Heist film

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The heist film is a subgenre of crime film. It focuses on the planning, execution, and aftermath of a theft. Versions with dominant or prominent comic elements are often called caper movies. They could be described as the analogues of caper stories in film history. A typical film includes many plot twists, with the focus on the characters' attempts to formulate a plan, carry it out, and escape with the goods. Often a nemesis must be thwarted, who might be either a figure of authority or else a former partner who turned on the group or one of its members.[citation needed]

The archetypical plot[edit]

Usually a heist film will contain a three-act plot. The first act usually consists of the preparations for the heist: gathering conspirators; learning about the layout of the location to be robbed; learning about the alarm system; revealing innovative technologies to be used; and, most importantly, setting up the plot twists in the final act.[citation needed]

The second act is the heist itself. With rare exception, the heist will be successful, although some number of unexpected events will occur.[citation needed]

The third act is the unraveling of the plot. The characters involved in the heist will be turned against one another or one of the characters will have made arrangements with some outside party, who will interfere (often a wise, underestimated detective). Normally, most of or all the characters involved in the heist will end up dead, captured by the law, or without any of the loot; however, it is becoming increasingly common for the conspirators to be successful, particularly if the target is portrayed as being of low moral standing, such as casinos, corrupt organizations or individuals, or fellow criminals.[citation needed]

As an established archetype, it became common, starting in the 1950s, to excise one or two of the acts in the story, relying on the viewers' familiarity with the archetype to fill in the missing elements. Touchez pas au grisbi and Reservoir Dogs, for example, both take place largely after the heist has occurred.[citation needed]

Examples of heist films that take place non-linearly: The Killing (1956); Gambit (1966); and Reservoir Dogs (1992).[citation needed]


Throughout the 1930s, thievery and scams were present in such films as Raffles, Outside the Law, The Unholy Garden and Ninotchka. The classic film noir period of the 1940s and 1950s brought the genre to fame, by focusing more explicitly on the heists themselves, with such films as John Huston's Asphalt Jungle, Jules Dassin's Rififi, Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le flambeur and Le Cercle Rouge, Stanley Kubrick's The Killing or Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street. Since that time caper movies have been shot in many variations, ranging from light-hearted folly of the 1960s classic like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with its cast of clowns led by Jonathan Winters and the British made Crooks and Coronets to darker, more challenging treatments introducing innovative ways of craftsmanship, such as Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs or Christopher Nolan's Inception.[citation needed]

Even to contemporary Hollywood, the genre still remains promising, as the remakes of Ocean's 11 (2001, as Ocean's Eleven) and The Italian Job (2003) show. Examples of the variety of directions the heist film can take would include the comedy heist film such as Topkapi, the western heist film such as The War Wagon, the war/heist film such as Kelly's Heroes and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, numerous spy movies and television programs which had heist-like plots, most notably Mission: Impossible, It Takes a Thief and Leverage, and recently a sci-fi heist film combination with Robot & Frank.


Film title Year of release Distributor
They Met in Bombay 1941 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
The Asphalt Jungle 1950 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Rififi 1955 Pathé
The Killing 1956 United Artists
Bob le flambeur 1956 StudioCanal
Ocean's 11 1960 Warner Bros.
Topkapi 1964 United Artists
Gambit 1966 Universal Pictures
How to Steal a Million 1966 20th Century Fox
Grand Slam 1967 N/A
Jewel Thief 1967 Navketan Films
Who's Minding the Mint? 1967 Columbia Pictures
The Thomas Crown Affair 1968 United Artists
The Italian Job 1969 Paramount Pictures
Le clan des siciliens 1969 20th Century Fox
The Brain 1969 Paramount Pictures
Le Cercle Rouge 1970 StudioCanal
Kelly's Heroes 1970 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
$ 1971 Columbia Pictures
The Hot Rock 1972 20th Century Fox
The Getaway 1972 National General Pictures
The Sting 1973 Universal Pictures
Gone in 60 Seconds 1974 H.B. Halicki Junkyard and Mercantile Company
Dog Day Afternoon 1975 Warner Bros.
The Great Train Robbery 1979 United Artists
Going in Style 1979 Warner Bros.
The Castle of Cagliostro 1979 Toho
Minchina Ota 1980 Sanketh
The Great Muppet Caper 1981 Universal Pictures
Reservoir Dogs 1992 Miramax
Heat 1995 Warner Bros.
Entrapment 1999 20th Century Fox
The Thomas Crown Affair 1999 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artists
Gone in Sixty Seconds 2000 Touchstone Pictures
Bandits 2001 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
The Score 2001 Paramount Pictures
Ocean's Eleven 2001 Warner Bros.
Heist 2001 Warner Bros.
Aankhen 2002 V.R. Films
The Italian Job 2003 Paramount Pictures
Ocean's Twelve 2004 Warner Bros.
Inside Man 2006 Universal Studios
Ocean's Thirteen 2007 Warner Bros.
The Bank Job 2008 Lionsgate Films
Mad Money 2008 Overture Films
Takers 2010 Screen Gems
Inception 2010 Warner Bros.
Fast Five 2011 Universal Pictures
Tower Heist 2011 Universal Pictures
The Thieves 2012 Showbox
Dhoom 3 2013 Yash Raj Films
The Rise (Wasteland) 2013 Bankside Films
Now You See Me 2013 Summit Entertainment
Lupin the 3rd 2014 Toho
Bad Genius 2017 Jor Kwang Films
Logan Lucky 2017 Fingerprint Releasing
Den of Thieves 2018 STXfilms
Ocean's 8 2018 Warner Bros.
Widows 2018 20th Century Fox


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