Planning one big - or the ever fateful final - score takes months of intricate planning and plotting. First, you have to assemble your team in a globe-trotting field trip in search of people with all kinds of unique talents. Then, you have to case the joint for a few days or weeks to understand the workflow of the people inside and the traffic of the world outside. You have to find a way to gauge police interception - how long will it take for the police to get there? Sometimes you do all of that in a comical costume to remain inconspicuous.
Before the big day, you must have at least one big team meeting detailing how it all is going to go down. While you might have backup plans, you’re not trying to account for things going sideways, so no use explaining plan b, c, d, or various escape routes.
When the day of the big score happens, hopefully, your whole team is loose and relaxed, and everyone actually shows up to work that day! How these things happen in real life is debatable, but most Hollywood heist movies happen just like that.
Here are ten of the best of them - the 10 Best Heist Movies Of All Time, Ranked.
10 Inside Man
When Spike Lee and Denzel Washington get together, magic happens. Their fourth film together, Inside Man, adds Jodie Foster and Clive Owen to the winning formula. Owen plays Dalton Russell, a bank robber with altruistic intentions.
Dalton's scheme is pretty pitch-perfect. He comes to his bank with his team, who are all dressed as painters, and forces the staff to dress the same to keep everyone secluded and confused. In the meantime, the robbers come in and out, preparing their score, all to root out a generations-old conspiracy, and get a diamond or two.
9 Ocean's 11
Danny Ocean can’t even wait a day after he gets out of prison to plan his next big score. He’s already on the phone with his bestie, Rusty, and they’ve got their sights set on three of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas.
To make a plan like this work they need everything to go right. However, the casinos they’re planning to sack happen to be owned and operated by Terry Benedict, a guy who is dating Danny’s ex-wife.
8 Bonnie And Clyde
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway helped galvanize late sixties counterculture when they played the titular roles in the now almost mythic story of Bonnie And Clyde. During The Great Depression, the pair meet and, out of sheer boredom, start robbing banks and gas stations.
It’s not the first heist film ever made, and their robberies aren’t nearly as elaborate as some of the flashier films on this list. Nevertheless, their story, even though they’re technically the “bad guys,” has been woven into the fabric of Americana for nearly 100 years now.
One of Robert DeNiro’s last really great movies of the nineties, Ronin teams the actor up with Jean Reno, Sean Bean, Stellan Skarsgård, and Natasha McElhone. They form a team of mercenaries, each excommunicated from their respective institutions.
They are tasked with retrieving a briefcase and must then deal with the fallout from the job. This is what NOT to do when preparing for a high stakes heist - put a crew together who have never met or worked with one another before. Loyalties get questioned really quickly this way.
6 The Town
If you grew up in Charleston, Massachusetts then learning how to be a thief wasn’t just a rite of passage, it was a way of life. It’s what Doug McCray and his friends do. Then he falls for the woman they took hostage.
But she can ID Doug’s friend Jem. Meanwhile, Doug wants to live in retirement in Florida and Jem wants to pull off one last score before he’s actually ok letting his best friend just leave - rob Fenway Park.
5 The Usual Suspects
It’s a simple plot, or is it? Did five of New York’s criminals unknowingly rob a vicious Turkish crime lord? Is that same crime lord on the ship, masquerading as one of these crooks?
The Usual Suspects is the type of movie that the big twist grabs you and makes you want to watch it again immediately to pick out what you missed. The movie made household names out of stars like Benicio Del Toro and Kevin Spacey, as well as director Bryan Singer.
Christopher Nolan’s love of playing with timelines and pacing makes him an excellent director for a big-time heist movie. Leave it to him to take that notion and turn it right on its ear! Inception is more than just a heist movie.
It’s a science-fiction head trip. Dom and his team aren’t tasked with stealing jewels or bearer bonds. They’re not even tasked with taking a secret out of someone’s mind. They have to use their technology to dive into a person’s mind and implant a thought into their mind.
Everyone’s leading a double life in Dominic Sena’s Swordfish. Ginger Knowles is either an undercover DEA Agent, a rogue one, or just posing as one. She’s trying to convince an expert hacker on parole, Stanley Jobson to help her either take down Gabriel Shear, her boyfriend, or work with them. Shear claims he’s part of a black ops organization that specializes in hitting terrorists before they hit us.
Meanwhile, Stanley’s being tailed by the FBI Agent who caught him. Things get even more complicated when Gabriel kills Jobson’s ex-wife and kidnaps his daughter to get him to cooperate. It’s all about misdirection, according to the Dog Day Afternoon - quoting Gabriel, who's playing who?
2 The Italian Job
If anyone was going to make the Mini Cooper cool again, it would have been Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron. It should have been the perfect heist - steal a bunch of gold bullion from thieves that stole it first.
Unfortunately, Charlie and his team are betrayed by Steve and left for dead. A year has passed, and Charlie is ready for revenge and enlists the help of Stella. She’s the daughter of Charlie’s mentor, John, who DID die due to Steve’s betrayal.
Over twenty years after its release, there aren’t a lot of films out there like Michael Mann’s Heat. A character study of an expert thief and his crew running concurrently to another study of a detective who is hellbent on stopping him.
The film is known for being the first time DeNiro and Pacino are on screen together (they’re both in The Godfather, Part II but in different timelines). Their meeting at the diner and the epic shootout in the streets of L.A. are worth the price of admission.