High-Stakes Heists: 7 Films That Do It Right
SMP Security of UK (secure mechanical products)manufacturers and leading provider of personal and business safes; has looked at some of the biggest and best cinematic heists.
Return of the Pink Panther (1975)
First on our list is a classic that deserves to be spoken about. Directed by Blake Edwards, Return of the Pink Panther explores the robbery of the Pink Panther diamond as Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) attempts to unmask a thief known as “The Phantom”.
The heist is everything you could want and more. To avoid the motion sensors, a masked burglar descends from the ceiling and slides across the floor, all while the iconic Pink Panther theme song plays in the background. But is this all worth it to steal the diamond?
Ocean’s 11 (2001)
Ocean’s 11 is one of the most famous heist films of all time. Considering the entertaining plot and showstopping cast, it deserves all of the recognition it receives. In the film, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) attempts to rob three casinos at once in Las Vegas with a group of his trusted accomplices, including Tess Ocean (Julia Roberts) and Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon).
The film is packed with nail-biting heist sequences. In one scene, Danny and Lunis work their way past multiple layers of security, from guards to coded locks. We then see The Amazing Yen (Qin Shaobo) in a money safe holding $160 million, climbing walls and backward somersaulting through the air to avoid triggering any motion detectors.
Inside Man (2006)
If you’re a fan of complicated plots and jaw-dropping reveals, do yourself a favour and watch Inside Man. Directed by Spike Lee, the film follows the negotiations of a police detective (Denzel Washington), a mastermind criminal (Clive Owen), and a high-power broker (Jodie Foster) during a heist in Manhattan, New York.
The heist is simple but effective. Armed with all manner of weapons, masked robbers enter a bank and hold hostages at gunpoint. The burglars use smoke grenades and enter an impressive-looking vault, but their heist is shown realistically, without a lot of the expected theatrics.
This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t go into too much detail about the ending. Just know that you’re about to see a whole lot of shocking scenes and shiny diamonds. Despite it all, hiding listening devices inside of a pizza has to be one of the best things about this film. Yes, you read that right!
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Fantastic Mr. Fox might be the last film you expected to see on this list. Either way, Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animation centres around a heist to end all heists. The protagonist, the cunning Mr Fox (George Clooney), creates a master plan to steal from three local farmers, although this goes against the wishes of Mrs Fox (Meryl Streep).
Mr Fox and his accomplice, Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky), break into Boggis’ chicken farm. The entertaining sequence shows the dynamic duo climbing over an electric fence and feeding guard dogs blueberries laced with sleeping pills. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much you like animation, this film has something for everyone.
St. Trinian’s (2007)
St. Trinian’s showcases some of the best things a heist film has to offer. To save their school from bankruptcy, an unlikely group of girls orchestrate an art heist like no other. Expect to laugh out loud and see a whole host of familiar faces, including Gemma Arterton as Kelly and Pamela Anderson as Andrea.
You might be surprised to see St. Trinian’s on our list, but rest assured that the heist scene is one to celebrate. To steal the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ from the National Gallery, the girls perform a synchronised dance and dodge the zig-zagging motion sensors. It’s certainly something you won’t see in every heist film!
Army of Thieves (2021)
Next, we have a relatively new film making waves within the heist genre. In Army of Thieves, Matthias Schweighöfer (Ludwig Dieter), an enthusiastic safe-hacker, meets Gwendoline Starr (Nathalie Emmanuel) and embarks on a tantalising heist.
In one scene, the duo breaks into a large metal safe. It’s quite intense and we get to see a lot of impressive animation in the process. Combine this with the disorientating camera movement and heart-racing music throughout the film, and we have one of the most exciting cinematic heists of all time.
Licence to Kill (1989)
We can’t explore the greatest heist sequences of all time without mentioning a James Bond film. Licence to Kill, the sixteenth James Bond film by Eon Productions, with Timothy Dalton final appearance in the iconic role, stands out from the crowd. In the film, Bond is suspended from MI6 and the story takes an unlikely turn.
To save Felix Leiter (David Hedison) and Della Churchill (Priscilla Barnes) from a bloody murder, Bond takes part in a heist at the most jaw-dropping height on our list. Jumping out of a plane, Bond hijacks Sanchez’s smaller aircraft while suspended in the air. We can’t spoil the ending, but do you think the mission was accomplished?
These are some of the biggest and best film heists. The list goes on, whether you’re a fan of Ocean’s 8 (2018), The Italian Job (2003), Widows (2018), or Reservoir Dogs (1992).