A heist like the recent armed theft of $50 million in diamonds from the Brussels airport makes everyone think the same thing: This sounds like a movie. After all, for the last 110 years or so (ever since Edwin S. Porter’s 1903 landmark The Great Train Robbery), the movies have delighted in showing us elaborate robbery schemes while toying with our sympathies: should we identify with the side of law and order? Or with the calculating crooks, as the films seem to encourage us to do?
The heist movie has become a dependable sub-genre of its own, one that persuades us to admire the outlaws’ ingenuity, even if we’re rooting for their failure. After the demise of Hollywood’s production code in the late 1960s, the thieves were, on occasion, even allowed to get away with it, twisting our sympathies even further. No one likes to be conned or victimized in real life, but in the movies, there’s no small pleasure in being successfully swindled.
Here, then, are 10 of the most influential heist movies, capers that (aptly enough) other caper films have stolen from.