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Top 10 untouchable real-life movie gangsters

Where would the cinema world be without gangsters? The gun-blazing standoffs, ballsy bank stickups, mobster massacres… they’ve all contributed to some of the biggest moments in movie history. But there’s a special subset of the genre that blurs fantasy and reality, those films that portray the real, bigger-than-life gangsters.

Did Capone really intimidate like Robert De Niro in Brian De Palma’s THE UNTOUCHABLES (airing Thursday at 10P on Sundance Channel)? Did Bonnie and Clyde have as great a time as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway did (for a while, at least) in Arthur Penn’s classic? Hell, it’s better not to ask, and just enjoy the folklore. Here are 10 favorite film gangsters who gained their infamy in the real world before the celluloid one.

10. Rod Steiger as Al Capone, AL CAPONE
Robert De Niro may have created the most memorable big-screen impression of Capone in THE UNTOUCHABLES, but Rod Steiger took on the infamous gangster first. In this straight-ahead bio, Steiger plays the Chicago crime lord as a hefty personality, from his time as Prohibition-era king to his takedown by the FBI. With audience tastes more sophisticated than five decades ago, Steiger’s performance looms almost too large to be taken seriously. But it commands the movie and sets a precedent for the actor’s diverse résumé as a big-screen bad guy: He would later co-star as real-life mobster Sam Giancana in the TV miniseries Sinatra, play Mussolini in THE LAST FOUR DAYS and even take on the role of Napoleon in WATERLOO.

Read the rest of the Top 10 untouchable real-life movie gangsters.

Don’t miss Robert De Niro starring as Al Capone in THE UNTOUCHABLES, airing Thursday at 10P on Sundance Channel.

Photo credits: Cinema Squid; Fabulous Hollywood Memories