The 10 Best Movie Gangs Who’ve Gotten (Back) Together
BY R. ERIC THOMAS
JUN 13, 2018
The crowds who flocked to theaters this past weekend to make Ocean’s 8 the number one movie in America probably left with two thoughts in mind: 1) Wow, Anne Hathaway is G.O.A.T., and we’re lucky to have her. No slander for our Oscar-winning queen; 2) Can’t wait til this gang gets back together. The Ocean’s films, of which the all-female iteration is both a sequel and a reboot, excel at one of the greatest tropes in all entertainment: the ragtag gang of old friends and newcomers who combine their skills for one so-crazy-it-just-might-work mission. Sometimes participants are lured in with the promise that this is “one last mission,” which—let’s be honest—it never is. Sometimes the draw is the promise of wealth; sometimes it’s a devil’s bargain as repayment for a past crime; sometimes it’s all in service of an old friend who could really use the specific skills of a disparate group who somehow found their way into each other’s lives. Sometimes is a highly mobile pair of pants.
A comprehensive list of movie gangs could on endlessly—if you want to be persnickety about it, every movie cast is a gang if you squint. Tom Hanks and Wilson the Volleyball=#squadgoals. But not all groups are created equal. So, we called together our techy friend, our friend with a vaguely British accent, our wild friend, our Charlotte, and our friend who likes to eat and, make jokes (:: raises hand::) to come up with a list of the ten best movie gangs. To determine their ranking, we (me and the gang I am trying to Secret into being real) considered three things: 1) composition of the gang—who are the characters and who play the roles?; 2) the delight derived by their situation or caper; 3) are there fun costumes, disguises, and dance sequences?
Gang: A bunch of core drillers!
This gang movie is bananas. An asteroid is bearing down on Earth (classic gang movie trope) so a ragtag team of unlikely heroes (another metaphor!) has to band together and save the day against all odds (there are NO ODDS FOR THEM). In this case, the only people who can save the planet are a bunch of working-class core drillers. Not, like, actual astronauts on anything. Just Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, Ben Affleck, and their friends. Armageddon is a lot of things, including a meta-vehicle for Liv Tyler and Steven Tyler’s father-daughter reunion via the music video for the film’s theme song. The getting the gang together trope is not as prominent as the “saving the Earth from a space thing” trope or the “highly emotional conclusion” trope, but this gang is still one of the best out there. Good luck getting that Aerosmith song out of your head now.
Gang: The Fast & Furious crew
Movie: Furious 7
Gang: The Avengers
Movie: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Technically, this gang spends the entirety of the first 8 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe getting together. Every Nick Fury and Agent Coulson post-credit scene is another step forward for this gang’s creation. As such, it’s probably the longest “the gang begins” montage out there. But who has time to revisit all of those films? For a gang that comes in at number eight on this list? Not hardly. No shade to this gang, by the way: their costumes are on point, their quips are top-notch, their caper is complex (so much so that I rarely understand exactly what’s happening). But there’s a lot of great gangs out there, and the MCU gang is still a team of rivals rather than a cohesive unit.
What’s most interesting about this gang film is that they begin the flick already together and then find themselves in a conflict that splits them apart until the next movie. Very few “getting the gang back together” films have the runway to drag the reunification out over multiple motion pictures.
Gang: The First Wives
Movie: The First Wives Club
What’s great about this gang movie is that not only does it give the gang a caper to accomplish and fabulous duds, but it ends with (spoiler alert) the gang creating a non-profit crisis center for women, exponentially expanding their gang and deepening their impact.
Gang: The Space Cowboys
Movie: Space Cowboys
This movie features cowboys in space so naturally, it gets high marks. Unfortunately, they are not regular horse-riding, lasso cowboys, wearing boots and spitting tobacco on the international space station. But maybe in the sequel. Space Cowboys combines some fantastic gang movie tropes: the space problem that only this group can fix, the senior citizens making one last go of it, and the underdogs no one believes in who have to prove themselves. As a gang movie, it has everything. Is it a good movie? LOL, no! But as a gang, this foursome—Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, and Clint Eastwood, plus gang boss James Cromwell—are superb. The group plays cocky ex-test pilots who are brought back into the NASA fold to help keep an old Russian satellite from crashing into the Earth. Just your usual gang mission. Of course, they have their doubts, of course, the higher-ups at NASA have even greater doubts, of course, there’s plenty of complications along the way and a last-minute crisis. This is a “getting the gang back together” movie that is giving you the full experience.
Gang: The Flossy Posse
Movie: Girls Trip
Like many quartets, the women of Girls Trip each has a character domain that’s loosely defined but sets her apart. There’s the successful one (Regina Hall), the prude (Jada Pinkett Smith), the one who could use a change (Queen Latifah), and Tiffany Haddish (Tiffany Haddish). When the gang, who haven’t hung out in five years, gets together to attend the Essence Festival, turning one of Hall’s character’s work trips into a vacation, all hell breaks loose in every possible way. Do they have a caper? They have all the pranks. Do they fall and apart and need to put themselves back together? Every single one. Are they one of the most significant gangs? Without a doubt. Cc: Rolling Stone.
Gang: The Rockford Peaches
Movie: A League of Their Own
They’re the ladies of the All-American league! They come from cities near and far! What more can you want? Penny Marshall’s seminal film about an all-female baseball league gives us two different gang journeys—for most of the film, we watch the formation and unification of the gang as Jon Lovitz’s scout, Ernie Capadino scours the country looking for players. The movie’s frame, however, features the gang—you guessed it—getting back together for a reunion. Two gang tropes in one!
Led by Geena Davis as Dottie Hinson, this gang features the kind of character variety and deeply-felt heart that one would wish for every film. There’s Lori Petty’s Kit, Dottie’s outspoken sister who harbors different dreams, there’s shy Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanaugh), there are Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell as Mae and Doris, a classic comedy pair who deserve their spinoff. The list goes on. Like another great sports gang that just barely missed this list, The Mighty Ducks, the Rockford Peaches are unified around the shared goal of winning but, more importantly, around the shared goal of reclaiming their dignity.
2. & 3.
Gang: The Ocean Family Crime Syndicate
Movie: Ocean’s 11, 12, 13 and 8
Even though Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean is related to George Clooney’s Danny Ocean (and the Ocean matriarch played by Cherry Jones in Ocean’s 12), this series offers us two gangs and so gets two spots. The Ocean’s 8 crew (Cate Blancett, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, and Helena Bonham Carter, plus Anne Hathaway as their mark) share a lot of similar skills with their O11-13 counterparts, but of course, each actress puts her unique spin on the role. This is my way of saying no one, not even Don Cheadle, can compare to Rihanna.
Regarding composition and delight, you almost can’t do better than the Ocean’s movies. Each gang follows the “one of each” formula, presuming that the each you need includes a contortionist, Brad Pitt eating regularly, a jewelry-maker, and Bernie Mac. And the hijinks! The fast-paced set pieces are a hallmark of the films (the first three were directed by Stephen Soderbergh; the latest was led by Gary Ross). Whether it’s a pas de deux between a cat burglar and a bunch of lasers or the entire Met Gala recreated, complete with Kim Kardashian West sighting, the Ocean’s films are always a treat for the eye and the ultimate popcorn fare. Plus, what gang would you rather hang out with?
Gang: The Muppets
Movie: The Muppets Take Manhattan
“Dear bears, and chickens, and things: is new is play, is time!” So begins the telegram from diner owner Pete that sets in motion the most significant movie gang’s reunification. Kermit has secured a producer for his Broadway show, Manhattan Melodies, but—in a twist right out of An Affair to Remember—is hit by a car on his way to meet Miss Piggy and develops amnesia. The musical has to open in two weeks, or Kermit’s big break is lost, so Miss Piggy has to round up the old gang, who have scattered to the wind, to help find Kermit and to put on a show.
The composition of this gang is perfect: bears, chickens, things, Janice—what’s not to love? You’re just not going to get a better gang than the Muppets. One could argue that in terms of wild situations or capers, their other movies (including the aptly titled Great Muppet Caper) deliver the goods more but the idea of securing a Broadway producer and opening in just over a fortnight is so gang that only the Muppet gang (or the cast of Smash) could pull it off. This gang, of course, continues to get back together and sometimes drift apart, most recently having to reunify in the film The Muppets and its sequel Muppets Most Wanted.