Top 10 Heist Movies: Stealing Our Hearts

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With the arrival of a heist movie unlike any you’ve ever seen, Trance, Movie Fanatic is inspired to look back over Hollywood history and come up with our Top 10 Heist Movies.

In Trance, James McAvoy is an art auctioneer who may or may not be involved in the stealing of a painting worth over $25 million from a London auction house. See, he hit his head during the robbery and all the clues that the crooks and the cops need… are locked inside his head that is suffering from amnesia.

Trance is a Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) triumph and shows why audiences adore a good heist. It has thrills, chills, action, mystery and above all… major movie mojo. Without further ado… here are Movie Fanatic’s Top 10 Heist Movies!

10. (Tie) Reservoir Dogs-Die Hard
Where in Reservoir Dogs the heist was inferred and barely shown, Die Hard put the robbery at its core, front and center, complete with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in full effect as its score.

Reservoir Dogs Die Hard Collage

Both films show how the heist film can either be in your face or subtle, full-on action spectacles, or cerebral tonal studies that allow the viewer to fill in the blanks. In the end, both Reservoir Dogs and Die Hard are perfect examples of why the heist movie is one of the best methods of storytelling for producing ooohs and ahhhs. 

9. Ocean’s 11
Steven Soderbergh’s first of the Ocean’s movies was absolutely the best. People thought he was nuts to remake the 1960s gem that featured Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack. But with Matt Damon, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and a bevy of other solid actors (and one fantastic actress in Julia Roberts) starring in Ocean's 11, Soderbergh had his own Ocean’s movie that stands the test of time.

8. Point Break
Kathryn Bigelow announced herself to the world with her work on the extreme sports meets bank robbery movie Point Break. Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) and Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) embodied the yin and yang of the heist movie and the director showed how to tell a story where a law enforcement agent infiltrates a hold-up crew and it possesses 100-percent believability.

Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves in Point Break

The movie has proved so iconic that every effort to remake it has simply fizzled. Besides, who can replicate the magic of seeing the “Ex-Presidents” robbing banks blind?! Will we see a Point Break remake? Honestly, we hope not.

7. Sexy Beast
Ben Kingsley deserved an Oscar for his work on Sexy Beast. In the classic tale of “one last score and we retire,” Kingsley delved into the depths of determined evil to craft a character that sears every moment he is onscreen. The way Kingsley’s gangster recruits Ray Winstone’s safecracker is so slithery sick, it is the stuff of brilliance. 

6. The Usual Suspects
Sure, The Usual Suspects is known for its twist ending. But, how we get there is nothing short of a stroke of brilliance. When a group of “random” criminals meet each other at a police line-up, they think they have discovered each other in a stroke of fate.

The Usual Suspects Poster

What they don’t know, is that that meeting is more the attachment of strings to each as they are now a puppet to the elusive criminal mastermind, Kaiser Soze.

5. Ronin
If Ronin doesn’t have one of the best car chases of all time, I don’t know what does. Robert De Niro stars in this European-set heist movie that fans the fire of both sides of the brain. It pushes the limits on thrills with its action-packed sequences while simultaneously forcing the audience to rack its brain to try to figure out the who, where, what and most importantly… why of this mystery.

4. Inside Man
Spike Lee made the most dazzling of departures as he directed his first heist thriller. Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster are law enforcement agents trying to piece together the puzzle that was a bank robbery by Clive Owen and his crew. Inside Man utilizes a classic film technique of cat-and-mouse suspense that builds towards a conclusion that will have you smiling and uttering, “I did not see that coming.” That is exactly what you want from a great heist film. 

Denzel Washington Jodie Foster Inside Man

3. The Italian Job
Although the remake with Mark Wahlberg is stellar, the 1969 original with Michael Caine lit a fuse of excitement that you won’t soon forget. A crew of robbers seeks to rip off a gold shipment by creating a traffic diversion on the streets of Turin. What also stands out about The Italian Job is how it infuses humor, thus heightening the tension throughout. Interesting factoid about the film: It features the comic icon Benny Hill!

2. The Thomas Crown Affair
Again, not to take anything away from a stellar remake of The Thomas Crown Affair starring Pierce Brosnan, but the Norman Jewison-directed, Steve McQueen-starring 1968 scorcher is the stuff of legend. As much heat as Brosnan and Rene Russo generated in the remake, McQueen and Faye Dunaway’s insurance investigator practically set the cinema on fire.

McQueen’s art thief thinks he has the heist of a lifetime and believes he has gotten away with it. When Dunaway arrives, not only does she steal his heart, but she might end up having him lose his freedom. In our Trance James McAvoy exclusive interview, the star admitted that the original Thomas Crown Affair was among his favorite heist movies!

1. Heat
Michael Mann took his time building the smoldering tension in Heat. Audiences were beyond thrilled that Al Pacino and Robert De Niro would finally share scenes and duke it out actor-to-actor. Yet, when the film arrived… the dynamic duo of film acting didn’t get together onscreen until late in the film and overall, truly spent little time together.

Robert De Niro Heat

But, what little screen time they shared was explosive and so was the entire story of a robber determined to keep going with his heist plans, despite the clear possibility that the Heat is on.

Honorable mentions: Bottle Rocket, Thief, Heist, Drive, The Town and The Getaway (1972)

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