Lawless is out on Friday and it’s set to reignite interest in the prohibition era and America’s fascination with criminal anti-heroes. Here are the top 10 period movies which delve into the nation’s murky background.
Walter Hill’s take on Yojimbo is set in a raw, uncompromising Texan town during the 1920s, with Bruce Willis’ gun-slinging city slicker attempting to play two rival booze-running gangs off against one another, with violent results. It’s not for everyone, but it has more action than most of the other movies in the list combined.
There’s nothing flashy or fantastical about Michael Mann’s exploration of the tale of iconic American criminal John Dillinger. But Mann’s insistence on shooting scenes at many of the real locations in which the events depicted took place does add realism rarely found elsewhere.
Visually striking and steeped in a melancholy atmosphere, Sam Mendes directs this graphic novel adaptation without becoming overly obsessed with paying homage to its original form.
Even amongst the drugs, violence and drug-fuelled violence, Martin Scorsese really makes 1970s Las Vegas look like a place you’d want to visit.
The trailers for Lawless explicitly point to the fact that the film is going to frame its criminal characters as folk heroes, which is an idea that’s played with a little more subtly in Bonnie & Clyde. There’s even a prequel planned, although reports that it would star Hillary Duff don’t exactly inspire confidence.
The perceived glitz and glamour of policing in the 1950s is epitomised by this neo-noir romp. Corruption in the force is almost as rampant as the sexual undercurrents that motivate many of the characters.
The Coen Brother’s frothy, semi-parodic take on the gangster movie genre is more concerned with toying with tropes than historic accuracy. But its occasional tongue-in-cheek nods are wrapped up in what is otherwise a compelling drama.
If you have 269 minutes to spare then Sergio Leone’s wonderfully indulgent gangster film will help to swallow each one whole. The plot dives from the 1920s to the late 1960s and every frame is dripping with period goodness. Which sounds like a much grosser description than was intended.
Another gangster epic that spans various historic periods and helps to mythologise the Mafia in the US. Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Vito Corleone as a young immigrant and eventual gang member in 1920s New York is one of the roles that gives him a get out of jail free card, which means we have to stomach his involvement in movies like The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle or New Year’s Eve. Because he was good, once.
Film noir was revitalised for a 1970s audience by director Roman Polanski in this near-perfect detective story. Jack Nicholson’s Jake Gittes dogged private dick is offset by the soiled beauty of Faye Dunaway’s Evelyn Mulwray, while the parched panorama of LA is ideal for the aqua-based intrigue of the plot.