The Best Heist Movies, Ranked
You know the formula. A team of thieves has its eyes on a lucrative, difficult-to-steal prize. And they've cooked up an elaborate scheme that can't go wrong. Yet it always does, and plans must change on the fly.
With booty in hand, one of two things typically happens. Either our anti-heroes skate away filthy rich, or things go terribly wrong and everyone winds up dead or in jail.
Welcome to the modern-day heist film, a genre that's been thrilling audiences since the 1950s.
In choosing the movies that best rep the art of stealing money, we've stayed away from basic bank robbery, stick-em-up stories in favor of thefts with more intricate and/or novel plots. Also, the heist(s) should be central to the story (as great as it is, the Lufthansa heist is not the primary focus of “Goodfellas”). As for the take, it matters, but not as much as style and invention.
Director: David Mamet
The heist score: An airplane shipment of gold bars
Blackmailed into pulling one last job before he sails off into the retirement sunset, career thief Gene Hackman and his crew plan the daring heist of a Swiss cargo plane full of gold. Everything that could possibly go wrong does.
The plot's twists and double crosses come fast, and with a David Mamet-penned script, so does the snappy dialogue. In the end, the flick falls a hair short of the heist genre's exciting heights, but it's enjoyable enough and Hackman delivers as usual.
24) “The Bank Job”
Director: Roger Donaldson
The heist score: An unspecified amount of cash, plus compromising photos of British Princess Margaret to be used as blackmail
Based on the true story of 1971's so-called "Baker Street robbery," the job finds down-on-his-luck London car salesman Jason Statham recruiting a gang to underground-tunnel their way into a Lloyd's Bank vault.
Fun plot twists and crackerjack action vault this flick over formulaic heist fare. And you'll be Googling the fascinating real-life heist as soon as the credits roll.
23) “The Score”
Director: Frank Oz
The heist score: A jewel-encrusted sceptre with an estimated value of $30-million
Max (Marlon Brando, in his final film role) pressures longtime partner in crime, safecracker Nick (Robert DeNiro), into pulling off one final heist — the high-concept theft of an antique gold sceptre from the mega-secure Montreal Customs House.
It's a formulaic genre picture all the way, but the acting leads (including Edward Norton) deliver the goods and the payoff satisfies.
22) “Point Break”
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
The heist score: Amount unspecified
"I am an FBI agent!"
Why yes, of course you are, Keanu Reeves. And fans of this modern cult classic are forever grateful for one of the most memorable so-bad-it's-great acting performances in movie history.
Also along for the action-packed ride? Patrick Swayze, who co-stars as the quasi-mystical Bodhi, leader of a SoCal surfer gang that moonlights as the Ex-Presidents – bank heist specialists wearing latex masks of former chiefs like Nixon and Reagan. Two robberies occur on screen, but exact loot amounts aren't mentioned.
No worries, brah. Ease back and settle in for 2 hours of "one hundred percent pure adrenaline!"
21) “Sexy Beast”
Director: Jonathan Glazer
The heist score: A vault full of safe-deposit boxes
Only an actor as skilled as Ben Kingsley could go from famously playing prince-of-peace Gandhi in 1982 to portraying a violent, sociopathic criminal who helps set in motion the underwater heist of a London bank vault. At turns brutal, absurd, and downright bizarre, this film turns the heist genre on its head.
Should you see it? "Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!"
20) “Quick Change”
Directors: Howard Franklin, Bill Murray
The heist score: $1 million
A fed-up New Yorker named Grimm (Bill Murray) disguises himself as a circus clown and stages a clever Manhattan bank heist along with his accomplices: girlfriend Phyllis (Geena Davis) and dim-witted pal Loomis (Randy Quaid).
The comic caper works perfectly until the trio try to flee the city on a flight out of JFK, along the way encountering a series of misfortunes that make escape tougher than the actual robbery. A funny ride, it's a must for Murray fans who may have let this one slip under their radar.
19) Ocean's Thirteen
Director: Steven Soderbergh
The heist score: $250-million worth of diamonds, and ruining casino boss Willy Bank
After the smug, self-indulgent mess that is “Ocean's Twelve,” the third installment of the modern-day "Ocean's" franchise, “Ocean's Thirteen,” returns to the Las Vegas caper fun of director Soderbergh's 2001 flick.
This go-round, Al Pacino is aboard as unscrupulous casino/hotel boss Willy Bank, who is opening Ocean's crew's latest casino target, "The Bank."
18) “The Italian Job”
Director: Peter Collinson
The heist score: $4-million worth of gold bullion
Was Mike Myers' famed Austin Powers character partially based on Michael Caine's groovy playboy persona in this swingin' '60s' comic caper? "Yeeah, baby!"
Though beautifully shot in the Italian Alps and the city of Turin, where Caine's crew aims to rob an armored truck full of gold, the film tends to drag. So much so, the 2003 "Italian Job" remake starring Mark Wahlberg bests the original.
Regardless, one of the heist genre's pioneering flicks is well worth the Mini Cooper ride. And the ending is a literal cliffhanger.
17) “Logan Lucky”
Director: Steven Soderbergh
The heist score: Unknown
Director Soderbergh, of "Ocean's" franchise fame, has called this comic caper "an anti-glam version of an Ocean's movie." Exit smooth operator George Clooney's high-tech heists of Vegas casinos. Enter unemployed construction worker Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) and his blue-collar family (Adam Driver, Riley Keough) hatching a plot to rob NASCAR's Charlotte Motor Speedway on the day of a big race.
Oddball characters, brisk pacing, and plenty of laughs push this caper across the finish line with winning colors.
16) “How to Steal a Million”
Director: William Wyler
The heist score: A Benvenuto Cellini sculpture valued at $1-million
In this featherweight yet crowd-pleasing heist, Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole team up to swipe a million-dollar sculpture from a Paris art museum. Despite heaps of mid-1960s' rom-com corniness, the clever caper's plot twists keep your eyes glued until the credits roll.
Speaking of which, watch for the great Charles Boyer playing a Parisian art dealer.
15) “Reservoir Dogs”
Director: Quentin Tarantino
The heist score: Diamonds worth an unspecified amount
Proving you can make a great heist movie without ever showing the actual heist on screen, Tarantino's directorial debut instead focuses on the planning and bloody aftermath of a jewel robbery gone fatally wrong.
Unabashedly taking style cues from pictures like Kurosawa's "Rashomon" and Kubrick's "The Killing" (later on this list), Tarantino's modern classic is a well-told story with a terrific cast, including Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and 1940s' film noir stalwart Lawrence Tierney.
14) “The Asphalt Jungle”
Director: John Huston
The heist score: $500,000 to $1-million worth of jewelry (exact amount unspecified)
Before starring in Stanley Kubrick's classic "The Killing" (later on this list), Sterling Hayden teamed up for a cinematic heist with another none-too-shabby director: John Huston.
In an anonymous Midwestern town, Hayden joins a crew that pulls off a meticulously executed jewelry store robbery. Naturally, it's all downhill from there as the perfect crime collapses in betrayal among the thieves. Starkly realistic, this highly influential film noir inspired several movies on this list, including the No. 1 choice.
13) “The Italian Job”
Director: F. Gary Gray
The heist score: $35 million in gold bullion
If there's any justice in Hollywood, the writers of the movie’s painfully cheesy dialogue will have their computers stolen. But otherwise this remake of the 1969 British movie of the same name edges the original as far as plotting and action.
In the updated “The Italian Job,” Mark Wahlberg and his crew, including Donald Sutherland and Edward Norton, execute an exciting gold robbery in Venice, Italy before there's a double-cross and the action moves to Los Angeles for a revenge heist featuring a trio of tricked-out BMW Mini Coopers that steal the show.
12) “Ocean's 11”
Director: Lewis Milestone
The heist score: Amount unspecified
Sure, the 2001 remake starring George Clooney is a better flick. But by no means should you dismiss the Rat Pack's original ring-a-ding scheme to simultaneously rob five Las Vegas casinos (for you trivia buffs, they're the Sahara, Riviera, Desert Inn, Sands and Flamingo) on New Year's Eve.
Not only is it a swingin' time capsule of the Vegas Strip circa 1960, you'll receive an education in old-school cool.
11) “Kelly's Heroes”
Director: Brian G. Hutton
The heist score: $16 million in gold bullion
A heist picture? A World War II action comedy? A subversive anti-war satire?
“Kelly's Heroes” is all three, wrapped up in a explosive caper that finds Clint Eastwood guiding a band of misfit World War II soldiers (Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Donald Sutherland) behind enemy lines to steal a cache of Nazi gold.
Also deserving of a prize are viewers who can explain how Sutherland's groovy 1960s' hippie character, Oddball, landed in 1944.
10) “A Fish Called Wanda”
Director: Charles Crichton
The heist score: 13-million British pounds worth of diamonds
There's plenty of room for comedy in the heist genre, and leave it to Monty Python vet John Cleese to deliver the laughs in this nutty jewel-theft romp he wrote and starred in.
Along for the hijinks are Jamie Lee Curtis as a sexy con artist and Kevin Kline in an Oscar-winning performance as the pompous, belligerent Otto.
A British black comedy with gobbled goldfish and pet dog assassinations may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for many more this caper brings the funny.
9) “Jackie Brown”
Director: Quentin Tarantino
The heist score: $500,000
This criminally underrated Tarantino reel finds down-on-her-luck flight attendant Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) busted for her role in a money smuggling scheme with an illegal gun runner (Samuel L. Jackson), who’s wanted by ATF agents.
Forced into a sting operation, Brown double-crosses them all in a suspenseful heist that doesn't rely on explosions or flying bullets for thrills, but rather goes down quietly and cleverly in a shopping mall.
Who knew Quentin had subtlety in him?
8) “The Thomas Crown Affair”
Director: Norman Jewison
The heist score: $2.6 million
Bored millionaire Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) masterminds a perfect crime, robbing a Boston bank without dirtying his own hands.
But not so fast.
The bank's insurance investigator, played by Faye Dunaway, is on to Crown, and you know what comes next: a cat-and-mouse game turned into one of those love affairs that rarely end happily ever after.
7) “Inside Man”
Director: Spike Lee
The heist score: A bank vault full of money. Or is it?
New York City detective Denzel Washington attempts to match wits with bank heist mastermind Clive Owen in Spike Lee's clever cat-and-mouse caper that's more complex than it appears (think "Dog Day Afternoon" meets "The Usual Suspects").
Lee seems incapable of making a movie under two hours, so the proceedings drag on a tad too long, but the puzzle's payoff is worth it.
Director: Jules Dassin
The heist score: An emerald-encrusted dagger that once belonged to Sultan Mahmud I
Maximilian Schell plays a cool-cat master thief who heads a crew with its heist sights set on a priceless, bejeweled dagger on display in Istanbul's Topkapi Palace museum.
A lighthearted caper, Topkapi has inspired many heist movie imitators, yet precious few can top its old-school, nail-biting robbery sequence.
In addition to the jewels, Peter Ustinov bagged Oscar gold for his supporting role as a bumbling, small-time hustler.
5) “The Usual Suspects”
Director: Bryan Singer
The heist score: $91-million cocaine shipment
It's been called overrated and too clever for its own good, but there's no denying you'll ever forget the plot twists and turns in this heist/whodunit flick that garnered Oscar gold for its screenwriter and the now radioactive Kevin Spacey (#MeToo).
Director: Michael Mann
The heist score: $1.6 million in bearer bonds and $12.2 million cash
Working from a solid script that avoids many heist movie clichés and focuses on the characters, Mann's absorbing crime flick has the distinction of being the first movie in which Robert De Niro (a career thief) and Al Pacino (the detective on his tail) share the screen together.
It's a taut tale that erupts when the final bank heist ends in a hail of bullets.
3) “Ocean's Eleven”
Director: Steven Soderbergh
The heist score: $160 million
This reboot of the Rat Pack classic proves you can improve on the original.
In interviews, star George Clooney has rightly said he and his crew can never touch the effortless cool of Frank, Dino and Sammy, yet even diehard Sinatra devotees admit this elaborate, breezily paced Las Vegas heist (robbing the Bellagio casino's vault) is a far slicker, funnier ride.
2) “The Killing”
Director: Stanley Kubrick
The heist score: $2 million
Fresh out of prison, a thief (Sterling Hayden) plans to rob a horse race track's money-counting room on the day of a big race, and he's enlisted a team of shady conspirators to play various parts in his intricate scheme.
While that sounds like your typical heist movie, in the hands of director Kubrick, it's anything but.
The movie hops around chronologically, scenes are replayed from different character's perspectives, the camerawork is superb, and by the time this caper crosses the finish line, you'll realize where director Quentin Tarantino pilfered a lot of ideas for his 1992 heist flick “Reservoir Dogs.”
Director: Jules Dassin
The heist score: 240-million francs worth of diamonds
Before director Dassin made “Topkapi” (see #6), he laid the blueprint for the modern heist picture with this French film noir that was banned by Paris police fearing real-life crooks would use it as an instruction manual.
Yes, you'll have to read English subtitles (the horror!), however not during the movie's famed, 28-minute centerpiece sequence: the meticulous, white-knuckle robbery of a jewelry store that plays in silence without dialogue or music.
In more than six decades, no other movie on this list has topped it, so here's your ultimate score.