32 Mob Movie Character Deaths That Still Haunt Us To This Day

Mob movies bring a lot of destruction, and a lot death. Some of the most memorable death scenes stay with us long past walking out of the theater or turning off the TV. It’s not always the most violent ones that spook us, though sometimes they do. Here is our haunting list of mob deaths in movies that we can’t stop thinking about. (Obviously, big spoilers ahead for the movies mentioned in this list!

James Caan in The Godfather

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Sonny Corleone (The Godfather)

It’s not like audiences are ever surprised to see Don Corleone’s oldest son, Sonny, get taken out by Barzini’s men by the toll booth in The Godfather. His famous “hot head” gets to him as he tries in vain to rescue his sister from her abusive husband. Still, there is something in that performance by James Caan that makes it unforgettable, he so wants to live and it takes a true barrage to take him down.  

Joe Pesci in Casino

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Nicky Santoro (Casino)

Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) in Casino is a notorious hothead, never backing down from even the slightest insult. His unbridled recklessness eventually is his undoing when the mobsters from back east have had enough and order his hit. The brutality of the hit, done with baseball bats, will forever live in our nightmares. 

Chazz Palminteri in A Bronx Tale

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Sonny (A Bronx Tale)

Sonny’s (Chazz Palminteri) death in A Bronx Tale isn’t particularly violent, it’s a straight up mob shooting. What makes it so freaky is how happy Sonny looks just before he gets it. He’s at a party, enjoying life, when bang! he’s gone. He never even sees it coming. 

Frank Vincent, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, and Robert De Niro in Goodfellas

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Billy Batts (Goodfellas)

Actor Frank Vincent plays a great mob guy. In Goodfellas, which is one of the best movies of the ’90s, he plays Billy Batts, the guy that tells Tommy (Joe Pesci) to go get his shinebox. Tommy doesn’t like it very much, to say the least and later, when Billy is relaxed, he jumps him with the help of Henry (Ray Liotta) and Jimmy (Robert De Niro). It’s a brutal beating, but he doesn’t die right away, instead, Tommy is forced to stab him in the trunk of the car later. 

Idris Elba in American Gangster

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Tango (American Gangster)

Idris Elba plays a criminal well. Let’s be honest, he plays everything well. One of his smaller roles in American Gangster is a dealer named Tango who’s trying to take over Harlem. Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) gets insulted by Tango and his greed, so Lucas takes him out in the middle of the street, in broad daylight. No one saw it coming, and Tango didn’t get his 20% of the package. 

John Cazale in The Godfather II

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Fredo Corleone (The Godfather II)

There is no more haunting on-screen moment on film than Fredo Corleone’s (John Cazale) final moments on a boat, reciting a Hail Mary, in the middle of Lake Tahoe just before he meets his end. He had crossed his brother and insulted him, and while Michael (Al Pacino) waits until their mother has passed to do the deed, Fredo’s time comes. 

A scene from Once Upon a Time in America

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Dominic (Once Upon A Time In America)

Dominic (Noah Moazezi) is one of Noodles’ (played as an adult by Robert De Niro) best friends as a kid.  In one of the most touching and sad parts of the movie, Dominic is murdered in the streets by their boss-turned-enemy Bugsy. In a fit of rage, young Noodles attacks Bugsy, stabbing him to death before assaulting a police officer and getting carted off to jail. 

Al Pacino and Jesse Plemons in The Irishman

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Jimmy Hoffa (The Irishman)

The Irishman isn’t a perfect movie, and it plays fast and loose with some of the history, but it’s not like every viewer didn’t wait to see how they would portray the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Hoffa, whose body has never been found, was shot to death in the movie by Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), who is the Irishman in the title of the movie. Just when you think they won’t show anything, Sheehan takes him out. 

Laurence Fishburne in King of New York

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Jimmy “Jump” Colt (King Of New York)

Laurence Fishburne is one of the best actors of our time, and there is no more haunting death scene in a mob movie than his death in King Of New York. The screams of agony as he’s shot and laying on the ground will stay with us forever. 

Lenny Montana in The Godfather

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Luca Brasi (The Godfather)

“Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes,” is one of the most iconic lines ever. How he got to the fishes is terrifying. When Brasi (Lenny Montana) is strangled to death, the look on his face and the fear and intensity in his eyes is something no one could ever forget. The scene is so realistic, it’s scary. 

Ray Liotta in The Many Saints of Newark

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“Hollywood” Dick Moltisanti (The Many Saints of Newark)

Patricide is always haunting, even when the father maybe deserves it. In The Many Saints Of Newark, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) violently murders his father “Hollywood” Dick Moltisanti (Ray Liotta). You can understand maybe where the rage comes from, but it doesn’t make it easier to watch. 

Leonardo DiCaprio with Daniel Day-Lewis

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Bill The Butcher (Gangs of New York)

For most of Gangs of New York, Bill The Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis) is the one dishing out the violence. That changes when he’s confronted on the street by Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) during the Civil War draft riot. Amsterdam brutally gets his long-awaited revenge on Bill by stabbing him to death with his father’s knife. 

Dominic Chianese in The Godfather II

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Johnny Ola (The Godfather II)

Fredo betrayed his brother in The Godfather II, and his partner in that was Johnny Ola, played by future Sopranos cast member Dominic Chianese. It stands to reason that Michael would be looking for revenge on Ola and he gets it when Ola is strangled to death on a balcony with a clothes hanger.

Al Pacino in Carlito's Way

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Carlito (Carlito’s Way)

In Carlito’s Way, Al Pacino plays Carlito Brigante, a gangster trying to go straight and stay out of prison. Sadly, as is too often the case, his criminal past won’t let go of him and he finds himself back where he started, as a gangster. Because he tries so hard to turn his life around, his death at the hands of Benny Blanco from The Bronx (John Leguizamo) is especially tragic. 

Billy Drago in The Untouchables

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Frank Nitty (The Untouchables)

The notorious gangster and henchman to Al Capone Frank Nitty is one of the creepiest roles in The Untouchables. Billy Drago’s performance is evil personified in the best way. Finally, that evil is too much for the straight-laced Eliott Ness (Kevin Costner) has had enough and tosses him from a roof, and the screams on his way are terrifying. 

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed

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Billy Costigan (The Departed)

Just when you think Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio) is going to make it out of his undercover assignment in The Departed alive, his life ends in a millisecond. As the doors open to the elevator that is transporting an arrested Sullivan (Matt Damon) in, Billy is immediately dropped, almost mid-sentence by Trooper Barrigan (James Badge Dale). 

Brendan Gleeson in Gangs Of New York

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Walter McGinn (Gangs Of New York)

Walter McGinn (Brendan Gleeson) is one of the most likable characters in Gangs of New York which makes the beating he takes from Bill the Butcher all that much harder to watch. Bill murders him right in the street in front of everyone, shocking the characters in the movie and the audience watching. 

The Godfather cast

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Joey Zasa (The Godfather III)

All three Godfather movies leave audiences’ mouths agape at some of the murders. They aren’t usually gory, but they are unforgettable. Even the lamented Godfather III provides one excellent moment like this. As he walks down the street, mob boss Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) is gunned down by Vincent Corleone (Andy Garcia) and we’ll never forget it. 

Joe Pesci in Goodfellas

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Tommy Devito (Goodfellas)

Tommy Devito in Goodfellas is a bad guy, a really bad guy. Still, when he walks into the room thinking he’s about to get made, only to realize at the last moment that he’s actually getting murdered, it shocks us. Jimmy’s reaction on the pay phone says it all, breaking the phone in a fit of anger and frustration. For audiences, it’s simply shocking. 

A scene from Casino

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Bar Patron (Casino)

One of the most shocking and brutal scenes in any mob movie is when Ace (Robert De Niro) and Nicky in Casino get into an argument with a random bar patron. Ace asks the man about his pen, and the man, not knowing who was dealing with, responds with an attitude. He learns quickly he messed with the wrong guys when Nicky used the pen to stab him to death. 

Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco

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Lefty Ruggiero (Donnie Brasco)

Here is an example of why you don’t even need to see the death to be haunted by it. Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino) in Donnie Brasco knows what fate lays before him. He quietly takes off his wedding ring and other valuables, careful not to let his wife see, walks out the door and audiences hear a shot. It’s hard not to feel sorry for him. 

Alex Rocco in The Godfather

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Moe Green (The Godfather)

There is a moment in The Godfather when Michael is settling all family business. A number of associates are killed, but none of those leave an impression on the audience like Moe Greene (Alex Rocco) taking a bullet right in his eye. 

Steven Bauer in Scarface

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Manny Ray (Scarface)

A great trick that mob movies pull is getting audiences to feel empathy for the violent thugs portrayed in them. There are few better examples than Scarface. Tony Montana (Al Pacino) and Manny Ray (Steven Bauer) might be blood brothers, but they are terrible people. Still, you can’t help but feel terrible for both of them after Tony guns Manny down after catching Manny with his sister. 

Sean Connery and Kevin Costner in The Untouchables

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Jim Malone (The Untouchables)

Sean Connery’s Jim Malone in The Untouchables is finally what won an Oscar for the Scottish actor. He’s the heart and soul of the movie, and the crew of agents tracking Capone. When he’s gunned down in his apartment, it’s heartwrenching. 

Frank Sivero in Goodfellas

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Frankie Carbone (Goodfellas)

Audiences don’t see Frankie Carbone (Frank Sivero) get whacked in Goodfellas, but we’ll never forget what he looked like when the cops found him in the meat truck. “He was frozen so stiff it took them three days to thaw him out for the autopsy,” according to Henry Hill in the movie. 

John Marley in The Godfather

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The Horse (The Godfather)

The most brutal and terrifying scene in The Godfather isn’t the death of a human but of a horse. When Jack Woltz wakes up with his prized racehorse’s head in his bed, the blood-curdling scream is pure nightmare fuel. 

Paul Newman in Road to Perdition

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John Rooney (Road To Perdition)

Like so many other mob movies, audiences develop a bond with the characters in Road to Perdition, and when Tom Hanks’ character guns down his mentor, John Rooney, played by the great Paul Newman, our collective hearts sink. His last words, “I’m glad it was you,” are forever haunting.

James Gandolfini in True Romance

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Virgil (True Romance)

The late James Gandolfini doesn’t have a huge role in True Romance but his fight and eventually death at the hands of Alabama (Patricia Arquette) is absolutely brutal and totally unforgettable. Gandolfini shows that terrifying rage in his eyes he later became famous for on The Sopranos.

A scene in The Godfather

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Don Ciccio (The Godfather II)

Revenge plays a big role in the development of young Vito Corleone in The Godfather II. He completes his revenge mission by taking out Don Ciccio, the Don in Italy who killed his family and forced him to leave for the United States. Ciccio is an old man, and defenseless, which makes the stabbing all the more brutal and unforgettable. 

Robert De Niro in Mean Streets

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Johnny Boy (Mean Streets)

Somehow Mean Streets is often overlooked in both Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese’s careers far too often. When De Niro’s character Johnny Boy gets it at the end, it’s at the hands of Jimmy Shorts, played by Scorsese himself. 

Warren Beatty in Bugsy

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Bugsy Siegel (Bugsy)

Bugsy, starring Warren Beatty as Ben “Bugsy” Siegel is a pretty uneven movie, but there is no question that the scene toward the end when Bugsy meets his end is unforgettable. There is something about the way he never sees it coming that makes it so scary. 

Michael Imperioli in Goodfellas

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Spider (Goodfellas)

One of Michael Imperioli’s earliest roles was Spider in Goodfellas. Tommy really doesn’t like Spider and audiences soon learn just how scary Tommy is when he shoots Spider in the foot for messing up his drink order. Later, it gets even worse when Spider insults Tommy and Tommy kills him. Who can forget Spider jumping on one foot? 

Mob movies have a way of imprinting themselves in our memory, and the haunting deaths are a big reason why. 


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