The allure of crime dramas, with their intricate plots, morally complex characters, and pulse-pounding tension, has captivated audiences for decades.
Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" stands as a monumental testament to this genre, weaving a tale of double-crosses, undercover operations, and the thin line between law and lawlessness.
But what if you're craving more of that adrenaline-infused cinematic experience? Look no further. Dive into this curated list of the 25 best movies that echo the gritty ambiance, riveting storytelling, and multifaceted characters reminiscent of "The Departed".
Whether you're a die-hard Scorsese fan or simply someone in search of a gripping film, this compilation promises to be a feast for your cinematic soul.
"Goodfellas" delves deep into the life of Henry Hill, charting his journey from a young hoodlum to a major player in the criminal underworld, eventually turning FBI informant. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the same mastermind behind "The Departed", both films share a raw portrayal of crime's allure and its dangerous implications. Much like "The Departed", "Goodfellas" explores themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the volatile nature of organized crime, all set against a backdrop of enthralling characters and riveting storytelling.
Robert De Niro
In "Heat", Director Michael Mann crafts a tense cat-and-mouse chase between a seasoned criminal, Neil McCauley, and a relentless detective, Lt. Vincent Hanna. As their worlds collide in the gritty streets of Los Angeles, the lines between cop and criminal blur, much like in "The Departed". Both films excel in showcasing a dual narrative, emphasizing the personal and professional dilemmas faced by those on both sides of the law. The tension, moral ambiguity, and the overarching theme of duality draw striking parallels to Scorsese's masterpiece.
Robert De Niro
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Set amidst the harsh landscapes of West Texas, "No Country for Old Men" follows Llewelyn Moss's fateful discovery of a drug deal gone awry and the relentless assassin, Anton Chigurh, hot on his trail. Directed by the Coen Brothers, the movie, like "The Departed", is a labyrinth of tension, moral quandaries, and unforeseen consequences. Both films delve deep into the psyche of their protagonists, exploring the ramifications of choices made in a world where morality is often a shifting sand. The palpable tension, themes of pursuit, and examination of the human condition make it resonate with Scorsese's intense crime drama.
Tommy Lee Jones
The Usual Suspects (1995)
In this labyrinthine crime thriller, a convoluted narrative unfolds through the perspective of Roger "Verbal" Kint, a small-time crook recounting a harrowing tale of treachery and deception to a detective. As the story of a boat explosion, stolen money, and a mythical crime lord named Keyser Söze emerges, the film delves deep into a web of lies and double-crosses. Much like "The Departed," "The Usual Suspects" is rife with tension, betrayal, and the challenge of deciphering who, in a world of criminals and informants, can truly be trusted.
Benicio del Toro
Set against the glitzy backdrop of Las Vegas, "Casino" portrays the rise and fall of a casino executive, Sam "Ace" Rothstein. Torn between love, loyalty, and the constant threat from the mob and corrupt officials, Rothstein's world begins to unravel. Scorsese, the mastermind behind both films, weaves a tale filled with moral ambiguity, betrayal, and the consequences of unchecked ambition. Like "The Departed," the line between legality and crime blurs, emphasizing the intricacies and perils of power dynamics within organized crime.
Robert De Niro
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Set in 1950s Los Angeles, "L.A. Confidential" explores the seedy underbelly of the city's police force, the glitz of Hollywood, and the lurid tabloid journalism of the era. As three diverse detectives—each with their own methodologies and moral codes—investigate a series of murders, they uncover a sprawling web of corruption, lies, and collusion. The film's focus on deception, power struggles, and the duality of public personas echoes the themes of "The Departed," illustrating that even within the ranks of those sworn to uphold the law, trust can be a scarce commodity.
Training Day (2001)
In "Training Day," rookie cop Jake Hoyt is eager to prove himself in the narcotics unit of the LAPD. However, his ideals are tested when he's paired with Detective Alonzo Harris, a seasoned and morally ambiguous officer. Throughout a day filled with violence and corruption, Hoyt discovers that the line between right and wrong isn't always clear. Much like "The Departed," this film delves into the blurred boundaries of law enforcement, forcing its protagonists to grapple with their own morality amidst a sea of corruption and betrayal.
Raymond J. Barry
2 degrees of seperation (similar to Training Day)
Donnie Brasco (1997)
Based on a true story, "Donnie Brasco" follows Joe Pistone, an FBI agent who goes undercover as Donnie to infiltrate the Mafia. As he grows closer to the mobsters, especially Lefty Ruggiero, the lines between loyalty, duty, and friendship become dangerously blurred. "The Departed" fans will appreciate the familiar tension of living a double life, the constant threat of exposure, and the profound impact of deception on both personal and professional relationships.
Kate Macer, an idealistic FBI agent, is enlisted into a covert task force aiming to combat the escalating drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border. Led by a mysterious consultant, Alejandro, and the tough-as-nails Matt Graver, Kate quickly finds herself entangled in a web of deceit, moral compromise, and escalating violence. Echoing "The Departed," "Sicario" examines the complexities of justice in a world where allies can swiftly become adversaries, and every decision carries profound consequences for both sides of the law.
Benicio del Toro
Raoul Max Trujillo
American Gangster (2007)
In the gritty landscape of 1970s Harlem, "American Gangster" unveils the true story of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), a drug lord who built an empire by smuggling heroin into the U.S. in the coffins of Vietnam War soldiers. Opposite Lucas stands Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), a relentless detective determined to bring him down. Like "The Departed", this film dives deep into the world of crime, showcasing the thin line between righteousness and corruption. The duality of law enforcement and organized crime, each having their own codes, mirrors the intricate power play seen in Scorsese's masterpiece.
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Mystic River (2003)
Three childhood friends, Jimmy, Sean, and Dave, are brought back together by a horrific tragedy in Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River". When Jimmy's daughter is found murdered, the trio's bond is tested, and dark secrets from their past resurface. Sean, now a detective, investigates the crime, while Dave becomes a key suspect. The film's tense atmosphere, themes of betrayal, and intertwining destinies echo "The Departed's" gripping narrative about trust, deception, and the shadows of the past.
Marcia Gay Harden
Spencer Treat Clark
Over the course of one fateful night in Los Angeles, taxi driver Max (Jamie Foxx) discovers his passenger, Vincent (Tom Cruise), is a contract killer, making multiple stops to complete a hit list. As the night unfolds, a tense game of cat and mouse ensues, pushing Max to his limits. Much like "The Departed", "Collateral" immerses viewers in a world of suspense and moral ambiguity, exploring the blurred lines between right and wrong. Both films highlight the unexpected alliances formed amidst the chaos of crime and the life-altering decisions their characters must face.
Jada Pinkett Smith
Barry Shabaka Henley
Irma P. Hall
Richard T. Jones
The Town (2010)
In the crime-ridden streets of Charlestown, Boston, Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) leads a gang of bank robbers who pride themselves on executing flawless heists. However, when a bank manager named Claire (Rebecca Hall) gets inadvertently entangled in their world, Doug's loyalty is tested. As he develops feelings for Claire, the lines between right and wrong blur. Much like "The Departed", "The Town" paints a vivid picture of Boston's criminal underbelly, weaving a narrative filled with betrayal, moral ambiguity, and the relentless pursuit of redemption in a world overrun by vice.
Spanning across three interwoven narratives, "Traffic" delves deep into the multifaceted world of drug trafficking. From a conservative judge appointed as the U.S. drug czar grappling with his daughter's addiction, to a DEA investigation on the U.S.-Mexico border, and a wife discovering her husband's dark drug business, the film offers a panoramic view of the war on drugs. Mirroring "The Departed", "Traffic" unravels a tale of double lives, covert operations, and the constant tension between law enforcers and lawbreakers, while questioning the blurred boundaries of morality.
Benicio del Toro
Eastern Promises (2007)
Viggo Mortensen stars as Nikolai, a mysterious driver for one of London's most notorious organized crime families. When Anna (Naomi Watts), a midwife, stumbles upon incriminating evidence against the family, the two worlds collide, leading to a brutal and suspenseful game of life and death. Similar to "The Departed", "Eastern Promises" showcases the perilous double lives characters lead within the criminal world. The film pulsates with tension, delves into themes of loyalty and betrayal, and unravels the grim realities of the underworld, much like Scorsese's masterpiece.
Mina E. Mina
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Set against the backdrop of Prohibition-era gang warfare, "Miller's Crossing" is a Coen Brothers' masterpiece that delves into power struggles, betrayal, and conflicted loyalties. Tom Reagan, right-hand man to an Irish mob boss, finds himself navigating a treacherous web of intrigue and deceit. Much like "The Departed," this film magnifies the complexities of loyalty, offering a multi-layered narrative filled with suspense and moral dilemmas. The shadowy world of crime, the struggle for dominance, and the haunting question of allegiance make it reminiscent of Scorsese's Boston-based epic.
Marcia Gay Harden
A Prophet (2009)
In "A Prophet," Malik El Djebena, a young Arab man, begins his prison sentence naïvely but swiftly rises through the criminal ranks. With themes of mentorship, brutal initiation, and the dark labyrinths of organized crime, the film portrays Malik's transformation from a vulnerable inmate to a key player in the Corsican mafia. Like "The Departed," this intense character study exposes the viewer to a world where lines blur between right and wrong, and survival demands moral compromises. The relentless tension and exploration of underworld politics make it a companion piece to Scorsese's opus.
Infernal Affairs (2002)
Before Scorsese's "The Departed," there was "Infernal Affairs" – the Hong Kong thriller that inspired it. This intricate tale follows two moles, one infiltrating the police and the other deep within a criminal gang, racing against time to expose each other. With a foundation built on tension, deception, and high stakes, it shares undeniable narrative DNA with "The Departed." Both films masterfully capture the psychological torment of living dual lives, where trust is rare, and betrayal is a constant shadow. If you appreciated the double-agent dynamic of Scorsese's film, "Infernal Affairs" provides the original, electrifying experience.
Tony Leung Chiu-wai
More Hidden Gems Like 'The Departed'
Navigating the vast sea of cinema often means missing hidden gems. The underrated movies section shines a light on masterful films that, for one reason or another, haven't received the widespread acclaim they deserve. Dive into these overlooked treasures that echo the compelling tones of "The Departed" and more.
Layer Cake (2004)
In the murky world of British drug trafficking, a nameless and meticulous middleman, played by Daniel Craig, plans his early retirement. However, events spiral out of control when he's pulled into a maze of deceit, betrayal, and shifting alliances. Much like "The Departed," "Layer Cake" delves deep into the criminal underworld, exposing the blurry lines between loyalty and treachery. The film's tense, winding narrative and its exploration of organized crime's intricacies evoke strong parallels with Scorsese's masterwork.
The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
A haunting Argentinian tale, this film follows retired judiciary employee Benjamín Espósito as he becomes obsessed with an unsolved murder from decades prior. As he writes a novel based on the case, past emotions and memories resurface, leading to shocking revelations. Drawing similarities with "The Departed," both films expertly weave between timelines, providing a suspense-filled journey packed with twists. Furthermore, the themes of justice, obsession, and the lasting scars of past decisions echo the moral dilemmas faced by characters in Scorsese's crime drama.
Animal Kingdom (2010)
Set in Melbourne's gritty criminal scene, "Animal Kingdom" portrays the life of young J as he navigates the treacherous waters of his crime-ridden family after his mother's death. Betrayals, power struggles, and police pressure converge, testing family loyalties. Much like "The Departed," the film delves into the dynamics of crime families and the thin boundary between the law and those who break it. The constant tension of undercover operations, shifting allegiances, and the overarching theme of survival in a world of chaos resonate strongly with the ambiance of Scorsese's iconic movie.
A Bittersweet Life (2005)
Within the shadowy depths of Seoul's criminal world, Sun-woo, a trusted enforcer, is tasked with a mission that tests his loyalties. When ordered to execute a woman he's been secretly watching, he finds himself at a crossroads of morality and duty. Like "The Departed," this film crafts a tense atmosphere punctuated by sudden violence, emphasizing themes of loyalty, betrayal, and personal vendettas. Both movies expertly delve into the psyche of men who walk the treacherous tightrope between duty and personal sentiment, making "A Bittersweet Life" a poignant exploration of the price of defiance in a world ruled by unspoken codes.
State of Grace (1990)
Amidst the gritty urban sprawl of New York's Hell's Kitchen, Terry Noonan returns undercover to infiltrate an Irish gang he once called family. Torn between past friendships and his law enforcement duty, Terry's double life begins to strain his identity. "State of Grace" and "The Departed" both delve into the treacherous world of double identities, where characters grapple with loyalties and the looming threat of exposure. Engulfed in worlds of crime and brotherhood, both films ponder the personal tolls of living lies and the inevitable collisions between past loyalties and present duties.
R. D. Call
John C. Reilly
Detectives Nick Tellis and Henry Oak are drawn together by a dark investigation into the murder of an undercover officer. As they plunge deeper into the case, they grapple with personal ghosts and uncomfortable revelations, pushing their own moral boundaries. Like "The Departed," "Narc" dives deep into the grayer shades of law enforcement, blurring the lines between heroes and antiheroes. Both films spotlight the challenges and ethical quandaries faced by those sworn to uphold the law while also battling their inner demons and the corrosive influence of the streets they patrol.
Alan van Sprang
Tony De Santis
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
In the underworld of Boston, Eddie Coyle is a weary gunrunner and informer caught between the FBI and the mob. As he struggles to navigate a world where trust is sparse and betrayal is frequent, Coyle faces the pressures of age and survival. Echoing the atmosphere of "The Departed," both films present a gripping portrayal of Boston's criminal landscape and the individuals ensnared within it. The tension of living on borrowed time, the intricacies of informants and mob relations, and the unending quest for self-preservation intertwine in stories where every decision can lead to salvation or doom.