When 70s American and French cinemas were overtaken by worlds of gangsters and crime, you bet Italy had to make their own! Italy was in a time of extreme political tension and unrest. It was a bloody time in Bel Paese. The country was overrun by real life gangs, crimes, and assassinations boiled into the Italian Consciousness.
Stealing from 60s Italian crime films, popular hits like “The Godfather” and “Dirty Harry,” the prevalence of exploitation films, as well as the violent climate in Italy at the time, the poliziotteschi genre changed crime films forever. The genre was characterized by over the top violence, shootouts, motorcycles chases, heists, and social commentary on Italy’s corruption. Although another Italian take on a popular genre (the spaghetti western), seems to have somewhat seared itself into the mainstream consciousness, the poliziotteschi genre appears to be forgotten, although they filled the space that spaghetti westerns left in their decline. These 10 are among the best.
10. Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976)
Directed by Ruggero Doedato (of “Cannibal Holocaust” fame) and written by Feranando Di Leo, this police story features the best bromance in Italian cinema.
“Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man” tells the story of Fred and Tony, members of an elite “special force” squad of police in Rome. They are licensed to kill and love living dangerously. These two vigilante pretty boys roam Rome in a sleek, coffee black Motorcycle, picking up criminals and torturing them to death. You try to steal a purse? Bang- you’re dead! Fred and Tony are both massive edgelords with a cynical attitude toward life, but they’re still living the life, living in a cool flat, having fun driving around on their motorcycle, beating crooks senseless, and making love to women. When gangsters want to take these two carnage loving cops out, Fred and Tony cause even more carnage!
“Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man” is probably on this list because of just how plain fun it is. In any other film Fred and Tony would come off as unlikable. But in this movie they kill, torture, and maim so casually it’s jaw-droppingly hilarious! The violence exacted by this cute police couple is so over the top it basically becomes an absurdist film, entertaining from beginning to end.
9. Mad Dog Killer (1977)
This nasty eurocrime flick gets its full freak on by being one of the most disgusting, grotesque, nihilistic crime movies out there, even by poliziotteschi standards. “Mad Dog Killer” really lives up to its title (one of many).
The sadistic killer Nanni Vitali (played brilliantly with terrifying dedication from Helmut Berger, who steals the show) and his gang break out of prison, and terrible things ensue as they are pursued by Inspector Santinini (played by Richard Harrison).
8. Revolver (1973)
Sergio Sollima’s mystery action combo, “Revolver” (also titled “In the Name of Love”) tells the story of Vito Cipriani, a prison warden who has to break out infamous prisoner Milo Ruiz in order to get his kidnapped wife back. The kidnappers aren’t playing it that simple however, and Milo and Vito team up in an unlikely partnership to find Cipriani’s wife. They end up traveling through the alps as they get caught up in a colossal manhunt.
Oliver Reed’s angry performance is one of “Revolver’s” highlights. Both Vito and Milo go through great character arcs and the twists in this film will leave you breathless.
7. The Big Racket (1976)
You can’t help but to wish there was more of a big racket over the excellent 1976 film “The Big Racket,” a fine poliziotteschi directed by the iconic Enzo G. Castellari. Fablo Testi stars as Nico Palmeri, a police inspector waging war on a criminal gang that is terrorizing a quiet Italian town as they extort money from locals. The whole village is afraid to do anything, and when a restaurant owner speaks up, his daughter is raped, and the terrible gang violence continues.
Because the gang is correlated with drug dealers, Palmeri is banned from investigating the case by his superiors. So he, and his sidekick Sal Borghese gather a group of gang banged victims: angry husbands, enraged fathers, and petty, double-crossed criminals, to set out and take justice into their own hands, stopping the sadistic gang themselves.This pretty much results in a full out war straight out of an anime between Palmeri’s scruffy village crew and the gang. This brutal gem is a diamond.
6. Goodbye and Amen (1978)
“Goodbye and Amen” is one of those movies you need to say before you’re on your deathbed saying goodbye and amen. Tony Musante stars as CIA agent John Dhannay, stationed in Rome, who is planning a coup to to overthrow an African Government. But he figures out one of his men is a traitor who has been contacting the enemy.
Before John can confront this traitor, he goes berserk, killing quite a few people and taking an adulterous couple hostage. What follows is a suspenseful contusion of thrills. Claudia Cardinale, beautiful as ever, definitely steals the show.