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The Greatest Heist Movies

  • The Usual Suspects

    The Usual Suspects

    It can be argued that this film is not really a "heist" film per se -much of the theft performed in the film was done in very non-heist manners after all. But this wonderful movie is every bit as smart (if not significantly more) than many of the best puritan heist movies you will ever find. Misdirection and incredibly clever foreshadowing is the name of the game in The Usual Suspects.

    The movie is basically about 5 strangers who meet in a police lineup and decide that to take on a job. But as one would suspect, things not exactly what they seem and the 5 quickly find themselves involved in a much bigger issue than what most of them may have been preparing for. Once you get to the very ending, that final twist makes the movie worth watching a second time -with the last reveal giving viewers a completely new insight and perspective on every event that happens. Yes, if you love really smart films: watch this movie, then watch it again. You won't regret it.

  • Heat

    Heat

    This movie centers around the concept that trust between criminals is a very delicate and unstable thing -a cause for human drama often depicted in many heist films (which normally includes crews that consists of criminals). What makes Heat a great film to watch is that despite the greater focus on the characters (as opposed to the nuances of the crimes they are planning to commit), is that the acting is superb. That is not a surprising considering the lineup of actors in this move (De Niro, Pacino, Kilmer, Trejo, etc).

    Heat follows the story of a career criminal and his crew who ends up in the crosshairs of both the police and another criminal group. The result is a story of resilience and endurance as the protagonist embarks on more heists and evades both his nemesis and the police -even earning the shaky yet mutual respect of the lead investigator). It is a relatively old film, but the dialogue, acting, and even the visual choreography makes Heat a great watch even to this day.

  • Inside Man

    Inside Man

    Like The Usual Suspects, this movie makes you think that the entire film is headed in a specific direction as you are brought into the narrative by the protagonist's direct exposition. Then the rest of the film shows you the events that have transpired to lead up to the opening scene. Of course, as a heist film, you already know that there is a twist somewhere along the way. What makes Inside Man so enjoyable to watch is that you get to see a lot of cleverly done stuff even before the final big reveal.

    The main plot of seems simple enough: a bank is held hostage by a group of robbers disguised as painters and a huge chunk of the film is high on the tension between the robbers and the police. Interspersed are scenes post-robbery, interrogations of the many hostages -which instantly clues the viewers into what may have occurred at the end of the event. Read the Empire Review of Inside Man.

  • The Town

    The Town

    The Town is a lot less of a heist film and more a criminals-want-out kind of story. In this move, four friends decide to rob a bank and manage to get away by taking a hostage. One of the robbers, Doug, learns that the hostage lives in the same neighborhood as the group and decides to befriend her in order to make sure that she has no incriminating information about them. As the film continues, the crazy balance between Doug's growing affection for the girl, keeping his friends away from her, the police investigating them, and their ties to the local crime lord begins to unravel. Read the Cinema Blend Review of The Town.

  • The Italian Job (1969)

    The Italian Job (1969)

    Aside from being one of the most cinematically stylish heist films of all time, the Italian Job also boasts of one of the most fun to watch car chase/getaway scenes: yes, that iconic one with the Mini Coopers running though the waterways.

    The story is your classic honor-among-thieves tale with a crew successfully managing to steal the gold but getting quickly stabbed in the back during the first act. The rest of the movie shows the surviving robbers banding together to not only take back the gold they stole, but exacting revenge as well. It's a great film that takes its viewers across the world in a wild chase -but the real gem is in the acting as well, the cast is an ensemble of great talents including Mark Wahlberg, Donald Sutherland, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron and more). Learn more about the Classic British Film at The Italian Job website.

  • Inception

    Inception

    Christopher Nolan's dream-within-a-dream concept for Inception gained quite a positive reaction from viewers and critics alike. The film made full use of the notion that most of the key moments were set inside dreams, allowing for some of the visually stunning, yet surreal environmental effects.

    Inception follows the story of a small crew assembled for the sole purpose of infiltrating a dream and planting a suggestion (and hereby affecting the dreamer's subconscious enough to influence their real life decision making). Unlike most heist films where the crew specializes with dealing with real life security, the specialists in this movie all have unique dream-manipulating skills. One of the most talked about points of the film was the ending with the question of whether or not the whole thing was a dream. Screen Rant discuss the Inception Ending in detail.

  • The Killing

    The Killing

    This 1956 Stanley Kubrick movie is one of the earliest heist movies -but it marks all the staple tropes that would later become iconic bits in later films. The story is simple, but many of the themes would become what is familiar for viewers today. Johnny Clay wants to rob a racetrack as a "one last job" before finally settling down. He gets a crew -composed of both specialists and inside-men. Naturally, the job does not go without a hitch, several problems ensue, as well an unlikely (but expected) betrayal.

    As a classic film, The Killing makes for an excellent reference for modern storytellers. As a film itself, the movie benefits greatly from Kubrick's camerawork, but the pacing and editing is much slower than most modern films. The Killing came 6th on Digital Spy's list of 13 Stanley Kubick films, which is not too Shabby considering the level of competition.

  • Dog Day Afternoon

    Dog Day Afternoon

    If The Killing was a little too old school for your tastes, this is one classic film that has a more modern slant in terms of delivery. The movie is a lot less heist than it is a hostage drama; smalltime crook Sonny Worzik fumbles through a bank robbery and ends up needing to take hostages. However, the inclusion of media in the crisis reveals much about Worzik's motivations and shows that the moral balance of the story is not as clear cut as it seems.

    Despite the fact that there are no careful planning and clever workarounds (which is what most people look forward to in heist movies), Dog Day Afternoon is quick to gain the viewers sympathy for the protagonist thanks to the great dialogue and acting. For those wanting to dig deeper, Mental Floss covers some interesting facts about Dog Day Afternoon.

  • Ocean's Eleven

    Ocean's Eleven

    This ensemble movie starring 11 big Hollywood names has been one of the most often-cited heist movies of the modern age, and it features all the key troupes one would expect to find in a film like this: the big heist plan, elaborate schemes to get into a vault, silly distractions, Murphy's law enacting over and over again during critical moments, and of course, that incredibly clever twist in the very end.

    Danny Ocean, a career thief who believes in principles, is on parole. During this time, he brings together 10 of the most unlikely allies together for his crew in a massive heist that targets the biggest earnings of the Bellagio, one of the largest casinos. The fact that the casino is owned by the same man married to his ex-wife does not go unnoticed by the crew, but they proceed with the insanely complex plan anyway.

    Oceans Eleven was a huge hit when it was released in 2001 and proved hard to surpass with two sequels. That's probably why there's talk of an all female remake of the film.

  • Point Break

    Point Break

    You know that iconic bank robbery scene where all the robbers are wearing masks that look like ex-US Presidents? This is the movie where it came from. Point Break is a different kind of heist movie: instead of being shown from the perspective of the criminals targeting valuables, it is shown from the perspective of an undercover cop who finds himself drawn to the exciting lifestyle of the criminals (which is pretty much the core plot of the first Fast and the Furious movie). This different slant on a heist movie caught the imagination of movie goes beyond the scope of your typical bank robbery/shoot out crowd, which is probably why it ended up being the only movie on the list with an official heist game being produced in it's name.

    In Point Break, Keanu Reeves manages to infiltrate a group of highly successful bank robbers and learn that their motives are far less of the criminal intent and more of the thrill seeking kind. The rest of the film shows the protagonist struggling between his own moral principles and his own emotional attachments. As interesting as this film is, we have to warn you: Patrick Swayze's hair in this movie is ridiculous to look at. Unfortunately someone decided to try hijack an origial movie that didn't need a remake, happily that remake flopped allowing the original to live on in it's own proud spot as the king of the alternative heist movie.

Wrap Up: The Best Laid Plans

The more elaborate the crime, the more interesting it is to watch. After all, watching complex pieces of a giant puzzle falling into place one piece at a time is just exhilarating, especially if there is so much at stake if things end up going wrong. This is the constant tension that is expressed quite eloquently by heist movies.

Of course, the filmmakers have a tough job, not only should they create amazing stories, but there is also the romanticizing of illegal activities, which is a trait in most films that should be delivered not only with style, but also with a bit of moralistic leaning. And with that said, it is amazing how many of these movies are able to make you root for the protagonists without making you feel like wanting to rob a bank on your own.