While it seems unlikely that anyone will ever place Martin Scorsese's 2002 film Gangs of New York on the same level as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, it's still better than countless movies I saw not only that year, but in the years since. This is mostly thanks to a classic performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays a terrifying gang lord named Bill "The Butcher" Cutting. Day-Lewis is mesmerizing as the always unpredictable psychopath with a savage streak a mile wide. Cutting leads one gang in New York's Five Points district -- a group of native born Americans opposed to the waves of immigrants coming into the city. In one of the film's many brutal scenes, his gang takes on Irish group led by Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson) in mortal combat. When Vallon falls to Cutting's blade, his son (who will be portrayed by Leo DiCaprio for the rest of the film) sees it all and vows to get revenge.
This massive showdown really serves to highlight everything I love about Gangs of New York. It's as vicious as the large-scale skirmishes in Gibson's Braveheart -- the number of people dying and the methods of their dispatch are amazingly violent -- but Scorsese has chosen to bookend it with sequences of ritual, highlighting that it's not just two groups of people coming together to beat on each other, but that there are rules and a method to the madness.