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The Best Gangster Movies of the 1940s

Updated September 24, 2019 349 votes 137 voters 8.9k views19 items

List RulesVote 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
    45
    2

    High Sierra

    Humphrey Bogart, Joan Leslie
    High Sierra is a 1941 early heist film and film noir written by W.R. Burnett and John Huston...  more

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    #11 of 75 The Best Humphrey Bogart Movies#242 of 542 The Greatest Crime Movies Ever Made

  • 2
    24
    3

    Key Largo

    Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart
    Key Largo is a 1948 film noir directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G....  more

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    #942 of 1,184 Every Oscar Winning Film Ever#28 of 142 The Best Film Noir Movies

  • 3
    23
    5

    The Gangster

    Harry Morgan, Barry Sullivan
    "Based on Daniel Fuchs’s novel Low Company. One of the most peculiar noirs of the 1940s stars...  more
  • 4
    28
    11

    White Heat

    James Cagney, Edmond O'Brien
    White Heat is a 1949 film noir starring James Cagney, Virginia Mayo and Edmond O'Brien and...  more

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    #100 of 225 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made#24 of 36 The Greatest Classic Noir Movies, Ranked

  • 5
    25
    14

    Dillinger

    Anne Jeffreys, Marc Lawrence
    Dillinger is a 1945 gangster film telling the story of John Dillinger. The film was directed...  more

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  • 6
    15
    2

    The Face Behind the Mask

    Peter Lorre, Evelyn Keyes
    The Face Behind the Mask is a crime-drama film released by Columbia Pictures in 1941. It stars...  more
  • 7
    17
    6

    Larceny, Inc.

    Jane Wyman, Anthony Quinn
    Larceny, Inc. is an American film. Originally released on May 2, 1942 by Warner Brothers, the...  more
  • 8
    13
    2

    Kiss of Death

    Richard Widmark, Karl Malden
    Kiss of Death is a 1947 film noir movie directed by Henry Hathaway and written by Ben Hecht...  more
  • 9
    16
    9

    The Glass Key

    Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd
    The Glass Key is a 1942 film noir, directed by Stuart Heisler and based on the novel of the...  more
  • 10
    10
    4

    Brother Orchid

    Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson
    Brother Orchid is a 1940 American crime/comedy film directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring...  more
  • 11
    5
    2

    Force of Evil

    John Garfield, Paul Fix
    Force of Evil is a 1948 American film noir directed by Abraham Polonsky who had already...  more
  • 12
    5
    5

    Johnny Apollo

    Tyrone Power, Dorothy Lamour
    Johnny Apollo is a 1940 crime film directed by Henry Hathaway. It stars Tyrone Power as a man...  more
  • 13
    4
    5

    The Golden Fleecing

    William Demarest, Lew Ayres
    The Golden Fleecing is a 1940 film directed by Leslie Fenton....  more
  • 14
    2
    5

    Hollow Triumph

    Joan Bennett, Paul Henreid
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    Hollow Triumph is a 1948 American film noir directed by Steve Sekely and starring Paul Henreid...  more
  • 15
    2
    5

    Alias Nick Beal

    Ray Milland, Thomas Mitchell
    Alias Nick Beal is a 1949 film retelling of the Faust myth directed by John Farrow and...  more
  • 16
    9
    5

    The Chase

    Peter Lorre, Robert Cummings
    The Chase is a 1946 American black and white film noir directed by Arthur Ripley. The...  more
  • 17
    0
    2

    The House Across the Bay

    Joan Bennett, Walter Pidgeon
    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,...  more
  • 18
    5
    4

    Ball of Fire

    Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper
    This film is a 1941 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring Gary...  more
  • 19
    2
    8

    Ride the Pink Horse

    Robert Montgomery, Fred Clark
    Ride the Pink Horse is a 1947 American crime film noir produced by Universal Studios. It was...  more