There’s nothing like a heist film, where a group of charismatic anti-heroes pull off unimaginable feats of planning, deception, and daring. Some are conjured out of filmmaker’s imaginations, while others are based on a true story. Here are the most iconic heist films of all times.
This 2001 classic by Steven Soderbergh features a ton of A-list actors, and all of them delivering A-game performances. With head honcho Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney), this colorful crew unfolds one of the most elaborate and riveting heist plot lines of all time. For $160 million bucks, this unlikely group of robbers gain off the lives of terrible, wealthy people, so we feel a little less guilty enjoying them perfect their score.
The Usual Suspects
This 1995 film staring Kevin Spacey and Stephen Baldwin is a ’90s time capsule. Some crooks who meet in a police lineup plan a heist and get mixed up with drug kingpin Kayser Söze. The payoff is supposedly $91 million dollars worth of cocaine, but like any good heist movie, this one is full of surprises. This heist movie is equal parts psychological thriller thanks to the twist at the end that will have everyone’s jaw drop. It’s even more satisfying than the heist payoff.
Since we were already on the topic of twists and turns, we found it fitting to follow up with Christopher Nolan’s 2014 flick, “Inception,” where the protagonist of the film is a robber with a unique specialty — the ability to infiltrate someone’s dreams to steal information. This science fiction drama will change the way you think about dreams, in the least cheesy way ever. The dream trope can be an annoying one in films, and Nolan is well aware of that. Instead, this movie messes with our ultimate notions of reality and leaves viewers’ minds spinning months after they watch it.
This 1992 film by Quentin Tarantino was a massive defining point in the shock-genre director’s career. Filled with extreme violence and massacres, sharp, offensive dialogue and abstract storytelling, this movie is widely considered a masterpiece by anyone who sees it — not just film buffs. The mysterious, sunglass-wearing men involved are Mr. Blue, Mr. Blond, Mr. Orange, Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink and Mr. White, who complete a memorably botched diamond heist. Poetry, in the form of larceny.
Dog Day Afternoon
Directed by Sidney Lumet, “Dog Day Afternoon” depicts the true story of a bank robbery gone awry one hot summer day in 1975. It is also perhaps the earliest notable example of a film with transgender themes, as Sonny, played by Al Pacino in one of the greatest performances of all time, commits the crime in an attempt to pay for his lover’s sex-change surgery. In a very memorable Brooklyn stakeout, Sonny starts to realizes the consequences of his actions for his family. The tension is unbelievable, but it also has moments of comedy due to the amateur and unlucky nature of the robbery, capturing what an everyman’s heist would probably look like.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow in 1991, “Point Break” stars Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, and Keanu Reeves. Their operation is run by Bodhi, who is a mastermind in all things criminal and surfing, but has a quick temper. This group of adrenaline junkies rob banks together — their specialty is cash drawers, and they wear the masks of ex-presidents, which is also the name of their gang. Action aficionados will appreciate this bro-friendly heist film complete with skydiving, shooting, and big-wave surfing.
In 2006, Spike Lee brought us this famous Clive Owen and Denzel Washington film. Dalton, a strangely motivated robber, is played by Owen. He’s a genius career criminal who decides to rob a New York City bank, and turns a supposedly straightforward hostage situation into a very complex one, all under the eye of Washington, who plays the case detective. The payoff is some jewels and Nazi regalia linked to the bank’s chairman. This movie is also a love story with NYC and cultural melting pots.
Bonnie & Clyde
This 1967 based-on-a-true-story film, set in the Depression, is one of the OG heist films — it even managed to precede “Dog Day Afternoon.” A listless waitress sees a handsome man outside her house contemplating to carjack her mother. She confronts him and rather than calling the cops, the two of them end up sticking up a general store together. The banks in this time period aren’t doing well, and so they recruit a driver, Clyde’s brother and his wife, turning them into Depression-era legends. The film was also iconic on how it displayed violence for its time.
One of Ben Affleck’s shining directorial moments, “The Town,” made in 2010, is ultimately about a man in Boston who wants to reinvent himself. The titular “town” is Charlestown, Boston, and in it, crime is passed down from generation to generation like a tradition that’s just as good as a prison sentence. Doug, played by Affleck, can’t fully grasp the clout of this inheritance, but when local thugs threaten his girl, his inner criminal comes out and he decides to enlist his friend Jem, played by Jeremy Renner, who has just gotten out of jail. The result is blunt and bloody.