Cops, robbers, getaway drivers and a soundtrack of badass tunes; is there anything not to love about a good bank heist movie? Since the early 1950s, bank robbery movies have captured our attention, offering us a glimpse into the get-rich-quick schemes some petty criminals are willing to chase in order to achieve a short-cut to the American Dream. If they work out, it’s all gold and smiles, but if not, you can bet there will be an endless parade of police ready to take down the anti-heroes in full-flight.
In the early days of robbery movies, the plots were simple and generally centred around one central character looking to make it big. However, in the years that have passed, the classic bank heist film has reworked the formula. In the 1970s, we had the down-on-his-luck antihero looking to right the wrongs that had befallen him. In the 1990s, that message changed, moving into the classic, ‘one last job’ motif that generally saw a soon-to-be-retired con looking for one big score before going clean. At the term of the Millenium, things changed again, with deeper complexity added to the story, usually involving a backstory that encompasses a broken marriage and some strange family dynamics. These themes are cliche, to say the least, but for all the stereotypes and predictable plotlines, we still tune in.
So, why do we love bank heist movies so much? We’ll hazard a guess and say it’s got something to do with our penchant for day-dreaming. Inside all of us, no matter how much we claim to love our jobs, we yearn for the thrill of the chase and if the best heist movies have taught us anything, it’s that sticking up a bank is a surefire way to get the adrenaline pumping.
Without further ado, here is a list of the 25 best heist movies ever made.
1. Heat (1995)
Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro unite in Michael Mann’s three-hour long masterpiece of modern cinema. This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill, smash and grab story, Heat delves deep into the criminal underworld, through the lens of top-quality thief Neil McCauley (DeNiro) as he is relentlessly pursued by Lieutenant Vincent Harris (Pacino). The police officer’s obsessive quest to catch the master thief slowly cripples his personal life, while McCauley grapples with finding love in the midst of a plan. All comes to a head when the pair inadvertently meet in a coffee shop, realising they are far more alike than they would choose to admit. DeNiro and Pacino put on an absolute acting clinic, the direction is phenomenal and the choreographed action sequences are among the best ever seen in film. Val Kilmer was even applauded by the American Military for his 100 per cent accurate use of a military rapid reload, ensuring that Heat is not only one of the best heist movies ever made, but also one of the most realistic.
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd
The Score: $1.6 million in bearer bonds, $12 million in bank money
2. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
A remake of the classic Rat Pack film, Ocean’s Eleven is one of the best heist movies of all time, even if it isn’t set in a bank. The film follows the dashing thief extraordinaire Danny Ocean (Clooney) as he attempts to swindle $160 million from casino boss Tony Benedict (Garcia). The only problem is, Benedict just happens to be dating Ocean’s ex-wife. Throw in Bernie Mac for laughs, Don Cheadle’s questionable British accent and about 50 scenes of Brad Pitt eating and you’ve got yourself one of the best heist movies ever made.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts
The Score: $160 million
3. The Town (2010)
A surprise hit, The Town might just be Ben Affleck’s best work. Once again, we see Affleck return to Boston, playing Doug, a failed hockey-player turned reluctant bank robber. When a bank robbery goes awry, Affleck finds himself enamoured with the teller he held at gunpoint. An inner battle between choosing the righteous path and following a life of crime ensues, perpetuated by the old ‘one last job’ mentality. The Town, while not entirely original, is a blunt and brutal tale of redemption, conflict and violence. Jeremy Renner’s performance as Doug’s unhinged friend Jem is tragic and brilliant, while Affleck himself does a decent job in front of the camera.
Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall
The Score: A couple of million
4. The Killing (1956)
Before The Shining, there was The Killing. Stanley Kubrick’s infamous 1956 film debut is a masterclass on how to create the best heist movie. The story involves a wealth of moving, interconnected parts, each triggering a reaction that the viewer has yet to properly grasp. The Killing follows Johnny Preston (Hayden) a career thief who just got out after a five-year sentence as he attempts to rob a racetrack on the day of a big event. Enlisting the help of a crooked cop, a sharpshooter and some muscle, Preston’s plan seems perfect until betrayal rears its ugly head.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor
The Score: $2 million
5. The Usual Suspects (1995)
This mind-bending tale of betrayal is one of Spacey’s best performances, earning him an Oscar nod back in 1995. When a group of misfit career criminals set out to steal a $91 million shipment of cocaine, it appears to be the perfect crime. However, when the group learns that the man they’ve unknowingly stolen from is Keyser Söze, the most feared criminal in the world, things go a little haywire. Slowly, Söze picks them off one by one, confirming all reports that he is one crime boss not to be trifled with. The Usual Suspects might be best remembered for its iconic ending, but the hours beforehand are a masterclass of filmmaking.
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio del Toro
The Score: $91 million worth of cocaine
6. Rififi (1955)
If you haven’t seen Rififi before, you are missing out. The 1955 classic revolutionised cinema, bringing an air of darkness to the screen that was unlike anything seen before. The story follows Tony (Servais), a crooked con just released after five years in jail as he teams up with his protege, Jo and another thief Mario. A daring plot to steal diamonds is hatched, however, what makes Rififi one of the best heist movies ever made isn’t the heist at all, but the crushing realisation that what you want to be and who you are aren’t always the same thing. The dramatic and crushing scene between Jo and his wife is one of the most powerful moments in cinema history.
Director: Jules Dassin
Starring: Jean Servais, Jules Dassin
The Score: 240 million francs
7. Hell or High Water (2016)
A runaway hit and one of the best heist movies you’ve never heard of, Hell or High Water is absolute must-watch. Set in West Texas, this tale sees two brothers on opposites sides of the moral compass band together for a series of bank robberies. Their motives are unclear at first, however, as the story evolves and we learn more about the pair, we discover things aren’t always as they seem.
Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster
The Score: Bank drawers
8. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
A heartbreaking true story, Dog Day Afternoon is a film well ahead of its time. Where other heist movies focused on the next ‘big score’, this classic sees Al Pacino play Sonny, a gay Vietnam veteran who sticks up a Brooklyn bank to pay for his lover’s sex-change surgery. His ill-gotten plan is fraught with failures, leaving him trapped in the bank while a swirling media circus gathers outside. Pacino’s performance is truly breath-taking, perfectly capturing the essence of desperation in a time of great need. While it certainly isn’t conventional, Dog Day Afternoon must be included in the best heist films of all time for realism alone.
Director: Sidney Lumet
Starring: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Dunning
The Score: $10,000
9. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The movie that introduced Quentin Tarantino to the world, Reservoir Dogs is littered with love notes to heist films gone by. The bank robbery movie does not follow a linear narrative, instead, hopping around chronologically, a theme Tarantino reprised in Pulp Fiction. Reservoir Dogs follows a group of mysterious men known only by code-names as they navigate the aftermath of a robbery gone wrong. The criminals begin to suspect there is a rat amongst the ranks, leading to a lot of finger-pointing and a touch of torture. You’ll never listen to Stealers Wheel the same again.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen
The Score: Bank drawers
10. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
The original heist movie, The Asphalt Jungle started a cinematic revolution. Directed by John Huston, the film is based on the novel of the same name and details a career criminal’s attempt to steal half a million dollars worth of precious jewels. Cue the safecracker, muscle, getaway driver and damsel in distress.
Director: John Huston
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen
The Score: Jewels
11. Snatch (2000)
Guy Ritchie’s best film, Snatch details a series of interconnected stories with one common theme; a monster 86-carat diamond. Set in the London criminal underworld, the film revolves around Turkish, an everyman boxing promoter played by Jason Statham. When his prizefighter goes down at the hands of a fast-talking Irish gypsy named Mickey (Brad Pitt), Turkish is forced to improvise. Meanwhile, a plan is being hatched to recover a massive diamond that before it is lost to the world. It’s a confusing story to explain but rest assured, this is one of the best heist movies out there.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, Benecio del Toro
The Score: An 86-carat diamond
12. Inside Man (2006)
Starring a host of Oscar-winners, Spike Lee’s 2006 hit Inside Man is a great example of how bank robbery movies have changed in recent times. Instead of focusing on how master thief Dalton (Clive Owen) plans on escaping the bank, Inside Man makes you wonder if what you are seeing is really happening at all. Sure, the script isn’t fantastic and the incredible acting chops of Denzel Washington as the detective in charge and Jodie Foster as the fast-talking fixer can’t salvage the film entirely, but it’s worth watching for Clive Owen’s powerful opening monologue alone.
Director: Spike Lee
Starring: Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer
The Score: Antique jewels
13. Bottle Rocket (1996)
Ever the enigma, Wes Anderson’s 1996 film Bottle Rocket is not your conventional bank robbery movie. This bizarre tale follows two friends with big aspirations and not a lot of sense as they attempt to pull off the perfect crime, whatever that may be. The convoluted plan involves 75 years’ of theft, setting the pair up for a comfortable lifestyle. To begin, the two would-be crims decide to test out their robbery skills, which goes as horribly as expected. Put simply, Bottle Rocket is a film that makes little to no sense and that’s fine by us.
Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, James Caan
The Score: Not a lot
14. Baby Driver (2017)
Another take on the classic ‘one more job’ premise, Baby Driver sees fresh-faced Ansel Elgort play Baby, getaway driver extraordinaire. Under the watchful eye of mastermind Kevin Spacey, baby and his team of misfit criminals pull off a series of heists, however, a robbery gone wrong leaves crew members dead and Baby on the run.
Director: Edgar Wright
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx
The Score: Thousands
15. The Italian Job (2003)
Another great classic heist movie remake, The Italian Job sees Edward Norton back to his slimy best as the thief who betrays his crew to steal $30 million in solid gold, before sending them to a watery grave. Unfortunately for Norton, one of those people happens to Mark Wahlberg who, as Transformers taught us, is essentially invincible. The crew survive and hatch a plan to exact their revenge, stealing back their hard-earned gold, escaping in three Mini Coopers. As far as the best heist movies go, The Italian Job does a great job of walking the line between fun and farce.
Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Mos Def, Seth Green, Jason Statham
The Score: $30 million in gold
16. The Bank Job (2008)
This thoroughly entertaining British flick sees Jason Statham play the role of sleazy, car-dealing crook, Terry Leather. Through a strange series of events, Leather manages to tunnel into a bank vault full of safety deposit boxes. When he realises one contains a rather risque photo of a princess, all hell breaks loose. The Bank Job isn’t exactly what you’d call a traditional bank robbery movie, but this one will keep you entertained.
Director: Roger Donaldson
Starring: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Daniel Mayes
The Score: Safety deposit boxes
17. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
The film that turned Guy Ritchie into a household name, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels isn’t just one of the best heist movies ever made, it’s a perfect example of how great British cinema can be. The film centres around poker-genius Eddie (Moran), who is duped by porn-king Harry, leaving him with £500,000 to pay up in just a week. When Eddie learns that his neighbours are attempting to rob some prominent marijuana growers, Eddie and his friends have the bright idea to rob the robbers immediately after. The gritty, underground film is one of Ritchie best and a must-watch for heist fans.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Nick Moran, Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones
The Score: £500,000
18. Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
While not exactly a bank robbery movie, Gone in 60 Seconds has all the elements to be one of the best heist movies ever made. When retired car thief extraordinaire Memphis Raines (Cage) is reeled back in to complete a job started by his kid brother Kip, he is tasked with the unenviable job of stealing 50 cars in one night. Should he not complete the task, vicious crime lord Raymond Calitri, played by former Dr Who Christopher Eccleston, will murder Kip. As all the best heist movies do, there is a gratuitous montage of Raines bringing the old gang back together, which includes a dreadlocked Angelina Jolie and a mute Vinnie Jones. Nicholas Cage in all his whisper, shouting glory.
Director: Dominic Sena
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie,
The Score: 50 classic cars
19. Sexy Beast (2001)
Sir Ben Kingsley is probably best remembered for playing Gandhi in the seminal film about the Indian patriarch’s life, however nearly 20 years later, he evolved into Don Logan; a foul-mouthed sociopath with a penchant for crime. Jonathan Glazer’s 2001 film Sexy Beast is a difficult one to describe. Safecrackers, ex-pornstars and threats to turn human hands in ashtrays all make an appearance as Logan attempts to bully his way to a big score. Kingsley performance might go down as one of the best ever seen in a bank heist movie, however sadly, the rest of the film struggles to reach his level.
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane
The Score: Safety deposit boxes
20. Set It Off (1996)
The second F. Gary Gray film to feature on this list of the best heist movies, Set It Off is another beast altogether. The film drops the hyper-masculinity and opts for an all-female main cast, flipping the perspective on its head. In this 1996 surprise hit, four women working in a cleaning business band together to embark on a series of bank robberies, led by former bank teller Frankie. The brutal, inner-city tale is about more than bank robbing, however, delving deep into issues of family and economic struggle in down-town Los Angeles. A surprise hit at the box-office, Set It Off grossed over USD$41 million, despite only having a budget of USD$9 million.
Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah
The Score: Bank vaults
21. Point Break (1991)
One of Keanu’s best performances, Point Break is what would happen if you combined The Sting with X-Games. We’re talking sky-diving, surfing and a whole lot of Bad Religion. The plot follows an FBI undercover agent/former college football star named Johnny Utah (Reeves) as he attempts to break into a gang of bank-robbing, adrenaline junkies led by surf-god Bodhi (Swayze). The group robs banks while wearing masks of ex-presidents and isn’t afraid of a little gunfire. Things get challenging for Utah when he slowly finds himself seduced by the surfing lifestyle and Bodhi’s relaxed mantra of peace and love. Also, watch out for Gary Busey who plays, essentially, Gary Busey
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey
The Score: Bank cash drawers
22. The Sting (1973)
Best Picture winner in 1974, The Sting is an icon of cinema and undoubtedly one of the best heist movies of all time. Life-long friends Robert Redford and Paul Newman team up again for this story set in the 1930s. Redford plays John Hooker, a problem gambler and conman who is desperate need of a new partner in crime following the retirement of his right-hand man. The con teams up with Henry Gondorff (Newman), only to find his previous score is coming back to haunt him. This dazzling film is glitzy, glamourous and incredibly well put-together. The Sting more than holds up after close to 50 years, making it one of the best heist movies around.
Director: George Roy Hill
Starring: Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Robert Shaw
The Score: $500,000
23. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
There is a reason why Steve McQueen is regarded as the coolest man on the planet, and it has a lot to do with The Thomas Crown Affair. The classic neo-noir film sees McQueen play bored millionaire Thomas Crown, who accomplishes the perfect crime by orchestrating four men to steal $2.6 million for a Boston bank. When independent insurance investigator Vicki Anderson arrives on the scene, she immediately suspects him as the mastermind behind the crime. Where The Thomas Crown Affair was groundbreaking was in its character development. Unlike almost every other film in the genre that follows a man in desperate need of money, Thomas Crown has no desire for wealth, having already amassed a considerable fortune. Instead, he views the crime as a game, one that he intends to win. One of the best bank robbery movies ever made, The Thomas Crown Affair is McQueen at his most charismatic.
Director: Norman Jewison
Starring: Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway
The Score: $2.6 million
24. Logan Lucky (2017)
When down-on-his-luck divorced labourer Jimmy (Tatum) loses his job, it puts his relationship with his daughter in jeopardy. Rather than sit back and accept the situation at hand, Jimmy enlists the help of his amputee, veteran brother Clyde for a one-time heist that will answer their prayers. Even better, the two aspiring crims seek advice from the one person they know with any bank robbing experience; loud-mouthed, tattooed redneck Joe Bang, played somewhat surprisingly by James Bond actor Daniel Craig. Sure, this one is a little farfetched, but it’s highly entertaining and one of the best heist movies made this decade.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig
The Score: An arm and a leg
25. Fast Five (2011)
It’s interesting to chart how the Fast and Furious franchise has evolved over the past two decades. From starting out as a film loosely based around modded-up cars, the series took a sharp turn in 2011, when Fast Five was released. The film once again sees FBI agent Brian (Walker) do an absolutely terrible job at enforcing law and order, choosing instead to join fellow government agent Hobbs (Johnson) on his quest to seek revenge on the Brazillian drug-lord who murdered his team. The strange plot involves taking $100 million from the drug lord’s private safe, enough money to finance a fresh start for the Fast and Furious team. While it certainly isn’t one of the best heist movies in terms of storyline, Fast Five does make up for it with a wealth of badass car chases and fight scenes.
Director: Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker
The Score: $100 million
What is the original heist movie?
The 1950 film The Asphalt Jungle is widely regarded as the original heist movie. According to Film Genre 2000, the movie “almost single-handedly popularised the genre for mainstream cinema.
What are some good heist movies based on true events?
The best-rated heist movies based on real-life events are Dog Day Afternoon, Robbery, Mesrine Part 1&2, Strander and Goodfellas, according to IMDB user ratings.
What is the best heist movie on Netflix?
If you are after a quality Heist movie on Netflix, there are a number of great options. For a classic robbery movie, go for Heat or Ocean’s Eleven. If you are looking something out of the ordinary, the 2016 film Hell or High Water is one of the best rated heist movies on Rotten Tomatoes, with a fresh certification of 97%.