Content Warning: The following article contains spoilers for The Godfather of Harlem.Godfather of Harlem gangster series featuring Forest Whitaker as crime boss Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson. The series is a prequel to the 2007 film. american gangsterstarring Denzel Washington as Johnson’s right-hand man, Frank Lucas, and follows Johnson’s rise to power after his release from prison in 1963.

The series features historical figures, including Malcolm X And Muhammad Ali with an all-star cast consisting of Vincent D’Onofrio, Paul Sorvino, Chazz PalminteriAnd Giancarlo Esposito. With the recent conclusion of the third season of the show, Godfather of Harlem featured some of the most epic and powerful television episodes of a vital period in American history, many of which impressed fans on IMDb.


10 “After all, it’s a small world”

Vincent D'Onofrio in The Godfather of Harlem

IMDb rating: 8.2/10

After an incident at Johnson’s club, Vincent Gigante (D’Onofrio) wants Johnson to reprimand his man for killing one of his men or risk their peace partnership. Johnson attempts to send his man out of town, but when he refuses to leave, Gigante’s men retaliate against Johnson and his crew.

“It’s a Small World, After All” perfectly portrays the plausible and uncontrollable conflicts between Johnson and Gigante’s men. After Gigante betrays him, Johnson realizes that neither he nor any of the five families will ever treat him as an equal, forcing him to seek another long-term solution.

9 “Chickens come home to roost”

Nigel Thatch and Forest Whitaker sit at the counter in a diner in The Godfather of Harlem.

IMDb rating: 8.3/10

Harlem and the rest of the United States are in shock following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, leaving possible Italian mafia charges hanging in the air. As Gigante still covets Johnson’s head, he secures his safety from the five families by threatening to turn over their books to the federal government if they come after him or his family.

While everyone mourns Kennedy’s tragic death, Gigante and the family toast in what they believe is the end of the federal charges. Johnson is a master accountant who was entrusted with the books of five families before going to prison. Although Johnson strongly opposes denunciations, he is prepared to make an exception and face possible prosecution himself if it will protect his family from harm. This is a particularly characteristic episode in a crime series that emphasizes the motives of the protagonist.

8 “Masters of War”

Chazz Palminteri stands next to Forest Whitaker in The Godfather of Harlem

IMDb rating: 8.3/10

Out of fear of starting a civil war with Gigante, Bonanno and the other families refuse to sell to Johnson, leaving him empty-handed. He is guided by intuition and delves into the Giant’s past, revealing information about Joe Bonanno’s (Palminteri) son, Lorenzo, who went missing several years ago. With no other options, Johnson decides to use the newly discovered information as a solution to his business problem.

In Masters of War, Johnson strategically plans to have Bonanno and Gigante in the war, a distraction from ongoing business matters. Unlike the Italian bosses, Johnson does everything in his power not to personally use violence as a solution, and instead relies on his natural intuition and street smarts to sow the necessary seeds of deceit.

7 “Sting like a bee”

Deric Augustine and Nigel Thatch in The Godfather of Harlem

IMDb rating: 8.3/10

After defiance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) travels to Florida to show his support for boxing star Cassius Clay (Derick Augustine) before the fight with Sonny Liston. While Malcolm is in the sunny state, Bumpy has returned home, where he plans to use his new French connections to distribute his products to other major East Coast cities.

Sting Like a Bee is a monumental episode that takes a closer look at the friendship between Malcolm X and Cassius Clay, also known as Muhammad Ali. The episode also gives viewers a glimpse behind the ceremonial curtain at the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X’s inner struggle to please both his boss and his conscience.

6 “Bulletin or Bullet”

Forest Whitaker in The Godfather of Harlem-1

IMDb rating: 8.4/10

When three Freedom Riders go missing in Mississippi, Bumpy uses his connections to help the FBI find them in exchange for protection from federal charges. The FBI continues their efforts to eliminate the Italian families, but Gigante manages to throw them off the trail by claiming he has a mental breakdown.

Bulletin and Bullet centers around the true story of three Freedom Riders who were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. Although some facts are not officially confirmed, the FBI did use the muscles of the mafia and recruited Gregory Scarpaa member of the Colombo family to help in their search (according to NBC News).

5 “Ten Harlems”

Forest Whitaker sits at a table with other men in The Godfather of Harlem Ten Harlems

IMDb rating: 8.5/10

After forming a group partnership, Bumpy discovers that someone from the Ten Harlems has betrayed him and must find out who it is before they make a move against him. Tension between Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam begins to rise as Malcolm and his family face threats and violence.

“Ten Harlems” shows the main difference between the way Bumpy and the Italian mafia run their business. Italian families don’t lose sleep over a guy being beaten, while Bumpy gets deeply upset when he’s forced to use violence against others. The episode also features a great guest appearance Method Man who plays Sam Christian, a member of Bumpy’s Ten Harlems.

4 “The Bonanno Split”

Forest Whitaker in sniper scope with Chazz Palminteri in front of him in The Godfather of Harlem.

IMDb rating: 8.6/10

After learning the truth about his son’s murder, Joe Bonanno is out for blood, and his first act is to abolish the family commission. Bonanno’s choice puts Bumpy in a situation protecting Sam Costello (Sorvino) and other members of the Five Families.

In “The Bonanno Split”, the tables switch as Costello and the others need Bumpy’s help and find themselves vulnerable for the first time. While the possibility of a civil war between families would be good for his business, Bumpy’s loyalty keeps him from turning his back on Costello, who has vouched for him since day one.

3 “Mecca”

Forest Whitaker sits next to Yul Vasquez and looks up at him as he looks down at The Godfather of Harlem.

IMDb rating: 8.6/10

As Colombo attempts to take over downtown Harlem, Bumpy turns to Cuban kingpin Jose Battle (Yul Vasquez) with a generous offer to make an alliance with him against the Italian families. At first, Battle politely refuses, but after witnessing Bumpy’s bitter encounter with the five families, he reconsiders their partnership.

“Mecca” puts Bumpy in a compromising position that can either increase the authorities’ attention to him or create new potential enemies. Bumpy, who has endured injustice and loss all his life, sympathizes with Battle and creates a unique contrast between the past and the personal experience of the characters.

2 “Captain Fields”

Jason Alan Carvell stands next to Antoinette Crowe - Legacy in The Godfather of Harlem

IMDb rating: 8.7/10

Captain Reggie FieldsDerrick Williams) is a young black man and the new head of the 27th police station in Harlem, but despite the change in ranks, this station remains on the salary of Italian families. When two officers raid Bumpy’s club on Colombo’s orders, Fields denies the allegations and indirectly helps Bumpy get the better of Colombo.

Newly promoted Captain Fields unknowingly creates a monumental power shift between Bumpy and the Italian families as he and Battle are able to take a firm step towards the 27th Precinct. “Captain Fields” is another notable spin-off episode of the series in which Bumpy beats five families at their own game.

1 “Hate Begotten by Hate”

Forest Whitaker standing at the window with the blinds down in The Godfather of Harlem 2

IMDb rating: 8.8/10

When riots break out in Harlem, Bumpy must keep rivals at bay and protect his merchandise while waiting for the largest shipment in New York City history to arrive. Threats against Malcolm X start to get too close to him, and he takes defense from Bumpy.

Hate Born Hate is set during the July 1964 riots that raged in Harlem for over a week. The episode is exceptionally powerful and does not gloss over the harsh reality of the riots, as well as the massive social injustice and discrimination against black Americans at the time.