The 25 Best Heist Movies of All Time

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Criminals and thieves might not make the best friends, but they certainly make compelling leads in heist films. Whether people are robbing banks or trying to steal the Declaration of Independence, there’s nothing quite like watching characters plan and try to pull off the ultimate heist. Even the most sophisticated plans can go awry, though, and the best heist movies know how to convey a sense of suspense and improvisation that keeps audiences guessing and excited from start to finish.

With so many types of movies and TV shows competing for our attention, it can be nice to unwind with a heist film and watch someone explicitly try to steal something. Heist flicks can be deadly serious or incredibly silly, but they all include characters desperate to pull off a scheme without getting caught. No matter what mood you’re in, watching the criminals on this list attempt to pull off their heists will leave you smiling and potentially even preparing your own devious plans.

25) National Treasure (2004)

Forget robbing a bank vault. In Jon Turteltaub’s National Treasure, historian and cryptographer Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) races to steal the Declaration of Independence before a deadly group of criminals can get their own hands on it. In this race against time, Benjamin and his companions Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) and Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) must criss-cross across the U.S. to solve a mystery that dates back all the way to the Founding Fathers and the legendary Templar Treasure. 


24) Baby Driver (2017)

Written and directed by Edgar Wright, Baby Driver is a fast-paced and incredibly slick flick about a young getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort) who is desperately trying to escape his life of crime. Coerced to work one more dangerous job for a crime boss, Baby does everything he can to outmaneuver the somewhat deranged individuals in his gang- featuring fun performances from Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm- as he dreams about escaping and building a new life with Debora (Lily James). All Wright films incorporate music and sound design in delightful fashions, but the way Baby Driver blends things around Baby’s tinnitus makes each moment feel more engaging and character-driven. 

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23) Out of Sight (1998)

A thriving thief and a federal marshall don’t seem like the best match on paper, but in Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, the two make quite the pair. After Jack Foley (George Clooney) and US Marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) share an intimate moment during his escape from jail, the two embark on a legal cat-and-mouse game that includes a lot of chasing and flirting. The story's core follows Foley and his gang as they attempt to knock off a shady businessman before a different criminal does it first. The film includes a great ensemble of performers like Albert Brooks and Don Cheadle and is typically credited with transforming George Clooney from a television doctor to a bonafide Hollywood leading man.


22) Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s debut feature-length film has evolved into a cult classic thanks to its stacked ensemble, witty dialogue, and bloody violence. Reservoir Dogs follows a group of diamond thieves before and after their attempted jewelry store heist goes south. In classic Tarantino fashion, the film is told non-linearly as the story jumps back and forth to give the audience a fuller picture of how these strangers all view each other and just how crazy things can go after a heist goes wrong. The film has a fantastic ensemble featuring performers like Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi, and everyone gets a moment to shine in their sharp suits.


21) Widows (2018)

In Steve McQueen’s Widows, four widows are forced to come together and plan a heist in order to pay off a crime boss that all of their former husbands tried ripping off. Written by Gillian Flynn, the author behind Gone Girl and its big-screen adaptation, Widows is a tense, action-packed film about consequences and how far people will go to put their lives back in order. Every member of the ensemble is great, but Viola Davis’ performance as Veronica Rawlings, a teacher’s union delegate turned quasi leader of the Widows, is especially powerful and was painfully overlooked at the Academy Awards that year.

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20) Logan Lucky (2017)

Director Steven Soderbergh's love of making heist movies jumps off the screen in the clever and hilarious Logan Lucky. After Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is fired from a construction job that takes place under the Charlotte Motor Speedway, he turns to his siblings Clyde (Adam Driver) and Mellie (Riley Keough) to help him rob the tube system that moves cash around underneath the stadium. With the help of safe-cracking expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), the group devises and initiates a complex plan that suddenly has to be adjusted when they realize they will have to rob the stadium during a packed NASCAR event.

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19) American Animals (2018)

Based on a true story, Bart Layton’s American Animals follows four college students as they devise a plan to steal a $20 million copy of Birds of America from their University library. The movie is full of flair and great dialogue, but what really holds it together is the ensemble’s excellent performances and their ability to constantly display a wide range of emotion during the buildup to the heist. Part of what distinguishes this from other adaptations of real-life stories is the fact that American Animals incorporates documentary-style interviews with the actual students- now grown up and dealing with the consequences of their actions- as they express their sides of the story and express their regrets about everything that happened. 


18) Bottle Rocket (1996)

Launching the careers of brothers Owen and Luke Wilson, Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket is a story about three mentally unstable friends who are seeking bigger and better things in their lives and decide to go about securing those things by launching into a life of crime. As the group goes about learning how to be criminals and performing small-time jobs, they suddenly find themselves in over their heads when they become involved with Mr. Henry (James Caan), an associate of Dignan’s (Owen Wilson) who keeps pulling them deeper into their newfound lives of crime. Bottle Rocket is actually Anderson’s debut feature-length film and was adapted from a short film he and the Wilson brothers made in 1994.

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17) Gambit (1966)

Directed by Ronald Neame, Gambit is a comedy heist that sees criminal Harry Dean (Michael Caine) enlist dancer Nicole Chang (Shirley MacLaine) to help him steal a priceless Chinese statue from one of the richest men in the world. Full of twists and romance, Gambit is entertaining from start to finish and shows just how naive some criminals have to be to think they can concoct and pull off the perfect heist.

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16) Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Each Mission Impossible movie is full of daring heists and explosive action, but there’s something about Christopher McQuarrie’s Rogue Nation that elevates it above the other films in the franchise. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back for another globe-trotting mission as he suddenly finds himself on the run from the CIA while simultaneously trying to prove the existence of a terrorist organization called the Syndicate. The film is a technical achievement on so many levels and the amazing stunt choreography team deserves all the praise in the world, especially since the film’s star is so willing to engage in dangerous stunts to entertain audiences.


15) Three Kings (1999)

Set shortly after the conclusion of the Gulf War, Three Kings follows a group of American soldiers in Iraq as they devise a plan to steal large quantities of gold that had originally been taken from Kuwait. Featuring an all-star trio of George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube, Three Kings sees the group set off to seize the gold before suddenly becoming embroiled in a battle between Iraqi rebels and Saddam Hussein’s forces. Directed by David O. Russel, the film is deeply satirical and full of humorous moments that are designed to make the viewer question the grim situation and the character’s motivations.


14) A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Directed by Charles Crichton, A Fish Called Wanda follows couple Georges Thomason (Tom Georgeson) and Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis), as well as their associate Ken Pile (Sir Michael Palin), as they plot a heist to steal a diamond worth roughly £13 million. Unbeknownst to the men, Wanda is orchestrating her own scheme and is planning to run off with the jewels herself, but she’ll have to outmaneuver her partners and get as much information as she can from Archie Leach (John Cleese), Georges’ lawyer, without tipping anyone off to her plans. Written by John Cleese, the film has a lot of the comedian’s signature wit sprinkled throughout and even garnered a nomination for best original screenplay at the Academy Awards.

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13) The Killing (1956)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Killing is a meticulously detailed and intricate heist film centered around an attempted robbery at a racetrack. The movie follows career criminal Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) as he assembles a team to pull off what he hopes will be the final job of his career so he can ride off into the sunset with his fiancee and start a new life. Things don’t go quite according to plan though, as Jonny suddenly has to deal with Sherry (Marie Windsor), the wife of one of the members of his squad, as she tries to concoct her own scheme to run away with the money in this twist-filled noir classic. 


12) Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Based on real-life events, Dog Day Afternoon follows first-time crook Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) and Sal Naturile’s (John Cazale) botched robbery attempt of a Brooklyn bank. Directed by Sidney Lumet, the film follows the duo as what they hoped would be a simple heist quickly spirals into a complicated situation with hostages and a massive police presence. In addition to the escalating situation, the film is full of social commentary and intimate moments that make it incredibly easy to empathize with every character in this Academy Award-winning film. 


11) Inception (2010)

Most heists include a team trying to take something, but in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Dom Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his team are tasked with trying to leave something in a highly secure location: someone’s mind. An emotionally charged film about a team of specialized criminals who are trying to implant an idea in the mind of their client’s business rival, Inception is full of engaging action sequences and incredibly sharp dialogue that keeps the story moving. Featuring stellar performances from Elliot Page and a pre-Bane Tom Hardy, Inception is a clever heist film with a sci-fi twist that features an incredibly memorable and effective score from Hans Zimmer.  

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10) Good Time (2017)

Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, Good Time is an adrenaline-fueled nightmare that follows criminal Constantine Nikas (Robert Pattinson) as he tries to get his mentally-challenged brother Nikolas Nikas (Benny Safdie) out of prison after a failed bank robbery. Desperate to scrounge up enough cash to bail Nick out of jail, Constantine embarks on a wild night- mingling with some of New York City’s most unsavory elements and a bottle full of LSD- all in the hopes that he can get his brother out of Rikers Island as soon as possible.

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9) Jackie Brown (1997)

The only adaptation in writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s catalog, Jackie Brown, follows the titular Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), a flight attendant who is busted moving money and strong armed into cooperating with law enforcement to bring down her boss. Looking out for her own safety, she concocts a plan to double-cross her dangerous boss and the corrupt officers in the hopes she can escape the situation with a whole lot of cash. Based on Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch, the film is often praised for revitalizing Pam Grier and Robert Forster’s careers and also features a stacked ensemble of actors, including Samuel Jackson and Robert De Niro.


8) Thief (1981)

Writer and director Michael Mann’s debut feature film, Thief, follows Frank (James Caan), a professional safecracker who wants to do one more big score before he can hopefully settle down and build a new life. As Frank keeps his mind fixed on his new life, he suddenly finds himself embroiled in a dangerous situation that leaves him out of control of his own destiny and afraid that his new life will never materialize. 


7) Hell or High Water (2016)

Written by Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water follows brothers Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster), who orchestrate a number of bank robberies in the hopes they can secure enough money to save their family ranch. With Texas Rangers Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) hot on their trail, the Howard brothers become increasingly desperate to get the money in time in this deeply personal and action-packed filmThe film received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. 

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6) The Usual Suspects (1995)

The film that left audiences everywhere asking “who is Keyser Söze,” The Usual Suspects is directed by Bryan Singer and written by the Mission: Impossible guru Christopher McQuarrie. Featuring an all-star ensemble, The Usual Suspects follows the interrogation of Roger Kint (Kevin Spacey), a seemingly insignificant criminal who is one of two survivors of a scheme gone wrong. He explains how he and the other criminals were pulled into the situation by Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri). Stylized and full of narration, The Usual Suspects is an incredibly enjoyable film that keeps audiences guessing and questioning everything they see on screen.

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5) The Sting (1973)

After a mutual friend is murdered, con artists Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) and Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) team up to try and exact revenge on the crime boss who orchestrated the assassination. Despite their best attempts to orchestrate an elaborate plot to steal as much money as they can from Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), things don’t go according to plan. They—as well as their associates who all want a piece of Doyle—have to think quickly to ensure everything still goes their way. The Sting was a huge hit at the 1974 Academy Awards, winning seven awards overall, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.


4) The Italian Job (1969)

Directed by Peter Collinson, The Italian Job is a good-old-fashioned British caper that sees recently released criminal Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) lead a team in an attempt to steal gold from an armored truck in Italy. An action-comedy film that is equally full of hilarious and explosive moments, The Italian Job sees the squad attempt their heist without interference from the Mafia and features one of the most entertaining car chase sequences I’ve ever seen.


3) Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

“We are going to kill one passenger a minute until New York City pays us 1 million dollars.”

That terrifying line perfectly sets the scene for Joseph Sargent’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Based on a 1973 novel of the same name, the film follows what happens after a group of four criminals kidnap 18 people on a New York City subway train and start making demands from the NYPD. As the criminals communicate their financial demands to Transit Police Lieutenant Zack Garber (Walter Matthau) over the radio, it falls to Garber to figure out the best way to outmaneuver the scheming criminals and keep all of the hostages safe. Featuring an explosively satisfying score, Taking of Pelham One Two Three is tense and engaging from start to finish and keeps audiences thoroughly entertained as the action slowly builds throughout the movie.


2) Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Every job needs a team, but to rob three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) needs to assemble one of the most specialized teams in history in Ocean’s ElevenAn all-star team of criminals with specific skills, played by an incredibly stacked ensemble of performers like Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Bernie Mac, all come together to orchestrate the heist of the century in the hopes they can ultimately split $160 million. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, this remake of the 1960 original is stylish, incredibly well paced, and full of fantastic dialogue.


1) Heat (1995)

A movie co-starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro is always going to be a treat, but something about Michael Mann’s Heat elevates it above the normal crime drama. Heat focuses on the cat-and-mouse game of expert criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and LAPD Detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) as McCauley tries to orchestrate a final big heist before retiring as Hanna and his colleagues slowly close in on the crew. On top of managing their stressful work loads, both characters have personal issues that distract them from their affairs, and they slowly build mutual respect for one another despite firmly remaining on opposite ends of the law. 

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