If you're anything like the people here at Weird Worm, you love a good bank heist movie.
Sure, they tend to be a bit formulaic. First of all, there needs to be a criminal genius in charge of setting the wheels in motion, usually someone charismatic with a shady past who has friends in all the right places. Then that genius needs to hand-pick a crew of elite law-breakers; each one of these will have a specific skill set that is ideally introduced to the audience through a tasteful, action-packed, and entertaining montage. Our cast typically includes (but isn’t limited to) an explosives artist, a weapons specialist, a computer hacker who can make the line “We’re in.” sound fresh and some guy who knows how to work heavy machinery. We're not sure exactly how the heavy-machinery worker ends up getting into crime, but there he is, nonetheless. Maybe his child is sick or something. Finally, the crew needs to create and follow an intricate plan that leaves plenty of room for potential disaster, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats not knowing how it will all pan out.
Despite the necessity of sticking to a proven formula, the possible variations that this genre can experiment with are wonderfully endless, leaving us with a variety of great films to set our hearts racing and our minds whirring. To find out more about the best bank heist movies, read on.
Die Hard 3
Die Hard movies are well-known for having plots in which the bad guys plan to steal money (be it in bonds, gold, or electronic currency), but use terrorist attacks and hostage situations as fronts to distract from their real goals. Regrettably, these bad guys always have the misfortune of planning their heists in towns where John McClane is in residence. He alone is able to figure out what they're up to and manage to stay alive to make sure they pay for it. Seriously, if they'd picked any other place on Earth, they probably would have gotten away with their dastardly deeds scot-free.
After all, they did have a genius plan. They used American accents, dump trucks, and school buses to blend their operation into the daily flow of New York life. They set off a bomb to disable the alarm system of the bank, and then turned around and told everyone that the bomb was an attack so that the police would be too busy trying to protect the populace to think about a robbery. They even made a grand gesture of blowing up all of the gold to try and hide the scent of their thievery. But none of it was enough to fool McClane.
In the movie Heat Al Pacino plays a cop who tries to catch a known criminal (played by Robert de Niro) red-handed so that he can finally put him behind bars. The two incomparable actors play a subtle game of cat and mouse, going so far as to meet each other for coffee and discuss there personal lives, along with the fact that they'll easily kill one another if they have to. Add to that a great supporting cast including Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Natalie Portman, and others, and you've got the recipe for an excellent bank heist movie.
Many movies glamorize bank robbery, showing either a pair of criminals or a criminal and a bystander falling in love and jetting off at the end of the movie to live a life of lust and luxury. But Heat points out the fact that if you choose crime as your job, you can't get attached to anyone or anything unless you really want to get caught someday. When Robert de Niro strays from this rule, helping out Val Kilmer and settling a grudge instead of fleeing like he should, he ends up paying with his life.
It's interesting to note that life isn't much better on the other side of the law. There's a parallel breakdown in Al Pacino's life as his wife cheats on him and he releases information to bookies and snitches in an attempt to flush out his prey (not exactly acting as a model citizen). The morale of the story is that whether or not you're a criminal, you're screwed.
Keanu Reeves is an undercover cop who is forced into a bank robbery when he crosses paths with a mystic-minded surfer dude who robs banks dressed as a dead president played by Patrick Swayze. That is the actual plot of the movie Point Break. The pairing of Swayze and Reeves in this movie seems a little strange at first, but by the end we're all about it.
Like Heat, this isn't a glitzy bank heist movie in which the perpetrators get away without a scratch and are left to live off of their score for the rest of their lives (or at least, until it's time to make a sequel). It's also not a lesson in morality in which the bad guys are heartless symbols of absolute evil. When one of the men on Patrick Swayze's elite heist team gets injured and eventually dies, we really feel for the man and the other guys on the team, especially when he has to get left behind so that the others can escape. All these guys want is to live the high life, to surf and to enjoy themselves, and even Keanu Reeves is sucked into the lifestyle for a while. Sure, they're not right to steal to get the life they want, but we're faced with the fact that they are real people, neither criminal masterminds nor righteous Robin Hood types.
Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist
Fast & Furious might not seem at first to be a good bank heist movie, but stick with us for a moment. We'll admit, the whole heist dynamic is a little stretched in this movie. For example, the "arms specialist" seems to be more of a specialist in flaunting her beautiful-but-unobtainable attitude, and also in sitting in a guy's lap making out with him while he drives hundreds of miles per hour on the Autobahn; and even though all of the characters are known for their driving skills, it turns out not to matter when the crime team has to chuck their carefully designed plan and use brute force instead. Not to mention the physics that this movie oh-so-nonchalantly ignores when two cars pull a flat-bottomed safe weighing several tons through the streets of Rio.
However, the slickness and frequency of the action sequences and the genuinely surprising twist at the end of this movie made it a heist film worthy of our admiration. They even make an attempt to understand the complexities of other cultures - that is, before they go and blow them to smithereens.
The Dark Knight
Okay, so we know that The Dark Knight is a Batman movie and really doesn't have much at all to do with bank heists. Still, the scene in which a cadre of Jokers break into a bank and steal money from the mob is a great example of everything that we love about heists. You've got the carefully selected crew of villains, each of whom has a separate job. You've got each villain scheming to get a bigger share of the pie for himself. Lastly, you've got the mastermind, who (spoiler alert!) instructs each member of his team to kill one other member, finishing the last guy off himself and surprising no one except for the baddie himself. We also like the real Joker's signature move, in which he puts a grenade in a guy's mouth that ends up just spitting out smoke instead of blowing the bank into little itty bits.
The moral of this story, obviously, is to never trust the Joker. Bank heists don't always pay (at least for the lackeys dumb enough to think they're the only ones who got the instructions "kill this one other guy so there will be more to go around"), and those who steal money from the mob aren't always the good guys. Now we've learned our lessons, it's time to get back to watching safe cracking, big explosions, and fast getaway cars.