Heist movies have been around since the 1930s, but they are just as popular today as they were back then. Heist movies are exciting and unpredictable, with each movie turning into an unpredictable series of twists and turns that keep audiences on the edge of their seats. The following list ranks the best heist movies ever, taking into account everything from box office performance to critical acclaim to cultural impact.
1) Heat (1995)
Directed by Michael Mann, Heat is a crime drama starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. It follows two master thieves from different walks of life as they collide on a Los Angeles robbery. On one side is Neil McCauley (De Niro), an aging criminal who has planned out every detail and executes his plan perfectly. The other is Vincent Hanna (Pacino), a veteran detective that tracks down criminals for a living. When these two characters meet, you know fireworks are going to go off, which they do in spectacular fashion. When it comes to heist movies, there’s never been anything quite like Heat before or since.
2) Inside Man (2006)
While it’s been over a decade since we last saw him onscreen, inside man still stands as one of Denzel Washington’s best movies. The film was directed by Spike Lee and written by Jody Hill (Vice Principals). It also stars Clive Owen (King Arthur), Jodie Foster (Contact), and Willem Dafoe (Platoon). The plot takes place in New York City where a team of criminals – played by Washington, Owen, and Foster – attempt to rob one of their own banks during a hostage situation. In addition to being an extremely entertaining crime movie, Inside Man is unique because each character has clear motivations for their actions.
3) Rififi (1955)
This French crime drama is based on a real-life theft, which took place in Paris in 1951. The four thieves who carried out that theft were initially sentenced to death for their actions, but that was later reduced to forced labor, and many years after that, they finally saw freedom. This movie (and its script) are based on that true story. It’s a classic heist film, focusing on a prison break gone wrong due to scheming within the group. The protagonist is a safecracker named Tony, who doesn’t talk much but does get some really good laughs!
4) Larceny (1948)
Larceny was a noir that starred Robert Newton and featured Peter Lorre in one of his earliest roles. The film didn’t do very well at all, but it is worth watching for a couple reasons. For one, it is based on Jim Thompson’s novel A Hell Of A Woman, which also served as inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s first feature Fear And Desire. Two, Newton delivers what might be considered his best performance here.
5) Snatch (2000)
Written and directed by Guy Ritchie, Snatch was based on a 1960s novel that Ritchie had been reading while growing up in London. Although it wasn’t a success at its initial release, Snatch gained popularity after being featured on a season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. With cameo appearances from Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis, Snatch is one of the most interesting British films to come out during the turn of 20th century. It has received critical acclaim for its ability to mix humor with drama.
From Ocean’s Eleven to The Town, there’s plenty to choose from if you’re looking for a heist movie. But what do they all have in common? A team. The key to a successful heist is collaboration, which is exactly why it's so rare to see successful heists in fiction. And that's where these films really shine--and why they top our list. These are some of the best-planned and most well executed heists ever put on film, mainly because it was almost impossible for them not to succeed!
Private Detective, London