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The best heist movies of all time, ranked

Looking for a smart film to watch? Try one of these heist movies

Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth point guns at each other in Reservoir Dogs.

Few sub-genres can tickle and please quite the way a good heist movie can. The elements of its formula, which typically includes getting a gang together, formulating a plan, and executing a heist, are all thrilling to watch, and doubly so when filmmakers throw their own spins on the genre. That, plus a great cast, can make a great heist movie, whether it’s also a great action movie or not. These are the best heist movies ever made, and as you’ll see, they span many different genres. 

10. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

10. Reservoir Dogs
Genre Crime, Thriller
Stars Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Technically speaking, almost all of the on-camera action in Reservoir Dogs takes place after the heist in the movie has ended and gone horribly wrong. Even so, Quentin Tarantino knows how to make the drama around the heist fertile ground for what essentially amounts to a stage play, as we come to understand who the survivors of the job are and how they relate to one another. Reservoir Dogs is about the aftermath of a heist more than the heist itself, but part of what makes it great is its understanding of the trappings of this genre. 
Reservoir Dogs (1992) Official Trailer #1 - Quentin Tarantino Movie

9. Hell or High Water (2016)

9. Hell or High Water
Genre Western, Crime, Drama
Stars Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster
Directed by David Mackenzie
Taylor Sheridan’s take on the heist movie is, of course, set in rural Texas, and follows two brothers who are ripping off banks in order to pay off their family home. The movie’s heists are all relatively small-scale, but what makes Hell or High Water sing are the relationships at its center, between the two brothers and the two cops nearing retirement who have been sent out to chase them. The dialogue here all really sings, as does the sharp commentary of how so many communities in America have been left behind, forced into crime to simply get by.
HELL OR HIGH WATER - Official Trailer HD

8. The Killing (1956)

8. The Killing
Genre Crime, Thriller
Stars Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Before Stanley Kubrick was the director of all-time great horror movies like The Shining and 2001, he was making much smaller movies like The Killing that showcased his incredible skill as a director. The film follows a criminal who gathers a group to perform a heist on a racetrack. The plan is very carefully laid out, but everything goes awry when one of the men in the group tells his wife about the scheme, and she begins hatching a plan of her own. The Killing comes in at under 90 minutes, and it’s a crackerjack thriller from beginning to end, one where all the pieces don’t line up until the very last moment. 
The Killing (1956) | Official Trailer | MGM

7. Logan Lucky (2017)

7. Logan Lucky
Genre Comedy, Crime, Action, Drama
Stars Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Steven Soderbergh is on this list twice, and if we’re honest, he probably deserved more entries than that. The man has proven himself to be a master of the heist movie, and Logan Lucky proves that he can adapt the formula to any setting. The film follows two brothers who work together to rip off a NASCAR race in North Carolina, and it features some of the sharpest writing of Soderbergh’s entire career. Featuring incredible performances from Channing Tatum, Riley Keough, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig, Logan Lucky is both fun and funny, and it’s about as great as heist movies get. 
LOGAN LUCKY | Official HD Trailer

6. Thief (1981)

6. Thief
Genre Crime, Thriller, Action
Stars James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Robert Prosky
Directed by Michael Mann
The movie that made Michael Mann a star director, Thief tells the story of a highly skilled jewelry thief who wants to go legitimate, and decides to go in on one final job in order to earn his freedom. Of course, his skills make him highly desirable, which means the job doesn’t exactly go as planned. James Caan is terrific in the central performance, but Mann is the real star of this picture. His direction is so stylish and specific that he defined an entire genre of crime movies, and also launched his own career in the process.
THIEF - Trailer - (1981) - HQ

5. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

5. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Genre Action, Adventure
Stars Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
All of the Mission: Impossible movies have at least elements of a heist movie in them, but that’s perhaps more true of Rogue Nation than any other installment. This film follows Ethan Hunt and his team as they track down a ledger containing the names of members of a secretive syndicate of super spies who all happen to be working toward anarchy. The heist involves an underwater vault, Tom Cruise attempting to hold his breath for minutes at a time, and all of the usual trickery that comes with a Mission: Impossible movie. An added bonus: this movie also introduces Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, an all-time great character.
Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation Trailer

4. Three Kings (1999)

4. Three Kings
Genre Action, Comedy, War
Stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube
Directed by David O. Russell
George Clooney may not have enjoyed making Three Kings, but it’s hard to argue with the final product. This movie, which is set during Desert Storm, follows four soldiers who decide to go off-script and steal some Iraqi gold as the brief conflict comes to its conclusion. Things obviously don’t go as planned, and Three Kings turns out to be a thought-provoking, sharp meditation on U.S. intervention overseas, and what it does to both the soldiers in the conflict and those who live in these places. Clooney, Ice Cube, and Mark Wahlberg are all great here, and David O’Russell’s direction has truly never been sharper. 
Three Kings - Original Theatrical Trailer

3. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

3. A Fish Called Wanda
Genre Comedy, Crime
Stars Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese, Kevin Kline
Directed by Charles Crichton
Heist movies can either be hyper serious or very funny, and A Fished Called Wanda falls into the latter category. The film follows a con artist named Wanda who attempts to double-cross her partners in a diamond heist with one another after the heist has been completed. In reality, though, A Fished Called Wanda is the kind of movie where confusion and misunderstandings just continuously pile on top of one another until the whole thing collapses. That’s what makes it such a delight and why it’s still worth watching more than 30 years later.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988) | Official Trailer | MGM Studios

2. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

2. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Genre Crime, Action, Thriller
Stars Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam
Directed by Joseph Sargent
A dirty, sleazy heist movie set primarily in New York City’s subway system, The Taking of Pelham 123 follows a group of criminals who take a subway car hostage, and the group of men who are trying to figure out how they plan to escape with their ransom intact. The Taking of Pelham 123 is thrilling from the word go, partly because the movie’s schlubby protagonist, played to perfection by Walter Matthau, feels like the kind of New Yorker who would be thrust into this situation. The sharp script and pitch-perfect direction have allowed this movie to age like fine wine, and it remains one of the best heist movies ever made.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (1974) | Official Trailer | MGM

1. Ocean's Eleven (2001)

1. Ocean's Eleven
Genre Thriller, Crime
Stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy García
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
If there’s one quintessential heist movie, it’s probably Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven. The movie, which chronicles the assembling of a crew to rob the vault of a Las Vegas casino, features an all-star cast (including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon), glitzy sets, and genuine sizzle between all of the leads. That, plus a genuinely great script and some super stylish direction, makes Ocean’s Eleven the movie to beat on any list of great heist movies. The movie’s final reveal, which explains how the heist actually took place, feels like just icing on the cake of what’s already been a terrific ride. 
Ocean's Eleven (2001) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Editors' Recommendations

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Joe Allen

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