A gentleman thief or lady thief, or phantom thief (怪盗 Kaitō?) in the East, is a particularly well-behaving and apparently well bred thief. A "gentleman or lady" is usually, but not always, a person with an inherited title of nobility and inherited wealth, who need not work for a living. Such a person steals not in order to gain material wealth, but for adventure; they act without malice. These thieves rarely bother with anonymity or force, preferring to rely on their charisma, physical attractiveness, and clever misdirection to steal the most unobtainable objects — sometimes for their own support, but mostly for the thrill of the act itself.
In popular culture
The phantom thief is superb at stealing while maintaining a sophisticated front and/or a thief's code of honor: Raffles steals mostly when he is especially in need of money; Lupin steals more from the rich who don't appreciate art or their treasures and redistributes it (not unlike a modern Robin Hood); Saint Tail steals back what was stolen or taken dishonestly, or rights the wrongs done to the innocent by implicating the real criminals.
Western fictional characters
Notable gentlemen thieves and lady thieves in Western popular culture include the following:
- Simon Templar, also known as "The Saint" from the novel series by Leslie Charteris.
- Thomas Crown from The Thomas Crown Affair
- John Robie in Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief
- A. J. Raffles from the A. J. Raffles stories by E. W. Hornung.
- Carmen Sandiego, the title character from the Carmen Sandiego franchise.
- Edward Pierce from The Great Train Robbery
- Jimmie Dale, also known as The Gray Seal, from the series by Frank L. Packard.
- Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman, from the Batman series.
- Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin
- David Goldman in An Education
- Sir Charles Litton, also known as "The Phantom" in The Pink Panther
- Pierre Despereaux in Psych.
Eastern fictional characters
Kaitō (怪盗; phantom thief) is a Japanese variant of the gentleman thief sub-genre in anime and manga, which draws inspiration from Arsène Lupin and elements in other crime fictions and detective fictions.
Notable phantom thieves in eastern popular culture include the following:
- Arsène Lupin III, from Lupin III (by Monkey Punch).
- Kaito Kuroba, also known as the Phantom Thief Kid, the main character of Magic Kaito and a recurring character in Detective Conan by Gosho Aoyama
- Meimi Haneoka, who transforms into Saint Tail, a phantom thief with acrobatic and magician skills, from Saint Tail by Megumi Tachikawa
- Dark Mousy the angel-like phantom thief from D.N.Angel by Yukiru Sugisaki.
- Kaitō Daiki (海東 大樹), portrayed by Kimito Totani, a character who can transform into Kamen Rider Diend from 2009 Kamen Rider Series Kamen Rider Decade.
- Kaitō Reinya, a title character played by and modeled after Reina Tanaka, from the 2009 anime series Phantom Thief Reinya.
- Kamikaze Kaitō Jeanne, the title character in Kamikaze Kaitō Jeanne.
- Kaitō Tenjou, a character in Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal
Modern day examples
||This biographical section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2014)|
- Christophe Rocancourt is a modern-day, real-life example of the gentleman thief.
- Charles Bolles, a.k.a. Black Bart, outlaw of the American West, was known as a gentleman thief in the 1870s and 1880s.
- D.B. Cooper, unknown hijacker who escaped with $200,000 in 1971. Said to be polite and well spoken.
- Janoš Vujčić, a gypsy thief from Yugoslavia who stole Picasso's painting worth 80 million Swiss franc.
- Apollo Robbins, American sleight-of-hand artist, security consultant and deception specialist. Self-proclaimed gentleman thief.
- Bleiler, Richard. "Raffles: The Gentleman Thief". Strand Magazine. United States. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- Denby, David (2009-10-28). "An Education". The New Yorker.
- "Lupin the Third.com". Lupin the Third.com. Retrieved 2014-02-22.
- "Biography - Apollo Robbins - The Gentleman Thief". Istealstuff.com. Retrieved 2014-02-22.