RED HEAT: Even though Russian organized crime didn't explode internationally until after the fall of the Soviet Union, Hollywood exploited the Cold War for this 1988 buddy cop movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (as a Russian narcotics detective) and James Belushi (as a Chicago detective). The tagline was "Moscow's toughest detective. Chicago's craziest cop. There's only one thing more dangerous than making them mad: making them partners." Include scenes of the Red Square plus a chase in Chicago, you've got glasnost at its best!
BOONDOCK SAINTS: This 1999 cult flick follows two Catholic brothers, Connor and Murphy McManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) who decide to unleash vigilante justice on all evildoing Bostonians. They try to take down a clan of Russian mobsters, getting an eccentric FBI special agent (Willem Dafoe) on their tail. The Boondock Saints got lots of flack from the critics for its depictions of unrelenting, juvenile violence, but it developed a pretty solid fan base once it was released on video, and it remains one of the strangest depictions featuring Russian gangsters to date.
GOLDENEYE: Pierce Brosnan's first time donning the Agent 007 suit, this 1995 film finds James Bond in pursuit of former KGB agent Xenia Onatopp (Famke Jansenn), 00 traitor Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) and nefarious Russian General Ourumov as they try to steal a Soviet nuclear space weapon for a Russian crime syndicate. GoldenEye was the first Bond film to address Europe's existence in a post-Soviet world, plus, it was Judi Dench's first turn as Agent "M", and that's reason enough to love it.
EASTERN PROMISES: A History of Violence-director David Cronenberg's 2007 thriller stars Naomi Watts as a young British midwife named Anya Khitrova who tries to uncover the story of an infant left behind by a 14-year-old mother who died in her ward. Anya finds the young mother's diary and ends up in the Russian mob world, run by Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and his son Kirill (Vincent Cassel). Viggo Mortensen dons a Russian accent in his role as Nikolai, the mob family's "cleaner" (he dumps dead bodies in the river); he leads a ferociously choreographed fight scene in a Turkish bath house that'll keep you out of steam rooms for months.
WE OWN THE NIGHT: This 2007 crime drama written and directed by James Gray stars Joaquin Phoenix as Bobby, the son of an NYPD Deputy Police Chief (Robert Duvall) and the manager of an '80s nightclub with strong ties to the Russian mafia. Bobby's brother, Joseph Grusinsky (Mark Wahlberg) is an NYPD captain who tries to take down Bobby's nightclub in an effort to catch notoroious Russian mobster Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov). This leads to a chain of events that draws Bobby closer to his cop family and results in him trying to take down the gangsters.
TRAINING DAY: Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his role as the ultimate bad cop in this 2001 film, which follows an LAPD narcotics detective, Alonzo Harris (Washington), as he "trains" young officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) on handling the LA street crime scene. Harris proves to be a rogue cop, forcing Hoyt to smoke marijuana laced with PCP and stealing from the wife of a major crack dealer. It turns out Harris owes big money to the Russian mafia, which leads him and Hoyt to a messy moral (and physical) showdown.
ROCKNROLLA: Guy Ritchie's hilarious 2008 crime film features a British mob boss Lenny Cole (played by Tom Wilkinson) who teams up with Russian gangsters on a crooked deal. Gerard Butler stars as One-Two, a crook who's ragtag gang attempts to one-up Cole, and Toby Kebell is Cole's drug-addled disappearing rockstar son Johnny, who also gets in on the game. (Honorable mention to Ritchie's SNATCH, which includes a Russian gangster among boxing promoters, violent bookmakers, incompetent amateur robbers, and supposedly Jewish jewelers.)
LORD OF WAR: Nicholas Cage plays Ukranian-American arms-dealer Yuri Orlov in this 2005 drama, who navigates the Russian mafia and the illegal gunrunning trade in the last decade of the Soviet Union's history. The movie is primarily based on real life arms-dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently serving time in the States, and it's a fast-paced look at the not-so-distant history of international gun trade.
LITTLE ODESSA: Another film written and directed by James Gray, this 1994 film focuses on a brooding Russian-Jewish hit man, Joshua Shapira (Tim Roth). Set in New York's Brighton Beach neighborhood, Shapira's return to his neighborhood means that his parallel lives—one of unflinching violence and the other of family melodrama—come to a head in this dark film.