Why are we fascinated by gangsters in movies?

I’ve always wondered: why is it that we are fascinated by dark universes such as gangster and drug movies?

Whether you are watching Martin Scorsese or Narcos on Netflix, it’s always a thrill to watch these types of dramas. Especially from the perspective of the traffickers.

In this article, we’ll try to answer this complex question with some strong arguments.

What do I mean by gangsters?

By Gangster movie, I refer to all the movies where the principal roles are attributed to the antagonist,” even though the line between them and the protagonists can be really thin at times.

In this article, we don’t discuss great movies like Sicario by Denis Villeneuve, which treats the subject of drugs as well.

We are referring to movies such as Scarface, Carlito’s Way, Good Fellas, or even French movies like Carbone.

This article has been heavily inspired by my experience watching the TV show Top Boy on Netflix. This is a show I highly recommend.

Here are some reasons why we are fascinated and often root for gangsters in movie.

Rooting for the underdogs

Diamonds are made out of pressure, a common idiom used to present the thesis that obstacles and difficulties in life shape the character of men and, more precisely, heroes.

Most heroes, even in other universes like Star Wars, always come from modest upbringings. They had a tough life, which taught them how to be competent and smart, but they still retain some form of moral code and compassion.

The unsubmissive nature of charismatic characters

We never watch movies about a regular employee having a daily routine because we don’t really find any form of meaning behind it.

There can only be character growth if the protagonist is facing a real adventure. One where the risks are real, one where he can actually lose with some real consequences, which is often death.

Even Walter Mitty, who is a pretty tamed character, only became a protagonist when he decided to go on the adventure of life.

His wisdom would only have meaning if he lived through those experiences and tested his courage. I think most people understand that most of the regular paths offered by society have been paved and removed from most forms of risk.

That’s why there’s not more reward to be found in it. This adventure tale is one of the oldest stories on earth. To get the gold and the virgin, you need to face and defeat the dragon first. This can figuratively mean taming your dark nature. That’s perhaps even the role of female protagonists.

Morality only exist if it’s a choice

This theory was developed by Carl Jung, and the integration of the shadow. A man can only be moral if he is capable of aggression.

The best example is that a rabbit can’t be morally virtuous since he can’t harm anyone. His only strategy is, therefore, care and hiding.

To be able to do something but choose not to do it shows a form of constraint and self-control. In real life, a man has to be able to protect his family physically.

The best example of this is perhaps the movie Nocturnal Animals by Tom Ford, which is a hard movie to watch. But anyone knows that in order to be protected, you need to be dangerous as well.

Ambition comes hand in hand with insecurity and disagreeableness

To be ambitious means somehow having the will to create inequality. The reason why some people have more ambition than others is that they want to be more than others, or they feel like they have more to prove than others.

It’s a known fact that most people in prisons are on the extreme spectrum of disagreeable people. By disagreeable, I mean people willing to say no and willing to break the rules.

Make no mistake, in most situations, like in the drug business and most businesses, there are only a finite number of customers. That’s why it can be called a zero-sum game, and people are competing for resources.

Being disagreeable correlates positively with high revenue. The reason why people go to prison is because they don’t have it under control or because it’s less sophisticated than it should be.

Aggressiveness is primordial for pushing and competing against other people. That’s why people tend to refer to themselves as lions or tigers. This is also true for sports.

One of the reasons why most disagreeable people are men, in my estimation, comes from the fact that men have to compete to get sexual partners. They need to elevate themselves in the dominance hierarchy to match the hypergamy of most women.

When the stakes are high the rewards are real

When it comes to sports, boxing is one of the most lucrative activities for the elite. Boxing is much more dangerous than most sports.

The higher the stakes, the more people are entertained. That’s why MMA has become so popular so quickly, and that’s why this has been true since the time of gladiators.

Not only is the elite level lucrative, but it’s also generative of genuine admiration. You’ve got to admire someone who has this level of courage to risk it all.

This dramaturgie is also present in other areas, such as the narco business. Kingpins are feared but also respected. It’s not that easy to lead and control the most disagreeable group of men on earth.

This requires the ultimate skills when it comes to management, and no errors are permitted. That’s why we are in awe when we watch a high-stakes poker player pull a bluff.

I am not saying gambling is the right thing to do; what I mean is that we are wired to seek out challenging situations in order to grow, and perhaps this is the highest reward of all: growth.

If Superman didn’t have Kryptonite to kill him, he would be invincible and the show would be boring as hell.

That’s why TV Shows like the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones were so successfull. Because the Stakes were real..

A real character arc from a real adventure

Like previously mentioned with Walter Mitty, the more your life is safe and running like a clock, the more you are likely to try to mess things around so you have something to fix.

Most people have the need to grow, and this is only possible if you are facing obstacles and going on an adventure.

That’s the reason why tons of people watch football. Not only are people running after a ball, but they are also aiming at a difficult goal and sometimes achieving it.

That’s why people watch adventure movies, like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or most films. To see a character grow and keep his moral code at the same time

We don’t like the gangsters who have no morality nor control

No one like those psychotic character that has no sense of moral code. Those character are feared but always end up killed.

True leadership and competence is responsibility and care for other people and for this you need to be above all a man of moral. Someone hard to bend in addition of being capable of agression.

The character of Modie in Top Boy is the archetype of this psychotic leader, which is basically a form of corruption.

This behavior is found even in the animal kingdom. With Chimpazees, for example, if a leader isn’t acting in the interest of the group, he will eventually and literally be taken apart by the younger Chimpanzee.

That’s why characters such as Jamie from Top Boy are not acting out of ego but to actually care for other people such as his brothers or workers. That’s the only reasons why people will give you access to a position of power in the first place.

Top dogs get the best choice

This one is perhaps the most superficial reason, but it happened to be real as well. Any man at the top of a dominance hierarchy gets to choose the best options in life.

This is true for genetics, since women are often compared to nature. Nature selects which one will survive genetically.

Not to mention all the materialistic rewards, such as fast sports cars, penthouses or expensive watch.


Watching the TV show Top Boy may seem like a glorification of drug traffickers and crime. In reality, it’s not that easy to distinguish between protagonists and antagonists.

Those drug kingpins are, at the end of the day, into this business out of necessity. Because it was the only realistic option for them to feed their family or grow and succeed financially within their circumstances at a specific time.

All of this while remaining unsubmissive and faithful to their moral values and having a form of adventure as well. Surprisingly, these character often have some strong ethics and care for their employees; otherwise, they wouldn’t last very long.

Competence and responsibilities are leadership.

Like in the show, not everyone is tailored for a 9-to-5 job, and actually, most people find it extremely boring. Unless you are exceptional at something, you’ll end up having an average and predictable lifestyle anyway.

Traveling twice a year, watching those football games, epics, or gangster movies to feel the thrill of an adventure while in the comfort and safety of your home, is most likely the wisest path.

But if this is the case, you can’t ever pretend to be in the competition to become formidable or having an actual adventure while slowly becoming resentful.


Top Boy on Netflix:

Top 10 Gangster Movies :

  • Good Fellas
  • Casino
  • Scarface
  • Carlito’s way
  • Narcos
  • El Chapo
  • Sicario
  • Peaky Blinders
  • Top Boy

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Written by dudeoi

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