Gentleman thief

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For the 1946 Spanish film, see Gentleman Thief (film).

A gentleman thief, lady thief, or phantom thief (Japanese: 怪盗 Hepburn: Kaitō?) is a recurring stock character. A gentleman or lady thief usually has inherited wealth and is characterised by impeccable manners, charm, courteousness and the avoidance of physical force or intimidation to steal. As such, they do not steal to gain material wealth but for the thrill of the act itself, often combined in fiction with correcting a moral wrong, selecting wealthy targets, or stealing only particular rare and challenging objects.

In popular culture[edit]

Raffles, the gentleman thief, as portrayed by David Niven.

In fictional works, the phantom thief is typically superb at stealing while maintaining a gentleman's manners and code of honour; for example, Robin Hood is a former Earl who steals from the rich to give to the poor, Raffles only steals from other gentlemen (and occasionally gives the object away to a good cause); Lupin steals from the rich who do not appreciate their art or treasures and redistributes it; 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 and his gang steals from other thieves and criminals.

Western gentlemen/lady thieves[edit]

Notable gentlemen thieves and lady thieves in Western popular culture include the following:

Phantom thieves[edit]

Phantom thief (怪盗 Kaitō?) is the term for the gentleman/lady thief in Eastern media such as anime and manga. It draws inspiration from Arsène Lupin and elements in other crime fictions and detective fictions.

Notable phantom thieves in Eastern popular culture include the following:

In real life[edit]

  • 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.[5] Considered a gentleman bandit with a reputation for style and sophistication,[5] 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.
  • William Francis "Willie" Sutton, Jr. was a gentlemanly bank robber of the 1920s who never harmed a person during his robberies and only carried unloaded weapons during the heists.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bleiler, Richard. "Raffles: The Gentleman Thief". Strand Magazine. United States. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Denby, David (2009-10-28). "An Education". The New Yorker. 
  3. ^ "Lupin the". Lupin the Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b 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. 

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