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The 411 Movies Top 5: The Top 5 Heist Movies

February 28, 2016 | Posted by Shawn S. Lealos

The 411 Movies Top 5: Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Movies Top 5 List. We take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to participate and give us their Top 5 on said topic. So, onto this week’s topic…

The Top 5 Heist Movies

5. 3000 MILES TO GRACELAND – The heist in this movie, a Las Vegas casino robbery during an Elvis convention, happens in the first quarter of the movie, with the majority of the movie dealing with the aftermath of the heist. Kevin Costner’s psychotic Murphy (quite possibly fathered by the real Elvis Pressley), after getting away from the casino with a bunch of money, attempts to kill just about everyone in the heist group (poor Christian Slater) and walk off with everything. What Murphy doesn’t know is that Michael Zane (Snake Plissken hisself Kurt Russell) had a bulletproof vest on and, well, isn’t dead. So, from that moment on, it’s a sort of chase/race against time type deal where Murphy and Zane constantly butt heads trying to get away with the big score. Throw in fine performances from Courtney Cox as the goofy love interest for Zane, Ice-T playing a weird beard commando mercenary who has one of the dumbest “try to kill everyone in the room” strategies in movie history (did that upside down zip line thing ever work for anyone?), Howie Long as a helicopter pilot (I wish he was still an actor. Firestorm was awesome), Jon Lovitz, and Kevin Pollak and Thomas Haden Church playing sort of bad ass FBI guys hot on Murphy and Zane’s trail. The movie does lose its way a bit in the middle, but things pick up again at the end as all of the still living main characters slug it out in an epic gun battle. Murphy should have just split the money with everyone in the heist group and walked away. I’d love to see the other version of this movie, the one that’s “more of a comedy.” Anyone else remember hearing about that version?

4. ARMED AND DANGEROUS – This great action-comedy has John Candy’s ex-cop Frank Dooley and Eugene Levy’s former bumbling lawyer Norman Kane, now rent-a-cop security guards, trying to prevent a major armored car heist from happening. Of course, Dooley and Kane find out about the armored car job after investigating the circumstances of a warehouse robbery, a robbery where they were the guards on duty. They find out that the warehouse robbery and the armored car job are all an inside job, part of a “major criminal conspiracy” involving their union boss Michael Carlino (Robert Loggia). This movie just never gets old. It’s funny as hell, it’s got great performances by Candy and Levy plus the immortal Brion James and Johnathon “Cuz” Banks, not to mention Larry Hankin (Kokolovitch) and Meg Ryan, and it’s got a decent chase/action scene at the end. Should be seen by everyone. I think you’ll enjoy the scene where Kane gets his ass handed to him by the owner of the security guard company when he asks if guards and indemnified by the company for lawsuits that result from wrongful arrest complaints (“What are you, a lawyer?”). Ha.

3. MONEY TRAINMoney Train doesn’t become a full on heist movie until the very end, when Woody Harrelson’s Charlie, a seriously down-on-his luck NYPD detective with a gambling problem, finally decides to go through with what he’s been hinting at possibly doing throughout the movie, robbing the subway’s “money train.” Up until that point the movie is all over the place with Charlie and his fellow cop/brother John (Wesley Snipes) tracking down a psycho stick up artist played by Chris Cooper (back before he was Chris Cooper), Charlie and John dealing with cop movie bullshit with their boss, played by an excellent and creepy as hell Robert Blake, and Charlie and John wanting to bang fellow cop Grace Santiago, played by Jennifer Lopez in her still only decent movie performance to date. When the movie finally gets around to the big heist robbing the money train doesn’t work out all that well for Charlie. John is on to him and eventually gets him to change his mind (sort of). The movie ends with one of the most spectacular train wreck sequences of all time. And then there’s that freaking song that plays over the opening and end credits. You will be repeating the lines “The train is coming baby, the train is coming now” over and over again. It can’t be prevented once you’ve heard it.

2. DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCEDie Hard with a Vengeance, just like the first Die Hard movie, isn’t a terrorism movie, it’s a heist movie, although we find out that Vengeance is a heist movie earlier than when we do in the first Die Hard. The bad guys pose as terrorists, sure, but they’re not taking hostages and spreading fear and whatnot for political reasons or revenge or whatever. These bad guys just want to get paid. And when it comes to Vengeance Jeremy Irons’ Simon Gruber wants all of the gold in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Oh, sure, he’s “doing it” for mysterious Middle Eastern benefactors, but those people are just a means to an end. He has no intention of giving any of those people anything. Had Bruce Willis’ John McClane and Sam Jackson’s Zeus not been around Simon probably would have gotten away with it. He probably wouldn’t have died in a helicopter crash in Quebec. He’d be sitting on a beach somewhere, just like his brother Hans dreamed of, earning twenty percent or some such number. Crime really doesn’t pay when McClane is around, does it?

1. HEAT – I really didn’t care for Michael Mann’s epic heist/crime flick Heat the first time I saw it. I thought it was way too long. I stopped caring after about halfway and just wanted the thing to end. I didn’t like any of the characters, although they were generally interesting (it’s DeNiro, Pacino, and Val Kilmer when he was young and life hadn’t destroyed him). I decided to watch it again about three years later and, for whatever reason, I suddenly “got” it. The movie’s three hour running time no longer mattered. It’s a brilliant movie. The performances, the meticulously planned action scenes, the attitude that the movie oozes (I still didn’t like anyone in the movie but I was okay with that). It’s just brilliant through and through. It isn’t Mann’s best movie (I still think The Insider is his best so far), but it’s a very close second. Awesome stuff.

Wednesday Lee Friday
5. The Italian Job (2003) – It’s rare that I prefer a remake to a timeless classic. But in the case of The Italian Job, the remake is a ton more fun. Starting with an awesome cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, Mos Def, Jason Statham, Ed Norton, and the robot chicken guy—this movie starts out thrilling and ends in a deeply satisfying way. A classic heist movie, The Italian Job takes you through the finer points of how to steal, why to steal, and from whom to steal. When you watch, you might even learn stuff about lock-picking, fancy driving, urban planning, and how to set your speakers up so they can blow off a lady’s clothes.

4. Ocean’s Eleven (2002) – Another remake that did a fine job of surpassing the original film—though that may be because I think the Rat Pack were a bunch of jags. Once could argue that this is everything a heist movie should be, as a fab ensemble cast joins forces to simultaneously rob three mobbed up casinos in the heart of Las Vegas. Look for standard heist tropes like plans that only appear to fail, remote control vans, and the old switcheroo. Still, Ocean’s Eleven was fun enough to spawn a few sequels, which led to a few more unfunny jokes about Julia Roberts.

3. Reservoir Dogs (1992) – The movie that launched Quentin Tarantino’s career is still as entertaining as it’s ever been. And if you’ve managed to not know who the cop is—you’ll have an even better time watching. Sensational dialogue and fine performances all around make Reservoir Dogs one of the best heist movies ever. First of all, they’re stealing diamonds. Classic heist. Nobody knows each other’s real names, there’s horrific deplorable violence, and we don’t have to watch Steve Buscemi die right in front of us. There’s also a killer soundtrack.

2. A Fish Called Wanda (1988) – Putting John Cleese and Michael Palin back together for a movie is already reason enough to watch. But add Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline to the madness and you’ve got a spectacular film that revolves around a bank robbery and the hilarious aftermath. Everyone is at the top of their game in this one, which is also chock full of memorable dialogue. From Harvey Manfred…gen…sen, to K-K-K-Ken, I defy anyone to watch A Fish Called Wanda without laughing.

1. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) – Heist movies don’t often earn tons of Oscars, but this one did. Al Pacino and John Cazale play Sonny and Sal, a couple of dudes who get the brilliant idea to rob a bank. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well. There are hostages, a media circus, conflicted cops, and Chris Sarandon as the transexual lover of Pacino’s character. Really. John Cazale was amazing in everything, and may be the only actor whose films have all been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (others include The Godfather, Godfather part II, The Deer Hunter, and The Conversation). If you’ve never sat down and watched this film, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Attica!

Shawn S. Lealos
5. Rififi – Honestly, you can’t have a Top 5 of heist movies without listing one of the classic Film Noirs on the list. I include Rififi, a French heist film about a group of four thieves setting out to pull off an impossible theft. While a lot of heist movies focus on the characters and their elaborate plans, this one actually spends 30 minutes, with little dialogue and no music, on the actual heist. What it creates is one of the most tense scenes in cinema history as we watch the team committing the actual crime in detail. This is easily the best depiction of an actual heist in any crime movie to date.

4. Ocean’s Eleven – Unlike Rififi, the Steven Soderbergh film Ocean’s Eleven is less about the heist and more about the “cool factor.” Yeah, we get the details about the heist and watch as it is pulled off, but this isn’t about the danger of the crime, it is about how cool Brad Pitt, George Clooney and company are as they are pulling it off. And, honestly, that is just fine. While not as tense, there might not be another heist movie that is as fun as this one. This is also one of the few remakes that just blows away the original movie it was based on.

3. Jackie Brown – After blowing the world away with Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino made his own heist film in Jackie Brown, a movie that is highly underrated. Honestly, this movie is right up there with his others in quality and is just a fantastic film. It is almost like a version of the Kurosawa Rashomon film, as we see the crime from the point of view from various people and only learn the real truth when it is all said and done. While this was hyped as Pam Grier’s return, it was Robert Forster who stole the show as the bail bondsman sucked into the middle of this giant con pulled off by Grier’s Jackie Brown to steal money from a gun runner while escaping the grips of the ATF.

2. Inception – This is a completely different kind of heist, where the targets are not selected because of money or physical possessions, but the targets are instead chosen to steal information from their minds. The movie is a sci-fi film by Christopher Nolan, shot between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises and it remains one of his best movies, rivaling even that second Batman film. Leo DiCaprio stars in the movie as a thief who breaks into the minds of his targets to commit corporate espionage and steal valuable information for clients. Things get dicey when the team realizes they may have to go many levels deep in order to plant memories in people’s minds to achieve a higher goal. Basically, this is Ocean’s Eleven with mind theft instead of money. It is also quite brilliant..

1. Heat – It should come as no surprise that the best heist movie of all time was directed by Michael Mann, one of the best crime directors on the planet. It is also known as the first teaming between Hollywood legends Robert De Niro and Al Pacino since Godfather II and actually the first time they shared a scene together. While their recent output has been subpar, this teaming was a true masterpiece and remains one of the best movies ever made. The shootout in the middle was long, perfectly directed, and one of the best ever put in a movie. While both De Niro and Pacino were fantastic in the film, Val Kilmer almost trumps them both as one of the criminals, and he is the one character I wanted to live over all others. This movie was just perfect and is easily my favorite heist movie of all time.


List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:

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