There’s nothing like a perfectly executed heist movie to thrill audiences and prove a filmmaker’s technical virtuosity. Is it any wonder that so many in the category have been updated and remade? The most memorable ones provide a blueprint for a dashing and daring robbery that keeps audiences guessing. So get your grappling hooks, ski masks, and tight-fitting gloves on — here are the ten that kept us marvelling:
10. Heist (2001)
David Mamet’s always had a thing for sleight of hand, but the frankly-titled Heist is his only written and directed movie to fully indulge in the fun of the genre. Gene Hackman’s con leads his crew, disguised as cops and runway technicians, past airport security to unload gold cargo from a Swiss plane. With a few improvisatory touches, the plan is a wild success — the hard part is staving off Sam Rockwell’s theft of Hackman’s wife.
9. The Killing (1956)
Stanley Kubrick’s second feature was a breakthrough for the director, one that revelled in the tense and violent. The Killing offers an original twist with an nonlinear story structure that keeps the audience constantly guessing: How can a plan that features staged fights, an assassinated race horse, and clown masks be pulled off?
8. Quick Change (1990)
Bill Murray’s sole directorial effort takes the cliché of the heist movie’s most difficult hurdle — the getaway — and elevates it to absurd levels of frustration, with New York City’s cabbies, bus drivers, and cyclicsts conspiring against escape. The bank robbery itself is a surreal thing of beauty, involving Murray’s performance as a wry, gun-wielding Chuckles.
7. The Italian Job (1969)
The original Italian Job,
starring Michael Caine as a swinging ’60s playboy out to pull off
the biggest job of all-time has it all: A wacky ensemble of
specialists (including Benny Hill a computer expert), a breakneck
chase scene with three color-coordinated Mini Coopers, and a gleefully
unresolved cliffhanger at the Swiss-Italy border.
6. Topkapi (1964)
The central conceit of Topkapi‘s
brazen heist scene, involving a pulley devised to prevent the robber of a priceless emerald dagger on display in Istanbul’s Topkapi
Museum from touching the security-sensitive floor, has been copied so
many times (most famously by Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible) that the original is often forgotten. It shouldn’t be, because Jules Dassin’s movie still holds up almost 45 years later.
5. Inside Man (2006)
Spike Lee’s foray into the category saw a more moral and conscientious
motive for its anti-hero thief, played by Clive Owen, whose clever plan includes dressing hostages like robbers so
that cops can’t tell friend and foe apart. Ultimately, the heist exposes the dark
secret of the bank’s founder; Denzel Washington plays the detective at first flummoxed, and then enlightened by his adversary’s plot to take
down that man.
4. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Having helmed classic noir movies like The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, John Huston certainly knew how to film a caper. The Asphalt Jungle
features a cool-as-a-cucumber jewelry store heist whose central event
is rendered in an eleven-minute sequence of criminal professionalism,
until, of course, the best laid plans go awry. Sterling Hayden is the gang’s leader, but Marilyn Monroe steals scenes in the
role that first got her noticed.
3. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
When Steven Soderbergh set out to remake the essential 1960 Rat Pack heist movie, Ocean’s Eleven,
some doubted if he could possibly match the original’s sophisticated
atmosphere of Vegas cool. Soderbergh did so and more, wrangling his
star-studded cast (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia
Roberts) through a giddily paced set of feints and break-ins that empty
out a vault containing the money of not one, not two — but three Vegas
2. Heat (1995)
Michael Mann’s Heat
was so influential in capturing the adrenaline rush of no-frills,
firepower-over-sneakiness heists that it inspired a rash of copycat
robberies. In one of only two movies to bring together Al Pacino and
Robert De Niro, this time as a pursuing cop and a relentless thief locked in a
deadly cat and mouse game, Heat redefined the modern heist as an unpretty, chaotic whirlwind of bullets and death.
1. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
The greatest of heist movies sees king of cool
Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway falling in love across the thin blue
line of the law. McQueen’s smooth burglar plans One Last Job,
Dunaway is the insurance investigator meant to put him behind bars. The
sizzling sexual chemistry is aided by the steamiest chess game in film
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