Ever since the silent film classic The Great Train Robbery captivated audiences in 1903, the so-called "heist movie" has become one of Hollywood's most reliable staples. Sometimes the heist revolves around a complicated scheme to get the impossible prize, while other times the robbery is simple, but getting away with the booty almost always proves more difficult than anyone expected. Sure, the genre can be formulaic, but watching people steal shit never seems to get old. Admit it.
Today, the heist film sub-genre is alive and well, seen most recently in 2009's Armored (which hits DVD next week on March 16). In Armored, a desperate Iraq war vet (played by Columbus Short) goes along with a plot to rob millions from two armored trucks he and his coworkers are supposed to be protecting. In honor of the film's DVD release, we're taking a look back on the genre's history with our 10 Favorite Heist Films Of All Time...
#10: Quick Change (1990)
The Score: Three thieves rob a bank with ease but can't manage to get out of New York with the cash.
Complex Says: Bill Murray's only directing credit is a slept-on classic. The robbery--in which Murray dresses as a clown and sticks up a bank--is as cagey as it is simple. However, the second half of the film--where Murray and his crew run into one obstruction after another--plays like Murray starring in Scorsese's After Hours.
#9: The Italian Job (2003)
The Score: A group of thieves steal $35 million dollars worth of gold from an old teammate that double crossed them.
Complex Says: The caper in this film is ingenious, but it's the car chases that stole the show. Lucky for BMW, they released the Mini Cooper in time to cash in on the incredible amount of promotion the chase scene gave it.
#8: The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
The Score: Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) plays a multi-millionaire who just loves to steal. He thinks he's pulled off the perfect crime, but Vickie Anderson (Faye Dunaway) a sexy insurance investigator is on his trail.
Complex Says: This film was remade in the ’90s with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. Although the caper in the ’90s version was much more slick, it just couldn't match the on-screen chemistry between McQueen and Dunaway. Peep the clip above of the legendary chess scene that all wanna-be international players need to study.
#7: Rififi (1956)
The Score: Tony Stephanois (Jean Servais) gets out of jail and is pissed to find his girl cheating on him. In a fit a of anger, he plots a high stakes robbery of jewels that is meticulously planned and flawlessly executed. Afterwards, what to do with the loot becomes a major problem.
Complex Says: Respect the architects. Rififi is not the first film to feature a heist, but it is the first great heist film. Director Jules Dassin spends 28 minutes on a safe-cracking sequence that features no dialogue and no music. The scene was so accurate the film ended up getting banned in certain countries after real criminals began copying the technique shown in the film.
#6: Dead Presidents (1995)
The Score: Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate) is a Vietnam War vet who has a hard time adjusting to life after witnessing the horrors of warfare. He wants a better life for his family and he finds himself getting involved in a life of crime, culminating with some face-painting and a pivotal armored car robbery.
Complex Says: In many ways, Anthony Curtis is Ty Hackett's brother from another war. Instead of returning from Iraq, Anthony Curtis returns from Vietnam and like Hackett he learns it's all guts and no glory for war vets. This film helped prove the Hughes Brothers' Menace To Society was no fluke.
#5: Heat (1995)
The Score: Heat focuses on two men, one is a thief (Robert De Niro) and the other is a detective (Al Pacino). The two play a cat and mouse game where both know a heist is being plotted as each man keeps a close eye on the other.
Complex Says: Pacino. De Niro. Together at last. Michael Mann's Heat is more than just a caper film, it's a crime saga that not only explores the professional lives but also the personal relationships of men who know nothing beyond their occupation. Plus it features one of the best shoot out scenes we've ever seen.
#4: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1999)
The Score: A group of childhood friends find themselves in debt to local mob boss so they scheme to rob their next-door neighbors, who in turn are known for robbing drug dealers.
Complex Says: Don't let the simple plot summary above fool you, Lock, Stock is an incredibly convoluted film filled with double crosses and ironic twists on a near scene-by-scene basis. It's also Guy Richie's first feature film. It helped launch Richie into international stardom, making him one of the hottest directors around before Madonna made him one of the worst.
#3: Three Kings (1999)
The Score: At the tail end of the Gulf War, four US soldiers decide to go behind enemy lines steal seized Kuwaiti gold bullion.
Complex Says: This film starts off in the tradition of Kelly's Heroes but slowly spins out of control. After stealing the gold, the soldiers find themselves caught in the midst of post-war Iraq where Saddam is still committing atrocities but the US refuses to help. Much like Armored's Ty Hackett, these soldiers can't stand by while innocent people are being slaughtered.
#2: Ocean's 11 (2001)
The Score: An ex-con (George Clooney) gets out of jail and recruits a ten man team to rip off a a casino that's run by a ruthless CEO (Andy Garcia) who is dating his ex-wife.
Complex Says: Steven Soderbergh's remake of the 1960s film of the same name is a textbook example of a heist film done right. Beyond just it's star-studded cast, it's got a clever plot and plenty of witty banter. It spawned two sequels that had the same style, but certainly not the same flair.
#1: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
The Score: Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) robs a bank in order to pay for his lover's sex-change operation. The plan is to get in and out with the money, but his plan backfires and next thing you know Sonny is in the middle of a hostage negotiation.
Complex Says: Directed by the great Sidney Lumet, Dog Day features one of Pacino's best performances (and another excellent supporting role by John Cazale). But what really separates the film is that it features social commentary ("ATTICA!" screams Sonny, as the crowd cheers) and it's based on a true story.