You can usually expect that the criminals in a heist film won't get a happy ending, but it's still an underdog story that's exciting to watch. Once in awhile, against all odds, they pull it off. and I like to think we're cheering for a victory of intelligence and work more than a victory of crime. I don't want to see criminals with a barely thought out plan get away with it, but I love to see a brilliant plan, perfectly executed, succeed. But most of the time, these are cautionary tales, which get us caught up in the planning and the process enough to cheer, until we remember that there are many people involved, and our hopes turn to wondering how long it will be until someone messes it up and the grand heist goes from car chase to car wreck in no time.
I've tried to pick my top ten, but there are many I would love to have included but I'm trying for some variety. Off the top of my head, I could have easily picked Le Cercle Rouge, which is a wonderful film but has some similarities to others on the list, or Heat, but I already picked Thief, another of Michael Mann's films which I thought was more centered on the heist aspect, while Heat was more about firepower. Reservoir Dogs could have made it, as a heist was central to the plot, but it mostly skipped the "heist itself" act of the heist film, and so on. There are also many con man movies which could be seen as heists of sorts. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
10)TheThomas Crown Affair
Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) justifiably had plans to be a big hockey star until a car accident changed everything for him physically and mentally. He now has little short term memory, a fact he compensates for with a notebook. He ends up working as a janitor at a bank. Once a town celebrity he now sticks to hanging out with his room mate Lewis (Jeff Daniels) who is blind. A seemingly random encounter with an ex school associate, Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) who seems to take a real interest in him, leads to a sense that things are turning around. Gary builds the idea that he can be "popular" again, even enlisting a girl named Luvlee (Isla Fisher) to help persuade him. He enjoys the feeling, but soon realizes they're using him for a heist they have planned. They know that his job as a janitor will let them get in the bank without setting the alarm off. He attempts to stop the heist, and all but two of the crew are shot when a deputy shows up. The deputy is also killed and Gary is wounded, but Chris gets away with the money and buries it, near where his accident happened. Gary knows that Lewis is important to Chris, so he and the other robber, kidnap him to force a trade. They underestimate Chris due to his condition, however and the trade doesn't go how they would have liked. Scott Frank, both wrote and directed the Lookout, and he should be proud. It serves as both an interesting character study and an exciting thriller. The Heist itself isn't complex, as most of the robber's prep work was taking advantage of Chris' disability and background which are presented by Gordon-Levitt well enough that the story and his actions makes perfect sense.
8) Point Break
(click here for full review)
6) The Usual Suspects
(click here for full review)
A different kind of heist film in that it uses every element that we love from heist films and uses them to misdirect us. We have the top notch crew and the perfect job as well as the "last job." Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) spends the film directing his own heist story to his eager audience, Agent Kuljan (Chazz Palminteri) This story is only believable due to the characters he includes, Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne,) Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin,) Freddy Fenster(Benicio Del Toro,) Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak,) criminals all suddenly in debt to the mythical "Keyser Soze" With such entertaining characters working against such high stakes it's easy to forget that the real question is "Who is Keyser Soze?" An exciting and unusual twist on the genre fron Bryan Singer.
5) Inside Man
While an elaborately planned bank job is central to the movie, the heist itself isn't nearly as interesting as the progression of shifting loyalties before and after. Doc McCoy (Steve McQueen) can handle just about anything except knowing his wife Carol (Ali McGraw) slept with slimy Jack Beynon (Ben Johnson) to get him released, but still on the hook to plan a heist under Beynon's own conditions (using his men.) Beynon himself doesn't end up being too difficult to handle, except that he has friends, including Rudy (Al Lettieri) who "helped" with the heist but isn't as dead as McCoy thinks when he shoots him, and wants the money for himself. Rudy's depravity makes Doc (and most people) look classy. The Getaway, is the kind of mean degenerate world that Sam Peckinpah excels at, loud, bright and dirty. Doc and Carol are a great team when they can manage to trust each other.
3)The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Tony is an experienced thief fresh out of prison and not in a rush to go back. He initially turns down his friend Jo's offer to assist he and another old friend Mario, breaking into and robbing a jewelry store. He changes his mind when he discovers his old girlfriend Mado has taken up with local gangster, Grutter. Enraged, he beats Mado and proposes a perfect plan to rob the store. Rather than just cutting the window and grabbing jewelry, Tony wants to go for the safe downstairs. They enlist Cesar a master safe cracker, to help and they lay out an intricate plan to deal with the store's state of the art security. The perfect crime goes off without a hitch, except that Cesar pocketed a diamond ring, which he gives to his girlfriend who works for Grutter. Already upset that Tony's beating inspired Mado to leave him, Grutter makes the connection and goes after the crew mercilessly. Tony's hatred for Grutter is just as strong however, leading the two to a showdown, once everyone on the periphery is out of the way. "Rififi" is a miraculous film in that Jules Dassin directed it while blacklisted by Hollywood, for a budget of under $200,000.00 and it still looks brilliant today. The heist scene itself is a marvel, being a quarter of the movie and feeling very much in "real time." I didn't realize, until it was pointed out, that there was no speech or music during the entire sequence. It's just that riveting.
1)The Asphalt Jungle