Welcome to the CrimeReads Streaming Guide, where we spotlight a very specific category of crime movies we think you should be watching right now.
It’s November! A month traditionally full of seeing family and friends and getting stuff for family and friends. The holiday season is almost upon us, so while you take precautions to maybe safely gather with a (vaccinated) group or two, and while you navigate the millions of emails from retailers promising slashed prices at online flash sales, take some time to sit on the couch and imagine a life in which these kinds of interactions were EVEN MORE chaotic. Treat yourself to some peace and quiet and maybe even some perspective. And put on a mafia comedy.
Now, it is my greatest regret that Amy Heckerling’s classic mafia comedy Johnny Dangerously, starring Michael Keaton, is NOT only absent from all streaming platforms but also totally unable to purchase anywhere. Rather like our beloved French Kiss, Johnny Dangerously is cruelly being withheld from all viewing options by a bunch of *fargin iceholds* (a reference you would get if you could WATCH Johnny Dangerously.)
The funniest mafia comedy in the world, Mickey Blue Eyes, is not available for streaming without an additional charge, but it’s so funny, I put it on the bottom of this list anyway. Absent from this list (due to similar paid-only streaming availability) is the 1976 musical comedy film Bugsy Malone, a gangster saga exclusively starring children, in which a 13-year-old Jodie Foster plays a gangster’s moll. I saw it as a kid and do not remember enjoying it, so I’m fine with this omission. Also absent due to lack of accessibility is the comedy The Freshman, in which Marlon Brando parodies his own most famous role.
As usual, when we say that these films are available to stream for free, we mean at no additional charge on top of paying for that streaming service. If you don’t subscribe to the streaming service that offers a certain film, it will almost assuredly be available to stream for a few bucks across a bunch of services. Bada-bing, bada-boom.
Okay, let’s get started! Meaning: leave the gun, take the remote control.
Married to the Mob (1988)
Michelle Pfeiffer stars in this adorable Jonathan Demme film about a mafia wife who hopes for a fresh start after her mobster husband (Alec Baldwin) gets whacked. But a tryst with an FBI agent (Matthew Modine) and her ties to the local mob kingpin (Dean Stockwell, RIP) compromise her plans for freedom. Also, Mercedes Ruehl plays Dean Stockwell’s crazy wife in this, and she is incredible.
Where to stream: HBO Max, Hulu + HBO
The Whole Nine Yards (2000)
Matthew Perry and Bruce Willis star in this incredibly charming comedy about a hapless dentist and a wild-eyed mob hitman-turned-informant-in-hiding (do I need to add “respectively”?) who wind up as neighbors in suburban Montreal. And who steals the show but Amanda Peet? Whole thing is a HOOT.
Where to stream: Netflix
My Blue Heaven (1990)
My Blue Heaven, Nora Ephron’s mob comedy about a gangster in Witness Protection, is a strange film. Often considered the spiritual sequel to her husband Nicholas Pileggi’s film Goodfellas (and its source text, Wiseguy), it’s the tale of a straightlaced FBI agent (Rick Moranis) who has to look out for(Steve Martin), an ebullient and friendly mobster sticking out like a sore thumb in witness protection.
Where to stream: Hulu + Cinemax, Cinemax
What is it about the nearing-millennium that made everyone want to make a mafia comedy!? All the gold-lamé tablecloths? The prestige of The Sopranos? Anyway, this Lloyd Bridges-helmed comedy is a sendup of The Godfather, about a young man who attempts to replace his dying father as the head of the mob. A favorite of CrimeReads editor Molly Odintz.
Where to stream: Cinemax
Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)
Mickey Blue Eyes is the funniest film on this list, and it breaks my heart that it’s not streaming. Hugh Grant plays a sweet and bumbling English fine art auctioneer in New York who falls in love with the estranged-ish daughter (Jeanne Triplehorn) of a notorious mob family. She makes her fiance promise not to get involved with her family, but soon her gangster dad (James Caan, perfection) winds up enlisting him when the family makes an offer he can’t refuse.
Where to rent (it’s worth it): Apple TV, Amazon Prime, YouTube
Analyze This (1999)
Analyze This is a solid, comic Sopranos-contemporary that goes down as smooth as a salty red sauce (as in, it’s fine while you’re experiencing it but it WILL give you heartburn later). Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal have very good chemistry as a mob boss and a neurotic shrink, respectively, who wind up thrown together. You would think the movie would be better, somehow, with a script from Kenneth Lonergan and the top-notch prowess of its two leads. Maybe it’s because, implausibly, Billy Crystal’s character is supposed to be getting married to Friends-era Lisa Kudrow, a match that makes no sense even to the criminally insane.
Where to rent (it might not be worth it): Apple TV, Amazon Prime, YouTube
Further reading about mob movies:
The strange magic Goodfellas
The Godfather is a Christmas movie
If you like mafia tales:
Classic mafia books
The origins of the Cuban-American mob