Image: CBS Films/Lionsgate
Bank jobs, long cons, and everything in between
Who doesn’t love a good heist movie? Whether it’s a bank robbery, a jewelry heist, a long con, or some combination of the three, the heist thriller is a crowd pleaser for good reason.
The Technovanguard staff has pulled together some of our very favorite heist movies available to watch now on streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max. We’ve left out some of the more obvious examples (all the Ocean’s movies are on HBO Max if you’re looking for that marathon), in favor of some of our other favorite entries across multiple decades and nations. So make a plan, grab your squad, and pull off a viewing night with one of these great heist movies:
Army of the Dead
Any movie where a team of misfits, led by Dave Bautista, has to rob a Las Vegas vault is automatically great. Army of the Dead adds zombies to the equation. The movie takes place in a near future in which a deadly virus creates zombies, but the outbreak ends up contained inside Las Vegas, which becomes infected territory. This is among the biggest and loudest heist movies on this list, blending the zombie-killing of later Resident Evil movies with all the tension of safe cracking. The real key to this movie’s greatness and fun, though, is Bautista, who is without question the most interesting and sensitive of the giant-man action stars. He counterbalances the bombastic premise with genuine heart and is endlessly watchable as a zombie-killing, one-man army. —Austen Goslin
The Army of the Dead is available to stream on Netflix.
The Asphalt Jungle
Image: The Criterion Collection
A crime movie classic, The Asphalt Jungle follows a petty criminal named Dix Handley who’s hired onto a crew to complete a $500,000 jewel heist that quickly goes wrong. The Asphalt Jungle is arguably the first heist film, at least in the way we think of it today. While the building-the-crew scenes and tense moments during the crime are all recognizable as modern heist-movie hallmarks, one thing that stands out is just how dense this movie is.
Director John Huston, who also wrote the script with Ben Maddow, manages to create a complete criminal underworld in this unnamed town in just under two hours. Names of crime bosses are constantly thrown out and criminal terms are said left and right without a second for the audience to catch their breath. Even after more than 70 years, it’s rare for a movie to trust its audience to keep up this much. Every bit of the movie’s heist and its aftermath remain just as exciting and tense as any other movie on the list. —AG
The Asphalt Jungle is available to stream on Criterion Channel.
Big Deal on Madonna Street
Image: The Criterion Collection
This hilarious Italian heist comedy helped supercharge the career of the legendary actor Marcello Mastroianni (La Dolce Vita, 8½) and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1959 Oscars. A group of somewhat incompetent working class thieves attempt to rob a pawn shop in Rome, using a increasingly complicated scheme that involves boring through a wall to get to a jewelry safe.
This is not your typical flashy, experienced caper crew. Mario, a woodworker, grew up in an orphanage and can’t find a steady job but wants a better life for the three women who raised him. Peppe (Vittorio Gassman), a boxer, has a cleaner criminal record than his boxing one. Tiberio (Mastroianni), a photographer, pawned his camera equipment to care for his adorable baby while the mother is in prison. Then there’s Ferribotte (Tibero Murgia), a controlling older brother overprotective of his beautiful sister (Claudia Cardinale), and Capannelle (Carlo Pisacane), an elderly pickpocket. None of them are particularly good at this heist stuff, and nothing goes according to plan, culminating in an uproarious finale. With a terrific jazz score and many hilarious gags, Big Deal on Madonna Street is a delight. —Pete Volk
Big Deal on Madonna Street is available to stream on Criterion Channel.
The Bling Ring
Sofia Coppola’s 2013 based-on-a-true-story film stars Emma Watson as the ring leader of a group of well-off, celebrity-obsessed teenagers who use readily available information on the internet to plan robberies of celebrities’ homes. Coppola revels in the lavish excess of the lives of both the fame-hungry teens and the rich and famous they target. Some of the houses filmed in this are those of the actual burglary victims, and they are deliciously ostentatious, especially against the backdrop of the Los Angeles city lights. Watson is terrific as the audacious Nicki Moore, summarized by a line of dialogue that will hopefully live forever: “I wanna rob.” —PV
The Bling Ring is available to stream on Showtime and to watch free with ads on Hoopla and Kanopy.
Image: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The heist at the center of Charade was successful years prior to the movie, and without realizing it, Reggie (Audrey Hepburn) has been living off the profits from her husband’s crime. When he is suddenly murdered, she realizes she didn’t really know anything about him — or, for that matter, the new man in her life, Peter Joshua (Cary Grant). To make matters worse, the remaining money is missing, and a lot of terrible people think Reggie knows where it is. As more people are pulled into the orbit of the money, it becomes less clear who, if anyone, Reggie can trust.
Hepburn and Grant, two famously talented and charming stars, are at their most charming and talented in Charade. In the span of a single scene, Hepburn might move from pragmatic to seductive to fearful with believable ease. Grant’s initial discomfort with their age gap — 25 years, a still not uncommon chasm in Hollywood — resulted in rewrites to the script to make clear that Reggie was pursuing him; it remains one of the few movies in which the gap is acknowledged and dealt with believably, rather than taken for granted. Their chemistry is immediate and undeniable; it’s key in carrying off the film’s snappy dialogue and mixture of flirtatious comedy, captivating mystery, and genuine thriller. It’s His Girl Friday by way of Hitchcock. —Jenna Stoeber
Charade is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, free to watch with ads on Vudu, Tubi, and Pluto TV.
Image: Aardman Animations
If there is a heaven for elevator pitches, then surely, “The Great Escape but with chickens” is there. But Chicken Run is much more than that: The first feature-length work of Aardman Animations might be its best. Great villains, plucky heroines, a decent romance, action, suspense, and joke after joke after joke — all packed into a script as trim as a fatted game hen isn’t. The apex of the film is the apex of all heist movies: A group montage of putting the scheme together, as John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams’ score (a full orchestra with kazoo accompaniment) sets a rollicking beat to a group of chickens defying the laws of nature to build a flying machine. It’s a movie well worth ignoring that Mel Gibson exists. —Susana Polo
Chicken Run is available to stream on Peacock.
Image: Paramount Home Video
Danger: Diabolik comes from an era where “comic book movie” meant something weird, horny, and European. Diabolik (John Phillip Law) and Eva Kant (Marisa Mell) love doing two things: ripping off the rich, and making love, preferably on their giant rotating bed, covered in recently stolen money. Their devotion to each other and genuine eroticism makes them endlessly charming as they pull off surprisingly elaborate and well-plotted heists. They’re like a pop art version of Gomez and Morticia.
Produced in tandem with Barbarella — you may remember Law as the angel Pygar — Danger: Diabolik was directed by Mario Bava (better known for his giallo horror work) and features a sparkling pop soundtrack by Ennio Morricone (better known for his stark spaghetti western compositions). The movie is incredibly stylish, from the framing and cinematography, to the carousel of vibrant, borderline fetishistic catsuits, to the avant garde sets. There are sci-fi elements, splashes of comic book art, innovative special effects, and no shortage of highly suggestive props. It’s about as much zany, sexy fun as you can have in two hours. —JS
Danger: Diabolik is available to stream with a library card on Kanopy.
Image: Amazon Prime Video
Dhoom 2, the follow-up to the 2004 smash hit Dhoom, is one of the most exciting cinematic experiences to which you could treat yourself. Breaking Bollywood box office records upon release, it is a motorcycle-centric heist movie with terrific action set pieces, jaw-dropping musical numbers, astonishing motorcycle stunts, and a little something for everybody.
A taste: the movie opens with a train heist, as Mr. A (Hrithik Roshan, impossibly attractive and charming as ever), disguises himself as Queen Elizabeth to rob the Queen’s crown in the middle of the Namib desert. Dhoom 2 then immediately moves to one of the most electric musical numbers of this century, with Roshan showing off why he is one of the great movie stars and dancers of his generation. —PV
Dhoom 2 is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Image: 20th Century Fox
Based on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, Wes Anderson’s 2009 stop-motion animated comedy Fantastic Mr. Fox follows a sophisticated Fox (George Clooney) who, resorting to his former thieves ways, incurs the wrath of three villainous farmers who will stop at nothing to punish the Fox and his family. Filled with beautiful intricate animation, whimsical dance numbers, and Anderson’s idiosyncratic humor and style, Fantastic Mr. Fox is regularly hailed as one of the best animated films of the early aughts and must-see for fans of children’s films and highly-crafted cinema alike. —TE
Fantastic Mr. Fox is available to stream on Disney Plus.
The Great Muppet Caper
Image: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Great Muppet movies come in two flavors: Direct adaptation of classic literature, and fourth wall-breaking celebrations of Hollywood’s most beloved formulas. And the most celebratory of that latter category is the aptly named Great Muppet Caper.
The opening number directly invites the audience to indulge in all the joys of the genre: Spectacle, derring do, heroes, crooks, comedy, and mystery, and delivers each in turn. Diana Rigg vamps all the way through her role of the capricious fashion mogul Lady Holiday, as Charles Grodin oozes sleaze as her inexplicably American brother planning to steal her collection of jewels, right down to — a moment for this pun, please — the Baseball Diamond, a diamond the size of a baseball.
There’s everything you could possibly want in both a heist movie and a Muppet movie: Scheming, betrayal, romance, the clash of high and low society, a jailhouse bust with a motorcycle chase — as well as celebrity cameos, running gags, “how did they do that?” puppetry, and fantastic musical numbers. Most Muppet movies break the fourth wall in some way, but very few have a scene in which Miss Piggy and Kermit begin a scripted argument as their characters that turns into a real argument between them as actors which bleeds into a true reconciliation and a bicycle-top love ballad that exists simultaneously inside and outside the film’s diegesis. —SP
The Great Muppet Caper is available to stream on Disney Plus.
Hell or High Water
Scratch a Western movie, and you’ll usually find a study of masculinity and what it means to be a man. And whenever two men wind up in opposition — which is most of the genre right there — it’s usually a study in contrasting forms of manhood. The traditional good-vs.-evil face-off does come up a lot, but just as often, Westerns explore the contrast between strong men and cunning ones, whether it’s in classics like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, modern followers like The Power of the Dog, or genre-hybrid thrillers like the excellent Hell or High Water, which turns a modern-day thriller about bank robbers into a complicated rumination on masculinity, the history of the West, and the nature of outlaws.
Chris Pine and Ben Foster star as stickup artists with a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid vibe; Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham play the aging Texas rangers trying to run them down. Pine and Foster’s characters have a Great Big Scheme that the movie keeps under wraps until a key point, but in the meantime, there’s plenty of action, both on the outlaws’ side and the side of the men hunting them. It’s a thoughtful and nuanced film about the lines of civilization and the people who draw them in ways that benefit themselves, but it’s also a gripping adventure, suitable for sneaking in subtle messages while keeping people entertained — like all the best Westerns. —Tasha Robinson
Hell or High Water is available to stream on Netflix.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Need a break from trying to decode the order of events in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet? Try decoding the order of events and their actual level of reality in Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Like most Nolan movies, this multi-level dream-reality heist film plays with fractured storytelling and does complicated things with time. But this time around, he unites his challenging ideas behind a comparatively straightforward central idea: a group of corporate raiders trying to seamlessly implant an idea in a mogul’s head via dreams. It’s dizzying and full of jargon and somewhat dubious rules, but the special effects are startling and the characters are memorable. —TR
Inception is available to stream on HBO Max.
Image: Universal Pictures
A rare work-for-hire gig for director Spike Lee, 2006’s Inside Man is one of those have-cake-and-eat-it pleasures. It’s a slick, sinuous, puzzle-box thriller in which Clive Owen engineers a bank robbery that is never quite what it seems. Taking hostages, he locks wits with police detective Denzel Washington and high-flying fixer Jodie Foster, and the reversals, twists and fake-outs topple happily from there. The cast is ludicrously overqualified: Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer and Chiwetel Ejiofor all appear in smaller roles. And Lee doesn’t surrender his playful, needling edge just because he’s on popcorn duty. He builds a memorable, squabbling chorus of post-9/11 New York humanity around the edges of the film, while the plot cuts right into Wall Street’s rotten heart. —Oli Welsh
Inside Man is available to stream on HBO Max.
Photo: Criterion Collection
Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing is a heist film par excellence, a labyrinthine drama composed of expert performances interlocking with one another like the tumblers of a lock before culminating in a frantic, engrossing conclusion. Sterling Hayden stars as Johnny Clay, an ex-convict who assembles a gang to pull off a $2 million hold-up of a racecourse. Supported by a cast of performances including Elisha Cook Jr., Joe Sawyer, Jay C. Flippen, and more, The Killing was touted by no less than Kubrick himself as his first mature feature. Today, it’s a film whose influence can be felt and seen in everything from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs to 2008’s The Dark Knight. —TE
The Killing is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and Criterion Channel and free to stream with a library card on Hoopla.
Image: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Ronin isn’t your typical heist movie. Directed by John Frankenheimer, the 1998 American action thriller stars Robert De Niro and Jean Reno as members of an elite team of mercenaries assembled by a mysterious handler to intercept and retrieve a suitcase before it is sold to the Russians. While it certainly doesn’t lack in terms of bristling gunfights and nail-biting chase sequences, the strength of Ronin lies in the meticulous and deliberate set up leading up to its fateful third act. Frankenheimer’s film is as austere as it gratifying; an action film with an emphasis on richly-crafted characters with byzantine alliances and a plainspoken sense of style. —TE
Ronin is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, free to stream with a library card on Kanopy, and free to stream with ads on Tubi and Pluto.
The Spanish Prisoner
Image: Sony Pictures Classics
Not all heists require blueprints, ski masks, and safecracking tools. In David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner, the dramatist’s usual rat-a-tat dialogue propels a con-man cat-and-mouse game with a mysterious McGuffin. Mamet never tells the viewer exactly what corporate engineer Joe (Campbell Scott) has invented, only that the “Process” will bring on a technological revolution and make him and his bosses unimaginably rich. The knowledge makes him an obvious target for corporate espionage, and the perfect person to watch slip into the quicksand of a confidence game. Joe wants nothing more than to get his, but his partner George (Ricky Jay), boss Mr. Klein (Ben Gazzara), romantically inclined assistant (Rebecca Pidgeon), and new deep-pocketed pal Jimmy (Steve Martin) all seem ready to turn on him. Mamet gives his plot of greed and backstabbing the frigid heart of an old noir, and not even the bad ’90s corporate wear can sink Campbell and Martin at the top of their games.
The Spanish Prisoner is available to stream on Peacock, or for free with ads on Roku, Tubi, Pluto, and IMDb TV.
Image: Warner Home Video
Michael Mann is one of American cinema’s preeminent auteurs, a director responsible for some of the inextricably memorable, visually remarkable, and fascinating crime dramas with films like 2006’s Miami Vice, 1995’s Heat, and 2004’s Collateral. His 1981 debut Thief, starring James Caan (The Godfather) as a professional safecracker and ex-con attempting to escape a life of crime and build a family with his wife stands as one of the many jewels in Mann’s long and storied career, is packed with all the defining idiosyncrasies that he would go on to hone develop in the decades to come. From the film’s beautiful score by Tangerine Dream to its stunning night time cinematography of Chicago courtesy Donald Thorin, Thief is a masterful neo-noir thriller charged with an overwhelming sense of inimitable style and smoldering cool. —TE
Thief is available to stream with a library card on Hoopla and Kanopy and free to stream with ads on Tubi and Pluto.
The Thomas Crown Affair
Image: MGM Home Entertainment
They don’t make heist movies hotter than this. John McTiernan’s remake of the 1968 Steve McQueen/Faye Dunaway classic is a steamy romp, with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo at their sexiest. Brosnan plays Thomas Crown, an arrogant playboy billionaire who is also the world’s greatest art thief in his spare time (in many ways, this is Brosnan’s Batman movie). Russo is Catherine Banning, an insurance investigator tasked with solving and recovering Crown’s most recent daring theft. The two fall for each other over the course of a delicious cat-and-mouse game, culminating in an unforgettable, intricately choreographed sequence set to Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman.” —PV
The Thomas Crown Affair is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and streaming for free with ads on Roku, Tubi, and Pluto.