Something tells me that this weekend’s theatrical release of the heist comedy ‘Masterminds’ won’t be a classic for the ages. Let’s look instead at some heist movies that better stand the test of time.
‘Heat‘ has just about everything you could want in a heist film – a superb star-studded cast, snappy dialogue, sleek cinematography, and the mother of all shootouts. For me, that scene alone makes Michael Mann’s crime epic one of the best action movies of all-time.
I’m a huge fan of Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Ocean’s Eleven‘ remake. While the Rat Pack original is a fantastic movie on its own, Soderbergh did a wonderful job of making it his own and making it a whole lot of fun. I can pinpoint a few great aspects that add to its greatness:
- The characters: Not all filmmakers know how to make an ensemble work, but Soderbergh does. Each of the titular eleven characters (and more) have complete characters of their own. You know them. You understand them. You’re invested in them. Look no further than the recent ‘Magnificent Seven’ remake for an example of a movie that has no idea how to handle seven characters, much less eleven!
- The actors: Great chemistry exists between all of them. They’re so much fun to watch.
- The screenplay: Not only is the comedy wit spot-on for the entire film, the story is solid too. The first time I watched it, I had no idea how the characters were going to pull off the heist. It was executed with precision editing that led to misleading conclusions.
If only the two sequels could have held up to these standards.
My brain sure seems to go to the 1999 remake of ‘The Thomas Crown Affair‘ a lot for these Roundtables:
I guess I should stick with tradition and mention it again here. Back in college, this Pierce Brosnan remake was always a favorite at my apartment. We’d get subs at Dibellas, head home, and almost always put on ‘Thomas Crown’ while we ate. John McTiernan’s direction, the globetrotting lifestyle portrayed on screen, the heist itself and the eventual twist… There’s just something about this movie I find infinitely rewatchable (except that ending, which I’ve mentioned before). The ‘Ocean’s Eleven remake’ is a close second, but this one holds the crown.
On the one hand, when it comes to heist films, I can think of plenty of stinkers. On the other, I’ve submitted gems like ‘Heat’ and ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ for other recent Rountables. Fortunately, one ensemble heist film that has stuck with me ever since seeing it in the theater is available on Blu-ray now to prove its entertainment worth. That would be ‘Sneakers’. Other films from Robert Redford’s repertoire may feel more substantive, but the cast in this one are really having fun. (The notable exception being Sir Ben Kingsley, who really plays it cool.)
With ‘Thief‘, his first feature film, Michael Mann proved himself to be a master of the cinematic heist picture. James Caan stars as an aging criminal looking to set himself up for retirement. The movie is sleek and suspenseful, with just as much attention paid to its character development as its stylized visuals. Mann’s ‘Heat’ may be a more ambitious and ultimately better film, but ‘Thief’ is a great movie in its own right and set the template for countless “One Last Job” movies to follow.
I also want to throw some honorable mentions to Jules Dassin’s ‘Rififi‘ (a true classic of the genre), ‘The Italian Job‘ (both the 1969 original and the 2003 remake are very entertaining), and David Mamet’s simply-titled ‘Heist’.
Tell us about your favorite heist movies in the Comments below.