From elaborate planning and perfect execution to a well-timed getaway and the division of the loot, heist movies are some of the most engaging films out there. Whether you want something more suspenseful with more twists and turns than you can process, or you just want to watch some of the best action scenes around, there’s a heist film out there for you.
The Usual Suspects
If you don’t already know why The Usual Suspects is one of the most enduring crime dramas ever made, we don’t know how you’ve avoided spoilers for this long, but watch it immediately before your luck changes. Director Brian Singer and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie crafted a cult classic based on the retelling of the events of a truck hijacking. With an ensemble cast that includes everyone from Kevin Spacey (in the role that put him on everyone’s radar who hadn’t seen Glengary Glen Ross), Benicio Del Toro (before he got his brain melted in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) to Giancarlo Esposito (long before Breaking Bad), it’d be pretty easy to argue this movie made a lot of careers. Amazon
Inception is a heist movie at its core. The constantly changing environments, twists, turns, totems, incredible performances from the entire cast and some of the best directorial work we’ve ever seen from Christopher Nolan are all built on the solid foundation of “we need to not be seen while doing something illegal.” Sure, they’re trying to get something in rather than take something out, but the basic concept’s the same. They literally break into a vault, so we don’t think it could be much clearer. Amazon
Keanu Reeves is an FBI agent that goes undercover with a band of surfing, skydiving and general adrenaline junkies led by Patrick Swayze that dress up as former US presidents to rob banks. Even Gary Busey’s performance is less insane than that premise, but director Kathryn Bigelow manages to pull everything together stylishly to create one helluva heist movie. Did we mention there are surfing bank robbers? Amazon
The Italian Job
While not necessarily a popular opinion, we like the “remake” better than the original. Outside of the use of traffic as a plot device, the main character’s name and a heist team, The Italian Job from 2003 is almost a completely different movie framed through a more Hollywood lens of action, crime and style. Michael Caine’s original will always be a classic, but the 2003 version with Wahlberg, Theron, Sutherland, Statham, Norton, Green and Mos Def is our pick for most entertaining. Amazon
No list of heist movies would be complete without Rififi, the French noir flick that arguably started the genre as a whole. Based on a crime novel by Auguste Le Breton, Rififi focuses on four men planning and executing a technically perfect crime and the aftermath of the heist when one guy does something stupid. The award-winning film has been heavily borrowed from over the years, but no one has (yet) attempted to recreate the films iconic half hour long, pseudo-silent heist scene that makes it a true classic.
De Niro and Pacino in their first on screen face off. The most epic gun fight that’s ever been filmed. The whole “two sides of the same coin” aspect told from the police and criminal side. Val Kilmer’s best performance since Top Gun. It’s hard to pick one single aspect of Michael Mann’s Heat that we like the most, but one thing’s for sure–it’s one of the greatest heist movies ever made. Amazon
The League of Gentlemen
The League of Gentlemen is a 1960’s British classic that centers on a disgruntled veteran recruiting former colleagues to use their military training and experience to pull off a bank heist. With a combination of detailed planning scenes, a bank robbery in gas masks and a fair bit of comedy, The League of Gentlemen is quite possibly the best heist film you’ve never heard of. Amazon
Before the Bill Murray years, the animated hit and all the awards, Wes Anderson wrote and directed the film Bottle Rocket. The film stars the as-of-then-unknown Wilson brothers who are the center of a “pull a heist and go on the run” plot that’s filled with everything you need in a heist movie, along with a little bit of human connection, love and Anderson’s unique brand of humor. Amazon
You’d think that not actually showing the heist itself would be the downfall of a good heist movie, but that’s not the case with Tarantino’s directorial debut in Reservoir Dogs. The film that cemented the careers of everyone who worked on the movie, from director on down, is still highly watchable to this day because of the fantastic acting, unique storytelling and visual poetry on display by everyone involved. It’s vulgar. It’s violent. Most importantly, it’s a damn good heist film. Amazon
Believe it or not, the same guy that would go on to create everything from 2001 and A Clockwork Orange to The Shining and Full Metal Jacket has one of his earliest credits with a heist film. Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing involves an ex-con planning a complex race-track heist that is ultimately complicated, like most other heist flicks, by the human element. Kubrick’s future works are far more notorious than this, but The Killing is a hard boiled crime and suspense thriller that deserves a spot on any list of great heist movies. Amazon
And then there’s Ocean’s Eleven. With what may be the most star-studded cast ever, director Steven Soderbergh puts the likes of Clooney, Pitt, Roberts, Damon, Garcia and plenty of others to work planning and executing a heist to simultaneously hit three major Vegas casinos. The film is fun, lighthearted, entertaining and will leave you rooting for the probably-not-the-bad-guys the entire way through. It was so successful that it led to Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen. Both of those were good and worth watching if you like this one. Also, did you know it’s a remake? Amazon