Note: If you don’t see your Heist Movie here, it’s because I haven’t seen it, don’t like it, or forgot it completely!
Oceans 11 (2001)
Everything I want from a heist movie. Ethically perfect, because it admits stealing from rich people is good and fun and justifiable. Aesthetically perfect, because I don’t think Steven Soderbergh did a fourth take on anything, and edited the whole thing to either whirring action shots, or beautifully lit scenes of attractive people being cool/funny. An overly elaborate and ludicrous scheme with several even more ludicrous reveals to the viewer.
MORE. Brad Pitt eating constantly, Carl Reiner dominating at the dog track, arguing Mormon brothers. Bernie Mac barking “CRACKER” at a flustered Matt Damon in one of the best one-word line reads of all time. Whole movie feels like stealing right down to the scene where they’re mooning over the fountains at the Bellagio.
Great Muppet Caper
Charles Grodin’s socks should have won an Oscar for special effects. The only Muppet Movie where they really let Miss Piggy flex, something she does by:
making it in high fashion despite being the wrong species
holding her own on screen with Diana Rigg
Breaking out of prison
Kicking Peter Ustinov’s ass
Stealing a semi truck
beating ass and foiling a plot to steal a baseball-sized diamond
Another heist move that feels like the thrill of theft itself, even if it blatantly violates the rule of making the thieves the assumed protagonists. It helps that the Muppets commit like 20 minor felonies and misdemeanors in the course of stopping the heist.
If you do not feel the “Happiness Hotel” number in your soul I cannot fuck with you on any level.
Out of Sight
A movie of unfair sexiness in all directions. More George Clooney because something in that man’s entire demeanor screams giddy larceny. Elmore Leonard in that everyone who is cool recognizes other cool people’s excellence regardless of what side they’re on. The transition shot of the Isley Brothers playing over freezing shots of Detroit could power several small cities. Boss, just a boss-ass movie in every way.
ALL SODERBERGH ALL THE TIME. Underrated for caper complexity. The idea of a pneumatic cash pipeline running through a NASCAR track is too good to resist and I respect film makers who steer into the skid. All heist movies involving class war automatically start at a minimum grade of passing. Logan Lucky is set in West Virginia, the cash is carried in garbage bags, and Channing Tatum wears Carhartt like he was born to. (He’s from Alabama. He was born for it.)
Daniel Craig is at least five people I have met in real life. He is more convincing as these five people than any of them are as themselves. He gets into Talladega free forever.
O.G. Thomas Crown Affair
Steve McQueen stealing literal bags of cash. SOLD.
It would be here for the film’s ridiculous video game level heist by itself, or for the film’s dedication to keeping The Rock slathered in a fine film of Astroglide at all times. It has BOTH.
Every Mission Impossible Movie
Tom Cruise steals things, but for the right reasons. What reasons? So glad you asked NO TIME TO EXPLAIN, HE MUST GO CHASE DOWN THAT CHOPPER BY FLYING ANOTHER CHOPPER HE WILL LEARN TO FLY MID-AIR.
A heist movie made by someone as deeply in love with their star as anything I have ever seen. Like for real, I think Tarantino is in love with Pam Grier, the kind of love where if time had lined up the right way and QT actually wasn’t a psychopath they could have fell in love, had babies, and been happy forever. That’s impossible given the variables and QT finding torture heartwarming, but that’s how the movie makes me feel. Like he loves Pam Grier in the best way possible.
Robert Forster gives hair plugs actual pathos. I don’t know how he did, but it happened.
Owen Wilson should never, ever, ever play anyone who isn’t a charismatic idiot.
Fish Called Wanda.
I still think about the flashback where Spike Jonze target shoots stuffed animals off old cars in a scrapyard. Like, at least weekly. Clooney again, because the man is at all times waiting to caper off with your wallet.
Hell or High Water
Class warfare heisting in Texas had me at the start and then Chris Pine started kicking ass at gas stations. Jeff Bridges is great in it and he’s easily the fourth or fifth best part of the whole movie. That should be its own bizarre compliment. Drink up.
Still more class warfare heisting. More of a heist-and-chase movie, but here because a.) I love this movie in my bones, and b.) the real thing Hy and Ed are trying to steal is the American Dream of having a family and a home, something they’re only going to get by force, or by going to Utah. I honestly can’t say which would be worse.
I’ll be honest, I couldn’t tell you what happens in Thief after watching it twice, but it doesn’t matter because it feels like James Caan will beat my ass for not putting it here. He looks cool and serious and haunted, and that’s all that’s really required to make a Michael Mann movie good.
O.G. Italian Job
Real honesty here, the old school pacing means I get bored and space out for long stretches of the movie. Michael Caine and teeny cars are enough for solid B-tier status here.
Time heists count!
Kind of a prime Dumb Guy movie in that it wants to con me into thinking a heist movie is something Serious and Important for Serious and Important Dudes Who Wear Dark-on-Dark Patterns. Al Pacino is so bored here. There’s a BIG MASCULINE PAIN scene where he’s looking out at the ocean from his living room and you can almost hear Al wanting to yell I’LL FIGHT YOU, BIG BLUE, YOU SMUG WET BASTARD!!!
I don’t know what people see in this movie other than there was a kind of Alien vs. Predator payoff in seeing DeNiro and Pacino on screen together, but without the satisfaction of them ripping each other’s limbs off in space.
It is completely awesome for putting a ponytailed Val Kilmer with an assault rifle in the middle of Los Angeles taking on the entire LAPD at once, something Michael Mann had to do because the rest of the movie is the Great Ass Scene and moody shots of Men Having Quiet Problems.
David Niven swanning about grinning and stealing diamonds. Some things aren’t complicated and don’t have to be.
Don’t pretend it’s a great movie but also do not pretend for a second that it isn’t an incredibly awesome one, if that makes any sense.
Pros: Solid heisting. Cons: Unrelenting cartoonish Bostonianism to the point of creating a new prejudice.
A love letter to a red WRX. Everything else really isn’t necessary, or made to be necessary at all. Not sure what an Anson Elgort is, and neither is Edgar Wright. MORE CAR GO SLIDEY.
Set It Off
I just watch it for Queen Latifah with an Uzi.
They gave a TV movie an Oscar! It’s wild.
Not a bad movie, just not a good heist movie in that it has no heistery and makes stealing look very, very unfun.
Hans did very little wrong! You’re rooting for the cops! What is wrong with all of you!
If you get nostalgic for the 1990s, go back and watch this. You won’t be afterwards.
I mean ha ha, yes it’s very bad. But it is also legitimately bad. Even at the F-Tier I’d still rather watch this five times than rewatch Killing Zoe once.