The 25 Greatest Heist Movies of All Time

Steve McQueen stars in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).
Steve McQueen stars in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).
MGM Home Entertainment

In the vast landscape of crime cinema—from movies about murder investigations to small-time crooks to gangster pictures—the heist movie holds a special place in the heart of many fans. There's something about watching all of that planning come together, seeing the often clashing personalities of the characters work side-by-side, and even sometimes laughing or crying as it falls apart, that holds a special fascination. Perhaps because there's a certain satisfaction to seeing all the pieces click into place that more chaotic crime films just can't give you.

In the long history of crime cinema, there have been dozens of heist films ranging in size from small jobs to massive capers, but only a select few stand out as the perfect combination of planning and execution, of character chemistry and filmmaking intricacy. With those factors in mind, we took a look back at the long history of heist films and picked 25 of our very favorites (presented here in chronological order).

1. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Billed as a story of "the city under the city," John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle is the godfather of all modern heist films, and it's easy to see how the various hallmarks of the genre grew out of this gritty, taut caper. It's got a mastermind fresh out of prison, a down-on-his-luck hood looking to turn his life around, and a climactic heist sequence where everything starts to unravel. It's a foundational document in the subgenre, and still holds up as a tense noir masterpiece.

2. Rififi (1955)

After he was blacklisted in his home country, American director Jules Dassin went to France and produced what many people still consider to be the finest heist film ever made. Rififi bears many marks of influence from The Asphalt Jungle, but takes things into more stylized territory, particularly when it comes to the centerpiece heist. It unfolds completely free of dialogue, but the film has set it up so well that the silence is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. It even features the crooks descending on their target from above, something numerous later heist films (including Dassin's Topkapi) would embrace.

3. The Ladykillers (1955)

Part of the appeal of heist films has always been the number of ways in which the plan can go wrong, whether it's in the execution or in the clash of personalities within the gang of criminals. The Ladykillers, one of the most distinctly British crime films ever made, has a bit of both. It features a wickedly iconic performance from Alec Guinness, an essential turn from Peter Sellers, and a final act that devolves in pure impish mayhem when the various crooks all turn on each other as their elderly landlady looks on. (If the title sounds familiar, it might be because Joel and Ethan Coen remade it with Tom Hanks in 2004.)

4. The Killing (1956)

The best heist filmmakers are often the most intricate thinkers, which means it's no surprise that Stanley Kubrick absolutely nailed his turn at the subgenre. The story of a tightly orchestrated racetrack robbery, The Killing unfolds in a somewhat nonlinear style, as Kubrick shows you one character's role, then rewinds the timeline a bit to show you what another character was doing at the exact same time. It's a risky structure, but it pays off spectacularly in Kubrick's hands, and it all builds to one of the most beautifully ironic endings in crime cinema history.

5. Bob le Flambeur (1956)

Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le flambeur is another of those classic '50s heist films that's still influencing the subgenre in a major way today. A sleek, incredibly stylish, and sexy film about an aging gambler who hatches a plan to rob a casino, the film is a masterclass in balancing the intricate setup of the central heist with the often tumultuous lives of its characters. The arc of the title character (Roger Duchesne) in particular builds in a truly spectacular way, until the final minutes are positively quaking with tension.

6. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

If you wanted to make a cool movie in the 1960s, casting Steve McQueen got you halfway to where you wanted to be. The Thomas Crown Affair stars McQueen as a bored millionaire who can basically do whatever he wants with his time, and what he wants is to stage extremely intricate robberies just to see if he can. Then along comes Faye Dunaway, and Crown's plans get just a little more complicated. While John McTiernan's 1999 remake is fun in its own right, it's hard to touch the pure effortless cool of the original.

7. The Italian Job (1969)

Ideally, you want a heist film that can pull out of some kind of spectacular caper setpiece while also making you care about the characters pulling said caper off through some combination of a great script and great chemistry. Some films do one better than the other, but The Italian Job manages to excel at both. Even now, more than 50 years after its release, it stands as one of the funniest films on this list. And while the Mini Cooper car chase remains an iconic piece of heist movie history, the final scene on the bus is almost as impressive.

8. The Sting (1973)

Most heist films are about a group of guys who are going somewhere to get something, whether it's a bank or a casino or a fancy house. The Sting, anchored by the pure magic that is the Paul Newman/Robert Redford team-up, flips that and tells a story about two con artists who make the heist come to them. It's got all the hallmarks of a great heist picture, from the assembly of the team to the planning to the teasing out of the relationship with the target, but it all unfolds with an amusing sense of reversal. By the final scene, you're just as giddy that it all came together as the characters are.

9. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Some heist films spend most of their time setting up the caper, while others prefer to leap into it right at the beginning. No matter where they start, there's usually a clear indication that there was a plan. Dog Day Afternoon, Sidney Lumet's white-hot bank robbery picture starring Al Pacino in what is arguably his best performance, makes it clear that the crooks at the center of the story did have a plan. It was just a plan with a whole lot of flaws, and the very human response to how all of those flaws reveal themselves throughout the film makes for one of the most raw displays of empathy in crime cinema history.

10. Blue Collar (1978)

After making a name for himself as a writer with films like Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader chose this story of down-on-their-luck auto workers who plot to rob their union's safe as his directorial debut. It remains, even today, a searing portrait of income inequality, middle class pain, and the way those with power manipulate the powerless into thinking they might be able to get some of their own. Yaphet Kotto, Harvey Keitel, and Richard Pryor all turn in powerful performances, and the whole film is a masterclass in how to use the hook of a heist plot to say something bigger.

11. Thief (1981)

Michael Mann remains one of crime cinema's greatest living practitioners, and he came out of the gate swinging in the subgenre with his directorial debut. Thief is the story of a safecracker (James Caan in top form) who longs for a fulfilling life beyond criminal pursuits after he gets out of prison. Of course, in classic crime cinema fashion, he finds that having it all isn't as within reach as he'd like. Thief features some of the best scenes of fiery, authentic safe-cracking in cinema, and remains one of the highlights of both Mann and Caan's stellar careers.

12. Die Hard (1988)

Whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie is still up for debate. What's not up for debate is its place in the pantheon of gripping, high-octane heist films. While it's best remembered for its action setpieces that take place around the heist, the inciting incident of John McTiernan's legendary film is indeed Hans Gruber and crew plotting to steal a corporation's stash of bearer bonds under the guise of a terrorist hostage situation. It's got everything you want from a great heist, from manipulating law enforcement to drilling a safe to an amazing mastermind at the head of it all. They just didn't count on a barefoot New York cop who's really into Roy Rogers to come and steal their thunder.

13. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Quentin Tarantino has hyped his debut film in countless interviews as a heist film where you never see the actual heist, and it's true that Reservoir Dogs never shows us exactly what happened during the planned diamond robbery at the heart of the story. So why is it on this list? Because, through a combination of careful character work, planning sequences, and absolute mayhem as everything goes wrong, Tarantino allows us to piece the heist together in our heads. By the end we feel like we were there with the characters even if we weren't.

14. Heat (1995)

At two hours and 50 minutes long, Michael Mann's Heat is the very definition of an epic crime film, and from the outside looking in it seems so massive that you might wonder what the filmmaker is possibly filling it with. Once that opening armored car robbery hits, though, the film moves at such a blistering pace that we're left wishing it was even longer. The film is best remembered now as the first time Robert De Niro and Al Pacino shared the screen, but it should be just as remembered for one of the greatest shootout sequences in film history.

15. Bottle Rocket (1996)

Wes Anderson's debut feature is his take on "what if a group of total weirdos and idiots tried to pull a heist," with everything the Wes Anderson style implies about that—and the result is an unforgettably quirky entry in the subgenre. The practice heist in which the main characters (played by Owen and Luke Wilson) steal from a predetermined list of items within one of their family homes, remains a classic Wes Anderson moment.

16. Out of Sight (1998)

Before he made a trilogy of stylish, impossibly star-packed heist films in the 2000s, Steven Soderbergh turned his eye for genre cinema to this adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel of the same name, about a U.S. Marshal's budding romance with a bank robber she just happens to meet as he's escaping prison. George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez bring the sex appeal, Don Cheadle and Steve Zahn bring the comedy, and Soderbergh brings his eye for setups and payoffs to one of the best crime films of the 1990s.

17. Sexy Beast (2000)

At its core, Sexy Beast is less about a heist than it is about a retired criminal who can't shake the demons of his past, which arrive on his doorstep in the form of a sociopathic colleague (Ben Kingsley at the peak of his powers) who demands he do one more job for him. Through this lens of regret and fear and tension, director Jonathan Glazer also manages to deliver one of the most spectacular heist setpieces of all time, as a crew breaks into a vault by drilling through the wall of a filled swimming pool.

18. Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors who feels as much like a perpetual student of film as he is a filmmaker, so it makes sense that if he was going to make a star-filled heist film on the scale of Ocean's Eleven, he'd try to make the ultimate heist movie. While the sheer amount of stuff going on in Ocean's Eleven might mean it doesn't always succeed in certain respects like its heist cinema ancestors, the film still plays today as an endlessly entertaining, utterly stylish, and effortlessly witty take on the subgenre that has just about everything you could ever want in a heist film.

19. Inside Man (2006)

Spike Lee's Inside Man is a film that promised in its trailers to show us "the perfect bank robbery," and it hooks us immediately by throwing us right into things with very little prologue or sense of a plan. The plan for this perfect robbery is only revealed to the audience at the same speed as it's revealed to the NYPD detective (Denzel Washington) and the secretive fixer (Jodie Foster) who are watching it unfold from the outside as the robbery's mastermind (Clive Owen) moves forward with an agenda we can't see coming. Lee pushes the film at a breathless pace, delivering twist after twist with the grace of a master, until we finally see the whole game board.

20. The Town (2010)

What Heat was for Los Angeles, Ben Affleck's The Town is for Boston. Affleck clearly learned a lot of his tricks from Mann, but what's most striking about The Town—aside from its structural similarities to Heat—is the way that Affleck and company take that sensibility then twist it to defy our expectations. What starts with a gloriously tense opening robbery setpiece and builds to a big last job ultimately becomes a standoff not between a cop and a crook who respect each other, but between two best friends who are supposed to be on the same side, each longing for their own version of freedom.

21. Fast Five (2011)

The Fast & Furious films began as a solid street racing franchise before becoming globe-hopping action spectaculars that defy all laws of motion and speed. Fast Five is the pivot point between those two eras of the franchise, and the one that leans most heavily on heist movie conventions. As Dominic Toretto and his crew plot to steal a drug lord's safe and a relentless DSS agent (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, in his first appearance in the series) tries to bring them down, the film builds and builds in its ambition. By the end, a giant safe is racing through the streets of Rio, and from that daring heist on the franchise would never be the same.

22. Hell or High Water (2016)

There are a lot of films out there (Arthur Penn's brilliant Bonnie and Clyde among them) that stage a series of bank robberies in an effort to set up some kind of fiery last stand between the robbers and law enforcement, but few of them unfold with the intricacy of Hell or High Water. Chris Pine and Ben Foster shine as two brothers who've planned a high-stakes series of bank robberies, complete with a money-laundering scheme, to save their family's land. The plan is elegant in its simplicity, but grows increasingly complicated as a wise Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) closes in. It all builds to one of the most emotional climaxes of any film on this list.

23. Baby Driver (2017)

You'd think a film that's ostensibly about the getaway driver wouldn't necessarily lean as heavily on the heist elements, but Edgar Wright's clever car chase musical Baby Driver manages to find room for them in between all the driving. Wright's hero, Baby (Ansel Elgort), is a young man who is gifted behind the wheel yet just wants to escape the criminal life. But what's supposed to be his last job puts him in deeper than he's ever been before. Come for the car chases, stay for the complexity of the setup and the fallout that heist movie fans crave.

24. Logan Lucky (2017)

Yes, Steven Soderbergh is on this list three times. And yes, he deserves it. After completing his Ocean's trilogy and playing in various other subgenres for a while, Soderbergh returned to heist pictures with this hilarious story of two brothers who try to turn their family's luck around by robbing Charlotte Motor Speedway in the middle of a busy race weekend. The accents alone—particular Daniel Craig's turn as an explosives expert named "Joe Bang"—are worth the price of admission, but the heist itself is also every bit as satisfying and intricate as anything Danny Ocean's crew ever pulled off.

25. Widows (2018)

After the success of 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen could have made a lot of different movies. What he chose was a team-up with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn to tell the story of a group of women driven to desperation after the deaths of their criminal husbands. Together they hatch a plan to rob a local corrupt politician based on an idea one of their husband's left behind, and in so doing find their own power. What's perhaps most striking about Widows is that it could have worked as a very straightforward heist film. In McQueen and Flynn's hands, though, it becomes a twist-filled ensemble drama about so much more than planning and executing a job.

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14 Burning Facts About Lucifer

Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar in Lucifer.
Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar in Lucifer.
JOHN P. FLEENOR/NETFLIX © 2020

He's in the details, he makes deals, and he lost an epic fiddle contest in Georgia. Lucifer Morningstar (not a stage name) has played a lot of roles in popular culture, but he had never been a nightclub-owning amateur detective in Los Angeles until he got his own TV show on Fox in 2016.

In Lucifer, Tom Ellis plays the titular demon, who has left hell and the punishment business in order to get a little Earthside R&R in the City of Angels. Just as Dracula went from rotten-skinned monster to debonair seducer in literature, Lucifer’s version of the devil (who comes to us courtesy of Californication creator Tom Kapinos) is all tailored suits, wry smiles, and addictive flirtation. He’s also very, very persuasive and people just have a tendency to tell him their deepest, darkest secrets—which is the next best thing to having a superpower when you're trying to solve mysteries alongside a cynical cop (played by Lauren German) … even if she is immune to those charms.

As you catch up with the hit series on Netflix (season 5 dropped in late August) and prepare for its upcoming sixth and final season, here are some facts to know about Lucifer.

1. Supernatural predicted Lucifer’s arrival.

The long-running, beloved genre show Supernatural welcomed Lucifer into the world with a joke. In "The Devil in the Details," episode 10 of Supernatural's 11th season, their show's Lucifer (played by Mark Pellegrino) joked that if he ever got out of his cage in hell, he'd move to Los Angeles to solve crimes. Fans of Eric Kripke’s series might have been surprised five days later when Lucifer's first episode landed on Fox and showed the titular demon (played here by Tom Ellis) doing exactly that.

2. Though Lucifer isn’t a Supernatural spinoff, both shows exist in a similar universe.

Though Supernatural and Lucifer aren’t officially related, both shows occupy somewhat of a shared universe and feature some of the same mythical characters. They also clearly have a shared affinity, as both shows have made sly nods to each other over the years.

3. Lucifer is a loose adaptation of a Neil Gaiman comic book character.

Tom Ellis and Aimee Garcia in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

The main character of Lucifer is less an adaptation of the embodiment of evil from religious texts and more an official riff on the Lucifer that Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg created for The Sandman comic book series for DC Comics. Lucifer eventually got his own spin-off comic book series.

4. Lucifer star Tom Ellis had no idea the show was a loose adaptation of a Neil Gaiman comic book character.

When asked if he used the Gaiman comics as research for his character in Lucifer, Ellis admitted that he wasn’t even aware the show was adapted from a comic book series. "It is a loose adaptation," he told Digital Spy in 2016. “I hadn't used anything from the comic to start with. But since then Neil Gaiman, who was behind the original incarnation, has got in touch with me. He told me he really enjoyed the pilot, so that was nice—it was almost like one of the parents giving us their blessing.”

5. Watch Lucifer carefully and you’ll spot some Neil Gaiman Easter eggs.

To honor its original creator, Lucifer has featured nods to some of Gaiman’s other work. Most notably, Chloe (Lauren German) reads Gaiman's Coraline to her daughter Trixie (Scarlett Estevez), and references Trixie conning her father into reading her "the book about the sneezing panda," which is a reference to Gaiman's book Chu's Day.

6. There was a petition to stop Lucifer from airing before it ever even premiered.

Tom Ellis stars in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix

Before a single episode of Lucifer had ever even aired, the conservative group One Million Moms rallied to get the show canceled. They garnered 11,000 signatures on a petition that objected to the series because they felt it would glamorize the devil. The incident was a bit of déjà vu for Gaiman, since Sandman faced similar calls for cancellation when it was published.

7. There was also a petition to save Lucifer from cancellation.

When Lucifer was canceled after three seasons (due to low ratings), fans fought back and kept the series alive with the social media hashtag #SaveLucifer. Fox sold the series to Netflix, which produced a fourth season with a penultimate episode titled "Save Lucifer." Netflix then renewed the series for a fifth season, which premiered on August 21, 2020 and was initially scheduled to be its last. However, in June—just two months ahead of the season 5 premiere—Netflix surprised and delighted the show’s massive fan base by announcing that they had greenlit a sixth and (this time definitely) final season.

8. Lucifer's Tom Ellis comes from a family of pastors.

Irony works in mysterious ways. While appearing on The Rich Eisen Show, Ellis explained that while he's playing the Lord of Hell, his father, sister, and uncle are all pastors. They're all also big fans of his acting work.

9. There are no Christmas episodes of Lucifer.

That may not be surprising given the main character's predilections, but it's surprising considering that Christmas-themed shows are a staple of the TV industry in search of extra nudges to entice their viewership. Refusing to make Christmas-themed episodes is a big diversion from the norm. It's a bold choice, but it falls in line with the show never mentioning Jesus Christ (not even when someone stubs a toe).

10. Lucifer never smokes on the show.

Tom Ellis as Lucifer Morningstar, D.B. Woodside as Amenadiel, and Lauren German as Chloe Decker in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

Beginning with the very first episode, there are several times where Lucifer can be seen just as he's about to light a cigarette, stubbing one out, or tapping ash into an ashtray, but you'll never see him actually take a drag and inhale. Still, even the fact that he's got them raises the important question: Why does the devil need to smoke?

11. Lauren German describes Chloe and Lucifer's relationship as "sad fireworks."

There's no better way to say it. Since the beginning, their reluctant partnership and blooming intimacy has been an exploration of conflicting emotions. That includes the looming revelation of something Lucifer has been telling Chloe since the beginning: That he's the devil. While describing their relationship as "sad fireworks," German also told TV Guide, “There's a lot of love and respect there, and her vulnerability is more present than ever before—but that can often be the most intoxicating element in a relationship. Someone that keeps you on your toes can be thrilling.”

12. Lucifer's nightclub has a fitting name.

Lucifer means "light bringer" in Latin so it's perfect that his club, Lux, is also the SI standard unit for measuring luminescence. Plus, Club Hell was already taken.

13. Lucifer star Tom Ellis has got some serious air piano chops.

D.B. Woodside and Tom Ellis in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

One of the perks of owning your own nightclub is that you can play piano whenever you want. And if you're immortal, you've got all the time in the universe to take lessons. (Just ask Groundhog Day’s Phil Connors.) Lucifer plays and sings a lot on the show, and while it's Ellis doing the singing, it's not him at the keys. “I’m very good at air piano, let me put it that way!" Ellis told TV Insider about his talent for faking it.

14. Lucifer drives a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette C1.

If you're wondering the make and model of Lucifer's automotive object of desire, now you know. The classic is sleek, a little dangerous, and has a mix of sharp angles and softer edges, matching the main character nicely. Plus, it's the last of its kind: 1962 was the final year the C1 chassis was available on the Corvette.