Sure, they may be a bunch of lowlifes, thieves, and murderers, but we owe the criminals who inspired our favorite true-crime movies a twisted debt of gratitude. After all, it was the true-crime genre that kicked off a revolution in American filmmaking half a century ago that continues to this day.

And now the genre is giving us Johnny Depp, after several years of silly and bizarre performances, in a real acting workout as the terrifying Whitey Bulger, the real-life Boston mob boss he plays in the new "Black Mass" (opening September 18). In honor of that thriller's release, here are 16 of the best feature films that have turned real-life crimes into grand, exhilarating dramas.