It’s rare when a director masterfully gets his audience to root for the bad guys. Unless, of course, it’s a heist movie. This subgenre of crime drama is usually bursting with thrilling plots, intricate schemes, unforgettable characters, and bizarre twists. And it’s usually served with a side of comedy to keep the audience engaged.
While some classics like Ocean’s Eleven and Heat have rightfully earned their place in the spotlight in the heist movie hall of fame, there are hidden gems that often fly under the radar or have been forgotten as time passes.
Not on our watch. From the brilliant mind of Spike Lee to the clever storytelling of Rian Johnson, these films prove that the heist genre has much more to offer than meets the eye. Get ready to discover some hidden cinematic treasures that deserve a place on your heist movie watchlist.
Inside Man (2006)
When it comes to heist movies, few are as clever and entertaining as Inside Man, released in 2006. Directed by Spike Lee and written by Russell Gewirtz, the movie centers on an audacious bank robbery that morphs into a gripping hostage situation over a suspenseful 24 hours.
The film boasts an ensemble cast led by Denzel Washington as Detective Keith Frazier, who faces off against the brilliant bank robber Dalton Russell, portrayed by Clive Owen.
The film also features Jodie Foster, one of the thriller genre’s leading ladies, who adds intrigue as Madeleine White, a fixer with her own agenda, and Christopher Plummer as the bank’s founder.
Inside Man received critical acclaim for its engaging plot, well-drawn characters, and Spike Lee’s direction. Critics praised Lee’s dynamic and astute bank heist thriller as an intelligent genre film that not only delivers on its own terms but also deftly transcends its typical tropes with smart writing, all while Denzel Washington shines as a hostage negotiator.
Logan Lucky (2017)
Logan Lucky is a heist movie directed by Steven Soderbergh. Featuring an all-star ensemble casting including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Daniel Craig, Seth MacFarlane, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston, and Sebastian Stan, this clever comedy is a knee-slapping action adventure.
Logan Lucky follows the Logan family’s daring attempt to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a NASCAR race while evading both security officers and the FBI.
Soderbergh (known for Erin Brockovich), who came out of retirement for this project, once again demonstrates his directorial finesse by being able to seamlessly blend the genres of action, comedy, and crime.
Critics and audiences alike praised Logan Lucky upon its release in 2017. It holds an impressive 92 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics lauding Soderbergh’s return to filmmaking and the movie’s high-octane yet down-to-earth fun.
In a world filled with heist movies that range from dull and overplotted to cunning and clever, Logan Lucky deserves recognition for its refreshing take on the genre, memorable characters, and its ability to entertain without pretension.
The Lookout (2007)
The Lookout, directed by Scott Frank in his directorial debut, is a crime film that deserves a spot among the best heist movies. Another film with a stellar cast, The Lookout features Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Bruce McGill, and Isla Fisher.
The film follows Chris Pratt (no, not the guy from Guardians of the Galaxy, but a fictional character), who is a former high school sports star whose life takes a tragic turn after a car accident.
The trauma leaves him with anterograde amnesia and anger management issues. Despite his challenges, Chris attempts to rebuild his life, working nights at a bank and receiving support from his blind roommate, Lewis.
However, when a gang planning a bank heist manipulates Chris into assisting them, he finds himself in a dangerous predicament. The film unfolds as Chris navigates this treacherous situation, leading to a thrilling climax.
The Lookout may have been flying under the radar for the past 16 years, but its gripping plot, memorable characters, and exceptional performances make it a must-watch for fans of heist movies. This underrated masterpiece deserves recognition for its ability to blend crime and drama into a compelling and emotionally resonant story.
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson, Sneakers is a remarkable heist thriller movie that often goes unnoticed. Starring a stellar cast with some of Hollywood’s most iconic actors, including Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, and David Strathairn, this film is a masterclass in blending suspense, humor, and cutting-edge technology.
The story begins with a young Martin Brice (Gary Hershberger), a hacker who becomes a fugitive after a heist goes wrong. Years later, now going by the name of Martin Bishop (and now played by Robert Redford), he leads a team of security specialists who test vulnerabilities in systems.
When approached by NSA officers, Martin is coerced into stealing a mysterious “black box” capable of breaking computer encryptions. The team, comprising intriguing characters with unique skills, embarks on a mission filled with espionage and deception.
Sneakers offers a unique blend of heist thrills, espionage, and humor that sets it apart from other films in the heist movie genre.
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
The Brothers Bloom is a captivating caper comedy-drama that often goes unnoticed in the world of heist movies. Starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Maximilian Schell, and Robbie Coltrane, this movie follows the complex storytelling, dialogue-driven scripts, and character-centric narratives that director Rian Johnson is known for.
The film follows the lives of two orphaned brothers, Stephen and Bloom, who grow up mastering the art of deception. Their cons become more elaborate, but Bloom desires an authentic life beyond Stephen’s schemes.
When Stephen convinces Bloom to execute one last con targeting the eccentric heiress Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), their adventure takes an unexpected turn. The brothers find themselves entangled in a web of love, loyalty, and deceit, leading to a thrilling climax.
Rian Johnson’s direction infuses the film with an offbeat charm and magical realism that sets it apart from other heist movies. While The Brothers Bloom may not have received the recognition it deserves, it offers a refreshing take on the heist genre by focusing on the human elements of a crime caper.
If there is anything a good heist movie is known for, it’s the ability to showcase a creative plot filled with surprises. From the pulse-pounding tension of Inside Man to the laugh-out-loud capers of Logan Lucky and the emotionally charged drama of The Lookout, these films prove that heists can be much more than elaborate thefts.
So, the next time you’re in the mood for a thrilling heist, don’t just stick to the classics — venture into the world of these underrated masterpieces.
After all, a good heist movie is all about the unexpected, and these films deliver it in spades.