The heist…it’s an easy go-to plot device for any filmmaker looking to put together a project full of mystery, action and suspense as well as a little neat sleight of hand. Whether we’re meant to root for the criminal or for the law enforcement officers tracking them down heist movies are some of the most fun and mind-bending experiences you’ll ever have at the movies. Since the year 2000 the genre has seen plenty of great additions and with the latest such film “Ocean’s 8” to be released this weekend I took a look at some of the best in modern cinema to get you pumped for what’s to come. These are my picks for the Top 10 Modern Heist Movies.
The qualifications for this list are simple. Any movie released from the year 2000 to May of 2018 and is considered a heist film was looked at for this countdown. I limited the list to only one film per franchise but that’s about it. As long as the film is a modern production and involves heists as a main plot point it was fair game. Movies were graded based on a number of factors including overall quality and how enjoyable they were but were not judged by the type of heists they had or how much the movie focused on the heist itself. it could focus more on the characters, the motivation, the aftermath, or the buildup as long as a heist was a big part of the plot.
This list was surprisingly hard to narrow down so I’m sure I missed a few favorites. That said I want to know, what’s your favorite heist movie from the 2000s to today? Tell me in the comments below and look for my review of “Ocean’s 8” coming soon.
10. “Fast Five”
I debated whether or not I wanted to add this of all films to my list but, you know what, it deserves it. The “Fast and Furious” franchise gets a bad rep sometimes and has been an interesting one to watch evolve but with “Fast Five” it went from just fast cars and testosterone to actually having an enjoyable theme and premise as our favorite muscle car driving gang try to get back at a man who used them by stealing an entire safe full of money. It’s one of the most enjoyable films in the entire series and added some much needed legitimacy to the series with ridiculously fun chases, memorable characters that felt better developed and a heist that was so over the top you knew it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. This approach was hinted at in the previous film but was fully fleshed out in “Fast Five” and showed the potential this franchise truly had. Like most great heist films the plot also involves a convoluted plan with a great whammy ending. Yes, “Fast Five” borrows heavily from classics of the genre, but most of the films on this list do and as I’ve said many times it’s more about how well these clichés are worked into a story. Where “Fast Five” is concerned they do it well and give us a movie that’s fun, memorable, and perfectly fits the spirit of the genre it chose to embrace.
9. “The Italian Job”
American remakes of foreign films aren’t always a hit, but with 2003’s “The Italian Job” we saw that sometimes a modernized look at a property can actually pay off. Starring a cast of whose who stars of the early 2000s this film is based on the 1969 British film of the same name and follows a team who plans to steal gold from a former partner. The plot diverts significantly from its predecessor, but that’s part of the charm which helped it become a modest box office success and a critical hit. “The Italian Job” is not only a pulse pounding story but it sports memorable characters, an appropriately complicated yet understandable heist plan and a kick ass chase scene involving Mini Coopers which has become probably the most notable aspect of the project to mainstream movie fans. Upon it’s release “The Italian Job” felt fresh and new even if it embraced the same old clichés of the genre (which is probably going to be a theme on this countdown) because it added unique visual style and flare to its presentation. Most of all though it’s a film that pandered without becoming a product of its time making it a nice piece of nostalgia to boot. “The Italian Job” is often considered among the better American adaptations of British cinema and an epically entertaining heist film so it’s definitely worth a look.
8. “Logan Lucky”
The newest film on this list from a trio of great heist films in 2017, “Logan Lucky” had director Steven Soderbergh’s fingerprints all over it. Think of it like “Ocean’s Eleven” in the modern American south. The story follows the Logan brothers who plot to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway during one of the NASCAR’s biggest races, the Coca Cola 600. “Logan Lucky” embraces the same approach to storytelling as the aforementioned “Ocean’s Eleven” but instead of having a master thief at the helm we see two bumbling brothers who put together a small team to get the job done including orchestrating the not-escape of a felon named Joe Bang in order to have him involved in the heist. “Logan Lucky” has a heavily layered plot that’s spread throughout the entire film as we got to see every step of the plan come to fruition. In the end we also get the typical genre staple, a reveal of the underlying sleight of hand of our main characters use to make sure they are always in control. It’s a fun movie that embraces the culture and mentality of its setting as well as the spirit of a proven formula while feeling appropriate, timely, and fresh.
7. “Inside Man”
A Spike Lee directed crime thriller, 2006’s “Inside Man” is a unique heist film that’s not about the actual robbery but rather what the criminals are looking for. The plot involves a detective who tries to negotiate with a group of robbers performing a heavily public apparent theft of a large bank. There are underlying plot lines I won’t go into here but I will say we eventually find out that this robbery isn’t about the money as much as it is about the truth and Lee does a fantastic job giving audiences just enough detail at the right time to allow the viewer to fill in the blanks. What makes the film all the more enjoyable is how prepared the thieves are for everything thrown their way and how effectively they hide in plain sight and use theatrics to convince everyone they are truly dangerous. The theft in the film is called “the perfect crime” by the main thief and once we see what is truly taking place we’re inclined (there’s a pun in that word let me know if you get it) to believe him. “Inside Man” is filled with intrigue that keeps us guessing from start to finish, eventually leaving us wondering who the bad guy truly is.
Guy Ritchie is a master of action and suspense movies and one of his best was 2000’s “Snatch”, the oldest film on this list. While many interchange “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” as his best contributions to the heist genre “Snatch” was released within the specified timeline for this list so it gets the nod here. Anyways, “Snatch” follows two intertwined plots both involving a rare diamond which is the focus of the heist in the film. Along the way we are introduced to some memorable and great characters who become involved in the theft and are presented with comedic and at times ridiculous situations involving the fate of the diamond and those trying to possess it. It’s not the traditional heist movie we’ve come to expect, like stealing from vaults and such, but it contains the same flair and fun of other genre staples and if nothing else introduced us to some awesome nicknames. “Snatch” may be a little underappreciated by the masses these days but it truly is a worthy and amusing heist film to check out if you have the opportunity.
5. “The Town”
Leave it to Ben Affleck to direct and star in a movie about robbing Fenway Park. “The Town” is a masterful crime thriller that puts the focus on a group of Boston bank robbers looking for one final score by stealing from the famous city landmark and home of the Red Sox. With a great cast and an engaging story “The Town” packs visual appeal and suspense mixing genuinely human characters with subtle but well shot robbery scenes to make for a pretty neat film overall. While not as dependent on the action of the heists as other films and more focused on the getaways and the personal lives of the thieves “The Town” is still a worthy genre piece that perfectly captures the action and keeps viewers interested in the survival and success of its main cast. The final attempt to rob Fenway and the ensuing standoff alone are worth watching because we get enough time to care about each character and understand their motives and personalities up to that point to be invested in the outcome. The film boldly states that while not every crook is a good guy, most of them are still human in some way which is why it’s such a great piece of cinematic art.
4. “Hell or High Water”
Another 2017 entry for this list “Hell or High Water” is part of Taylor Sheridan’s Frontier Trilogy of thriller films and was a neo-western focusing on two brothers who carry out bank robberies to save their family ranch. Sounds simple right? Well there’s more to it. Throughout the film we see several of their robberies and getaways and how they launder the money so it can’t be traced with the help of a casino. Throughout the story the two brothers are followed by a pair of Texas Rangers making the entire project one big cat and mouse game where the lines between good and evil are blurred and viewers are left wondering who to root for, if anyone. “Hell or High Water” blends multiple genres together perfectly to give viewers something that feels familiar but also completely fresh in execution. It’s so beloved that it received near universal critical acclaim and went on to earn a nomination for Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Award. If that doesn’t get you to watch it I don’t know what will.
Personally I see this as less of a heist film in story than it is in concept, but there’s no way I could have left “Inception” off this list. Christopher Nolan’s 2010 modern classic was a massive critical and financial hit with stunning visuals, an ensemble cast and a now iconic soundtrack. It also kind of flips the script on the heist genre by having its protagonists leave something behind rather than steal it as they use dream infiltration tactics usually used to rob information to implant an idea. While yes the idea of stealing information through others dreams is played with in the movie the main goal of the heist is to convince the target the idea is their own, thus altering potential futures in the favor of an employer. “Inception” is more than just the typical mind game of other genre projects and it goes beyond the concept to provide something truly original in every way. We are actually told exactly how the film’s “heist” is to play out and the suspense is more about whether or not they make it work. If you haven’t seen this film yet add it to your must watch list because “Inception” is a heist inspired thriller that will blow your mind in more ways than one.
2. “Ocean’s Eleven”
You knew it was going to be here. “Ocean’s Eleven” started off a franchise of modern heist films that has led to the reboot film that inspired this very list. Actually a remake, “Ocean’s Eleven” surpassed its predecessor in near every way to become one of the most beloved genre movies of all time. The story introduces us to the titular Danny Ocean who brings together a group of talented men to knock over three casinos when no one has ever even been able to successfully rob one. Their plan is intricate and we, the audience, get a glimpse into only a few details here and there in one of the Steven Soderbergh’s best works that was the first movie for many to offer a look into the director’s intriguing talent of cinematic sleight of hand. Both the viewers and the targets are left wondering how it all came to fruition and it truly is fascinating to experience every bit of the fun and then see the crew’s final tricks as they get away. While the two sequels are okay, it’s hard to top the original in terms of style. It’s a film that demands a rewatch to understand and catch it all and practically revitalized and popularized the heist genre for a new generation of cinema goers in the 2000s.
1. “Baby Driver”
Remember when I said that it’s not about the clichés but more how you embrace them? This 2017 film, which I had as one of my best of the year, is a prime example of how to do it right. “Baby Driver” is not just an amazing action piece, it’s also one of the best heist movies of all time let alone the last two decades. The movie focuses on the titular Baby who works for a crime boss as a getaway driver. Using music and natural talent baby has become invaluable to his boss but begins to seek a way out until one last mission calls him into the driver seat again. While we don’t get to see much of the heists here we do experience the getaway several times and the cinematography and stunt driving alone is just amazing to behold. Add to that a charming cast, nonstop thrills, and criminals who, for the most part, are smarter than many and you have a heist film that’s not only well shot and well made, but a hopeful future classic to be. If you can get past the fact that Kevin Spacey plays the crime boss and enjoy “Baby Driver” for what it is I promise you won’t be disappointed. There’s a reason it topped all of its predecessors to make it to number one on this list. If you’re interested in learning more you can read my review of the film here, but I just highly recommend you take a look at it for yourself.