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The 8 Best Heist Movies

With the arrival of our new escape room The Heist approaching, we’ve been researching what guarantees success in a Heist. Don’t be too alarmed! We have no plans to take our findings to the streets (yet). Instead, we’ve dived into the cinema vaults to pick our 8 favourite Heist movies of all time.

1. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

An image taken from Reservoir Dogs

When we looked at films involving heists and major crime, Quentin Tarantino’s feature-length debut always seemed to top the list. Featuring an all-star cast and an unorthodox non-linear approach to storytelling Reservoir Dogs grips the viewer from the very start and doesn’t let go until long after the credits roll.

The film focuses on the aftermath of a diamond heist gone wrong. A fast response from the police causes a shootout and the crew scatters. The crew arrive one by one in the warehouse where most of the film is set. Paranoia sets in and tensions rise as the gang suspects a police officer is among them. Empire Magazine named Reservoir Dogs “the greatest independent film of all time”. It also has a huge cult following. In our opinion, this film is uncontested at number one.

2. Heat (1995)

A Poster for Heat starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro

Michael Mann directs Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in this exhilarating movie about crime. De Niro plays professional thief Neil McCauley, and the film follows his crew through a series of thrilling armed robberies. After a heist on an armoured car goes wrong, the crew attracts the attention of Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) of the LAPD’s Major Crimes Unit. 

The film becomes an enthralling game of cat and mouse as the two men attempt to outwit each other. The viewer is constantly choosing who they think will win this game, and whether good will triumph over evil. Major highlights from Heat include a great soundtrack and an enthralling car chase leading to an outstanding face off in a restaurant. 

3. Triple 9 (2016)

When looking for more modern examples of Heist movies it’s hard to ignore Triple 9. In this gritty portrayal of the life criminals sign up to, lines blur between right and wrong. Crooked members of the police work alongside thieves to rob a safety deposit box for a Russian mafia boss. This leads to another robbery. They hatch a plan to ensure the crew escape successfully. They will use a Triple 9 call to distract he police from the robbery. A Triple 9 call means an officer is down the police will flock to this location at the opposite side of the city to the actual crime. 

Things rarely go to plan and you will be left wondering about the loyalty of members of the crew as the story delves deeper. An interesting use of technology within the heist shows how both criminals and law enforcement are adapting in the 21st Century.

4. Inception (2010)

Box office superstar Leonardo Di Caprio stars in this unconventional science fiction film. Set within the architecture of the human mind, Inception delves deeper than any other film on this list. Whereas the majority of Heist films focus on the theft of diamonds or money, Inception is the story of two “extractors” who infiltrate the subconscious of their targets and steal secrets relating to business espionage. 

Di Caprio’s character embarks on a seemingly impossible task to infiltrate his target’s mind by creating a dream within a dream. Success on his mission will allow his criminal record to be wiped clean. Lines blur leaving the viewer constantly guessing if they are watching a dream segment or if the characters are awake. This makes for an immersive and thought-provoking experience and has led to a cult following of the film. Due to the complexity, many viewings may be necessary.

5. Hell or High Water (2016)

Hell or High Water Banner

This film isn’t as well known as some of the others that have made our list. Yet it’s ranked within the top ten movies of 2016.  It also gained critical acclaim after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, making it a serious contender within the Heist genre.

Faced with the possibility of losing their ranch, two brothers begin to rob banks within West Texas. Their intention? Launder the money and keep ownership of their home. As the film progresses it becomes clear there is a difference in the brother’s personalities. A series of wild risks lead to the inevitable interest of Texas Rangers. Tension is constantly built throughout and a statewide pursuit is underway. Excellent cinematography shines throughout Hell or High Water and treats viewers to an awe-inspiring conclusion. 

6. The Italian Job (1969)

Poster for the Heist movie the Italian Job

No list about Heist movies would be complete without a nod to The Italian Job. Starring Michael Caine, the Italian Job is a British classic and has even been named the 27th Best British film of all time. Viewers are in for an enthralling balance of action and comedy as this Cockney gang plans a daring heist in Italy. 

After involvement with the Italian Mafia, the gang plan to rob four million dollars worth of gold bullion from Turin. They use three iconic Mini Coopers to move the gold around the city and escape the Police. This leads to some amazing scenes, as the three little cars lead an intense chase through shopping centres and across roof-tops. The film ends on a teetering conclusion in the Swiss alps, leaving fans questioning the fate of the gang. More than fifty years after its release it’s still a must-watch!

7. Ocean's Eleven (2001)

This 2001 remake brings together an all-star cast for funny moments and an extremely clever robbery.

Ocean’s Eleven revolves around a preposterous plan: To rob the three biggest casinos in Las Vegas in one night. George Clooney assembles a crack team of ten criminals, each with unique and impressive skill-sets. Expect to see slick feats of sleight of hand and a journey of ups and downs which ultimately results in an effortless and enjoyable watching. A few sequels have been made for those who want more of the same, and they continue to feel fresh and worthy watches. 

8. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Screenshot from Dog Day Afternoon

Inspired by a bank robbery of the same decade, Dog Day Afternoon (DDA) takes a different approach to the Heist genre. Whilst most films on this list show crews committing robberies with surgical precision and take a hardened attitude towards its victims, DDA shows the opposite. Viewers are constantly reminded of the pressures of this kind of crime.  

As the film shows how a first-time offender and a group of empathetic individuals respond psychologically to the crimes they are committing. This is a refreshing change within the genre that resonates with those that watch. The National Film Registry film has since selected DDA for preservation.

So there you have it, our picks for our favourite Heist movies of all time! What are your favourites? Did we miss any from our list?

If you dream of completing a Heist of your own, check out our newest escape room the Heist here.

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