15 Best Heist Movies Of All Time, Ranked

Summary

  • Rififi (1955)
  • Snatch (2000)
  • How To Steal A Million (1966)

The best heist movies fuse elements of many different genres. They encompass a broad range of stories and filmmaking styles because they are so adaptable. As long as a team of characters is all working together to steal something, then it falls under the category of a heist movie. The genre isn’t restricted to any tone, time period, or particular style. Of course, the heist genre has more than its fair share of stereotypes, but the best filmmakers know how to use these to their benefit.

The heist genre has produced some of cinema’s most gripping thrillers and some of its funniest comedies. Violence features frequently, like in Snatch and Point Break, but it isn’t a necessity. Other movies use a heist as the perfect excuse to craft a slick mystery, with the criminals outsmarting their victims without them ever knowing they were there. Whichever approach a heist movie decides to take, some stand out above the competition.

underrated-heist-movies Related 10 Underrated Heist Movies That Deserve More Love

Heist movies can be some of the best as they combine intelligent planning, witty humor, and creative characters portrayed by a team of actors.

15 American Animals (2018)

A True-Crime Story Of Young Amateur Art Thieves

American Animals american animals

Four young men decide to try to carry out one of the most daring robberies in the history of the United States, forgetting the fact that they are just amateurs.

Release Date August 14, 2018 Cast Evan Peters , Blake Jenner , Barry Keoghan , Jared Abrahamson , Eddie Kingston Runtime 116 min

Most heists target large stacks of cash or priceless jewels. Thefts involving rare illustrations of birds, as in American Animals, are less common. The movie stars Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan as Warren Lipka and Spencer Reinhard, the aspiring thieves who are initially very hard to take seriously. They come off as normal young men who get swept up in an idea and it is almost shocking when they are actually in the midst of the job.

It is as if they were people who watched too many heist movies and suddenly found themselves in the middle of one. The film blends fact with fiction, as actors appear alongside the real people their characters are based on. There are elements of true crime that punctuate the action, such as retrospective interviews. This results in a peculiar and engaging drama with real heft.

American Animals innovates within the heist genre. The presence of hard facts within the movie relates the crime back to the victims and the morality of theft. Heist films often invite audiences to support a gang of criminals, but American Animals questions this enthusiasm.

14 Point Break (1991)

An FBI Agent Targets A Group Of Thrill-Seeking Bank Robbers

Point Break (1991) Point Break (1991) R Where to Watch

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In Southern California, bandits wearing masks of former US presidents commit a series of bizarre bank robberies. Federal agent Johnny Utah infiltrates the gang suspected of carrying out the crimes. Led by the charismatic Bodhi, the group of surfers is addicted to the adrenaline rush of robbery. The problem is that Utah ends up getting romantically involved with Tyler, one of the gang members, and forging strong friendships with Bodhi.

Director Kathryn Bigelow Release Date July 12, 1991 Cast Patrick swayze , Keanu Reeves , Gary Busey , Lori Petty , John C. McGinley , James LeGros , John Philbin Runtime 122 Minutes

Combining crime and surfing requires a convincing cast and an airtight script. Luckily, Point Break has both in abundance. Keanu Reeves made a career-defining role out of Johnny Utah, a young FBI agent who goes undercover in the surfing community to infiltrate a gang of bank robbers headed by the charismatic Bodhi (Patrick Swayze).

A
Point Break
remake was released in 2015, with Luke Bracey as Johnny Utah and Édgar Ramirez as Bodhi, though it received negative reviews and didn’t have nearly the pop culture impact of the original.

Point Break‘s heist elements are so fun because the surfers engage in them with such thrill-seeking enthusiasm. While the premise of Reeves as an undercover surfer might sound a little goofy, director Kathryn Bigelow crafts a grounded and surprisingly gritty crime-action movie with some spectacular sequences.

While the heists themselves don’t get as much attention as audiences might expect, the movie does deliver one of cinema’s best foot chase scenes as Reeves pursues Swayze after a robbery. The bank robbers’ use of masks depicting former Presidents of the United States is also an iconic touch that has been referenced and parodied many times.

13 Logan Lucky (2017)

Two Brothers Plan To Rob A Racing Event

Logan Lucky PG-13 Where to Watch

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Logan Lucky is a comedy-heist film by Steven Soderbergh, the director behind the Ocean’s Eleven series. The Logans are a blue-collar family from the hills of West Virginia, and their clan has been famous for its bad luck for nearly 90 years. But the conniving Jimmy Logan decides it’s time to turn the family’s luck around, and with a bit of help from his friends, the “Redneck Robbers,” he plans to steal $14 million from the Charlotte Motor Speedway on the busiest race day of the year.

Director Steven Soderbergh Release Date August 18, 2017 Cast Channing Tatum , Adam Driver , Daniel Craig , Farrah Mackenzie , Jim O’Heir , Riley Keough , Rebecca Koon , Katie Holmes Runtime 118 Minutes

North Carolina provides an unorthodox setting for Steven Soderbergh’s heist film Logan Lucky, but its characters grow so organically from the landscape that it seems a natural choice. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver pair seamlessly as Jimmy and Clyde Logan, two brothers looking for a big score as they plan to rob a NASCAR event.

They are helped along the way by Daniel Craig’s hilarious explosives expert, Joe Bang. The movie also stars the likes of Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, and Seth MacFarlane. Similar to American Animals, the men at the center of the heist do not come across as expert criminals but rather desperate men who get the idea that they could pull this off.

However, these characters, even Craig’s incarcerated bomb expert, are likable thieves who are easy to root for. The movie mixes the intrigue of the heist with light-hearted humor, but as fun as it is to see how the team pulls off the heist, the climax of the movie is even more crowd-pleasing as the audience sees the steps taken to ensure they won’t be caught.

Related 10 Heist Movies That Should Get Sequels

A lot of film fanatics and celebrities are wishfully hoping that they will get a sequel to The Italian Job or Tower Heist

12 Baby Driver (2017)

A Getaway Driver Uses Music Behind The Wheel

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After being coerced into working for a crime boss, getaway driver Baby is determined to escape his life of thievery and violence to make a life with his girlfriend Debora, However, when he finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail, things start looking desperate.

Director Edgar Wright Release Date June 28, 2017 Cast Jamie Foxx , Jon Hamm , Jon Bernthal , Ansel Elgort , Lily James , Eiza Gonzalez , Kevin Spacey Runtime 113 minutes

Edgar Wright’s punchy direction and wry humor shine through in Baby Driver, the British director’s first movie set on American soil. The title character (Ansel Elgort) is pressured into a life of crime, but he still shows a natural flair and pride in his work as a getaway driver.

Using his own personalized playlist for his driving, he proves himself to be the most skilled wheelman while also having a big heart. The Baby Driver soundtrack oozes cool, as do the performances of Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx as unstable thieves. Interestingly, the actual heists in the movie aren’t the focal point as the camera stays with Baby sitting outside in the car.

Baby Driver
utilizes all of Wright’s familiar camera tricks to portray some of the most thrilling chase scenes in recent memory.

However, the lack of action in the heists is made up for with the getaway sequences. Baby Driver utilizes all of Wright’s familiar camera tricks to portray some of the most thrilling chase scenes in recent memory. Away from the action, the movie also benefits from a genuine warmth, stemming from Baby’s relationships with his new girlfriend and his foster father.

Baby Driver Riding Bean Related 10 Best Movies Like Baby Driver

Baby Driver has a lot of films with similar vibes, from fast-paced musical editing to jaw-dropping vehicle chases, including 80s anime and 60s noir.

11 Widows (2018)

The Widows Of Thieves Must Finish Their Husbands’ Job

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Widows is a crime thriller set in contemporary Chicago and based on a British TV series that follows four women who have all recently lost their husbands after a robbery they were all involved in went wrong. Learning that their husbands left the women with a $2 million debt from a local crime boss, they join together to steal a more significant amount from a nearby politician to survive. 

Director Steve McQueen Release Date November 16, 2018 Cast Daniel Kaluuya , Brian Tyree Henry , Liam Neeson , Cynthia Erivo , Michelle Rodriguez , Colin Farrell , Carrie Coon , Robert Duvall , Viola Davis , Elizabeth Debicki , Andre Holland , Jacki Weaver Runtime 130 Minutes

The heist genre is disproportionately skewed in favor of male stories. Widows expertly flips this notion on its head and marks a confident departure from the tropes of typical crime movies. Four women are brought together when they discover that their late husbands were all members of a criminal gang. They decide to step out from the shadows and forge their own paths to pay off the debts they are left with.

The result is a radically different heist movie fueled by righteous anger and helped by Viola Davis in electric form. The movie packs an incredible all-star cast that also includes Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Kaluuya, Colin Farrell, Carrie Coon, and Liam Neeson among others.

Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen approaches the movie in a grounded and gritty way, making it believable that these amateurs could pull off something like this with their determination and rational approach. Hopefully, future heist movies will follow the blueprint set by Widows, and redress the genre’s gender imbalance.

10 Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Two Simple Bank Robbers Find Themselves In A Hostage Situation

Dog Day Afternoon Dog Day Afternoon R Where to Watch

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A man tries to rob a bank to pay for his lover’s operation, who ends up in a hostage situation besieged by the media.

Director Sidney Lumet Release Date December 25, 1975 Cast Al Pacino , John Cazale , Penelope Allen , Carol Kane , Marcia Jean Kurtz

While so many heist movies focus on the slick precision of the thieves, one of the genre’s best shows how bank robberies can spiral out of control extremely fast. Based on a true story, Dog Day Afternoon follows a simple heist that devolves into an hours-long siege, reflecting the chaos of New York City in the 1970s.

Al Pacino earned an Oscar nomination for his lead performance as Sonny Wortzik, and the movie cemented his co-star John Cazale’s indelible legacy. Sonny is a deeply sympathetic and relatable hero. He may have chosen to rob a bank, but beyond that crime, he’s just a good guy having a terrible day.

His care for the hostages and his humorous communications with the police distinguish him from the typical ideas one might associate with a bank robber. He’s an intensely watchable but flawed hero. The movie almost seems like one long scene which adds to the tension of the standoff as it becomes more and more apparent that Sonny is not going to get his happy ending.

9 Rififi (1955)

Four Criminals Assemble For An Impossible Job

Rififi Not Rated

Tony is a young man who, on his release from prison, discovers that his girlfriend has not remained faithful to him. Deciding to return to the world of crime, he begins to plan a major robbery of a jewelry store, along with his gang. However, he didn’t expect that one of his partners would make a fatal mistake in the execution of the plan.

Director Jules Dassin Release Date June 5, 1956 Cast Jean Servais , Carl Möhner , Robert Manuel , Janine Darcey , Pierre Grasset , Robert Hossein , Marcel Lupovici , Dominique Maurin Runtime 118 Minutes

So many of the story beats and character templates that have become traditions in heist movies can trace their roots back to
Rififi
.

The French movie Rififi essentially created the heist genre. The film follows four criminals who come together in order to pull off a seemingly impossible jewelry heist. So many of the story beats and character templates that have become traditions in heist movies can trace their roots back to Rififi. There’s the recently released prisoner, the safe-cracking specialist, and the love interest who turns out to be the true object of the protagonist’s desires.

While a movie consisting of these elements would appear to be a tired rehash if it were produced today, the originality of Rififi lends it a captivating level of suspense. The entirely wordless heist scene remains one of the greatest ever put to film, more than half a century later. The sequence plays out as a long-extended set piece that expertly builds tension with the audience on the edge of their seats.

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8 Snatch (2000)

Colorful Characters Collide While Looking For A Stolen Diamond

Snatch R

Snatch is a comedic crime film by director Guy Ritchie that centers on several different groups of characters’ paths that begin to cross after a missing diamond becomes central to their stories. From a fight promoter trying to make pay his bookie to a group of inept bank robbers that fumble a bookkeeping heist, a stolen diamond ends up in the stomach of a dog, setting off a hectic chain of violent but darkly comedic events.

Director Guy Ritchie Release Date January 19, 2001 Cast Benicio Del Toro , Jason Statham , Lennie James , Alan Ford , Stephen Graham , Dennis Farina , Brad Pitt , Vinnie Jones Runtime 102 minutes

Guy Ritchie’s intricately woven gangster movie introduces a dizzying assortment of unscrupulous characters all chasing after a stolen diamond. Interestingly, the heist itself takes place in the first scene with the rest of the movie following the various colorful characters who want to get their hands on the priceless goods. This includes low-level boxing promoters, an American gangster, a Russian killer, and a bare-knuckle boxer.

Brad Pitt’s Mickey O’Neil steals the show, but Snatch‘s ensemble cast works together to create an immersive vision of a brutal London underworld. Ritchie’s fingerprints are all over the movie, from the thrilling storylines to the unique quips that only he can so regularly produce.

Jason Statham shows off his comedy chops as Turkish, bringing a jovial sharpness that elevates a movie that could otherwise drift toward overt brutality. Each character in the complex web of crime serves a carefully defined purpose, and they coalesce into a propulsive story.

7 How To Steal A Million (1966)

An Art Thief And The Daughter Of A Forger Team Up

How to Steal a Million How to Steal a Million Run Time 123 min Director William Wyler

How to Steal a Million exemplifies the heist genre’s malleability. The heist at the center of the movie, perpetrated so that the daughter of an art forger can destroy her father’s work, provides the perfect backdrop for a seductive romantic comedy. Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole bounce off one another with effortless wit and grace. It’s a pleasure to witness two true movie stars at the top of their game, and this film beckons the audience to root for them in earnest.

The movie has a lot of fun with twisting the heist genre into a funny and charming rom-com. The meet-cute between the two leads takes place in the midst of a heist and the audience gets to watch them fall for each other while pulling off the central robbery of the movie. Even the long sequence when the pair hide out in a closet crackles with intangible movie magic, with the gorgeous orchestral soundtrack adding to a true sense of grandeur.

6 Ruben Brandt, Collector (2018)

A Man Hires Thieves To Steal Works Of Art That Are Haunting Him

Abstract animated characters in Ruben Brandt Collector

The Hungarian animated thriller Ruben Brandt, Collector shows that there is still new ground to break in the heist genre. The movie follows a man who is tormented by figures from famous paintings, so he pulls together a skilled crew and tries to steal every artwork for himself. The eye-popping animation underlines the movie’s message that art holds the key to a peaceful soul.

Each frame is so lovingly drawn that they drip with hidden meaningand subtle humor that could easily go unnoticed. Heist movies run the risk of falling into the same familiar patterns, but Ruben Brandt, Collector proudly showcases something completely innovative. It is one of the most interesting motivations for a heist at the center of the story. Indeed, the complicated narrative will not be for everyone, but there is no denying the alluring nature of the movie’s animation.

5 Gambit (1966)

A Cat Burglar Sees His Plan Fall Apart

Shirley MacLaine looking at a card that Michael Caine is holding in Gambit.

Nobody loves a good old-fashioned heist more than Michael Caine. He famously got behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper in The Italian Job, but he also starred in Harry and Walter Go to New York, Going in Style, and Now You See Me to name a few. However, his finest heist movie is the 1966 classic Gambit. Caine plays Harry, a suave cat burglar who seeks the help of a dancer to pull off a foolproof heist only for things to unravel.

Every Michael Caine Heist Movie

Title

Release Year

Caine’s Character

Gambit

1966

Harry

The Italian Job

1969

Charlie Croker

Harry and Walter Go to New York

1976

Adam Worth

Now You See Me

2013

Arthur Tressler

Going in Style

2017

Joe Harding

The comedy is buoyed by the charm of Shirley MacLaine, whose unsavory Nicole ensures that nothing goes according to plan. Gambit pioneered the now-widespread heist movie trope of concealing information from the audience, or downright lying. Yet it does so with such roguish impudence that it’s hard not to fall for it. The movie’s approach of showing the heist going off without a hitch only to then play out the reality of the crime and every detail that doesn’t go according to plan is an expert way to build unbearable tension.

4 Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

A Chicken-Stealing Fox Balances Family And A Life Of Crime

fantastic-mr-fox The Fantastic Mr. Fox PG Where to Watch

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Based on the Roald Dahl children’s book, Fantastic Mr. Fox tells the story of the titular fox, his thieving spree, and the three farmers who seek revenge on him for the thefts.

Director Wes Anderson Release Date November 13, 2009 Cast George Clooney , Meryl Streep , Jason Schwartzman , Bill Murray , Willem Dafoe , Owen Wilson Runtime 87minutes

It is rare to find a heist movie that can be enjoyed by the whole family, but Wes Anderson pulled it off. Anderson takes the framework of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox and liberally fills in the gaps with his own idiosyncratic flair.

The gorgeous stop-motion animation adds to the movie’s playful feeling, but it can’t hide Mr. Fox’s (George Clooney) conflicted psyche as a former chicken thief who is drawn back in after years of quiet family life. Fantastic Mr. Fox looks like a children’s movie, but the protagonist is a career criminal with a deep-seated fear of endangering his family.

Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson are a perfect match. They both combine levity and tragedy into stylized little packages, and they refuse to talk down to their audiences no matter their age. Anderson finds a sweet and funny way to tackle the familiar story of a career criminal who cannot deny his lust for excitement.

3 A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Double-Crossing Thieves And A Mild-Mannered Barrister Collide

A Fish Called Wanda A Fish Called Wanda R Where to Watch

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British thief George Thomason and his advisor Ken Pile bring in two arrogant Americans, con artist Wanda Gerschwitz and weapons expert Otto West, for a diamond heist. When the plan goes wrong, Wanda tries to seduce Archie Leach to find out where George has hidden the diamonds.

Director Charles Crichton , John Cleese Release Date July 15, 1988 Cast John Cleese , Jamie Lee Curtis , Kevin Kline , Michael Palin , Maria Aitken , Tom Georgeson Runtime 108 min

Monty Python legends John Cleese and Michael Palin reunite in A Fish Called Wanda for the hilarious story of a heist gone wrong, featuring Jamie Lee Curtis in top form plus Kevin Kline in an Oscar-winning supporting role. The movie’s dysfunctional characters reap a lot of laughs with their idiotic attempts to double-cross one another.

By throwing together British and American characters, A Fish Called Wanda also manages to lampoon both cultures simultaneously. The British characters cling too tightly to their notions of proper behavior, and the Americans are far too brash and self-interested.

Similar to Snatch, the movie is mostly focused on the aftermath of the heist and has a lot of fun with the notion of “no honor among thieves”. The backstabbing and changing allegiances might have been darker in another movie, but A Fish Called Wanda maintains its terrific sense of humor throughout, becoming a laugh-out-loud crime comedy.

Scenes from A Fish Called Wanda and Now You See Me 2 Related 8 Heist Movies With Hilariously Low Stakes

Most heist films carry massive stakes. Even still, there are those (both good and bad) that have stakes that are about as low as they get.

2 Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

A Career Criminal Organizes A Team For An Ambitious Casino Job

Ocean’s Eleven PG-13

A remake of the 1960 film and the first in a trilogy of movies by Steven Soderbergh, Ocean’s Eleven is an ensemble comedy-heist film that follows Danny Ocean and his friend Rusty Ryan who enlist the help of several specialized con men, safe-crackers, and experts to pull off a colossal heist of three casinos. Seeking revenge against the new husband of ex-wife Tess, Danny begins to tip-toe dangerously between the line of the job and revenge. 

Director Steven Soderbergh Release Date December 7, 2001 Cast Brad Pitt , Don Cheadle , Julia Roberts , George Clooney , Matt Damon , Andy Garcia Runtime 116 minutes

Danny Ocean was originally played by Frank Sinatra in the 1960 original, but George Clooney pulls off a magic trick by somehow making the character even more suave and debonair. Ocean is a career criminal just out of prison who quickly assembles a large team to pull off an ambitious heist of three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously. The starry team of thieves includes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Don Cheadle.

Ocean’s Eleven has such an irresistible swagger and effortless coolness that make it such a joy to spend time in this world. The movie delights in playing games with its audience. It’s a puzzle that begs to be solved, but the team is always one step ahead.

The entirety of the movie is focused on building the team and planning the heist, but seeing how the job was finally pulled off makes for a crowd-pleasing climax. The Ocean‘s franchise has produced some fine sequels, but none that live up to this endlessly fun ride.

Stills from Casino Royale, Ocean's Eleven and Baby Driver Related 10 Best Movies Like Ocean’s Eleven

Whether it’s a Las Vegas setting or an entry in the heist genre, there are many great movies like Ocean’s Eleven for film lovers to enjoy.

1 Heat (1995)

A Disciplined Thief Is Hunted By A Determined Cop

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Michael Mann’s classic crime thriller Heat was released in 1995 and stars Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro as two men on opposite sides of the law whose live become tangled and destabilized in an intense game of cat-and-mouse. When one heist led by master thief Neil McCauley is compromised due to a clue left behind, LAPD Lieutenant Vincent Hanna finds himself obsessed with pursuing them in an ever-escalating war – one that may cause significant collateral damage. 

Director Michael Mann Release Date December 15, 1995 Cast Al Pacino , Robert De Niro , Val Kilmer , Jon Voight , Tom Sizemore , Diane Venora Runtime 170 minutes

The obsessive cat-and-mouse game between Detective Vincent Hanna and criminal Neil McCauley is so engaging thanks to the incredible chemistry between
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro
.

Michael Mann’s Heat has become the heist movie that all others in the genre are compared to. The obsessive cat-and-mouse game between Detective Vincent Hanna and criminal Neil McCauley is so engaging thanks to the incredible chemistry between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.

At its core, Heat is a wonderfully constructed contest between two men who will stop at nothing. It is further elevated by Mann’s brilliant direction and the iconic way he photographs the eeriness of Los Angeles. While movies like Ocean’s Eleven have a lot of fun showing the cleverness behind the heists, Heat is even more thrilling in its grounded look at bank robbers.

The heists are not elaborate but are gripping to watch as it all comes down to the incredible discipline of the thieves, getting in and out with as much efficiency as possible. Of course, this leads to the moment they are finally cornered which makes for one of the best movie shootouts of all time.

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