The heist movie subgenre has seen a lot of great entries over the decades. Whether or not they have simple premises, lovers of the genre appreciate them. People sometimes want to live vicariously through the characters, as though they could embark on high-stakes tasks to make money. By watching others do it, they engage in the next best thing. From Quentin Tarantino to Stanley Kubrick, heist movie titles will satisfy lovers for years abound.
Some of these movies stand out from the pack as superior. Check out the best heist movies of all time.
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
A movie featuring Matt Damon, George Clooney, Elliott Gould, and Julia Roberts, and directed by the brilliant Steven Soderbergh, can seldom go wrong. And when they all work together on a heist film? Strap in, because it'll rock. This film takes viewers through wild turns and twists, keeping them on the edge of their seats with every moment. This remake of the 1960 Rat Pack movie of the same name almost outperforms the first movie.
The movie takes viewers through the plot of Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his friend Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) as they scheme to steal $160 million from a casino. They pitch the plan to their wealthy friend Reuben Tishkoff, who owns a casino. Rueben agrees to finance their plan and the two men recruit eight others. A detailed, twisty, and suspenseful plot unravels, culminating in one of cinema's most loved heists.
Ocean Eleven continues to be the go-to movie for heist movie lovers, and its endurance over the years proves that they've never made a mistake in watching it.
The Italian Job (2003)
Heist movies can addict watchers. The heightened tension during a heist can hook a casual viewer. Then they wouldn't just want to see how it'll end, they'd also want their heroes to win. The Italian Job induces that effect. This band of expert smugglers and robbers may seem in control, but the situations they get into challenge this notion.
Charlie Choker (Mark Wahlberg), the gang leader, always holds the pack together. He never gave up after the team got cheated by a former member, making away with their cash. So, revenge also fueled their need to steal. This made for an entertaining movie all around.
The Italian Job might bear the same name as its 1969 predecessor, but the two movies stand apart and remain superb in their own right.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Legendary filmmaker Quentin Tarantino burst onto the scene with this classic heist movie. The film has sharp and biting dialogue. Tarantino tells an engaging story while showing off some of his trademark motifs like non-linear plotting, exaggerated violence, pop culture references, and more.
This story jumps back and forth between the present and past, following a gang with names like White, Orange, Blue, and Blonde, carrying out a diamond heist that goes wrong. The characters don't appear likable because they seem on the verge of betraying the group. But the movie provides enough entertainment to make up for that.
Grossing 2.8 million after its release, Empire named the movie “Greatest Independent Film of All Time.”
Sexy Beast (2000)
Director Jonathan Glazer and actors Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone come together to create magic. Though the film marks Glazer's directorial debut, it shows no naivety in its narrative.
It follows Gary ‘gal' Dove (Whinstone) as he tries to fend off Don Logan (Kingsley), a former criminal associate who wants him to take on one last heist.
Gary insists he no longer lives a life of crime and wants to remain in Spain with his wife and friend. But the fearsome sociopath Don Logan pays him no mind. The criminal continues to plant obstacles for Gary, who evades them with skill, until they face a reverberating clash. For most of the movie, the bank robbery gets relegated to the background, and viewers see the brute force with which the characters attack and repel each other like a sparring match.
Ben Kingsley's performance in the movie earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
This French noir has one of the most pulsating heist scenes ever. For 28 minutes, an iconic burglary in a Parisian jewelry store takes place without a single word from the characters. The scene, entirely devoid of sound, gets amped up every minute as the stakes for the robbery rise. Director Jules Dassin lets the scene play out without interruption. The result, a nail-biting sequence, has put viewers on the edge of their seats for decades.
This scene somewhat contrasts the rest of the movie, where little action happens. Viewers will have to employ a little patience.
Out of Sight (1998)
Before George Clooney took over Frank Sinatra's role in Ocean's Eleven, director Steven Soderbergh cast him in another iconic role: Jack Foley in Out of Sight.
When Jack, a seasoned bank robber, escapes prison, he runs into U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez). She alerts the prison guards, but Jack kidnaps her and takes off in her car. A romantic relationship develops between the two on the outside with each character unwilling to give in to the other.
The movie, adapted from Elmore Leonard's 1996 novel of the same name, inspired a spin-off TV series and picked up two Academy nominations.
This mind-bending Christopher Nolan film has captivated movie lovers since its release. The plot features Leonardo DiCaprio (Cobb), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Arthur), and Cylian Murphy (Fischer) as a team of professional thieves who enter the dreams of their targets to plant and retrieve information.
When Cobb gets an offer to erase his criminal history, he accepts. The job, which involves taking someone's idea and planting it in a target's subconscious, seems like a challenge. Cobb gets to work putting together his team and building the architecture of his false dream. But soon enough, the job becomes more complex than they ever imagined.
Christopher Nolan takes the heist movie to another level. He warps reality, defies gravity, and bends time and space to bring audiences this awe-inspiring movie.
Inside Man (2006)
This movie centers on a robbery-turned-hostage situation in a Manhattan bank. As Hollywood hostage movies go, the situation often allows for tension that stretches taut for the film's duration.
Two men play key roles in this movie: Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington), the NYPD's hostage negotiator, and Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), the mastermind who orchestrates the heist. These men go toe-to-toe in the battle of wits and strategy. Each time Detective Keith thinks he has gotten ahead of Russell, he finds a twist somewhere, something he missed before.
Viewers might easily take one man's side in the movie, dismissing the other. But as the hostage situation progresses, the moralities and motivations of both Dalton and Frazier begin to change, and so might the viewer's position, too.
The Town (2010)
Adapted from Chuck Hogan's 2004 novel Prince of Thieves, Ben Affleck takes on the multitask of co-writing, directing, and starring in this crime drama.
Amidst a robbery and mayhem, this heist movie blooms a beautiful love story. Douglas “Doug” MacRay (Ben Affleck) and his lifelong best friends rob a bank wearing masks. Doug secretly tails the bank manager later to her home to find out how much she had told the police. An unexpected turn of events gets Doug and the bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), involved with each other, and soon they find love. Claire has no idea Doug robbed her bank, and he doesn't intend to tell her. But his friends find out about their relationship and use it to threaten him into one last bank heist.
Fast Five (2011)
The Fast and Furious franchise may have lost some love, having extended much further than the fans' interest can stretch. Once upon a time it used to capture the hearts of loyal fans.
Fast Five, the fifth installment in the series, generated a lot of buzz. Coming directly after the Fast and Furious movie that generated a cult following in 2009, it had the challenge of doing just as well. It delivered.
The transition from the street racing themes that dominated the earlier films first happened in Fast Five. The gang no longer raced each other on the open roads, instead going into full heist mode. Fans loved every bit of it.
The Killing (1956)
A “one last heist” movie directed by the iconic Stanley Kubrick would focus on anything but a last heist. Kubrick's rendering of Lionel White's novel Clean Break on screen portrays humans in their most basic state of greed. He paints a stark picture of betrayal and gritty crime and, in the end, shows the futility of it all.
Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), a criminal mastermind, intends to put his bad days behind him by planning the biggest heist. He assembles a team that covers every aspect of the job. He intends to simulate the activities that often play out around a horse racetrack. Gambling, fighting, corrupt cops, and the like. By creating an artificial chain of events, he can misdirect people's attention and use the time to rob the money-counting room. The heist goes well until…it doesn't.
The movie didn't get much appreciation upon its release, but over the years, it has become accepted as one of Kubrick's most satisfying works.
Baby Driver (2017)
Babies can't drive cars; Baby can. This delightful movie features an unusual member of a heist group, the boyish-looking Baby (Ansel Elgort), whose out-of-this-world driving skills put him in high demand. Many movies have centered the perspective of the driver in the heist. But Baby Driver does something different by reinventing the character himself. This driver can't hit the gas without an earphone in his ears and music serenading his mind.
Baby doesn't seem interested in the heist, but his surrogate father (Kevin Spacey) manages to rope him into a deal that ensures he stays one last time. Baby falls in love with a waitress and tries to get out, but he needs to man up if he intends to come against his father and the gang.
The Angel's Share (2012)
Despite the serious subject matter, this movie's lighthearted tone drew viewers in. The comedy-drama directed by Ken Loach tells the story of a man who, despite narrowly escaping prison, gets involved in the robbery of a whisky distillery.
The movie dishes out social realism and compliments it with humor and heart. The Angel's Share makes for a cozy heist movie enjoyable to lovers of the subgenre who don't necessarily dig the high-speed car chases and hostage situations.
The Bank Job (2008)
Based on real-life events, director Roger Donaldson tells his alternate version of a mysterious heist after the robbers enter the bank vault.
Rumors abound about what happened, one of which holds that the story didn't leak because of the involvement of a key member of the British Royal Family. The movie, however, seemed heavily fictionalized.
The film features Jason Statham as Terry Leather and Saffron Burrows as Martin Love. Martin draws Terry into a high-stakes bank heist. But, as many criminals in heist movies realize, the job posed a more complicated task than they imagined.
Logan Lucky (2017)
Veteran director Steven Soderbergh came out of retirement to direct this movie. He also felt confident enough in the film to distribute it through his own company.
Channing Tatum and Adam Driver play the Logan brothers, Clyde and Jimmy. They also recruit their sister Mellie (Riley Keough) to hatch an elaborate plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a NASCAR race.
Chisom is a Lagos-based fiction writer, poet, book reviewer, film critic, and entrepreneur. He holds a degree in English literature. Chisom is particularly interested in books and films and how the former medium is sometimes translated into the latter. He also enjoys writing science fiction and investigating the places the genre intersects with fantasy. His stories and non fiction writings usually focus on Black people and Africans being recognized in spaces where they have been historically marginalized. Chisom loves attending writers conferences and enjoys hanging out with fellow writers from all walks of life. When he's not watching movies or writing about fantastical things, he's tweeting about movies and fantastical things at izom_chisom. His work have appeared on Second Skin Mag, Omenana, Apex Mag, Isele, Sci-fi Shorts, All Worlds Wayfarers, and Mythaxis. He now writes for Wealth of Geeks and his geeky interests include mind-bending scifi films, high fantasy TV, horror, and comic book characters.