With John Hillcoat’s (The Road, The Proposition) Lawless out this month, and Baz Lurhmann’s (Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet) The Great Gatsby set for release next year, it seems that we're experiencing a renaissance in the prohibition-era flick. These films come off the back of Martin Scorsese’s hugely successful prohibition-set television drama Boardwalk Empire – just about to enter its third season.

Some great cinematic creations are set during this period, but which are the best? Prohibition was a time that saw the sale and possession of alcohol made illegal in the United States. The result of these measures – rather than making America a better place – was the opportunity for organised crime to thrive through the sale of illegal alcohol. Prohibition came to an end in 1933, but it would inspire some of the greatest gangster films and crime dramas of all time, and even a classic comedy.

The Game-changer

Bonnie and Clyde, described by critic Patrick Goldstein as “the first modern American film”, was released in 1967 and its impact on cinema was huge. The film tells the true story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who, as part of a gang of bank robbers, terrorised the American Midwest throughout the 1920s. With its no holds barred violence, championing of the anti-hero and innovative cinematography and camera work, Bonnie and Clyde was truly revolutionary. It sent tremors through the movie industry, and helped inspire a new generation of film makers who, over the next decade, would breathe new life into western cinema.

The Epic

Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984) is a sprawling, four-hour masterpiece that ranks among the greatest films ever made. The film centres on Noodles (Robert De Niro), a former prohibition-era Jewish gangster who returns to Brooklyn 30 years on. Here he confronts his past: a past that is fed to us in fragments, the story of his life unfolding before our eyes. Leone’s stunning visuals have led many to describe this as a piece of cinematic art, and rightly so, but it is more than that – offering no obvious answers to the questions it poses, it will play on your mind long after you have seen it.

The Comedy

Billy Wilder was a man ahead of his time and, with Some Like it Hot (1959), produced arguably the funniest film of all time. The screenplay is born out of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 – which musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) accidently witness – a controversial move for some, but which ultimately gives rise to sheer inspiration. Some Like It Hot possesses so many wonderful moments it would be impossible to list them all, but what really makes it stand up is, however many times you watch it, it never ceases to make you laugh. And if that wasn’t enough, it also boasts Marilyn Monroe.

The Cult Classic

That Miller’s Crossing (1990) has not received more recognition is possibly one of the great injustices of modern cinema. The Coen brothers’ gangster movie is a meticulous piece of cinema. It stars Gabriel Byrne as Tom Reagan, a criminal who finds himself caught in the crossfire between two rival gangs. Byrne is excellent, and is backed up by an impressive supporting cast that includes Albert Finney and John Polito, as well as Coen brother regular John Turturro. Masterfully shot by DOP Barry Sonnenfeld, Miller’s Crossing is sumptuous in detail, possesses thrilling set pieces and contains some of the best dialogue ever penned by the Coen brothers. It is a film that demands to be seen.