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Infamous Gangsters: 21 Most Notorious Mobsters of All Time

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” This was a famous line from one of the greatest movies ever, The Godfather.

In that legendary scene, the infamous Don Corleone executes a rival gangster and grows his power.

But if you thought that scene was legendary, get ready to discover 21 of the most Infamous gangsters of all time.

From the Tommy-gun-blazing streets of prohibition Chicago to the high-rolling tables of Vegas, their larger-than-life pull-offs will grip your imagination.

Meet the smooth operators who elevated organized crime to a sophisticated art. But also the ruthless figures whose cold-blooded acts will turn your stomach.

 

1. Al Capone (1899-1947)

Al Capone, infamous gangster (1)
Al Capone. Photo source: Britannica

They called him Scarface, but Al Capone was no ordinary thug. This smooth-talking gangster rose from Brooklyn’s back alleys to rule 1920s Chicago with an iron fist.

Bootlegging, gambling, racketeering – you name it, Capone had a crooked finger in it, lining his pockets and dodging the law.

Capone evaded justice for years, but the Feds got him for Tax evasion. He was sentenced to rot in Alcatraz. There, syphilis slowly ate away at his mind and body. By 47, the legendary gangster was a ghost, leaving a legacy of violence and corruption.

 

2. John Gotti (1940-2002)

John Gotti, infamous gangster (2)
John Gotti.

Known as the “Dapper Don” and “Teflon Don,” John Gotti was the flashy, charismatic head of the powerful Gambino crime family in New York City.

Gotti was always dressed in bold suits and ties. He evaded convictions for years thanks to witness intimidation and bribery.

But his luck ran out when FBI wiretaps recorded him openly discussing mafia crimes. Convicted of murder and racketeering in 1992, Gotti spent the rest of his life in prison before dying of cancer at age 61.

 

3. Lucky Luciano (1897-1962)

Lucky Luciano, infamous gangster (3)
Lucky Luciano.

The Sicilian-born Luciano is considered one of the founders of organized crime in America. Luciano modernized the mob’s structure and operations as head of the powerful Genovese family.

Despite decades at the top of the mafia empire, Lucky Luciano was eventually done in by his other passion – drug trafficking. He was convicted on prostitution charges and deported to Italy in 1946 before dying of a heart attack in Naples at age 64.

 

4. Meyer Lansky (1902-1983)

Meyer Lansky, infamous gangsters (4)
Meyer Lansky. Photo source: Wikipedia

Born Maier Suchowljansky in Russia, Lansky immigrated to New York’s tough Lower East Side as a child. Nicknamed the “Mob’s Accountant,” Lansky used his financial wizardry to transform organized crime into a smoothly run, lucrative corporation.

As part of the notorious Murder Inc., Lansky was known for his business savvy, diplomacy, and knack for brokering deals between rival gangs and the mafia.

Unlike many contemporaries, Lansky died a free man at 80, never spending a day in jail.

 

5. Bugsy Siegel (1906-1947)

Bugsy Siegel, infamous gangsters (5)
Bugsy Siegel.

The charismatic Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was one of the most infamous members of the violent gang Murder Inc.

Known for his short fuse, Siegel moved to Las Vegas and financed the construction of the glamorous Flamingo resort, hoping to turn the Nevada desert into a gambling mecca for the mob.

But massive cost overruns enraged his backers, who had Siegel brutally gunned down in his girlfriend’s Beverly Hills home at age 41. His murder remains unsolved.

 

6. Salvatore “Bill” Bonanno (1905-2005)

Salvatore Bill Bonanno, infamous gangsters (6)
Salvatore Bill Bonanno.

Born into a powerful New York mafia dynasty, Bonanno was the son of legendary Don Joe Bonanno.

Despite his heritage, Bill Bonanno initially resisted joining the “family business” – eventually taking over as boss when his father retired in 1964.

This caused discord, and a rival faction tried to assassinate Bonanno in 1969. He survived but moved to Arizona, where he became a successful businessman and author.

The story of the Bonannos inspired the bestselling novels Man of Honour: Autobiography of a Godfather and Bound by Honor: A Mafioso’s Story.

 

7. Joseph Colombo (1914-1971)

Joseph Colombo, infamous gangsters (7)
Joseph Colombo. Photo source: American Mafia History

Heading one of New York’s infamous Five Families, Joseph Colombo brought Italian mobsters into the spotlight by founding the Italian-American Civil Rights League in 1970.

Many believe this organization was a clever ploy to divert FBI attention from his mafia activities while enhancing his public reputation.

But the gambit failed – Colombo was gunned down at one of his rallies in 1971 at age 54. His shooter was never caught.

 

8. Frank Lucas (1930-2019)

Frank Lucas, infamous gangsters (8)
Frank Lucas with his wife, Julie Farrait.

Lucas was a legendary drug lord, prominent in the late 1960s and early 1970s in New York City’s Harlem.

He gained notoriety for skipping intermediaries in the drug trade business and purchasing heroin directly from the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia.

Frank Lucas faced the wrath of the law several times during his lifetime, including his 70-year prison sentence in 1976.

Hollywood producers Ridley Scott and Steven Zaillian portrayed Lucas’s life in a 2007 crime thriller movie, American Gangster.

 

9. Albert Anastasia (1903-1957)

Albert Anatasia, infamous gansters (9)
Albert Anatasia.

As head of the notorious contract killer squad Murder Inc., Albert Anastasia was one of the most feared mobsters of the 20th century.

The sadistic killer is believed to have personally murdered over 400 victims during the 1930s and 40s.

Anastasia later seized control as head of the Gambino crime family, but his violent ways caught up with him.

While getting a shave at a Manhattan barbershop in 1957, two masked gunmen shot the feared crime lord to death.

 

10. Vito Genovese (1897-1969)

Vito Genovese, infamous gangsters (10)
Vito Genovese.

Sneaky Vito Genovese’s power plays and hits on mafia rivals like Frank Costello ultimately allowed him to seize control of the powerful crime family that still bears his name.

Nicknamed “The Godfather,” Genovese reigned over New York’s mob scene for over a decade.

Even after authorities jailed Genovese in 1959 for trafficking heroin, he continued running rackets until his death from a heart attack in 1969 at age 71.

 

11. John Dillinger (1903-1934)

John Dillinger, infamous gangsters (11)
John Dillinger. Photo source: FBI

Dashing bank robber John Dillinger became a 1930s folk hero for his daring heists and Hollywood-style jailbreaks.

Charming but deadly, Dillinger’s robbery sprees thrilled regular citizens and outraged law enforcement.

After over a dozen bank robberies across the Midwest with his gang over one year, the FBI finally shot dead public enemy number one in 1934 outside Chicago’s Biograph Theater. Dillinger was just 31 years old.

 

12. Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow (1909-1934)

Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow, infamous gangsters (12)
Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow.

The cigar-smoking Clyde Barrow and his devoted, gun-toting wife Bonnie Parker shot their way into American folklore with a 21-month crime spree in the early 1930s.

The deadly duo became famous for robbing small-town grocery stores and rural banks across the Midwest with their Barrow gang.

The gun-slinging couple killed at least nine police officers. Their exploits earned them many fans during the Great Depression before they were ambushed and killed in Louisiana at ages 23 and 25.

Warren Beatty produced a biographical crime movie, Bonnie and Clyde, to depict the life of the infamous gangster couple.

 

13. Baby Face Nelson (1908-1934)

Lester Gillis, infamous gangsters (13)
Lester Gillis. Photo source: FBI

Born Lester Gillis, a former altar boy turned violent criminal, Baby Face Nelson terrorized America’s heartland during the 1920s and 30s.

Working with John Dillinger’s gang, “Baby Face” earned a reputation as a dangerous killer and bank robber who wasn’t afraid to kidnap and murder anyone who crossed him.

Nelson died just like he lived – in a hail of bullets after a running shootout that left two FBI agents dead in rural Illinois. He was only 25.

 

14. Pretty Boy Floyd (1904-1934)

Pretty Boy Floyd, infamous gangsters (14)
Pretty Boy Floyd.

Fourteenth on the list of the most infamous gangsters ever is Charles Arthur.

Despite his deceptively genteel nickname, Pretty Boy Floyd, he was a stone-cold killer and bank robber. He terrorized the Midwest in the 1920s and 30s.

After his first bank robbery in 1929, the one-time farm boy evolved into a ruthless machine gun-wielding criminal willing to kill anyone who stood in his way. In 1934, FBI agents tracked down and killed Floyd, aged 30.

 

15. Ma Barker (1873-1935)

Ma Barker, Infamous gangsters (15)
Ma Barker. Photo source: Missouri Women

The myth of Ma Barker portrayed her as the gang leader who controlled her criminal sons. In reality, Arizona Donnie Clark (aka Ma Barker) willingly took part in the robberies and shootouts committed by the Barker gang.

After her sons died, Ma and her gang went down in a violent 1935 shootout in Florida. She refused to surrender, dying in a hail of bullets at age 61.

 

16. George “Machine Gun” Kelly (1895-1954)

George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Infamous gangsters (16)
George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Photo source: FBI

George Barnes, aka “Machine Gun Kelly,” earned his infamous nickname in the 1930s – despite preferring to carry a submachine gun rather than an actual machine gun.

The flashy Memphis-born criminal masterminded several high-profile kidnapping cases during the Great Depression, including abducting oil tycoon Charles Urschel.

This set off a dramatic nationwide manhunt. Kelly was later arrested and sentenced to life in prison. He died of a heart attack in prison in 1954 at 59.

 

17. Dutch Schultz (1901-1935)

Dutch Shultz, Infamous Gangsters (17)
Dutch Shultz.

Born Arthur Flegenheimer in the Bronx, Schultz became a prominent bootlegger and speakeasy owner during the Prohibition era.

Along with conspiring to kill prosecutor Thomas Dewey, Schultz’s penchant for tax evasion led to his downfall.

With Dewey closing in, Schultz’s mafia associates had the hot-headed gangster assassinated in 1935 at just 34 years old.

 

18. Mad Dog Coll (1908-1932)

Mad Dog Coll, Infamous Gangsters (18)
Mad Dog Coll.

Irish hitman Vincent “Mad Dog” Colletti earned his fiery nickname as a young bootlegger known for his violent temper and gruesome killings.

Working for New York crime bosses in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Coll regularly kidnapped and murdered rival gang members who crossed him.

After years of terrorizing the Big Apple underworld, Coll reached his demise in a hail of bullets from a phone booth in 1932. He was just 24 years old.

 

19. Longy Zwillman (1904-1955)

Longy Zwillman, Infamous Gangsters (19)
Longy Zwillman.

Heading up New Jersey’s “Alcapone” crime family, Mafia mogul Longy Zwillman controlled illegal gambling along the entire East Coast in his heyday.

The entrepreneurial gangster also owned stakes in pre-revolution casinos and hotels in Havana, Cuba, with his mob cronies.

But after being linked to several murders, Zwillman was found hanging dead from a noose in his New Jersey mansion at just 51 years old. His suicide remains a mystery.

 

20. Frank Costello (1891-1973)

Frank Costello, Infamous Gangsters (20)
Frank Costello.

Born Francesco Castiglia in Italy, Frank Costello emigrated to America and rose to power in the mob after joining Ciro Terranova’s gang in New York as a teenager.

Nicknamed “The Prime Minister of the Underworld,” Costello commanded immense power and political influence as head of the Genovese crime family for decades.

After surviving an assassination attempt in 1957, Costello voluntarily stepped out of the mafia spotlight and died of natural causes in 1973 at age 82.

 

21. Carlo Gambino (1902-1976)

Carlo Gambino, Infamous Gangsters (21)
Carlo Gambino.

Last on the list of infamous gangsters of all time is the secretive and cunning Carlo Gambino. He carefully eliminated all rivals – even his boss – to seize control of one of America’s “Five Families” in the late 1950s.

Gambino’s self-named crime family operated lucrative rackets from NY social clubs and Brooklyn piers for 20 years until the boss died of a heart attack at age 74.

Gambino’s empire remains one of the most dominant mafia factions today.

 

Conclusion

Despite being the infamous underworld crime bosses, we cannot deny that these individuals gave their all to their craft.

Some are so meticulous and organized that they could ace a Fortune 500 CEO. Give or take, these 21 legendary and infamous gangsters will forever be talked about as real-life villains who kept law enforcement on their toes.

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