When a link to the latest Army of Freshmen music video landed in my inbox I jumped for joy twice. First, because I love Army of Freshmen and they make such incredible music videos, and then again because I learned that Ava paid tribute to heist movies, and I love a heist movie.
The heist in the Ava video has everything you could possibly want, and everything that makes a heist movie great. You’ve got your handsome team of criminals, sexy suits, the world’s least scary masks (which are instantly terrifying when placed on the face of a man with a deadly weapon), a beautiful building, a big-ass vault to try and penetrate, have-a-go heroes/obstacles and just a hint of comedic door trouble.
AoF got me thinking about my favourite heist flicks, and why I love them so much.
So, sit back and check out my ten favourite movies involving spectacular robberies from banks, museums and casinos. Some are based on real events and people, some are just fantastic works of fiction, either way, I reckon these are the best of the best.
*Please note, this article will contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen a film and you plan to, skip it and move on to the next one.*
10. The Taking of Pelham 123
“Dead is an improvement on a lot of things I can think of, buddy boy.”
If I’ve learned one valuable lesson during my 26 years on this planet, it’s that any movie starring Denzel Washington as the good guy is awesome. It’s also fairly safe to say that, if it stars John Travolta, as a good guy or a bad guy, I’m probably going to love it too (“Even Look Who’s Talking Too?” I hear you cry. Especially Look Who’s Talking Too!). Well, The Taking of Pelham 123 stars Denzel as the goodie, and John as the baddie.
Tony Scott’s subway heist remake tells the tale of four armed men who hold up a train in Manhattan. On the surface, it seems like a fairly straightforward hostage situation, with Denzel being the middle man between Travolta and his hostage money (What is the going rate for a New York City hostage today? You think a million dollars is too much?). But things are not always as they seem, and Travolta et al have an even bigger scam going playing the stock market – I do love a good twist.
9. The Town
“No matter how much you change, you still have to pay the price for the things you’ve done.”
One of the reasons I think The Town is so brilliant is because it has more to offer than just a bunch of awesome criminals pulling off a complex heist – it’s a thriller, but with romance and heartbreak thrown into the mix.
Charlestown is a neighbourhood in Boston where it isn’t unusual to want to be an armed robber when you grow up – well, as much as Ben Affleck’s character doesn’t want to be, he ends up living the life of a criminal.
Ben (who also co-wrote/directed the flick) and his crew rob a bank, and end up taking the bank manager hostage for a while. Afterwards it is Ben’s job to follow her, and try and find out if she knows anything that could incriminate them and, would you believe it, they end up falling in love. Uh-oh.
Though it does feature several awesome heists, The Town is more about the aftermath, and Ben soon learns that even if you can get away from the scene of the crime, you can’t always get away from who you are and what you’ve done.
8. The Italian Job
“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”
If you want to see it heavily implied that a young Michael Caine is having sex with way more ladies than I believe he really deserves, then The Italian Job is the film for you – the original 1969 version, not the 2003 remake, as much as I adore Mark Wahlberg.
Michael Caine getting more ass than he can shake his stick at aside, The Italian Job is a damn epic heist movie.
I think my favourite thing about The Italian Job is the fact that, as good as the plan is, as well as it is executed and as skilfully as they overcome obstacles, ultimately things don’t go that well. With only minutes of the film to go, they’re already celebrating in the prison, as Caine, his crew and the gold are loaded onto a bus and travelling up and down the winding mountain roads, you really think they’re going to get away with it.
The flick finishes with the bus balancing on the edge of a high drop… will they get out alive? Will they manage to get the gold out? The first time I watched it I was doing a similar balancing act on the edge of my seat, and then… the film ends, but don’t worry, Caine has a great idea.
7. Inside Man
“Unfortunately, the further you run from your sins, the more exhausted you are when they catch up with you… and they do.”
Denzel Washington as the good guy? Don’t mind if I do. Clive Owen generally? Don’t mind if I do.
Inside Man is a brilliant heist with an absolutely fantastic twist in the tale. The film keeps you guessing all the way through, which only makes the pay-off at the end seem even more awesome.
Clive Owen’s character is the mastermind of a bank robbery turned hostage situation. On the surface it seems pretty straightforward, but as the movie goes on you learn that things are far more complex, this is the “perfect bank robbery” after all.
The brilliant thing about Inside Man is that unlike in other heist flicks, you don’t actually know exactly how they are pulling the job off, or what their getaway strategy is, it keeps you guessing and then when you finally find out that Clive Owen has been hiding out in the bank since the robbery… amazing.
Inside Man is not just about making money though, it’s about uncovering the wrong doings of others too. Well worth a watch.
6. Public Enemies
“We’re having too good a time today. We ain’t thinking about tomorrow.”
Now, I’m not sure if this is right – I mean I did just out myself as a lover of the Look Who’s Talking trilogy, but when I’m watching a heist movie I am almost always on the side of the ones doing the heist – the bad guys. Now, it might because we are usually presented with likeable (and often handsome) criminals, or because they are often otherwise good people who are sticking it to the man, like the big banks, or doing it partially for some sort of justice like in Inside Man.
So, why do I love Public Enemies? Johnny Depp. You want more? Ok. The film follows the final few years of notorious bank robber John Dillinger’s (Depp) life. With his skilful and successful heists and the way he manages to dodge the authorities for so long, you can’t help but love him, and like he says, he’s not there to take anyone’s money but the bank’s. Dillinger was a charming criminal, and a bit of a hero for robbing from the banks who many believe were responsible for the Great Depression.
There are several epic bank jobs, and if that’s not enough just imagine a charismatic bad boy wrapped up in a package that looks like Johnny Depp. Hubba hubba.
5. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
“Man, who the fuck steals a monkey?”
I’ve lost you, haven’t I? Well, hear me out. It’s all well and good having these serious, skilful thrillers, but comedy films tackle heists in an equally epic way. There were a few contenders but Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back has to be the best.
The flick tells the tale of two lovable stoners, who are road-tripping to Hollywood to stop a movie being made about a comic book that they were the inspiration for – one that portrays them in a negative light, or “fucking clown shoes” as a reviewer puts it. It’s during their trip to Hollywood that they end up joining a group of girls who they believe are an animal rights group, on a mission to free a monkey from an animal testing centre. They’re actually criminals, and they’re setting Jay and Silent Bob up to take the fall for the diamond heist they’re pulling next door.
The plans are almost ruined by a fart, but otherwise it’s actually a pretty successful heist. The main reason I love the film is because it’s just so funny.
4. The Usual Suspects
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
The Usual Suspects is a heist movie right up until the end, when you realise it isn’t a heist movie at all. It all starts when five bad eggs meet in a police line-up and end up planning a heist together, getting caught up with a secretive criminal kingpin by the name of Keyser Söze. Now Keyser Söze is practically a rumour, no one really knows that much about him, only what they’ve heard, and what they’ve heard is not pretty.
If you like films with a twist, then you can’t go wrong with The Usual Suspects, it is the twist movie. The big reveal when you find out what the plan really was, and who Keyser Söze really is, is a beautiful moment matched by few other movie twists.
The film boasts an incredible cast – Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak and the show-stealing Kevin Spacey.
3. Ocean’s Eleven
“The house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you bet big, then you take the house.”
I always worry it’s a controversial move, but like The Taking of Pelham 123, I actually prefer the remake of Oceans Eleven, and I promise you it has nothing to do with the casting of hottie, Brad Pitt.
The reasons Ocean’s Eleven is so brilliant is because it’s so easy to side with Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his gang of master criminals. They’re robbing a casino – famed for “always winning” people’s money – and it’s owned by a man who is not only not remotely likeable, but he’s schtupping Danny’s bird, can you believe that?!
The ambitious heist is pulled off in the most incredible way, and you’re rooting for the “bad guys” from start to finish.
You see the planning, the execution and the aftermath of their scheme, and it’s all beautiful.
If you pretend the sequels don’t exist, Ocean’s Eleven is a pretty flawless, with a cast list boasting names like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, and Bernie Mac.
2. Reservoir Dogs
“I don’t know what you think you know, but you’re wrong.”
You don’t have to watch Reservoir Dogs for long before you realised the heist has already happened, and that it has gone very wrong. Until this job came along, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Brown, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink and Mr. White didn’t know each other – they don’t even know their co-criminals real names. However, after it all goes wrong and the police seem to have been a little too well informed, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink and Mr. White are left with the aftermath of having to work out if one of them is a cop.
The film is a credit to director/co-director Quentin Tarantino, who showcases just what you can do with a low budget and incredible actors. Shout-outs to Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi, and it has to be said that Michael Madsen plays the part of an absolute nut case incredibly well – I can no longer hear the song Stuck in the Middle with You without thinking of him.
“For every action, there is a reaction. And a Pikey reaction… is quite a fucking thing.”
And so, my favourite heist film of all time… Snatch.
Snatch starts with a diamond heist, with an 84-carat diamond being the main target. The movie is complex, with multiple story lines happening at one, all which seem to link back to that diamond, and all cleverly intertwined.
The film, written and directed by Guy Ritchie, is clever, it’s hilarious, it’s got some awesome camera work/editing going on and it’s very quotable – “Who took the jam outta your doughnut?” / “You took the fucking jam outta my doughnut, Tommy.”
Favourite characters include Turkish (Jason Statham) and Tommy (Stephen Graham), Bullet-Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones) and Vinny (Robbie Gee), Sol (Lennie James) and Tyrone (Ade), who are absolutely hilarious when they try and rob a bookies. It has to be said that the star of the show is Brad Pitt, who plays charismatic gypsy boxer, Mickey. I only understood about 25% of the words he said, but his cheeky charm, ability to knock a man out cold with one punch and his downright handsomeness are just a few of the things that make Mickey so awesome.
Snatch is clever and complex, but not to the point where you lose track of what’s going on, and by the time the twist hits you at the end you’ll be so damn delighted with the whole film you’ll want to watch it again immediately.
With so many different characters, you’d think it would be hard to do each one justice, but Snatch manages this feat. It is the different ways each character is connected to the diamond that makes this film so brilliant, and really stand out from other heist movies. This is another flick that’s more about the aftermath, and it’s just brilliant.
Check out Army of Freshmen’s new video, below.