By Dana Flax
With go-to gangsters like Robert De Niro still alive and clipping in show business, it's hard to conjure up anyone other than the usual suspects in a discussion about the best movie hoods. In honor of the new film, "Public Enemies," starring Johnny Depp, we take a look back at the least likely — yet surprisingly convincing — fictional fedora-donners in Hollywood history. Click through and nobody gets hurt.
Considering Matt Damon became famous for gussying up his bathroom mirror with math equations, we commend Martin Scorcese for casting him as a shocking surprise gangster in the 2006 film "The Departed." Plus, Damon's resulting coolness factor almost cancels out our bad memories from "Stuck on You."
His earnest affinity for chocolates and volleyballs aside, consummate good guy Tom Hanks can be one tough enforcer, as his role in 2002's "Road to Perdition" proved. Also worth noting is Jude Law's transformation from pretty boy to rotten-toothed assassin. We probably still wouldn't throw his sallow skin out of bed.
Ed Harris' creepy eyeball in "A History of Violence" was enough for us to forget that we mainly just think of him as an astronaut. Or a government defense agent. Or the leader of an underwater drilling rig. Basically just a nerdy, yet awesome, math and science dude.
Usually a sage-like butler or grandfather figure, Sir Michael Caine showcased nothing other than extreme badassness in the 1971 classic "Get Carter." He was equally convincing as the source of Sandra Bullock's fashion inspiration in "Miss Congeniality," but this definitely gives him more dude cred.
Denzel Washington was superiorly convincing as real-life gangster Frank Lucas in "American Gangster," although we're not going to lie, we still kind of long for the days when he wooed Whitney Houston in sappy dramas like "The Preacher's Wife." Any film that boasts both a charming romantic lead and the motion picture debut of thespian Lionel Richie trumps icky, yucky violence in our book.
The two most devastatingly handsome actors of the 1970's, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, may have tried to trade in their innocent, boy-next-door charm for guns in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," but it didn't work. They just made us fall in love with the bad guys. I mean, how gritty can you really pretend to be against the bleating horns of Burt Bacharach?
Clive Owen, contemporary King Arthur and fictional lover of Julia Robert, once starred as a gangster in a British film called "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead." That's a way better use of his chiseled masculinity than his role as a tragically unsexy dermatologist in "Closer."
Most famous at the time for prancing around chastely in fields with Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty's turn as a gangster in "Bonnie and Clyde" gave his career the masculine cool factor that it so deserved. That is, until he wrote himself a role in order to play Goldie Hawn's hairdresser in "Shampoo."
John Travolta's catalog of roles as Vinnie Barbarino and a fluffily-coiffed dancing angel doesn't necessarily give us any reason to think of him as gangster, however we have to admit he proved us wrong with his tough-guy roles in "Pulp Fiction" and "Get Shorty." Even scarier than his swagger in those movies? A chemistry-devoid turn courting Lily Tomlin in 1978's "Moment by Moment." We dare you to get through ten minutes of him as, no joke, Strip Harrison in that snooze fest..
Okay, so Al Pacino is no stranger to the role of gangster. Check out, well, almost any of his movies. However, we love him in his breakthrough role, Michael Corleone, in "The Godfather" trilogy, as it showed his transformation from the innocent wooer of Diane Keaton into a hardened mob boss. Need more evidence of his versatility? Check out his romantic lead in "Frankie and Johnny," his erotic thriller hero in "Sea of Love," or his dogged football coach in "Any Given Sunday."
This gallery was brought to you by "Public Enemies," in theaters July 1st.