Top 6: Heist Movies

Posted in Top 6 at 4:59 am by Sam

The heist caper is one of our favorite subgenres, and so we thought it would be a good idea to make Episode 29’s Top 6 list the Top 6 Heist Movies. Our lists follow. (Because there are so many good ones to talk about, I dropped Stephen’s #1 from my list because I knew he’d have it covered.)

What are your favorite heist movies?

As always, we recommend listening to the episode before reading further.

  1. Rififi (1955)
  2. Heat (1995)
  3. Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
  4. Heist (2001)
  5. Ocean’s 11 (2001)
  6. Die Hard (1988)
  1. The Killing (1956)
  2. The Italian Job (1969)
  3. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  4. The Great Train Robbery (1979)
  5. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
  6. Gambit (1966)


  1. Jeffrey (84) said,

    April 17, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Rififi would be top of my list, too.
    As usual, here are some alternates:

    Point Break - Bank No 27, wearing those president masks

    Mission: Impossible - breaking into the CIA HQ

    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - robbing the Union Pacific Flyer, also noteworthy would be the failed robbery later in the film where there are language problems

    The Usual Suspects - New York’s Finest Taxi Service

    The Thomas Crown Affair (either version is pretty good, but preference to the 1961 film) - the gallery

    How to Steal a Million - stealing the fake art piece

    There’s probably some other ones if I can remember them. Notable mentions to Entrapment, City on Fire, Ronin and The Pink Panther.

  2. Sam (405) said,

    April 17, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Some that didn’t make the cut for me: The Getaway (1972), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), The Hot Rock (1972), How To Steal a Million (1966), Lassiter (1984), Quick Change (1990), Return of the Pink Panther (1975), Tap (1989), Thief (1981), The Thomas Crown Affairs (1968, 1999), Topkapi (1964), Who’s Minding the Mint? (1967).

  3. Jeffrey (84) said,

    April 17, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Ooh, Quick Change is a brilliant movie, I forgot about that.

  4. joem18b (231) said,

    April 17, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Armored-car highJack - Precisely timed, coolley pulled off: Bill Murray, Groundhog Day.

    Rififi, masterpiece though it was, never made it out of the big cities, back in the day. It was Dassin’s Topkapi that made the big splash at my neighborhood cinema.

    A tip of the hat to Donald E. Westlake, who has probably written more heist novels than anybody, some under the name Richard Stark. Many of these were made into movies (he has writing credit on 35 films), including one of my all-time favorites, Point Blank (the Stark novels are often about what happens after the heist goes bad).

    The Score - Brando, De Niro, Norton. Hard to ignore a cast like that.

    Tricky bank robberies - Does Inside Man count?

    I seem to remember a movie about a heist at a pro football game, but can’t remember which one it was. Probably the Rams at the Coliseum.

    If cat burglars count, got to have To Catch A Thief - Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

  5. joem18b (231) said,

    April 17, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    BTW, my top 6 snatch-and-grabs:

    1. Indiana Jones the first time we see him.

    2. A tie between several hundred stage-coach holdups, courtesy of Republic Pictures, Allan Rocky Lane, Lash La Rue, Whip Wilson, et al., Saturday mornings in the early 50s at the double-feature.

    3. The Wild Bunch robs a bank.

    4. Nick Cage borrows the Declaration of Independence.

    5. George Clooney robs the bank in ultra-cool fashion and then his car won’t start.

    6. George Clooney and friends steal the Iraqi gold.

    6. Conan steals the horn that gets screwed into the forehead of the sleeping god.

    6. Didn’t Jason and the Argonauts steal the golden fleece?

    6. Theft of the Shrek doll in Season 3 of Entourage.

    Honorable mention: 3-Iron; the James gang robbing the bank in Northfield, Minn.; does Home Alone count?

    Bonus question: What was Shaft’s Big Score? Something he swiped?

  6. wintermute (157) said,

    April 18, 2007 at 8:46 am

    A couple of guilty pleasure heist movies for me, that I’m not surprised didn’t make the list:

    Sugar and Spice: A cheerleading squad robs a bank, after watching Point Break for advice.

    Lucky Numbers: Not sure this one counts, as the main plot is an attempt to rig the lottery, but there’s a sequence where Travolta’s character pays someone to break into his snowmobile dealership and steal all his inventory; and you get to see both how he imagines it will happen, and how it really happens.

    Broken Arrow: Travolta (again!) tries to steal some nuclear missiles from a stealth bomber.

  7. joem18b (231) said,

    April 18, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Heist of greatest significance: theft of The Leader’s nose (Sleeper)

  8. Ferrick (140) said,

    April 23, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Ok, so, defining a heist movie is fairly simple. But what would you say are the main definitions of a heist movie, a con movie and a caper movie? How much do they overlap? Here is the list I scribbled out before I heard your lists. After listening to the segment, I figured that some of my movies might not fall under heist movies but under something else. Where would you place each of these movies? Some you have already mentioned as heists but do they cross over?

    Ocean’s 11
    The Italian Job
    The Sting
    Dog Day Afternoon
    Thomas Crown Affair
    Reservoir Dogs

    And kudos to Stephen on the Die Hard pick. I think that is one that fits but that nobody thinks of for this genre.

  9. joem18b (231) said,

    April 23, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Hi, Ferrick. Here’s how I’d classify the movies in your list. (My memory is questionable, though.)

    Ocean’s 11 - Heist/Caper

    The Italian Job - Heist/Caper

    The Sting - Con Men/Grifters (Matchstick Men, Paper Moon, The Grifters)

    Sneakers - …haven’t watched it or I’ve forgotten. But I’m reminded of The Firm, with it’s computer/$$ moneyshines. Seems like computer crime ought to have it’s own category?

    Dog Day Afternoon - Bank Robbery (I think that there are enough of these to merit a separate category)

    Thomas Crown Affair - Heist

    Reservoir Dogs - Post-heist (Point Blank)

    Payback - Post-heist (remake of Point Blank)

  10. Sam (405) said,

    April 23, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Someone should remake Reservoir Dogs post-heist. (Yuk yuk yuk yuk.)

  11. Stephen (221) said,

    April 24, 2007 at 1:06 am

    Sneakers is a total heist movie.

    I would say that a heist movie is distinctly different from a con movie — the heist movie follows the Asphalt Jungle / Rififi formula in which a team of people has to pull off a meticulous plan to steal something that is well guarded (I consider a caper movie the same as a heist).

    A con, on the other hand, is about tricking people into willingly giving you something they wouldn’t if they knew truth. Con artists commit fraud while heist… uh… dudes? commit theft. Many or most heist movies have cons in them, but the overall goal is always to steal something.

    I would say the bank-robbery picture is just a very specialized heist movie.

  12. joem18b (231) said,

    May 5, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Two heists:

    Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny - Heist of the pick of destiny includes a laser dance and use of one of Jack Black’s appendages.

    Twelve Monkeys - In the movie, impending heist/caper led by Brad Pitt finally occurs. Unexpected.

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