The heist film is one of my favorite genres. A subgenre of the crime film, the heist film focuses on the protagonist's attempts to plan, execute, carry out a theft, and the aftermath of their actions. There are many twists and turns in the plot as the characters try to accomplish their goal: getting away with the big score.
In the history of cinema there have been many excellent heist films. Here are five of my favorites.
1. Inside Man (2006)
This Spike Lee joint focuses on an elaborate bank heist on Wall Street over a 24-hour period that includes the robbers taking hostages. Clive Owen stars as Dalton Russell, the orchestrator of the heist, and Denzel Washington as Detective Keith Frazier, an NYPD hostage negotiator.
What I love about this film is the many twists it takes, as it keeps viewers on their toes as to what’s really going on. The long stand off between Russell and Frazier is my favorite part of the film as the two go head to head trying to outdo one another.
2. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Depicting the events before and after a botched diamond heist, this film was director and writer Quentin Tarantino's debut film. The film's slow motion opening sequence set to "Little Green Bag" by the George Baker Selection, is a favorite scene of mine. One notable and notorious scene from the film is when Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) severs the ear of his hostage. What I liked about this film was how the deception and mistrust affected the characters. They were all close at the start of the film but the bond they had developed is severed.
3. The Italian Job (2003)
A remake of the 1969 film of the same name, this film stars Mark Wahlberg as Charlie Croker, a thief whose mentor was betrayed and killed by a member of their team. A year later, Croker and his friends have located the traitor (played by Edward Norton) and decide to take back what had been stolen from them.
This film was notable for its excellent use of BMW’s and the then-new line of retro-styled Mini Coopers, and many saw this film as part of a revival of the heist film around the beginning of the 21st century.
4. Fast Five (2011)
With this entry in the Fast and Furious franchise, fans got an epic heist film. Despite its impossible physics action sequences, the film had an awesome memorable scene in which Dom and his family are racing through the streets of Rio pulling a huge safe behind them as they’re chased by Agent Luke Hobbs and the bad guys.
5. Inception (2010)
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a professional thief who commits corporate espionage by infiltrating the subconscious of his targets. He’s assigned a task to implant another person’s idea into a target’s subconscious, also known as “inception.” If he’s successful, his criminal history will be erased and he’ll be able to reunite with his family.
Director Christopher Nolan’s film takes the heist genre to another level with its sci-fi thriller elements, as the themes of dreams and reality take center stage in the film.
6. Tower Heist (2011)
This heist comedy focuses on employees of an exclusive apartment building who lose their pensions in a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Wall Street businessman Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda).
Lead by the building manager Josh Kovaks (Ben Stiller), a small group of the employees and a former tenant enlist the aid of criminal Slide (Eddie Murphy) in order to steal back their money from Shaw, all the while avoiding FBI agent Claire Denham who’s investigating Shaw.
One of my favorite scenes from this film is during the heist when the group attempts to steal Arthur’s car and they have to get it out of the building while the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is taking place outside.
Great heist films keep viewers on the edge of their seats with the character’s planning, execution, and the aftermath of the big score.