Cinema’s Greatest Robberies: The Top 10 Heist Films That Stole Our Hearts
Today, we're not going to talk about the usual suspects like Ocean's Eleven or The Italian Job.
1. Quick Change (1990)
To kick off our list, let's wind back to the 90s with Quick Change, a movie that flawlessly combines comedy and crime, and features none other than Ghostbusters star Bill Murray. Murray, alongside Geena Davis and Randy Quaid, plays a trio of hapless robbers whose successful bank heist turns into a disaster when their escape from New York City goes terribly wrong.
Noteworthy for being co-directed by Murray himself, this film offers an amusing take on the genre, with the city's chaotic nature playing a significant role in the protagonists' undoing.
2. The Last Seduction (1994)
No heist list would be complete without a neo-noir entry, and The Last Seduction fills that gap beautifully. Bridget Gregory, played with icy ruthlessness by Linda Fiorentino, is a femme fatale who convinces her husband to sell pharmaceutical cocaine to drug dealers. After he does, she steals the money, leaves him, and then uses her seductive ways to rope an unsuspecting man into her plans in a small town.
Directed by John Dahl, The Last Seduction didn't get a wide release initially because it aired on HBO before hitting theaters, thus disqualifying Fiorentino from an Oscar nomination she very much deserved and even leading to a lawsuit.
3. Flawless (2007)
This Michael Radford directed film is a diamond heist movie set in the 1960s, starring Demi Moore and Michael Caine. Caine plays Hobbs, a janitor at a London diamond corporation, who convinces Moore's character, an executive overlooked because of her gender, to steal diamonds from the corporation's vault. Rotten Tomatoes rates this gem at 55%, but it's a thrilling ride for heist movie lovers with a few twists and turns that will keep you glued to the screen.
4. Welcome to Collinwood (2002)
The Russo Brothers might be synonymous with the Marvel Cinematic Universe today, but long before their superhero saga, they made Welcome to Collinwood, a movie largely overlooked. This ensemble comedy features a group of small-time crooks attempting to steal a safe full of money. The cast boasts familiar faces like William H. Macy, Sam Rockwell, and Patricia Clarkson. George Clooney, who served as a producer for the film, also makes a cameo appearance.
5. Flypaper (2011)
Directed by Rob Minkoff, Flypaper is an intriguing blend of comedy, mystery, and crime. The film sees Patrick Dempsey's character caught in a peculiar situation when two groups of robbers unwittingly converge on the same bank. More comedic chaos ensues when everyone gets trapped inside. The film currently holds a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but don't let that deter you. Flypaper weaves a quirky tale of a heist gone horribly wrong that's worth sticking around for.
6. Bottle Rocket (1996)
Bottle Rocket is the film that marked the directorial debut of the one and only Wes Anderson and introduced the world to Luke and Owen Wilson. The Wilson brothers, alongside Robert Musgrave, play a trio of friends who aspire to become master thieves. Their ambitions lead to a ludicrously planned and poorly executed heist at a local bookstore, followed by an equally inept hotel robbery.
The quirky humor, engaging dialogue, and eccentric characters that would later become Anderson's trademarks are all here. Bottle Rocket bombed at the box office, making only $560,000 against a $5 million budget, but it launched the careers of Anderson and the Wilsons, so there's something.
7. Sexy Beast (2000)
Directed by Jonathan Glazer, Sexy Beast is a British crime thriller that focuses less on the heist and more on the man forced to execute it. Ray Winstone plays Gal Dove, a retired safecracker enjoying the good life in Spain until Ben Kingsley's terrifying Don Logan shows up. Logan pressures Dove into one last job – a challenging heist targeting a well-protected bank's safe deposit boxes.
What makes Sexy Beast stand out is its character-driven plot, focusing on Dove's internal struggle and his past catching up with him. Kingsley's electric performance earned him an Oscar nomination, and the film itself holds a stunning 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.
8. Gambit (1966)
A classic of the 60s, Gambit is a heist comedy that pairs Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine in an unconventional team. Caine plays Harry Dean, a cockney cat burglar who has meticulously planned a heist to steal a priceless statue from the world's richest man. MacLaine plays Nicole, a Eurasian showgirl who is the spitting image of the rich man's late wife and unwittingly becomes a part of Dean's cunning plan. But, as with most heist films, things don't go as planned.
The charm of Gambit lies in its clever plot, witty dialogue, and the undeniable chemistry between Caine and MacLaine, who hardly has any dialogue in the first 20 minutes, yet her screen presence is captivating.
9. The Hot Rock (1972)
Who says heist films have to be high-octane thrillers? The Hot Rock is a case in point, blending the heist genre with subtle comedy. Adapted from Donald E. Westlake's novel, the film follows a group of thieves who can't seem to steal a valuable diamond without having to steal it again...and again. The movie, directed by Peter Yates, features Robert Redford, George Segal, and Zero Mostel. The screenplay was written by none other than William Goldman, who later won an Oscar for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
10. Charley Varrick (1973)
Charley Varrick, directed by Don Siegel, stars Walter Matthau as a crop-duster turned bank robber. He and his gang rob a small bank in New Mexico, expecting a small haul. Instead, they find a massive load of cash that happens to belong to the mob. What follows is a deadly game of cat and mouse as Varrick tries to escape the mob and the police, all while figuring out how to keep the money. It's a taut, well-crafted thriller that boasts a 85% Rotten Tomatoes rating.