Some films have made gangsters look like heroes and historical figures who should be celebrated by everyone. On the contrary, these people have committed heinous crimes such as murder, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and money laundering; they probably don’t need to be remembered in a good light. That said, there have been debates on who the most notorious gangster in history is. While this piece doesn’t necessarily seek to settle the arguments, it highlights some of the people who took the gangster sh*t to a whole new level.

1. Pablo Escobar

Born in 1949 in Rionegro, Colombia, Pablo Escobar rose to become one of the wealthiest gangsters in the world. Nicknamed El Patron or El Padrino, he smuggled an average of 80 tons of cocaine to the United States every day during his time as head of the Medellin Cartel.

Initially, Pablo Escobar started as a drug trafficker. As his ambitions grew, he became a politician and even vied to become the president of Colombia. His political aspirations failed, and the authorities were soon all over his drug business.

In a true Pablo Escobar sense, he turned into a narco-terrorist, killing around 4,000 people, all the while acting as the Robin Hood of his neighborhood to hide his transgressions in the Narco-industry. For a long time, the drug dealer was deputized by his cousin Gustavo Gaviria. In 1992, he was arrested, but he escaped. Pablo Escobar was eventually killed on December 2, 1993, but his transgressions and hippopotamuses live on.

2. Griselda Blanco 

Although many gangsters are male, a few women have left their mark in the field – Griselda Blanco is one of them. Born on February 15, 1943, the Colombian drug lady was so prominent that Pablo Escobar once said she was the only “man” he feared. She was famously known as the godmother of cocaine.

In her prime, Griselda Blanco used to earn up to $80 million a month for smuggling cocaine to the US from Colombia. Besides that, she was branded “the Black Widow” because she killed her three husbands: Carlos Trujillo, Alberto Bravo, and Dario Sepulveda.

Unfortunately, in the crime world, one of the ways of telling a great criminal from a good one is by their ability to avoid police capture. Griselda Blanco was able to evade being brought to book for years and years by faking and circulating rumors about her death. She died for real in September 2012 when a motorcycle rider shot her outside a butcher shop in Medellin, Colombia.

3. Al Capone

During the early 1900s, Al Capone was the most notorious gangster in the US, specifically in Chicago. Going by the nicknames Scarface, Snorky, or Big Al, Al Capone joined the Five Points Gang as a teenager. He quickly rose through the ranks and became a leader of the Chicago Outfits from 1925 to 1931.

Even though the number of people Al Capone killed is unknown, it is estimated that he orchestrated over 400 murders. Besides, Big Al engaged in a wide range of illegal activities, including bribing mayors, police, and judges. He also loved violence and actively participated in smuggling and s*x work. Al Capone was able to amass a wealth of $3 billion from his exploits. Unlike most gangsters, Al Capone wasn’t assassinated but died due to a heart attack.

4. Dawood Ibrahim

Dawood Ibrahim isn’t usually talked about much in the crime world (as compared to the others on this list), but he made his mark. He founded and controlled the D-Company, one of India’s most infamous organized crime families. In his prime, Dawood engaged in drug trafficking, extortion, and murder. He’s also been associated with the 1993 Bombay Bombings. In his leadership, the D-Company targeted and killed rival gangs such as the Pathan Gang.

5. Charles Luciano

Popularly known as Lucky, Charles Luciano was the only gangster who tried and succeeded at legitimizing and unifying the different mob families in the United States in 1931. His goal was to prevent gang wars. Like Al Capone, Lucky started as a member of the Five Points gang before joining Joe Masseria’s criminal organization.

After a while, he eliminated Masseria at Coney Island in the United States with the help of four other accomplices. Charles Luciano rose to power and became the boss of the bosses. However, his reign was cut short in 1936 when he was arrested and charged with a 30-to-50-year prison term.

Fortunately for him, his term was shortened after cooperating with the US Navy during World War II. Charles Luciano was deported to Italy, where he later on died of a heart attack.

6. Carlo Gambino

During the 1900s, crime families in the US were constantly attacking each other. Carlo Gambino was a notorious gangster who assassinated Albert Anastasia in 1957 so that he could take over the Mangano crime family, which he later renamed the Gambino crime family.

Unlike many mobsters who were loud and arrogant, Carlo Gambino was laid back, didn’t share much, and always had a smile on his face. What set him apart was the fact that he was against the trafficking of narcotics because it came with hefty punishments. He instead opted for the “usual” mobster crimes like loansharking, bookmarking, extortion, and hijacking. Carlo Gambino died due to heart disease in 1976.

7. Joaquin Guzman Loera “El Chapo”

El Chapo is highly lauded in the narcotics industry, even as he continues to serve a life sentence in the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. He started his career by selling marijuana to local dealers, something he probably took over from his father.

With time, he grew to become the head of the Sinaloa Cartel. Apart from murder and drug trafficking, El Chapo is famous for his two-time escape from prison. He worked closely with his brother Arturo Guzman Loera and colleague Jose Esparragoza Moreno.

8. Frank Costello

Our list of the most notorious gangsters wouldn’t be complete without the guy who inspired the film The Godfather, Mr. Frank Costello. Also known as the Prime Minister, Frank Costello was born in Italy but raised in East Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City, USA.

Like many others, Frank Costello got into the crime world at a tender age. He was a good friend to Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and together, they engaged in crimes such as bootlegging, gambling, and much more. They trusted each other so much that when Charles Luciano was arrested, Frank Costello took over his organization.

Frank Costello is famous for leveraging the Vietnam War to bring in cocaine from East Asia. This didn’t sit right with other Italian families in the business, and there were several attempts on his life. He survived all of them. He died from a heart attack on February 18, 1973.


Last Update: June 24, 2024