Comedies, crimes, or dramas, Mexican gangster movies have a lot to tell, showing us what is happening in this country. Even though of a fictional nature, it is not unknown that Mexico is overflooded with criminal organizations of violent nature who are running the country without fear of being caught and punished.
Highly educational, entertaining, and interesting, these twelve movies will definitely interest you in learning more about this intriguing country. This is the list of the 12 best Mexican Gangster Movies of all time.
1. ‘Sin nombre’ (‘Nameless’, 2009)
One of the most famous and memorable Mexican movies in general, not only related to the topic, is Sin Nombre, a crime drama about people whose paths will intertwine and this event will change their lives forever. We are following a family in Honduras, a man and his daughter and son, who must get to New Jersey and reconnect with the rest of their family.
They will have to go through Guatemala and Mexico, and on their way, they will meet a young man in Southern Mexico who must find a solution to connect his personal life with the everyday problems of being a gang member. Due to unavoidable circumstances, their paths will converge, and they must continue the journey together.
2.’ La vida precoz y breve de Sabina Rivas’ (‘The Precocious and Brief Life of Sabina Rivas’, 2012)
This romantic drama tells the story of two lovers coming from Honduras who accidentally meet at the Mexican-Guatemalan border after many years apart. Sabina wants to make it in the USA and become a famous singer, and Jovany accepts to do all kinds of illegal activities to become a member of the gang La Mara Salvatrucha.
Their meeting will be only one of the many incredible situations at the border, including brothel leader Dona Lita, Mexican and American immigration agents, white slavery, the drug trafficking networks, the army, and Jovany’s gangsters.
3. ‘Heli’ (2013)
Heli is a factory worker in rural Mexico who must try and protect his family from the drug cartel who wants their stuff back. The drugs ended up in his 12-year-old sister’s hands when she agreed to look after the substances her older boyfriend gave her.
Heli will soon become involved in a series of events and situations he never signed up for and slowly start losing touch with his wife and family since his involvement in this matter will begin to threaten their well-being and security.
4. ‘Herod’s Law’ (1999)
Another unforgettable Mexican movie is this comedy about a poor janitor who is appointed the new mayor of a desert town in Mexico. After the peasants got rid of the old mayor, Juan Vargas tried to change how the town was ruled before and bring peace and progress to his men. But when he realizes that nothing works without corruption and bribes, he will start to use means that no one expected.
Step by step, Vargas will reach for his gun more often and play along with the outside world. Becoming corrupt is so much easier than trying to convince people to have different views and opinions, and soon he will become the worst mayor in the town’s history.
5. ‘Ya no estoy aquí’ (‘I’m No Longer Here’, 2019)
This is the story of a small street gang called “The Terkos,” who is showing off and strutting down the streets of the mountains of Monterrey. They call themselves Kolombianos, combining Columbian music with the Cholo culture; their lives soon change when their leader Ulises Samperio tries to protect them from the quickly evolving drug war.
He gets into a misunderstanding with a local cartel and has to leave Mexico, switching it for Queen s New York. He is now living in Jackson Heights, trying to assimilate into its immigrant community, but he soon realizes that his gang and the whole Columbian culture are under threat, and he begins to dream of going back home.
6. ‘Matando Cabos’ (‘Killing Cabos’, 2004)
One of the most anticipated Mexican comedies flirting with gangster moments, Matando Cabos proved to be a huge hit once it got out. Guy Ritchie’s Snatch mostly inspired it. Jaque was found having an explicit relationship with the daughter of one of the most influential businessmen, Oscar Cabos, who happens to be his boss as well.
Jaque gets in a fight with Cabos, who accidentally slips and loses consciousness. Jaque asks his best friend Mudo for help, and this is where this comedy actually starts. They don’t know what to do with Cabos, so they put him in the trunk of their car and decide to drive him to his house, leave him there, and make it all look like a bad hangover after a night of drinking.
7. Miss Bala (2011)
This intriguing drama tells the story of a young Laura Guerro and her friend Suzu, who decide to compete in a beauty pageant. After qualifying, Laura and Suzu have plans to celebrate on a shopping spree, but while Laura is waiting for Suzu to come out of the nightclub, she witnesses a murder of the drug enforcement officials by a drug gang.
She manages to escape but can’t find Suzu anymore, and the next day, while searching for her, she catches the attention of the drug cartel, who decide to keep her captive but also allow her to enter the beauty pageant. Her life will become a nightmare, and she will have to decide how she will get out of the prison she found herself in.
8. ‘600 Millas’ (‘600 Miles’, 2015)
Arnulfo Rubio is a young smuggler who attempts to cross the Mexican-American border with a trunk full of assault weapons but somehow manages to catch the attention of the veteran ATF agent Hank Harris. Harris becomes his captive, but Rubio doesn’t know what to do with him, so he returns to Mexico and hands him to the cartel.
But slowly, the lives of these two completely different men will become intertwined, and they will have to work together to get out of a dangerous situation they found themselves in. They will figure out they might have more in common than they ever thought.
9. ‘El Infierno’ (‘Hell’, 2010)
This action comedy-drama talks about Benjamin Garcia, known as Benny, who gets deported from the United States to Mexico. Back home, Benny gets involved in the drug business and is surrounded by money, women, fun, and success for the first time in his life. But soon, he realizes that this kind of life is not really what he expected.
This black comedy deals with the mafia world and shows us how organized crime can bring satisfaction initially, but it soon changes its course. It gives a great insight into Mexican cartels’ situation and how gangsters live there today.
10. ‘Nicotina’ (2013)
Nine characters are put together in this crime drama that deals with a simple exchange that takes a wrong turn and completely messes up the lives of these individuals. Diego Luna plays the leading role of a computer hacker, Lolo, who is in love with his neighbor Andrea and follows her every move via tech devices. He teams up with two small criminals who promise a Russian mobster to provide him with computer access to Swiss bank accounts in exchange for a bag of diamonds,
Everything goes terribly wrong when Lolo gets entangled in Andrea’s romantic escapades, and many more characters become involved in this situation, including the irritable pharmacist Beto and his wife Clara, a barber Goyo, and his significant other Carmen. All of them become obsessed with the possibility of an easier life if they get their hands on those diamonds.
11. ‘El Mariachi’ (1992)
This American-Mexican co-production, directed by the talented Robert Rodriguez is an interesting story of a mariachi who wants to play his guitar to carry on his family tradition. He is searching for a job and finds himself in a town where he is not the only stranger. He arrives at the same time as a killer who carries his weapons in a guitar case.
The mariachi is soon mistaken for the hitman Azul, and the drug lord and his companions who have to deal with Azul start chasing the mariachi all over town, trying to kill him and steal his guitar case. This adrenaline-packed crime drama is an excellent introduction to Rodriguez’s future movies that brought him popularity and world fame.
12. ‘Narco Cultura’ (2013)
The last movie on the list gathers almost everything mentioned before, being a documentary dealing with narco-trafficking, one of the most dangerous but flourishing businesses in Mexico. It is a way out of Mexico for many of them who decide to become involved in this illicit business, a way to fulfill the American dream.
This movie will give us an insight into the strong connections and dangerous situations these men are getting themselves into. Violence, drugs, and money are slowly gaining strength on both sides of the American-Mexican border.