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The Best Gangster Movies of the 1940s 

Ranker Film
Updated September 24, 2019 200 votes 130 voters 8k views 19 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite gangster films that were released in the 1940s.

With the days of speakeasies and rumrunners long passed, you’d think that gangster movies would have gone the way of anti-alcohol laws. The best '40s gangster movies, however, show nostalgia for the Prohibition Era, and the crimes committed therein.

Some of the best '40s gangster movies include timeless classics, like Key Largo, High Sierra, and White Heat. Also notable is the 1945 gangster-biography Dillinger, which tells the story of John Dillinger, one of the most prolific and dangerous gangsters of the decade. Add to that two delightful gangster-comedies, Brother Orchid and Ball of Fire and you have an awesome collection of badass 1940s gangster movies.

Vote up the best '40s gangster movies below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section!

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1
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Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson

Released: 1948

Directed by: John Huston

Key Largo is a 1948 film noir directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall and featuring Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. The movie was adapted ...more

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2
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James Cagney, Edmond O'Brien, Virginia Mayo

Released: 1949

Directed by: Raoul Walsh

White Heat is a 1949 film noir starring James Cagney, Virginia Mayo and Edmond O'Brien and featuring Margaret Wycherly and Steve Cochran. Directed by Raoul Walsh from the Ivan Goff and Ben ...more

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3
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Humphrey Bogart, Joan Leslie, Ida Lupino

Released: 1941

Directed by: Raoul Walsh

High Sierra is a 1941 early heist film and film noir written by W.R. Burnett and John Huston from the novel by Burnett. The movie features Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart and was directed by ...more

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4
Ranker Video
Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Ralph Bellamy

Released: 1940

Directed by: Lloyd Bacon

Brother Orchid is a 1940 American crime/comedy film directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring Edward G. Robinson, Ann Sothern and Humphrey Bogart, with featured performances by Donald Crisp, Ralph ...more
5
Ranker Video
Harry Morgan, Barry Sullivan, Akim Tamiroff

Released: 1947

Directed by: Gordon Wiles

"Based on Daniel Fuchs’s novel Low Company. One of the most peculiar noirs of the 1940s stars Barry Sullivan in a riveting performance as a small-time hood who suffers a mental breakdown as ...more
6
Ranker Video
Anne Jeffreys, Marc Lawrence, Jack Mulhall

Released: 1945

Directed by: Max Nosseck

Dillinger is a 1945 gangster film telling the story of John Dillinger. The film was directed by Max Nosseck. Dillinger was the first major film to star Lawrence Tierney. The B-movie was shot in ...more

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7
Ranker Video
Peter Lorre, Evelyn Keyes, Don Beddoe

Released: 1941

Directed by: Wallace MacDonald, Robert Florey

The Face Behind the Mask is a crime-drama film released by Columbia Pictures in 1941. It stars Peter Lorre and Evelyn Keyes and was directed by Robert Florey. The screenplay was adapted by Paul ...more
8
Ranker Video
Jane Wyman, Anthony Quinn, Edward G. Robinson

Released: 1942

Directed by: Lloyd Bacon

Larceny, Inc. is an American film. Originally released on May 2, 1942 by Warner Brothers, the film is a cross between the comedy and gangster genres. Directed by Lloyd Bacon, the picture stars ...more
9
Ranker Video
Richard Widmark, Karl Malden, Coleen Gray

Released: 1947

Directed by: Henry Hathaway

Kiss of Death is a 1947 film noir movie directed by Henry Hathaway and written by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer from a story by Eleazar Lipsky. The story revolves around a former robber played ...more
10
Ranker Video
John Garfield, Paul Fix, Marie Windsor

Released: 1948

Directed by: Abraham Polonsky

Force of Evil is a 1948 American film noir directed by Abraham Polonsky who had already achieved a name for himself as a scriptwriter, most notably for the gritty boxing film Body and Soul. Like ...more
11
Ranker Video
Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, William Bendix

Released: 1942

Directed by: Stuart Heisler

The Glass Key is a 1942 film noir, directed by Stuart Heisler and based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. An earlier film version had been released in 1935.
12
Johnny Apollo is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Gangster Movies of the 1940s
Jocelyn added Tyrone Power, Dorothy Lamour, Edward Arnold

Released: 1940

Directed by: Henry Hathaway

Johnny Apollo is a 1940 crime film directed by Henry Hathaway. It stars Tyrone Power as a man who resorts to crime to buy a pardon for his embezzler father. Lloyd Nolan plays the gangster he ...more
13
Ranker Video
The Golden Fleecing William Demarest, Lew Ayres, Marc Lawrence

Released: 1940

Directed by: Leslie Fenton

The Golden Fleecing is a 1940 film directed by Leslie Fenton.
14
Ranker Video
Joan Bennett, Paul Henreid, John Qualen

Released: 1948

Directed by: Steve Sekely

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Hollow Triumph is a 1948 American film noir directed by Steve Sekely and starring Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett. It was released by Eagle-Lion Films, based on the 1946 novel of the same title ...more
15
Alias Nick Beal is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Gangster Movies of the 1940s
Ray Milland, Thomas Mitchell, George Macready

Released: 1949

Directed by: John Farrow

Alias Nick Beal is a 1949 film retelling of the Faust myth directed by John Farrow and starring Ray Milland, Audrey Totter and Thomas Mitchell. The picture is also known as Dark Circle, Strange ...more
16
Ranker Video
Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Dana Andrews

Released: 1941

Directed by: Howard Hawks

This film is a 1941 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. This Samuel Goldwyn Productions film concerns a group of professors ...more
17
Ranker Video
Joan Bennett, Walter Pidgeon, George Raft

Released: 1940

Directed by: Archie Mayo, Charles Kerr

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial The House Across the Bay is a 1940 film directed by Archie Mayo, produced by Walter Wanger, written by Myles Connolly and Kathryn Scola, and released by United Artists. The picture involves a ...more
18
Ranker Video
Peter Lorre, Robert Cummings, Bess Flowers

Released: 1946

Directed by: Arthur Ripley

The Chase is a 1946 American black and white film noir directed by Arthur Ripley. The screenplay written by Philip Yordan is based on the Cornell Woolrich novel The Black Path of Fear.
19
Ranker Video
Robert Montgomery, Fred Clark, Andrea King

Released: 1947

Directed by: Robert Montgomery

Ride the Pink Horse is a 1947 American crime film noir produced by Universal Studios. It was directed by the actor Robert Montgomery from a screenplay by Ben Hecht, which was based on a novel of ...more