Who doesn’t love a great bank robbery movie. Thet normally are the most entertaining movies plus we all have that part inside us that always wonder how we would have done it if we were bank robbers.If you enjoy seeing the bad guys do what they do best, bank robber films are perfect for you.
From the amazing car chase scenes of The Italian Job to the intense police scrutiny of Inside Man, there’s something for every action movie lover in bank robbery movies. Even if you just want to see Keanu Reeves and some tasty waves, there’s a movie on the greatest heist films list that will make you want to rob a bank just to be as cool as these characters.
But creating a top 10 list can be challenging. What are the best bank robbery movies of all time? These are films in which a bank robbery is the central theme. If your favorite bank heist movie is missing from the greatest bank robbery film list, make sure to add it yourself.
The movies listed here tend to vary between character development and motivation is the main theme (like Heat) or the focus is on the technicality of the bank robbery (like Ocean’s Eleven). We also need to mention that there is a difference between a bank robbery movie and a heist movie. While a heist movie can be a bank robbery movie, not all are. Heist movies may or may not involve an actual bank. Our list is called top 10 bank robbery movies so naturally we only listed movies where actual banks are getting robbed (Sorry Ocean’s Eleven). We still made reference to these great heist films though.
Here’s our list in no particular order:
A personal favourite of ours, and a movie we’ve referenced a few times here already. At nearly 3 hours long, Michael Mann’s masterpiece takes its time—not detailing the robberies, which are swift and violent, but rather the characters on both sides, led by Lieutenant Vincent Harris (Pacino) and an accomplished, top-quality thief, Neil McCauley (DeNiro). Who can forger DeNiro’s prison-learned rule: “don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat…” Midway through the film, the two put on an acting clinic in a coffee shop as they realize they’re two sides of the same coin: two guys who only know how to do one job and don’t really want to do anything else. And so, as a result, they brush aside everything that impinges upon their jobs, including those they purport to love.
Dog Day Afternoon
Based on a true story, Lumet’s film follows a Vietnam veteran named Sonny (Al Pacino) who tries to hold up a Brooklyn bank in order to fund his lover’s sex reassignment surgery. But there’s no money in the safe, and Sonny finds himself taking hostages. He becomes a news sensation, an arc that Lumet uses to explore how the media and public can turn an average person into a celebrity — for better or worse. The tense film was ahead of its time in style and subject matter: Shot in a documentary-like manner still employed by filmmakers, Dog Day Afternoon is an early example of a mainstream Hollywood project that aimed to depict a gay character with complexity and compassion.
Starring Ben Affleck, this movie is a thrilling one indeed. The story goes around Charlestown, a place that seems to have produced more robbers than any other place out there. The movie opens with Ben Affleck holding a speech about the attention to detail his gang puts into each robbery – and that’s is precisely when the robbery in the movie enters the scene. First, they get the cash draws. Then, they get into the safe. And then they make sure that the video tapes are microwaved. The entire first scene is very, very dramatic and it will make you want to watch the entire movie.
While the actual bank robbery is not the main focus of the film, this is still a bank robbery movie. In the film that made Tarantino’s stardom inevitable, he hops around chronologically while documenting the stressful before-and-after of a bank robbery gone wrong. Outfitting a crew of his regulars in black-and-white suits, the majority of the flick takes place in the warehouse where the criminals rendezvous after a stick-up turns into a shootout that leaves one (Tarantino) dead and another painfully wounded in the gut (Roth). This is classic Tarantino. Complete with crackling dialogue, exceptional soundtrack and sopping red violence, Reservoir Dogs showcases how, with his words, Tarantino only needs good actors and a barebones set to make a classic.
The Italian Job (original as well)
After a daring heist in the alps, Steve (Norton) turns on his crew, killing their leader and absconding with $35 million in gold bullion. Seeking revenge, the former second-in-command, Charlie (Wahlberg) tracks down his murdered mentor’s daughter, who will replace her father’s safecracking skills. In the second-best rounding up the gang scene ever, the rest of the team includes Left Ear (Def) on explosives, Napster (Green) on computers and Handsome Rob (Statham) at the wheel, which invariably is some extremely modified Mini Coopers. The Italian Job waffles between being sorta fun and sorta serious without ever hitting many high notes. I bet it was the favourite movie of a lot of seventh graders.
What? It’s not a surfing movie? Yes it is and it’s also a Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow directed Point Break as one of her earlier features. And her direction of spell-binding action sequences saves the threadbare plot of this cult hit. In it, FBI undercover agent, Johnny Utah (Reeves) integrates himself into a gang of adrenaline junkies led by Bodhi (Swayze). They rob banks while wearing the masks of ex-presidents, which doubles as the name of their gang. Only, in clear dereliction of duty, Utah gets seduced by the crew’s lifestyle, blurring his own alliances. Along the way, there’s sick-ass surfing, shooting and skydiving sequences—including one where Utah leaps out of an airplane without a parachute, then catches Bodhi in mid-air. To give you an idea of the dialogue, Bodhi’s last line is, “C’mon, compadre. C’mon.” So taking a grain of salt is a necessary before diving into the movie. But, accept it for what it is, and you might feel something anytime Utah and Bodhi lock eyes.
Inside Man details a very well-planned and suspenseful heist, but the problem is the unsatisfying payoff. In it, Dalton (Owen) brings an armed crew dressed up like painters to rob a bank—only for no reason at all, they throw smoke bombs, which alerts a passing beat cop. So Detective Frazier (Washington) arrives, but, smart as he is, he realizes he’s up against a man who has total control over the situation while he’s only just getting his bearings. During the robbery, the elderly bank chairman (Plummer) calls in a fast-talking fixer (Foster) to recover a safe deposit box from the bank. But that’s what Dalton came for: an envelope filled with jewels and Nazi regalia linked to the chairman, who was a war profiteer that used this ill-begotten dough to establish an American bank. Which, it’s very evil and all, but not terribly original, nor particularly believable as a motive for Dalton. Top-quality work from Denzel, Jodie and Spike elevate the lackluster script, but only to ho-hum level. It is however, a very charming time-capsule of the mid-2000s.
The Bank Job
Imagine Jason Statham as a car salesman. Imagine him trying to sell you a window tinting or seat warmers. Very hard, right? Now imagine him robbing a bank. Oh, wow that’s so easy. So in this thoroughly entertaining British flick, although Statham starts out as a family man named Terry Leather (!) operating a car dealership, he soon ends up tunnelling into a bank vault full of safety deposit boxes, one of which contains naughty photos of a princess. These will earn immunity for his ex-girlfriend, who recruited Terry to help with the job, but they also steal the portfolio that a gangster, Lew, has accrued so as to blackmail cops into letting him get away with his business. And Lew starts torturing members of Terry’s crew to get it back. It’s a fictionalized true story that leans heavily on Statham’s tough guy with a soft center charisma, and he handles it effortlessly. But the ceiling for Statham-centric pictures is of a limited height.
Den of Thieves
We’re pretty brave listing this movie. But we absolutely loved it. Every day, $120mm in cash is taken out of circulation and destroyed by the Los Angeles Branch of the Federal Reserve – unless a notorious, elite crew of bank robbers can pull off the ultimate heist and get to the money first… right under the noses of LA’s most feared division in law enforcement.
Great twist at the end.
Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.