The best heist movies build pressure and suspense and the execution of the “perfect crime” is most effective when the audience gets caught up in it. There is the danger of getting caught in mid-heist and the possibility that one crew member will turn on the others, along with rooting for the crew to get the booty and to get away.
The heist movie is a formulaic, yet popular and beloved genre and it’s alive and well. Moviegoers have been treated to several great heist films in the last decade. Because it’s a genre with a long history and with such a large canon of films, coming up with only ten was a tough enterprise, so we aimed for variety and included what are for us, ten of the most memorable heist films.
Here are our first five films:
10. Point Break
A crew who call themselves the “Ex-presidents” split their time between surfing and robbing banks, and get pegged when an FBI agent goes undercover as a novice surfer, befriends the crew and plays a game of cat and mouse with the leader of the gang. The film is a campy one, but it’s action-packed, employs solid heist conventions and takes you on a bloody fun thrill ride.
9. The Italian Job
This remake features a stellar cast which includes Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Mos Def, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Edward Norton and Donald Sutherland. Add to that some stellar special effects including armored trucks falling into sewers, superb chase sequences involving a troupe of Mini Coopers, and an over-the-top, completely implausible, yet brilliantly executed final heist, and you’ve got one heck of an entertaining film.
8. Quick Change
Quick Change is memorable because it doesn’t conform to standard heist film conventions. Rather than concern itself with how the crew is going to get out of the bank after the heist, it employs a clever plot twist to set up the crew’s escape from the bank and then busies itself with how the crew is going to get out of the city. Quick Change is well-executed, well-acted and comical. Bill Murray, Geena Davis and Randy Quaid combine to make a unique and wacky crew and their escape from the city is rife with bad luck and obstructions.
7. Reservoir Dogs
Reservoir Dogs is the film that put Quentin Tarantino on the map as a director. What’s different about this heist film is that the audience isn’t privy to the heist itself, but only sees the events that take place before and after the robbery. The cast of characters and the actors who portray them are indelibly good and the way the story unfolds with random spots of arbitrary discussion in between is so quintessentially Tarantino and so damn good. This film is a great adventure in sniffing out the rat.
6. The Usual Suspects
Who is Keyser Söze? That is the mystery superbly spun that we, the audience, must solve along with five conmen tasked with carrying out a payback job for a criminal mastermind they’ve wronged at some point and must pay back now, but whose identity the men don’t actually know. The film is a slick and layered gem and a classic whodunit where nothing is as it seems and only the narrator knows what’s up until the very end. The film drops hints along the way, but preserves the mystery until the film’s final scene.
Stay tuned for our final five memorable heist films to be posted tomorrow.