Vito keeps his family close and his enemies closer – though his enemies live in fear of him, Don Vito has an old-school Sicilian approach to family, remaining dedicated to his kids, no matter what.
2. The Krays (The Krays)
Reggie and Ronnie Kray were two of the biggest perpetrators of organised crime in the East End of London during the 1950s and 1960s. They fast became infamous for their celebrity connections and a string of violent crimes, including the shooting of rival gang member George Cornell in the Blind Beggar pub. The Krays were later immortalised on screen by Gary and Martin Kemp in the film with the same name.
3. Al Capone (The Untouchables)
An American mobster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate, Capone and his gang were dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging liquor as well as other activities such as prostitution in Chicago during the 1920s. Despite a string of violent crimes – including the bloody St Valentine’s Day Massacre, Capone was finally brought to justice on income tax evasion charges. Capone was masterfully played on screen by Robert De Niro in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables.
4. Tony Soprano (The Sopranos)
As boss of the New Jersey DiMeo crime family in HBO’s award-winning The Sopranos, Tony is a rarity in the underworld in that he’s a highly-complicated criminal with a conscience, and a soft spot for animals – as well as the odd extramarital affair.
5. Tony Montana (Scarface)
‘Say hello to my little friend’ – one of the most famous movie characters of all time, with a virtuoso performance from Al Pacino documenting a classic rise-and-fall bloody gangster tale set in 1980s Miami.
6. Henry Hill (Goodfellas, Banged Up Abroad: The Real Goodfella)
Nicknamed ‘The Real Goodfella’ after the book of his life ‘Wiseguy’ was adapted by Martin Scorsese for the classic Mafia tale Goodfellas, Hill rose through the ranks of organised crime through murders, robberies and drug trafficking until it all came crashing down and he became an FBI informant. His story needs to be seen to be believed.
7. Keyser Söze (The Usual Suspects)
In this 1995 movie by Bryan Singer, Söze is an almost-mythical arch criminal and murderer, and despite rarely appearing on screen for much of the film’s length (some even believe he doesn’t appear at all), his character dominates the film – whoever he is.
8. Marcellus Wallace (Pulp Fiction)
Tarantino’s magnum opus features the mid-level crook Wallace as a pivot around which many of the other characters revolve. Caught in an unfortunate situation with Bruce Willis, a pair of rednecks, and a leather-clad gimp, when Wallace finally regains the upper hand and vows to ‘get medieval on their ass’, we know very well that he means it.
9. Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Casino)
In another Pesci/De Niro/Scorsese classic, Robert DeNiro plays Sam Rothstein, a gambling handicapper called in by the Mafia to oversee operations at a Las Vegas casino, based on the real-life mobster Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal. Along the way he marries a drug addicted con-artist wife played by Sharon Stone, and struggles with his friendship with loose-cannon Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci).
10. Mr Blonde (Reservoir Dogs)
After a heist that goes very badly wrong after one of the perpetrators turns out to be an undercover cop, Mr Blonde shows a sick, sadistic side of his character in a now-classic scene featuring Stealers Wheels’ ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’.
Who is your favourite gangster from a film or TV show? Let us know below…
Watch the Banged Up Abroad trailer…
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