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 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.
- Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin
- David Goldman in An Education
- Sir Charles Litton, also known as "The Phantom" in The Pink Panther
- International art thief Pierre Despereaux from Psych.
Eastern gentlemen/lady thieves
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.
- 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
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, 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.
- "Biography - Apollo Robbins - The Gentleman Thief". Istealstuff.com. Retrieved 2014-02-22.