In this article we will take a look at the 25 best heist movies of all time. You can skip our detailed analysis of the film industry’s outlook for 2021 and go directly to the 5 Best Heist Movies of All Time.
As long as there have been films, heist movies have been made and if you are wondering about some of the best heist movies of all time, then, yes, you'll heist the top-notch answers from this article.
In the ever-expanding terrain of crime cinema — from films regarding homicide investigations to terrorism, from undercover detective to international spy, and from small-time thugs to big-time gangster — the genre of heist movies captures the attention of a pretty large number of fans.
The State of the Movies and Streaming Industry
In 2019, global box office revenues settled around $42 billion — a new highest threshold — contributing almost one-third of the estimated $136 billion in the value of worldwide movie production and distribution. In 2020 film industry faced a substantial crisis owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and the global box office revenue amounted to $12 billion. It was the sharpest decline for the first time in more than two decades. Owing to the closure of movie theaters and cinemas, the global box office dropped by billions of dollars, and the sole benefactor of this public health crisis has been subscription video on demand (SVOD) platforms such as Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) and The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS)'s Disney+.
Given the popularity of classic movies, Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) has been signing licensing deals with various production houses to bring some of the best movies to its platforms. The company also signed a deal with Sony recently after which Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) will bring some of the most famous and anticipated titles to its platform starting 2022. Reports suggest that Netflix outbid other suitors with a whopping $1 billion bid.
However, Netflix is feeling the pressure of rising competition in the market from other players like
However, Loop Capital recently rejected the concerns around growth of Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) and said that the company might surprise the Street in Q3 and Q4. The firm reaffirmed its Buy rating and a $650 price target for Netflix.
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has become a formidable competitor of Netflix, Inc. (NFLX). Amazon Prime saw a whopping 175 million Prime members streaming TV shows and movies in 2020. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, while announcing the impressive Q1 numbers, said that Amazon Prime streaming hours are up more than 70% on a year-over-year basis. Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) Prime now has 200 million members. The company is reaping the rewards of its heavy investments in the platform. In 2020 alone Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) poured $11 billion in TV series, movies and music for Prime services, a 40% increase when compared to 2019.
Another major player that is wooing the potential subscribers of Netflix is The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS). In February, the company stunned investors by announcing that it Disney+ streaming service had reached over 94 million subscribers. For context, Disney had a goal of reaching the 90 million mark in four years. The achievement shows the demand of original content in the market. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) is also investing heavily in content, with notable titles Pixar’s Soul, The Mandalorian, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, among others.
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels
The Charm of Heist Movies
So, why is it that we gravitate towards heist movies? Whether it's celeb cameos and diamonds stripping scenes in Ocean's Eight or the breath-taking speed of Baby Driver, heist movies render unparalleled rush and keep us on the edge of our seats. A good heist movie always has something which promises a great night of entertainment. Maybe it’s the escapist appeal of the outlaw or maybe it has got something to do with our reveries where we yearn for the thrill of a quick fortune.
A seemingly unfailing plan! An ambitious team of robbers or a beyond-confident mastermind! The priceless haul! An inevitable need to change plans at the last moment! Division of the loot! Conspiracy! High-speed chase and deadly confrontations! The soundtrack of badass tunes! Is there anything about heist movies that can be ignored?
The plot of a heist movie incorporates the 'pre-job', 'job', and then 'post-job' framework. In fact, this basic plot constraint compels directors to present their individual creativity in a way that can undergo comparison. In the beginning age of heist movies, especially the bank robbery movies of the early 1950s, the plots were generally simple and they usually revolved around one key protagonist aiming to make it big. However, with the passage of time and advancement in technology, the narrative was reworked. In the 1970s, we had the beaten-by-fate revolutionary character trying to straighten out all the adversities that have engulfed him. In the 1990s, the audience saw a change in the theme, switching into the classic ‘one final job’ concept which generally featured a con-artist who is looking forward to retirement but wants to pull off one last huge score before living a clean life ahead. As things continued to evolve and change, at the beginning of twenty-first century, the stories started to see deeper complexities and various kinds of suspenseful subplots along with flashbacks and flashforwards. The backstory usually entailed some unusual and tragic family dynamics such as a broken marriage, a dead child, etc. Now the thieves are becoming more tech-oriented, snappy, funnier, and stylish.
Even if you come across a stereotypical heist movie with a familiar setup and predictable plotlines, you will still tune in and find it thrilling to watch the ingenious thieves trying to beat the odds and prevent themselves from getting caught. There's something intriguing about getting a glimpse into the get-rich-quick schemes where the clashing personalities of the characters interweave. The way all the broken pieces of the story click into place, it's kind of fulfilling and satisfactory which chaotic crime movies don't seem to provide. Whether it's the high stakes of the story or the directors and top-notch actors who seem to vouch for this genre, heist movies can turn out to be a memorable experience if the concoction of various ingredients is right.
In the long history of heist movies, there have been many milestones. But which are the best ones? To determine the best heist movies of all time, we have selected the movies that stand out as the excellent concoction of criminal ensemble, planning and execution, character chemistry, unique narrative, and filmmaking intricacy. Our choices span several decades and range from thrillers to comedies. Also, we need to be clear that not all the movies that seem to feature 'heists' in them can be taken as a heist movie. We have considered those movies whose theme and plot revolves around a massive heist or a series of heists. All in all, 'heist(s)' should have the bulky role in the movie's plot. This is the reason why you won't see films like The Place Beyond the Pines on this list. Additionally, if a 'failed heist' is the main part of the movie, then we have considered that. But if a 'failed heist' is the periphery of the movie and if that setting is utilized to tell another type of narrative, then we have not considered those types of movies.
Weighing all these factors, we dived into the genre and picked the 25 best heist movies of all time. So, without further ado, let's look at the top titles.
Best Heist Movies of All Time
25. Now You See Me
This movie features a team of four magicians (Dave Franco, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Jesse Eisenberg) who utilize their unparalleled tricks and ingenuity to somehow pull off difficult robberies. But with Interpol and FBI hot on their tails, and a pissed-off millionaire hunting them like a hungry lion, can they collaborate and pull off their grand finale? This thrilling heist flick, full of twists and turns, operates on a level of fun that is undeniable.
24. Mission Impossible I
Directed by Brian De Palma, Mission: Impossible is a 1996 action spy film in which Tom Cruise played the role of a competent agent Ethan Hunt who had recently joined the IMF. The scenes in the movie are well-crafted, most notably the major set pieces. After becoming the prime murder suspect Hunt recruits a couple of team members to sneak into a heavily guarded CIA building to steal a confidential computer file that would prove him innocent. The CIA Headquarters vault sequence is regarded as one of the best elaborate heist sequences ever committed to film.
The 2020 movie Inception is one of Christopher Nolan's best movies and one among the most innovative heist movies ever. Nolan takes the premise of a heist and incorporates the world of dreams along with the subconscious mind. Whereas the primary concern of the majority of heist films is gold, money, or jewels, inception follows Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team who endeavor to steal the corporate secrets from a competing business titan’s ill son in order to get his criminal record wiped clean.
22. Bonnie and Clyde
This 1967 movie follows the story of real-life criminal couple Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, played by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, who led a gang of bank robbers and outlaws during the Great Depression. The movie features several bank robbery scenes as well as well-filmed chase sequences. The movie depicts shootouts and violence graphically and realistically which led to future releases in Hollywood that capitalized on the darker and dangerous side of crimes. The movie ranks 22nd in our list of best heist movies of all time.
Directed by John Frankenheimer, Ronin is one of the most original entries in the genres. which is best remembered for insane car-chase scenes. Roberto De Niro stars as Sam who is an ex-CIA and a mercenary who leads a group of specialists to steal a mysterious suitcase. But how long will they keep their allegiance intact? Find out yourself.
20. Point Break
The 1991 movie Point Break is one of the earlier features of Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow. It still remains as one of the classic heist movies. Keanu Reeves plays the role of an FBI agent named Johnny Utah who goes undercover to infiltrate a gang of general adrenaline junkies led by Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) who are fond of skydiving and surfing. They are the prime suspects behind a series of bank robberies. Point Break’s combination of incredible bank-robbing action sequences, undercover suspense, and high energy make for a classic heist movie. The movie ranks 20th in our list of best heist movies of all time.
19. Logan Lucky
Years after doing the "Ocean's Eleven" franchise, Steven Soderbergh delivered another great lighthearted heist movie in 2017. Logan Lucky features Adam Driver, Riley Keough, and Channing Tatum want to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway. However, first of all, they need to bring Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), an expert safecracker, out of the prison. A prison break and a heist! The brilliant performances of the cast and witty dialogue scenes make Logan Lucky a charmingly clever and surprisingly stylish heist movie.
18. Bottle Rocket
For his directorial debut, Wes Anderson cast Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson as wannabe robbers who plan the heist of a factory only for things to go horribly wrong. Anderson combines naiveté with the wit and humor of his two main characters. Bottle Rocket ranks 18th in our list of best heist movies of all time.
17. Inside Man
This 2006 heist-hostage film directed by Spike Lee incorporates a gripping tale of bank robbers, a police detective, and a high-power broker. The movie is reinforced with excellent performances of Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Willem Dafoe, Jodie Foster, and Christopher Plummer. Denzel Washington is a detective-in-charge who tries to take control of the heist from outside the bank while Clive Owen is the criminal mastermind inside the bank. The plot takes some shocking twists and turns which may not appear plausible but it’s worth watching for the sake of entertainment.
16. The Italian Job
The Italian Job from 2003 is a better healthy remake and has little to do with the 1969 film that goes by the same name. Even though the plot and characters are just average, the movie is framed through a Hollywood lens of style, crime, and action while being packed with an all-star cast, redemption, and plenty of mini coopers. This movie is more about revenge in which Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) assembles his friends and plans to retrieve solid gold bars worth $30 million from a rat who double-crossed and killed Charlie's mentor. The Italian Job ranks 16th in our list of best heist movies of all time.
15. The Bank Job
This 2008 British heist movie is based on the 1971 Baker Street Robbery which is one of the world's most famous real successful heists. The movie is full of compelling characters and strong dialogue scenes. In the movie, Jason Statham continues to hold his ground as a legitimate dramatic actor. He plays the role of a sleazy and car-dealing crook Terry Leather who is recruited by his crush Martine (Saffron Burrows) to rob a bank in London. After tunneling into a bank vault and accessing safe deposit boxes, Terry discovers something that makes all hell break loose.
The 2001 movie Heist, made, written, and directed by David Mamet, is Gene Hackman’s final performance before he retired from acting in 2004. This tale follows an aging jewel thief, played by Hackman, who tries to pull off one last job before calling it quits. Heist is a well-written thriller full of double-crossing and surprise twists. Heist ranks 14th in our list of best heist movies of all time.
13. The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects is a mind-bending thriller that drags you into a confusing maze. The script won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Kevin Spacey won Oscar for his role of a seemingly helpless con man, Verbal Kint. In the movie, five seasoned criminals happen to meet in the police station and decide to pull a job together. However, when they know that it is Keyser Söze, a fearsome criminal, whose path they have unknowingly crossed, things start to go dead wrong and eventually they find themselves in a massive shootout. The film follows the interrogation of the sole survivor of an elaborate heist. The only problem is how much of the narration can be believed.
12. The Thomas Crown Affair
The 1999 American movie Thomas Crown Affair, written by Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer and directed by John McTiernan, is a remake of the 1968 film of the same name. It stars Pierce Brosnan as Billionaire Thomas Crown who is bored of his luxurious life and starts stealing precious works of art. However, he meets his match when an insurance investigator starts looking into the thefts.
11. Dog Day Afternoon
Inspired by the true 1972 event, Dog Day Afternoon is a classic of anti-establishment cinema in the sense that it takes a different approach to the heist genre. This movie dramatizes a bank robbery carried out by a gay Vietnam veteran for his lover's gender confirmation surgery. Unlike the hardened attitude shown towards the victims, this film illustrates how a first-time offender and a group of empathetic individuals become endeared to them. The panicked state of characters is shown brilliantly and the audience is constantly reminded of the pressures of this kind of crime.
10. Hell or High water
Although less-heard, this movie falls within the top 10 movies of 2016 and it is a serious contender within the heist genre because it procured critical acclaim after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. This movie follows two brothers who come together for a series of bank robberies to save their family farm even though they lie on the opposite sides of the moral compass.
9. The Killing
Stanley Kubrick’s infamous 1956 film debut The Killing is a masterclass suspense thriller that features a career criminal (Sterling Hayden) who assembles a crew and aims to pull off a complex race-track heist which is going to be the last job before retirement. Enlisting the help of a sharpshooter, a corrupt cop, a bartender, a bookie, and a pro wrestler, Preston’s plan seems perfect until betrayal rears its ugly head. Kubrick’s command of the filmmaking craft deftly carries the complex plot across the movie’s sleek 85-minute runtime. The non-linear structure of narrative where the story is told from different people's perspectives has influenced the plethora of movies.
8. Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut Reservoir Dogs is a 1992 motion picture that features an unorthodox non-linear narrative. It succeeds as a heist movie even though we never see the heist happen because the scenes before and after the act are so strong. When a jewelry store robbery goes wrong and it becomes apparent that one of the robbers is an undercover cop, the situation quickly escalates to a lot of finger-pointing and a touch of torture. This classic movie ranks 8th in our list of best heist movies of all time.
7. The Town
Adapted from the Chuck Hogan novel Prince of Thieves, The Town inarguably proves that Ben Affleck is capable of pulling actor-director double-duty by working on both sides of the camera. The movie is set in Boston. Affleck stars as a bank robber called Doug MacRay who finds himself enamored with a bank manager Claire (Rebbeca Hall) he takes hostage during one of his robberies. Things get complicated when Doug's lady love is threatened and he decides to pull one last job. Jeremy Renner stars as Ben Affleck’s psycho friend, and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm as the FBI agent trying to catch the bank robbers before their next heist. You can easily stream this movie on platforms like Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX), The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN).
If you are a fan of daring real heist cases, you might want to take a look at our 7 largest unsolved heists in the world.
The 1981 movie Thief by Michael Mann is about a professional safecracker and a former convict, starred by actor James Caan, who longs for a straight life devoid of criminal pursuits after on one final job that involves an almost impenetrable safe. After that, there are elements of double-crossing and revenge. Thief features some of the best scenes of fiery, authentic safe-cracking in cinema.
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Disclosure: None. 25 Best Heist Movies of All Time is originally published on Insider Monkey.