||This article or section may fail to make a clear distinction between fact and fiction. (December 2014)|
A gentleman thief, 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 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
In fictional works, the phantom thief is typically 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 do not appreciate art or their treasures and redistributes it (like 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. Sly Cooper (character) and his gang steals from other thieves and criminals, as it is their honorable code.
Western gentlemen/lady thieves
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.
- Oswald Cobblepot, also known as The Penguin, from the Batman series.
- Remy Etienne LeBeau, also known as Gambit, from the X-Men comics.
- Felicia Hardy, also known as Black Cat, from the Spider-Man comics.
- Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin
- Captain Feeney in Barry Lyndon
- David Goldman in An Education
- Sir Charles Litton, also known as "The Phantom" in The Pink Panther
Eastern gentlemen/lady thieves
Kaitō (怪盗; phantom thief) is a Japanese variant of the gentleman thief subgenre 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 ("Kaitō 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.
- Daiki Kaitō, 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
- Clara, better known as the phantom thief Psiren, an exclusive character from the first anime adaptation of the manga Fullmetal Alchemist.
- Raphael / Ralph, also known as the Phantom R ("Kaitō Āru"), the main character of Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure from a Nintendo 3DS video game by SEGA and Xeen.
- Jack, also known as Joker, the phantom thief from the anime and manga "Kaitou Joker" (Mysterious Joker) along with Spade, Queen, and Silver Heart.
- Arsene, Rat, Twenty, and Stone River comprise the Thieves' Empire (Kaitou Teikoku) in Tantei Opera Milky Holmes.
In real life
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- Charles Earl Bowles (b. 1829; d.after 1888), known as Black Bart, was an English-born outlaw noted for the poetic messages he left behind after two of his robberies. Considered a gentleman bandit with a reputation for style and sophistication, he was one of the most notorious stagecoach robbers to operate in and around Northern California and southern Oregon during the 1870s and 1880s.
- Christophe Rocancourt is a modern-day, real-life example of the gentleman thief.
- D.B. Cooper, the only unidentified hijacker in American aviation history, who, in 1971, extorted $200,000 from an airline before parachuting out of a plane during the cover of night. 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.
- Hoeper, George (June 1, 1995). Black Bart: Boulevardier Bandit: The Saga of California's Most Mysterious Stagecoach Robber and the Men Who Sought to Capture Him. Quill Driver Books. ISBN 978-1-884995-05-7. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
- "Biography - Apollo Robbins - The Gentleman Thief". Istealstuff.com. Retrieved 2014-02-22.