Top ten Heist films

Everyone likes a good heist.

Stealing from the rich to give to yourself is a prospect I would readily entertain, if not for:

a) the chance of getting shot;

b) the possibility I may have to blast some poor schmuck cashing in his paycheck;

c) the inevitable risk of capture (and the subsequent years of sodomy in an Oz-styled prison).

Thankfully, I have films to act out my gun-toting outlaw fantasies. Following the recent release of The Town on BluRay/DVD, I figured it’s time to don the ski mask, cock the AK and do a quick top ten of the best heist movies.

10: Inception (2010)

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! I don’t usually include films made so recently, however Inception deserves a mention due to the unique nature of the heist. Stealing information from multi-layered dreams is no mean feat, yet Nolan manages to successfully convey an intricate and bewildering heist plan with clear aplomb. It does have its flaws, but these are mostly overshadowed by such an interesting concept.

9: Thief (1981)

Directed By: Michael Mann

Starring: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! Although not the most proficient of Mann’s films, this early work nevertheless struck me with its charm. Professional safecracker Caan risks it all by undertaking a series of final jobs ‘before he retires’… shame this plan doesn’t agree with his Mafioso bosses. Better than LA Takedown, but not of the standard of Heat.

8: The Great Train Robbery (1903)

Directed By: Edwin S Porter

Starring: Gilbert M Anderson, AC Abadie, George Barnes

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! The film that started it all off, this 1900’s cornerstone is one of the first films to include a linear narrative. More importantly, it broke the ‘third wall’ by aiming a gun directly at the camera – needless to say turn of the century viewers were terrified, convinced they were about to get shot. And really, that’s what cinema’s all about.

7: The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

Directed By: Charles Crichton

Starring: Alec Guiness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! Another ‘50’s classic, The Lavender Hill Mob presents the criminal as an everyday working man, who you can’t help but root for. Charming, exciting and funny, this film avoids noir for a lighter look at theft.

6: Ronin (1998)

Directed By: John Frankenheimer

Starring: Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! Although debatable whether this is actual a ‘true’ heist movie (the heist object really exists as more of a MacGuffin), I simply had to include it. For me, this is a near-faultless film, with excellent performances all round and a brilliant comparison of the thief with ancient Japanese warrior exiles. Highly recommended.

5: Rififi (1955)

Directed By: Jules Dassin

Starring: Jean Servais, Carl Mohner, Robert Manuel

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! Notable for a near silent half hour heist sequence (which, incidentally, has been copied by real perps several times), Rififi is a close and personal story that boasts artistry, attention to detail and great characters, rivalling The Asphalt Jungle for best heist noir.

4: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Directed By: Sidney Lumet

Starring: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! In an alternative twist, two bumbling idiots attempt to rob a bank, only to find themselves in a rapidly deteriorating hostage situation. This funny and surprising film from master director Sidney Lumet is a unique addition to the heist sub-genre.

3: The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Directed By: John Huston

Starring: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! This brilliant film noir proves the old adage ‘there is no honour among thieves’, with its double crosses, character betrayals and portrayal of the thief’s self-preserving mindset. Classic cinema.

2: The Italian Job (1969)

Directed By: Peter Collinson

Starring: Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Benny Hill

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! The Italian Job is classic heist fare, notable for it’s crazy Mini Cooper car chases, Caine’s incorrigible charm and dialogue that has been forever quoted. No heist collection should be without it.

1: Heat (1995)

Directed By: Michael Mann

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! For me, Heat is the archetypal heist movie, with high powered robberies, fantastic shoot out sequences and the character play between Pacino and De Niro says everything that needs to be said about cops and robbers. Heists just don’t get better.

List written and compiled by FilmFella Henry @filmfellahenry
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About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

2 Responses to Top ten Heist films

  1. Hazel Scott says:

    Some good ones there, but I may have tried to squeeze in League of Gentlemen (1960). Thank you for leaving out the Oceans… 🙂

    • Thanks Hazel, thanks for the comment. To be honest I was never really a fan of the Ocean films and they are all too common in crime/heist top tens, so I figured I’d leave them out.

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