Top 5 Heist Movies of the 21st Century
By David M. Pugh
Everyone loves a good action movie, but nothing ups the stakes and thrills more than a good old-fashioned heist. Through a tried-and-tested formula established through classics ranging from The Italian Job (1969) to The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), audiences have been entertained for decades now by stories of ne’er-do-wells searching for that one big break.
It’s good news then, for fans of the genre, that the dawn of the 21st century has provided us with a steady stream of blockbuster heist movies. Below are five of the best examples of what we mean.
1. Inception (2010)
This Esquire-listed top heist movie brings a new meaning to the term “mind-blowing.” Under the direction of Christopher Nolan, Leonardo DiCaprio portrays a thief with the rare ability to enter minds and engage in something referred to as “shared dreaming.” This unique talent draws the attention of a Japanese businessman named Saito, who employs him as part of a team ordered to plant an idea in the subconscious of a competitor – or, in other words, perform inception. Of course, as with most heist movies, the job isn’t quite so simple, and the ensuing chaos and complexity can keep an audience enthralled through the final frame (and afterward as well, given that this is such a fun film to debate!).
2. Inside Man (2006)
Unlike in most other heist films, the central criminal in this story embraces maximum exposure for his heist by doing it in broad daylight. With a cast led by Clive Owen (as said central criminal, a cunning bank robber) and Denzel Washington (the tough detective on the case), Inside Man revolves around a heist that turns into a tense hostage crisis. As the movie unfolds, hidden agendas are thrown into an already-volatile situation. In the end, it’s one of those rare, delightful flicks that leaves you wholly entertained yet unsure whose side you were really on.
3. Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
In the last film of the modern Ocean’s trilogy, A-list movie stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon reprise their roles for one last job in the heart of Sin City. The job in question is driven by revenge, hatched by Danny Ocean (Clooney) after casino owner Willy Bank (Al Pacino) double-crosses Ocean’s friend and mentor. Ocean and his crew set out to destroy Bank’s business and ego in a series of maneuvers that keep viewers on edge. Not only was it a thrilling heist, but it may go down as one of the last great casino films as well. With younger Vegas visitors losing interest in traditional gaming and sportsbooks losing ground to the UK’s sophisticated betting sites, the casino life portrayed in this film represents the end of an era. Online betting and gaming don’t make for much of a film though, so we might just not see many more projects in this genre.
4. Ocean’s Eight (2018)
Yet another great thing about Ocean’s Thirteen was that it left fans wanting more. They got it with this spinoff project, which didn’t involve the core cast of the first three Ocean’s films, but did strike the same general tone. This time around, Sandra Bullock assembles an all-female team to lift a valuable Cartier necklace from the neck of an actress (played by Anne Hathaway) at the Met Gala. There is more than meets the eye, however, as plot twists reveal that Debbie Ocean – Bullock’s character and Danny’s sister – has more than few tricks up her sleeve. Indeed, the movie winds up proving that a talent for heists can run in the family!
5. Baby Driver (2017)
This three-time Academy Award-nominated movie has Ansel Elgort portray a unique kind of action hero: a young getaway driver who constantly listens to music on jobs as a sort of coping mechanism. His world is turned upside down, however, when what was supposed to be his last job goes unexpectedly wrong. It’s a thrilling action movie with multiple heist schemes and scenes, though if we’re being honest the most noteworthy thing about it is its soundtrack. We may never have seen a film so delightfully synchronize its action with its music. It’s a bit of a cliché to say so, but this film really is a treat for both the eyes and the ears (and supporting performances from Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm are fantastic).