20 Best Documentaries About The American Mafia


  • Dive deep into the truth behind American mafia glamour with these documentaries – a real, gritty look at organized crime and its impact.
  • Learn about the rise and fall of notorious figures from the mafia world, including Al Capone, John Gotti, and Whitey Bulger in these docu-series.
  • Explore the hidden dark underbelly of mafia life and the law enforcement bringing these criminals to justice in these informative and gripping films.

The best mafia documentaries paint both a vivid picture of the American Mafia and tell the story of how these criminal organizations have negatively affected the world around them. The American mafia has been a huge part of cinema since the early days of motion pictures, with movies such as Scarface and The Public Enemy both glamorizing the criminals and showing the tragedy that often befalls these mobsters and the people around them. With so many gangster movies showing how these criminals can become cult heroes to the downtrodden, the documentaries show the real lives behind the public personas.

With The Godfather and The Sopranos dramatizing real stories of mafia figures, it’s important for mafia documentaries to show what the life of crime truly looks like. They not only rely on accurate accounts from those who were involved but also use real-life footage that helps tell a story as close to the truth as possible. With so much fascination with this subject matter, there are so mafia documentaries available across streaming platforms. However, only a few of them stand out as true historical tales of both the glamour and tragedy of American mafia families.

The feature image for the best mafia films. Related The 10 Best Mafia Movies Of All Time, According To IMDb

From The Godfather to Goodfellas, mafia movies have been accredited as some of the most memorable stories on screen.

20 The Mafia With Trevor McDonald (2015)

1 Season, 2 Episodes


Sir Trevor McDonald is a Trinidadian-British newsman best known for his work as a news presenter for ITN. After that career ended, he joined up with BBC Radio as a producer and began working as a general reporter for the network as their first Black reporter.

In 1999, he was knighted for his journalism career and remains a highly respected journalist. In 2015, McDonald set off for New York City to do an exposé on the American mafia, and it ended up as a two-part documentary feature.

The documentary shows two very different outlooks on mafia life.

In this mafia documentary, which originally aired on ITN, Trevor McDonald speaks to two figures from the mafia: Michael DiLeonardo, who agreed to testify against the mafia for the FBI, and former hitman, John Alite. The documentary shows two very different outlooks on mafia life, as DiLeonardo shows remorse for testifying against his mafia allies. At the same time, Alite seems more at ease since that is all behind him, and he can develop a real relationship with his son.

19 Our Godfather (2019)

The Story Of Tommaso Buscetta


Tommaso Buscetta was a high-ranking Italian mobster who was part of the Sicilian Mafia. However, he is now best known for turning informant and testifying against the Italian mafia and the United States arm of the same family. He worked for the mafia in the United States, Italy, and Brazil and was extradited when he was arrested. Thanks to the murder of several of his family members, Buscetta grew disillusioned with the mafia, and that is what caused him to testify against them as an informant.

Tommaso Buscetta was the highest-ranking Mafia figure to ever turn informant.

This documentary was released in 2019 and features interviews with his third wife and his surviving children, all of whom remain in hiding under assumed identities out of fear of reprisal from the mafia. Buscetta lived to the age of 71 before dying of cancer, but he was living in hiding up until the time of his death. As the highest-ranking Mafia figure to ever turn informant, hearing his story from his family makes for some intriguing and fascinating footage of life in the world of organized crime.

18 Dirty Money (2018)

The Netflix True-Crime Documentary Series


The Netflix true-crime documentary series Dirty Money is about a lot more than organized crime. There are several episodes about white-collar crime, with names like Scott Ticker, Donald Trump, and Jared Kushner having their stories told. However, for fans who want to see more in the form of mafia documentary features, there are also episodes about the Sinaloa Cartel.

The episode about Valeant Pharmaceuticals (“Drug Short”) is also one with ties to the American mafia. There is a lot more to Dirty Money than the American mafia, but almost every story has ties to organized crime in one way or another.

Critics praised the series, giving it a perfect 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as the reviews praised the documentary’s non-flinching approach to exposing corporate greed and how those with money can often find ways of escaping justice at the expense of regular people. Its only award recognition came at the Critics Choice Documentary Awards with one nomination.

17 Excellent Cadavers (2005)

Based On Giovanni Falcone’s Fight With The Mafia

Giovanni Falcone with the police in Excellent Cadavers

Excellent Cadavers is a 2005 mafia documentary about Italian magistrate Giovanni Falcone’s battle against the Sicilian Mafia, which he struggled with thanks to the organization’s reach all the way to the United States mafia community. The term “excellent cadavers” refers to the high-profile victims that the Mafia kills, such as politicians, judges, and police chiefs, and Falcone set out to bring this mafia organization down despite knowing the dangers he faced.

The Sicilian Mafia assassinated magistrate Giovanni Falcone on May 23, 1992.

The book the documentary was based on was also made into a narrative movie in 1999, with Chazz Palminteri starring as Falcone and F. Murray Abraham starring as Tommaso Buscetta, the highest-ranking mafia member ever to turn informant. Marco Turco directed the documentary as both an adaptation of the book and an update, with many things that happened after its publication added to the story. Sadly, it was Falcone’s assassination that finally brought the organization down.

16 Inside The Criminal Mind (2017-2018)

A Netflix Documentary About Criminal Psychology

Inside The Criminal Mind (2018) Inside The Criminal Mind (2018) TV-MACrimeDocumentary

Release Date August 24, 2018 Seasons 1 Creator(s) Max Serio

Much like another Netflix documentary, Dirty Money, the true-crime documentary Inside the Criminal Mind also focuses on several different types of criminals and not just the American mafia. There is a darkness to this documentary, as it doesn’t want to retell dire stories of terrible crimes and murders as much as it wants to understand why the criminals do what they do. This documentary series examines the killers and wants to know what created them and pushed them to their crimes.

The people showcased in this episode are big names: John Gotti, Pablo Escobar, El Chapo, and Al Capone.

The first three episodes are about serial killers, kidnappers, and cult leaders. While those are all interesting in their own right, the one that should attract people interested in the American mafia is the fourth episode, titled “Crime Lords.” This goes into depth about what caused these people to set out to become mafia dons and organized crime bosses and why the public loves them. The people showcased in this episode are big names: John Gotti, Pablo Escobar, El Chapo, and Al Capone.

15 The Real Sopranos (2006)

The Real Mafia Bosses The Show Was Based On


The Real Sopranos is a short but very entertaining documentary about the mob family that influenced Tony Soprano and his family on HBO’s hit series. It tells the story of the rise and fall of New Jersey’s DeCavalcante crime family. While Tony Soprano seemed like a pretty major player in the TV show’s focus, the family his organization was based on was not.

They were mostly smaller players, and as the documentary explains, the major crime families referred to them as “farmers.” However, something happened when larger families began to break down. The DeCavalcante crime family grew in strength, took over, and finally reached the position of power they always desired.

Sadly, they fell thanks to an informant on the inside who wore a wire and helped the government put together a case against them. This documentary shows the rise and fall of the family, and for anyone who loves The Sopranos, there is a lot of information here that might sound familiar.

14 Inside The American Mob (2013)

A National Geographic Documentary


Inside the American Mob Cast Salvatore Polisi , Kenneth Carrella , Michael Messina Release Date July 28, 2013 Seasons 1 Creator(s) Banks Tarver , Ken Druckerman

Inside the American Mob is a National Geographic documentary series released in 2013 that went inside the mafia from different perspectives. The series largely focuses on the notorious time in organized crime from the 1960s to the 1990s in New York City where several high-profile figures rose up and took prominence in this world. While there have been countless movies and shows that offer fictionalized looks at the lives of these people, this docuseries gives a much more informative and in-depth look.

Inside the American Mob interviews former mobsters and law officials, as well as historians, breaking down the Mafia’s influence on American culture.

The first season features names like the real Donnie Brasco (played in the fictional biopic movie by Johnny Depp), Little Nicky Scarfo, and John Gotti. The second season goes into luminaries like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. Inside the American Mob interviews former mobsters and law officials, as well as historians, breaking down the Mafia’s influence on American culture.

Inside The American Mob
is available to stream on Hulu.

13 The Irish Mob (2008)

How The Irish Mob Got Their Stranglehold


The Irish Mob Cast Steve Wall , T.J. English Release Date May 16, 2008 Seasons 1 Directors Dathaí Keane

While the Italian mob has been the focus of the majority of mob movies and in pop culture, the Irish mafia certainly made its mark on organized crime and featured some very notable crime figures through the decades. The Irish Mob focuses on the Irish mafia as they moved into America and created some of the most powerful families in the country. Like similar docuseries about the American mafia, this focuses on a different member of the mob in each episode.

The six episodes all cap off with one of the most infamous, Frank Sheeran, the man who reportedly killed Jimmy Hoffa, as seen in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. The series also tracks the rise and fall of Whitey Bulger, the Dillinger Gang, Mickey Spillane, and The West End Gang. The difference between this mafia documentary and others is that it mostly traces how these Irish mobsters rose from poverty to a stronghold on American crime.

12 Deep Undercover (2016)

Undercover Law Enforcement Officers In The Mafia


Deep Undercover Cast Dave B. Mitchell , Damon O’Daniel , Judy Ho , Michael Fleeman Release Date October 5, 2016 Seasons 1 Directors Jesse Rivkin , Michael Mallick

Some of the most fascinating stories surrounding the mafia are not about the criminals themselves but rather the law enforcement agents who helped bring them in Deep Undercover takes a very different look at the American mafia. Following the lead of the movie Donnie Brasco, former FBI agent Joe Pistone hosts the unique mafia documentary that focuses on the undercover law enforcement officers who bring criminal organizations down from within.

Pistone, the agent who himself went undercover as Donnie Brasco, helps narrate stories about undercover operations all over the country. This isn’t just about mafia organizations, as one episode even deals with an undercover agent exposing corruption in the Cook County court system. However, there were major mafia stories here, including one about Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski, one of the most infamous mob hitmen of all time.

11 Crime Inc (1984)

A Classic Documentary


Crime Inc. Cast Martin Short Release Date July 18, 1984 Seasons 1 Directors Ken Craig , Ian Stuttard

Crime Inc. first aired in the United Kingdom in 1984 and picked up a BAFTA nomination for Best Factual Series. It has also been praised as offering what might be the most thorough look at organized criminal corruption in the United States. What makes this series different from others is that it doesn’t really care so much about the bigger-than-life personalities in the American mafia families, but about the tactics that they employed to become so powerful.

It shows the violence and life-altering situations that this way of life entails.

This series also doesn’t glamorize the mafia, like many others do. Instead, it shows the violence and life-altering situations that this way of life entails. Crime Inc. interviews some very scary people involved and shows the dark underbelly of the mafia. It is a dark and compelling side of the evil that can sometimes be forgotten at the center of these engrossing stories.

10 Mob Stories (1993)

Men Who Betrayed The Mob GIve Their Accounts


Mob Stories (1993) Director Marc Levin Release Date March 8, 1993 Runtime 55 Minutes

Mob Stories is an early HBO documentary from 1993 that goes inside the American mafia thanks topersonal accounts by the men who betrayed the mob families to find a way out. Many of the people interviewed for this mafia documentary are older men who express their gratitude that they lived to tell their stories while exposing more secrets about the life they once lived.

Mob Stories focuses on five men who escaped the underworld and turn over their former allies for government protection – plus Fat Jackie, who remains loyal to the mafia after beating his criminal trial. Loyalty is of paramount importance in the mafia and the way “rats” are dealt with it notorious in those circles, making Mob Stories a gripping look at those themes. The series received a CableACE Awards nomination for Documentary Special.

Mob Stories
is available to stream on Max.

9 The Making Of The Mob (2015 – 2016)

AMC Looks At The American Mob


The Making of the Mob: New York Cast Ian Bell , Craig Thomas Rivela , Rich Graff , John Binder Release Date June 15, 2015 Seasons 2 Creator(s) Eliot Goldberg , Marco Bresaz , Stephen David

While looking at the more recent crime figures of the last several decades offers more insight from people who were actually involved, there is a lot to be explored in the earlier tales of the mafia in America. The AMC mafia documentary The Making Of The Mob chronicles the birth of what came to be known as the American Mafia in the early part of the 20th century. Season 1 focuses on New York’s notorious Five Families, while Season 2 examines Chicago.

The Making Of The Mob brilliantly squeezes acted scenes in between the archival footage and interviews, making it a worthy watch even for people who don’t typically like documentaries. Gangster movie enthusiasts will also appreciate that it’s narrated by the late Goodfellas actor Ray Liotta, a veteran of multiple mob-related roles. The reenacted scenes in particular make this mafia series stand out.

The Making Of The Mob is available to stream on AMC+.

8 Fear City: New York Vs The Mafia (2020)

New York Vs. The Five Families


Fear City: New York vs The Mafia Cast John Alite , Michael Franzese Release Date July 22, 2020 Seasons 1 Creator(s) Sam Hobkinson

Fans of movies and shows The Wire will likely be fascinated with this docuseries which is another look at the mafia from the perspective of the law. Fear City: New York vs The Mafia explores New York City’s legendary Five Families, namely: the Gambinos, the Colombos, the Bonannos, the Luccheses, and the Genovese. Their dangerous and bloody reign caused more drastic measures to be taken to take them down.

What the documentary does best is show how advancements in technology can go a long way in eradicating crime. While law enforcement officers in the early part of the 20th century had a hard time even setting up wiretaps, those in the second half were able to bring down key mobsters simply because of advanced devices that enabled them to do so. It is an informative look at how the tables eventually turned and the mafia became outmatched.

Fear City: New York Vs The Mafia
is available to stream on Netflix.

7 The Iceman Confesses: Secrets Of A Mafia Hitman (2001)

The Work Of Richard Kuklinski


The Iceman Confesses: Secrets Of A Mafia Hitman Director Arthur Ginsberg Release Date March 1, 2001 Cast Mark Musto , Rocco Fazzolari , Richard Kuklinski , Richard Lounello Runtime 43 Minutes

Few mafia documentaries focus on a single figure in this world, but The Iceman Confesses: Secrets Of A Mafia Hitman picks a truly compelling subject. Richard Kuklinski — a hitman for New York and New Jersey crime families — was known as “The Iceman” due to his penchant for freezing his victims so that the authorities wouldn’t know the time of death. In this 2001 mafia documentary movie, Kuklinski talks about his troubled childhood and what led him to be such a ruthless man.

Kuklinski’s tale is an intriguing one because he was a rare killer with boundaries, as he never touched women or children. He would also go rogue sometimes, as some of the hits he conducted were not sanctioned. While recounting his glory days, the hitman also paints himself as a sadistic serial killer by confessing that he would kill to see if a certain method of execution worked.

The Iceman Confesses: Secrets Of A Mafia Hitman
is available to stream on Max.

6 Al Capone: The Untouchable Legend (1998)

The Notorious Al Capone


Al Capone: The Untouchable Legend Director Kurt Langbein Release Date January 1, 1998 Cast Harry Hart , Howard Nightingall , Vern Whaley Runtime 52 Minutes

While Richard Kuklinski is a fascinating mob figure who people may not have heard much about, Al Capone is one of the biggest names in organized crime and more than worthy of his own documentary. For almost a full hour, the 1998 mafia documentary Al Capone: The Untouchable Legendtakes viewers through the life of one of the most notorious mobsters to ever walk the Earth.

Capone came to prominence during the Prohibition Era and was the boss of the Chicago outfit until his eventual fall when he was convicted of tax crimes. Al Capone’s life and what happened to him has been explored in many hit movies with the likes of Tom Hardy, Jon Bernthal, and Robert De Niro playing the infamous figure. However, this is a deeper look at how Capone rose up in the mafia world and earned his untouchable reputation. Even those who feel well-versed in the criminal’s life may learn something new.

5 Gotti: Godfather And Son (2018)

What Life For Mafia Family Members Is Like


Gotti: Godfather And Son Cast Edward McDonald , Larry Mazza , John Gotti Jr. , Bruce Cutler Release Date June 9, 2018 Seasons 1 Directors Richard Stratton

John Gotti represents what may be the last mobster who became a mainstream figure in pop culture. In fact, members of the Gotti family are still openly celebrating the family name despite the violence associated with it. Gotti: Godfather And Son covers the infamous mobster’s incredible rise and fall, as well as examining his family life through other popular members of the Gambino crime family who are also featured.

The mafia documentary series shows what life for children and spouses feels like when the head of the family is a mob boss. Angel, Peter, And John Jr. Gotti recount life with their father, John Gotti, in emotional ways, triggering both sympathy and disdain. The legal angle isn’t left unexplored either, as judges and lawyers also describe what it was like to deal with the man.

Gotti: Godfather And Son
is available to stream on FreeVee.

4 Whitey: United States Of America V. James J. Bulger (2014)

A Look At The Winter Hill Gang Boss


Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger Director Joe Berlinger Release Date January 18, 2014 Cast Stephen Rakes , James Bulger , Tommy Donahue Runtime 129 Minutes

Filmmaker Joe Berlinger takes audiences deep into the trial of the Boston mobster, James “Whitey” Bulger, who was on the run for 16 years. The Winter Hill gang boss briefly gets to tell his own story too. Whitey brings out a clash in ideologies by showing just how different the perspective of law enforcement officers is from that of gangsters. The authorities paint him as an amoral human and throw in further claims that he was an informant, but the gangster denies that. He also feels he did nothing wrong throughout his career.

Bulger is another infamous figure in the organized crime world, being played by Johnny Depp in the movie Black Mass while also being the inspiration behind Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed. However, there is a lot more to be examined about the mobster and the complex reputation he leaves.

Whitey: United States Of America V. James J. Bulger
is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

3 Danny Greene: The Rise And Fall Of The Irishman (2011)

Cleveland’s FBI Informant


Danny Greene: The Rise And Fall Of The Irishman Director Tommy Reid Release Date April 8, 2011 Cast John Di Maggio Runtime 60 Minutes

Not to be confused with the true-crime film The Irishman, this mafia documentary is about Danny Greene, an FBI informant who enjoyed protection from the authorities as he battled Italians for control of Cleveland. There’s also the reminder that what Greene did was impressive since, as an Irish immigrant, he managed to rule the underworld at a time when such honors were only reserved for those with ties to Sicily.

In the documentary, audiences are served detailed tales from people who were actually close to Greene. One of those is former police chief Ed Kovacic. He is an eccentric and entertaining character to follow along in this wild story that proves to be something of an underdog story within the mafia world as Greene overcame a lack of position in the crime world and multiple assassination attempts to really make a name for himself.

2 Mafia’s Greatest Hits (2012)

A Documentary With A Focus On Various Mafia Heads


Mafia’s Greatest Hits Cast Colin Tierney , Selwyn Raab , Thomas Reppetto Release Date May 18, 2012 Seasons 1 Creator(s) Matthew Barrett , Alan Griffiths , David McNab , Max Culhane

Mafia’s Greatest Hits is a 2013 documentary series that ran for two seasons with 23 total episodes on the American Heroes Channel. This series focuses on a different mafia member in each episode and interviews the law enforcement officials who brought them down. The mafia documentary series gets off to a great start with a look at Sam Giancana, a man who was associated with everyone from the Kennedy family to Frank Sinatra.

The focus is on revealing the secrets behind the mafia families and the highlight of their downfall. It is an informative look at some well-known figures in the mafia world while also highlighting some key characters who are not as well-known. Many mafia members are covered in the documentary, with John Gotti, Donnie Brasco, Bugsy Siegel, and Al Capone as highlights.

1 Momo: The Sam Giancana Story (2011)

The Life Of Sam Giancana


Momo: The Sam Giancana Story Director Dimitri Logothetis Release Date January 8, 2011 Cast Rick Blaine Runtime 109 Minutes

The story of Sam Giancana is an epic look at a riveting, terrifying, and hugely influential figure who may have had a bigger impact on American society than can be believed. This Mafia documentary movie follows the story of an impoverished child who gets to rise through the ranks of the Chicago mob popularly known as “The Outfit.” At the height of Sam Giancana’s powers, rumors spread around that he helped with the assassination of JFK as well as Marylin Monroe.

Momo almost borders on conspiracy theory territory, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining, while also making it distinct from other mafia documentaries. This is one of the best mafia documentaries because it is also educative, bringing viewers to the realization thatit wasn’t just Capone who had a firm grip on Chicago.

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