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The Bank is Worth the Risk

By TK Burton | Lists | March 4, 2010 |

By TK Burton | Lists | March 4, 2010 |

The rules for a heist film are rather simple. You need a crew. A successful heist film cannot be a one-man job, although you should be prepared for the possibility that one of them is going to turn on the others, because traitors are everywhere. You need an objective, be it money, jewels, a technological gizmo, the secret plans, or gold. It helps if you have a dramatic escape plan. You don’t necessarily need to use violence, though having a tough guy never hurt. Oh, and frequently it’s going to be someone’s last big job. Yeah, that usually works out well.

(Side note: if anyone ever comes up to me with a foolproof plan to rob a bank… I’d consider it. If they ever tell me this is gonna be their last big score, I’m getting the fuck away from them. Don’t call me, don’t visit, nothing. Lose my number.)

But most importantly, you need a plan. The best heist films make both the planning and the execution of the heist into one fluid series of events, with the former being just as important as the latter. Gathering up the crew, scoping the joint out, getting your gear and tools and weaponry, if necessary, together — these are all critical stages of the successful heist flick. The best ones emphasize the camaraderie of the group, showing what their stakes and risks are in the caper. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes they’re deadly serious. Sometimes they’re a group of goddamn psychotics. Over the years, there have been some outstanding heist films… and there have been some terrible ones. But because I’m a positive guy, let’s focus on the good ones. So here we go: The Fifteen Best Heist Films. It’s in no particular order, other than this: The last one on this list is my personal favorite. Bitch to your heart’s content in the comments:

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The Asphalt Jungle
Year Made: 1950
Directed by: John Houston
Starring: Sterling Haden, Louis Calhern, Jean Haden, with a small role for Marilyn Monroe

Year Made: 1981
Directed by: Michael Mann
Starring: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson

Reservoir dogs.jpg
Reservoir Dogs
Year Made: 1992
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen

A Fish Called Wanda
Year Made: 1988
Directed by: Charles Crichton
Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin

The Getaway
Year Made: 1972
Directed by: Sam Peckinpah
Starring: Steve McQueen, Ali McGraw

Ocean’s 11
Year Made: 2001
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Elliot Gould, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts

Year Made: 2001
Directed by: David Mamet
Starring: Gene Hackman, Danny Devito, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell

Quick Change
Year Made: 1990
Directed by: Howard Franklin, Bill Murray
Starring: Bill Murray, Randy Quaid, Geena Davis

Year Made: 1998
Directed by: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Robert Deniro, Natasha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgård, Jean Reno, Sean Bean (suck it, Dustin)

The Great Muppet Caper
Year Made: 1981
Directed by: Jim Henson
Starring: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Gonzo, John Cleese, Charles Grodin

Year Made: 1992
Directed by: Phil Alden Robinson
Starring: Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, David Strathairn, Mary McDonnell

Out of Sight
Year Made: 1998
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Steve Zahn

Bottle Rocket
Year Made: 1996
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, James Caan

Sexy Beast
Year Made: 2000
Directed by: Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane

Year Made: 1995
Directed by: Michael Mann
Starring: Robert Deniro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Amy Brenneman, Jon Voight, Charlize Theron, Danny Trejo, William Fichtner,

Pajiba Love 03/04/10 | Easier with Practice Review

TK Burton is an Editorial Consultant. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.