You know the formula. A team of thieves has its eyes on a lucrative, difficult-to-steal prize. And they’ve cooked up an elaborate scheme that can’t go wrong. Yet it always does, and plans must change on the fly.
With booty in hand, one of two things typically happens. Either our anti-heroes skate away filthy rich, or things go terribly wrong and everyone winds up dead or in jail.
Welcome to the modern-day heist film, a genre that’s been thrilling audiences since the 1950s.
In choosing the movies that best rep the art of stealing money, we’ve stayed away from basic bank robbery, stick-em-up stories in favor of thefts with more intricate and/or novel plots. Also, the heist(s) should be central to the story (as great as it is, the Lufthansa heist is not the primary focus of “Goodfellas”). As for the take, it matters, but not as much as style and invention.
Finally, special consideration was given to the cult classic leading off this round-up of the 15 best heist movies.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
The heist score: Amount unspecified
Why yes, of course you are, Keanu Reeves. And fans of this modern cult classic are forever grateful for one of the most memorable so-bad-it’s-great acting performances in movie history.
Also along for the action-packed ride? Patrick Swayze, who co-stars as the quasi-mystical Bodhi, leader of a SoCal surfer gang that moonlights as the Ex-Presidents – bank heist specialists wearing latex masks of former chiefs like Nixon and Reagan. Two robberies occur on screen, but exact loot amounts aren’t mentioned.
No worries, brah. Ease back and settle in for 2 hours of “one hundred percent pure adrenaline!”
Director: Steven Soderbergh
The heist score: $250-million worth of diamonds, and ruining casino boss Willy Bank
This go-round, Al Pacino is aboard as unscrupulous casino/hotel boss Willy Bank, who is opening Ocean’s crew’s latest casino target, “The Bank.”
Director: F. Gary Gray
The heist score: $35 million in gold bullion
If there’s any justice in Hollywood, the writers of the movie’s painfully cheesy dialogue will have their computers stolen. But otherwise this remake of the 1969 British movie of the same name edges the original as far as plotting and action.
In the updated “The Italian Job,” Mark Wahlberg and his crew, including Donald Sutherland and Edward Norton, execute an exciting gold robbery in Venice, Italy before there’s a double-cross and the action moves to Los Angeles for a revenge heist featuring a trio of tricked-out BMW Mini Coopers that steal the show.
Director: Lewis Milestone
The heist score: Amount unspecified
Sure, the 2001 remake starring George Clooney is a better flick. But by no means should you dismiss the Rat Pack’s original ring-a-ding scheme to simultaneously rob five Las Vegas casinos (for you trivia buffs, they’re the Sahara, Riviera, Desert Inn, Sands and Flamingo) on New Year’s Eve.
Not only is it a swingin’ time capsule of the Vegas Strip circa 1960, you’ll receive an education in old-school cool.
Director: Brian G. Hutton
The heist score: $16 million in gold bullion
“Kelly’s Heroes” is all three, wrapped up in a explosive caper that finds Clint Eastwood guiding a band of misfit World War II soldiers (Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Donald Sutherland) behind enemy lines to steal a cache of Nazi gold.
Also deserving of a prize are viewers who can explain how Sutherland’s groovy 1960s’ hippie character, Oddball, landed in 1944.
Director: Charles Crichton
The heist score: 13-million British pounds worth of diamonds
There’s plenty of room for comedy in the heist genre, and leave it to Monty Python vet John Cleese to deliver the laughs in this nutty jewel-theft romp he wrote and starred in.
Along for the hijinks are Jamie Lee Curtis as a sexy con artist and Kevin Kline in an Oscar-winning performance as the pompous, belligerent Otto.
A British black comedy with gobbled goldfish and pet dog assassinations may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for many more this caper brings the funny.