Top 10 Heist Movies
“Well he won’t get very far, that’s for sure. He hasn’t got enough blood left in him to keep a chicken alive.”
– Dr. Swanson, “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950)
A great heist movie always involves careful planning, devious plotting, and clever misfits with fleeting morals. Action, suspense, and excitement are also key components, as is the methodic hunting of whoever upholds the safety of the target, be it lawman or just an enraged owner. Whether the thieves rob banks, safes, armored cars, vaults, or casinos – and regardless of the successfulness of the attempt – you can bet there will be plenty of twists and turns, backstabbings and betrayals, and oodles of thrills. Here, The Massie Twins compile a list of the very best efforts in the art of high-stakes grand larceny.
10. The Bank Job (2008)
The Loot: A bank on Baker Street, safety-deposit boxes, and dirty celebrity photos.
The Heist: Based on true events (though no one can be sure how accurate the film really is), Roger Donaldson’s “The Bank Job” chronicles London’s infamous Baker Street Robbery and the ensuing clash between thieves, crooked cops, MI5, underworld gangsters, and British Royal Family. Of note are the excellent performances, the steady build of suspense, and the fact that Jason Statham doesn’t use martial arts to kick anyone’s ass.
9. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The Loot: Jewels and a severed ear.
The Heist: Though the actual heist is never shown, the entire plot of “Reservoir Dogs” revolves around the jewel theft and its disastrous consequences. Non-linear storytelling, a police set-up, a sadistic psychopath, slow-motion strolls in black suits, restaurant tipping policies, and Madonna’s lyrics all find their way into director Quentin Tarantino’s first foray into the heist film.
8. The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
The Loot: A $100 million painting and a saucy insurance investigator.
The Heist: After successfully stealing the nearly priceless painting just for fun, Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) decides to put it back just as stealthily as he stole it. “Worthy adversary” Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) is hot on his tail (in more ways than one). “The Thomas Crown Affair 2” was actually planned for a 2011 release, though now the film – at one point entitled “The Topkapi Affair” – has been in limbo for years, and is likely never to see the light of day.
7. Ronin (1998)
The Loot: Who knows?
The Heist: A team of highly-skilled operatives are paid to lift a mysterious briefcase from a heavily-armed convoy. Careful planning, a successful ambush, a crafty switch, and a shootout ensues, leaving Sam (Robert De Niro) and Vincent (Jean Reno) to hunt down the briefcase in a series of impressive car chases. No one in the film is who he or she seems, and few really know what it is they’re even trying to obtain – which leads to plenty of betrayals and even more car chases.
6. The Usual Suspects (1995)
The Loot: Jewels, drugs, more drugs, and finding out who Keyser Soze is.
The Heist: While “The Usual Suspects” isn’t typically considered a heist film, three major robberies by a gang of seasoned criminals are at the center of the thriller. First, the group hijacks a corrupt police escort, and then they’re tricked into robbing a jeweler of his briefcase. Finally, the band of hoods is blackmailed into attacking a ship carrying drugs for a mysterious Turkish criminal. Who is Dean Keaton? Who is Keyser Soze? Who is Salt? Actually, we don’t care about that last one.
5. Kelly's Heroes (1970)
The Loot: $16 million in gold bars in a bank vault behind enemy lines.
The Heist: Upon discovering from a German intelligence officer that 14,000 gold bars are tucked away in a bank vault in France, the 35th Infantry Division’s Private Kelly (Clint Eastwood) convinces his platoon to go after the treasure. Mishaps and unforeseen obstacles cause their quest to increase in difficulty and subsequently gain more recruits, concluding in a humorous and exciting showdown with three Tiger I tanks.
4. The Killing (1956)
The Loot: $2 million in cash from a racetrack.
The Heist: In this clever early film noir from Stanley Kubrick, veteran thief Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) plans an elaborate heist of a racetrack’s money-counting room with the help of a crooked cop, a window teller, a sniper, a wrestler, and a bartender. Everything goes according to plan until the obtrusive wife of a weak-willed accomplice decides she wants a piece of the action. Though the film didn’t do well upon its initial release, it has since garnered the reputation of being one of the finest crime films of all time.
3. Heat (1995)
The Loot: Bearer bonds, a bank vault, and bloody revenge.
The Heist: After robbing an armored truck and nabbing over a million dollars in bearer bonds from the infamous businessman Roger Van Zant (William Fichtner), a band of adventurous thieves led by Robert De Niro’s Neil McCauley steadily get driven into further chaos, complete with a backstabbing informant and a restless LAPD Lieutenant (Al Pacino) hot on their trail. Many have tried to replicate the ferocity and intensity of the downtown shootout getaway and the bank robbery itself, but so far none have succeeded (we’re looking at you, “The Dark Knight”).
2. The Sting (1973)
The Loot: $15,000 in a crooked card game; then $500,000 in a con within a con within a con.
The Heist: After tracking down the legendary con man Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), a younger, less experienced, vengeful grifter (Robert Redford) collaborates on a particularly brainy con against the much-deserving, murderous Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). The actual heist is so complex and twisty and multi-layered that it will likely take 3-4 viewings before viewers can genuinely sort it all out. But the outcome is so satisfying that it’s no surprise “The Sting” won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.
1. Rififi (1955)
The Loot: A jewelry shop in the Rue de Rivoli.
The Heist: In one of the lengthiest and most detailed heists ever filmed, Tony (Jean Servais) and his gang of thieves rob a jewelry store successfully, only to have vile gangster Grutter foil their celebration. The nearly half-hour long heist scene was shot in almost complete silence with no dialogue or music, and was so popular that several real-life crimes around the world were fashioned after it. “The Asphalt Jungle” may have done something similar a few years prior, but not nearly as painstakingly.