Director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling struck cult crime movie gold with Drive, which revolves around Gosling’s quietly commanding getaway driver who’s caught up in the criminal underworld of Los Angeles. The movie’s clear sense of style transfixed its fans and became argued as one of the best crime movies of the 21st century, if not all time.
If you loved Drive, and want to know what movies influenced its look, then make sure to check out these 10 stylish crime movies also to get your fix of striking criminal stories.
Jean-Pierre Melville’s ice-cold thriller of ruthless criminals and complex loyalties successfully combined unpleasant violence with timelessly chic style in a way that few movies had done so before, or have done since.
Jean-Paul Belmondo’s lead crook, who’s also a police informer, provided one of the most formative examples ever of fashionably conflicted cool within the crime genre, which fans of Gosling’s captivating lead character from Drive will surely appreciate.
Director Michael Mann and star James Caan created one of the most significant stepping stones to Gosling’s performance with their depiction of an efficiently violent safecracker working and trying to live some semblance of a happy life in Los Angeles.
Thief‘s examination of the often-stunted emotional development of highly-skilled career criminals was clearly a big influence on Drive as well as its cinematography and the score from Tangerine Dream.
Nicolas Winding Refn has directed a number of crime movies, and even re-teamed with Gosling for the significantly grimmer Only God Forgives in the wake of Drive‘s success, but none are quite significant as his directorial debut, Pusher.
A frantic low-budget thriller made in the director’s native Denmark, the movie introduced film fans to not only Refn but also frequent collaborator Mads Mikkelsen, spawning two sequels from the same team and beginning one of the most interesting crime movie trilogies of the contemporary era.
Lee Marvin created one of his most unforgiving personas in John Boorman’s brutal–and often hauntingly beautiful–revenge movie.
An essential cult crime movie, Point Blank utilized a number of odd–but profoundly rewarding–stylistic choices for its time period (or any time period, really) and it would influence a number of movies on this list, not least Drive.
Whereas a movie like Point Blank incorporated a strong use of visual metaphors within its landscapes, Walter Hill’s The Driver used characterization as the foundation of its exploration of criminal mindsets.
With main character names like ‘The Driver”, “The Detective” and “The Player”, its easy to see the symbolism at play in the story but it makes it a no less enjoyable, or seminal, chapter in the development of the genre.
A Bittersweet Life
Kim Jee-woon’s gorgeous action-thriller delivers one of the crime genre’s all-time great examples of the ‘strong and silent’ type in the form of Lee Byung-hun’s underworld enforcer.
Though not as grounded in realism as most of the other movies mentioned here, A Bittersweet Life delivers a masterclass in an internalized central performance, and the movie’s violence is used relatively sparingly whilst maintaining a high standard for creativity and aesthetically-pleasing execution.
In terms of lastingly cool car movies, there few as iconic or car-centric as Vanishing Point, which sees a driver racing against the memories of his troubled past, and whatever law enforcement can throw at him, on a pointless mission to transport a car from Denver, Colorado to San Francisco.
While certainly not as violent or harsh in tone as a movie like Drive, there are few cinematic automobiles as striking as the simplistically beautiful white Dodge Challenger of the movie and few attitudes within the crime genre as defiantly subversive.
Vince Gilligan’s feature-length follow-up to the earth-shattering success of his Breaking Bad TV series essentially acts as the final two episodes of the overarching story but demonstrates a development of the director and his trusted crew into a powerful, old-fashioned, force within the crime movie genre, taking up the hardboiled mantle of icons like Don Siegel.
Though you do have to, unfortunately, recommend that a newcomer watch an entire TV show before they see the movie, it is one of the greatest TV shows ever made so it’s hardly homework.
The Place Beyond the Pines
Reteaming Ryan Gosling with Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance, The Place Beyond the Pines is much more of a sprawling crime saga than any of the other movies on this list but the fact that the story is told over the course of decades rather than days or weeks makes it no less intense or impactful.
Gosling plays a motorcycle stuntman in the movie who resorts to bank robbery in a doomed and ultimately childish attempt to provide for the son he discovers he has when he rolls back into Schenectady, New York, and the environment plays just as characteristic part within the story as the cityscapes do within Drive, albeit in a different way.
Another Jean-Pierre Melville classic that proves that the director’s influence on trenchcoat-wearing criminal icons cannot be limited to just one movie, Le Samouraï is one of the most frequently mentioned titles in discussions about Drive‘s place within the history of crime movie iconography.
Alain Delon is the steely killer this time around and he forms just as many of the classic characteristics of those types of roles through his mostly-silent performance as Belmondo did with his in Le Doulos.