47 Movie Blogs #31 – Five Best Movie Robberies

My relatively concrete and rule-bound morality has always made it hard for me to easily get into films where the protagonists are criminals – thieves, robbers, etc.  Yet for years movies have told the stories of criminals, often making them lovable, heroic and fun.

But for the purposes of this point, we’re not worrying too much about whether the robbers are heroes or not, we’re just talking about what makes good movie scenes.

(Incidentally, this is #31 in a series of 47 posts about movies, with topics selected by my friend, each given to me after the previous one is written.  For more information, check out #1 here.)

I have discovered (inspired by comments from Ant-Man) that according to the internet, the idea of robbery specifically includes the notion of person-to-person interaction, where something is taken unlawfully by employing means of force, threat, coercion, or intimidation.  When these elements are not present, it’s merely burglary.

Whether my friend appreciated the difference or not, she specified “robbery” for this topic, so that’s what we’re going to go with, my favorite film robberies (eg. where something was unlawfully taken from someone else–or at least, there was an attempt to do so–in a situation that employed some form of face to face threat).

Band of Robbers (2015 – directed by Aaron Nee and Adam Nee)

(Would-be) Robbers:  Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Joe Harper, Ben Rogers
(Try to) Steal:  Murrell’s treasure
From:  Dobbins, proprietor of a local pawnshop (played by Creed Bratton) and Injun Joe, a murderous criminal (Stephen Lang)
At:  The pawnshop
Status of Robbery:  Failure

Band of Robbers is loosely based on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, except set in the modern day.  Huck Finn has just been released from jail and is convinced by his old friend Tom Sawyer to pull off a robbery, stealing from someone who is a criminal anyway, that will earn them and their friends a whole lot of dough.  The group develops a pretty reasonable plan, which includes Tom Sawyer–who is actually a police officer–“taking control” of a robbery in progress as a way of actually helping the crooks get away.  The end result goes hilariously wrong.  The problems begin when the group gets drunk the night before, so they are all hung over the morning of the plan.  The one guy isn’t able to find any stockings to disguise themselves, so they try to use plastic bags instead.  And Tom Sawyer finds himself saddled with an earnest new partner the day of the crime, Becky Thatcher (played by Melissa Benoist).  And it all just gets worse form there.

I discovered Band of Robbers randomly on the plane, perhaps the second best movie I’ve ever discovered this way.  It’s definitely worth a watch, for this scene alone.

The Dark Knight (2008 – directed by Christopher Nolan)

(Would-be) Robbers:  The Joker (Heath Ledger) and five other robbers, all dressed in clown masks
(Try to) Steal:  Money!
From:  The Gotham City mob
At:  A Gotham City mob bank
Status of Robbery:  Success – he gets away with $68,000,000

The opening sequence of The Dark Knight helps to set the tone of the movie as a crime movie masquerading as a superhero film, and presents the Joker as the master manipulator that he is.  Six criminals in funny masks pull of a complicated heist which also include a series of double-crosses which leave only the Joker alive at the end of it.  It’s ludicrous and is just the first of many sequences that completely belies the Joker’s claims that he never plans anything, but the scene is gritty and played completely straight, strongly establishing the film’s theme of escalation, and the world that the movie exists in.

Thelma and Louise (1991 – directed by Ridley Scott)

(Would-be) Robbers:  Thelma Dickinson and Louise Sawyer
(Try to) Steal:  Petty cash
From:  A convenience Story
Status of Robbery:  Success

The robbery in Thelma and Louise isn’t as central as the other two that I’ve listed, but it’s still a memorable scene.  Thelma and Louise are two women on the run after killing a rapist.  After Thelma spends the night with a thief (played by a young Brad Pitt) who makes off with Louise’s life savings, Thelma decides to mimic the stories that he told her to steal money from a local mini-market.  She does this, full of vitality and wit, and it ends up being a significant moment in her overall transformation as a character.

Spider-Man 2 (2004 – directed by Sam Raimi)

(Would-be) Robbers:  Otto Octavious, aka “Doctor Octopus”
(Try to) Steal:  Money!
From:  The bank
Status of Robbery:  Success

The bank robbery of Spider-Man 2 is just one of the movie’s many set pieces, but it’s effective because the image of Alfred Molina dragging himself around by his giant mechanical arms, carrying both bags of money and frail old ladies, is so incredibly memorable.  It’s the bit in the movie where you really get to see both Spider-Man and Doc Ock really go for it, and the promise of these two characters was really realized.  It helped to reassure us all that we were in for a good time.

Heat (1995 – directed by Michael Mann)

(Would-be) Robbers:  Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Joe Harper, Ben Rogers
(Try to) Steal:  A whole lot of dough
From:  A bank
Status of Robbery:  Mixed – a lot of guys died, but Val Kilmer managed to get away with some money

I actually don’t remember Heat that well, except that it was the film that finally put Al Pacino and Robert De Niro against each other as old professionals on either side of the law:  Pacino is a cop and De Niro the criminal.  I don’t remember the movie that well but I recall the climactic broad daylight robbery scene with its subsequent massive shootout.  Lots of bullets, lots of running around, very intense, very brutal.  It’s gripping stuff, and admittedly iconic, influencing many other films, including–clearly–The Dark Knight. It’s just not of great interest to me personally.

There’s actually another major robbery in Heat, to do with an armored car, but I remember that one even less well.


Considered but Rejected:  Lots of films that fit the “burglary” definition more, like Mission Impossible, Sneakers, Office Space (and its spiritual predecessor, Superman III), Ocean’s 11, and Ant-Man.  But also Superman, the Movie (for the amusing scene with the mugger), Gone in 60 Seconds, National Treasure, The Usual Suspects, The Italian Job, Ronin, Hard Rain, Now You See Me, and Swordfish.

Full Disclosure: I have never seen Fast Five, Dog Day Afternoon, Point Break, The Thomas Crown Affair (either of them), The Wild Bunch or Entrapment.



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