Going in Style

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This article is about the 1979 caper film. For the 2017 remake, see Going in Style (2017 film).
Going in Style
Theatrical release poster.
Directed by Martin Brest
Produced by Tony Bill
Fred T. Gallo
Screenplay by Martin Brest
Story by Edward Cannon
Starring George Burns
Art Carney
Lee Strasberg
Charles Hallahan
Music by Michael Small
Cinematography Billy Williams
Edited by Carroll Timothy O'Meara
Robert Swink
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • December 1979 (1979-12) (U.S.)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $29,900,000[1]

Going in Style is a 1979 caper film written and directed by Martin Brest. It stars George Burns, Art Carney, Lee Strasberg, and Charles Hallahan. The casino scenes were shot at the Aladdin Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.


Joe (George Burns), Al (Art Carney), and Willie (Lee Strasberg) are three senior citizens who share a small apartment in Queens, New York City. They live off social security checks and spend their summer days sitting on a park bench, reading newspapers, feeding pigeons, and fending off obnoxious children.

It is a dull life, and finally Joe is driven to suggest something radical to break the monotony. After their monthly visits to their local bank to deposit or cash their monthly social security checks, Joe privately suggests: "How would you guys like to go on a stick-up?" None has a criminal history (though Joe claims he "did some stealing during the war"), but just planning the bank robbery fills them with energy and optimism.

After they agree on a bank to rob in nearby Manhattan, Al surreptitiously borrows some pistols from the gun collection of his nephew, Pete (Charles Hallahan), who lives with his wife and children a few miles away. During Al's visit, Pete tells him that he wants to open his own gas station, but the problem with his home's utility bills and mortgage hinders his expectations.

A few days later, the trio, disguised with novelty Groucho Marx-style glasses, pulls off their heist, despite some complications, to the tune of USD$35,000 dollars. Unfortunately, the excitement is too much for Willie, who suffers a fatal heart attack the same day. At his funeral, Joe and Al decide to give the bulk of the money ($25,000) to Pete and his family by telling them that it's a life insurance policy that Willie left them. Joe and Al decide to splurge the rest on a whirlwind excursion to Las Vegas.

Joe and Al go to the airport after Willie's funeral and take the first flight of their lives. They check into a fancy Vegas hotel and decide to go gambling in the casino at a craps table. Starting with $2,500 worth of chips, they win more than $70,000. Joe notices several casino pit bosses staring at them. He becomes worried that they, or possibly thieves, will come after their winnings, so he and Al check out of the hotel and catch the first plane back to New York City, neither of them getting any sleep.

Joe and Al arrive back at their apartment the next morning, both very tired but very happy. After sleeping late, Joe wakes up and turns on the radio for the afternoon news. He hears that their eccentric robbery has become a colorful story for the media but that the police supposedly are closing in on the "careless amateur criminals." Joe tries to wake up Al, but sees that his friend has died in his sleep.

Joe takes all the cash, the bank robbery loot and the Vegas winnings (totaling a little over $107,000), to Pete's house, where Joe confides in him about the bank robbery and the Las Vegas excursion before informing him of his uncle's death. Joe tells the distraught Pete to hide the cash and not to confide in anyone about it regardless of what will happen, saying the authorities might even try to take the money earned legally in Vegas.

The next day, on his way to Al's funeral, Joe is arrested by the police, which he was expecting. At a police station, he is told that since he has no previous criminal record, he could potentially go free if he returns the money. Joe confesses to the bank robbery but claims that he buried the stolen cash, and he stubbornly refuses to reveal its whereabouts.

In the final scene, Pete visits Joe in the state prison and suggests giving back at least the stolen portion of the money in the hope of a lighter sentence. Joe explains that for years he felt like he was living in prison due to his dull life. Despite being incarcerated, Joe claims that he no longer has to cook or clean for himself, he gets three square meals a day, and generally is getting "treated like a king around here", due to the other inmates hoping he'll reveal where the stolen money is. Joe tells Pete to just "enjoy your inheritance." In the final shot, as Joe is being escorted back to his cell by a guard, he looks mischievously at Pete and says with a wry smile: "Besides, no tinhorn joint like this could ever hold me!"



The film received generally positive reviews, garnering an 89% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes.[2] Critic Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three and a half stars, remarking that it "treats old age with a lot of bitterness. And my suspicion is that this picture will be a healthy catharsis for anyone who is old or is thinking about becoming old." Siskel added that "what this remarkable movie is after is duplicating the texture of being old in America. And, as we spend the final days with these three characters, we discover that what growing old is about for so many people is being alone. In one heart-tugging scene after another, we see the maturity it takes to make peace with yourself as you grow old. We see the strength it takes to be willing to sit quietly." Siskel offered particular praise for Burns' performance, stating that "Fans of George Burns...will be startled by his performance in this film. Burns, who has always seemed so cheerful on film, lets out some of his rage at growing old. He does this in a controlled, quiet way that reveals he is one remarkable actor."[3][4]


In 2015, New Line Cinema began production on a remake of Going In Style, directed by Zach Braff, written by Theodore Melfi and starring Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. The film is scheduled to be released in April of 2017.

See also[edit]

Other crime caper films involving older perpetrators include:


  1. ^ "Going in Style, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  2. ^ https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/going_in_style/
  3. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 26, 1979). "'Going in Style' gives aging a bad name beautifully". Chicago Tribune. p. E8. 
  4. ^ http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1979/12/26/page/64/article/going-in-style-gives-aging-a-bad-name-beautifully

External links[edit]