Heist movies have transcended the traditional crime drama genre to become big budget entertainment. Like action films, these new-era heist films often try and compete with each other by going bigger and better. More risky heists are more fun to watch. More valuable loot increases the stakes and therefore the thrills. More complicated plans impress the audience. There is no longer a practical limit of what can be stolen and how that thing can become stolen. Anything is possible.
This list shows just how outrageous some heist films have become. It used to be about putting together a plan to rob the local jewelry store or bank. Today those type of jobs are boring. We’ve moved on to bigger things. Actually, we’ve moved on to more valuable things. This is a list of 10 films with the most valuable heists. Value is relative, of course, so I attempted to equalize things by assigning a monetary value equal to today’s US dollar. That means the value of heists that have either occurred in films from the past or which took place in the past have been equalized to account for inflation.
This isn’t a complete list by any means. The films listed below are simply the ones where the value of the heist is documented or the item(s) being stolen are clearly identified. There may or may not be another movie out there that has a heist worth more than one of these ten films. However, to find out I would have to sit through every heist film ever made, and that would be an exercise in futility. Also, the values used to rank the films have to be related to what is stolen. For example, The Usual Suspects is not on this list because although it features heists, the ultimate payoff for the criminals isn’t the loot that they’ve stolen, but a reward for a different crime.
Film: The Italian Job (1969)
Year Depicted in Film: 1969
The Heist: Steal a shipment of Chinese gold by creating a traffic jam that traps the convoy. Put the gold in small cars and drive via a complicated route of side streets to safety.
2015 Heist Value: $27,250,000 (based on inflation, not value of gold)
Comments: The Italian Job is a classic heist movie that is a bit unique. Although much of the film is spent through conversation setting up the heist, the actual heist isn’t the main draw. Instead, the main attraction is the crazy stunt-filled getaway powered by the iconic Mini Coopers driving through Turin, Italy. Although some of the films on this may feature more intricate planning, a more entertaining heist, and crazier physics-defying getaways, The Italian Job is still very impressive. The fact that the film’s driving sequences are all performed by stunt drivers, not camera tricks or models, makes it a truly amazing technical achievement. There’s a reason a remake was made.
Film: The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Year Depicted in Film: 1968
The Heist: Four strangers individually act out a plan of a master thief to steal money from a bank. The procedure is so successful that it works twice.
2015 Heist Value: $36,950,000
Comments: Another classic 60’s caper film that was so fondly remembered that they recycled the plot into a remake later on. But not only was the story memorable, the film itself pioneered many ideas and techniques that have since become staples of heist films. Full of interesting 60’s era swipes and split screens, the film showed how well a montage could work for a heist film, and the pacing during the heist is something that Soderberg would pay homage to in his trilogy of Ocean’s films (which, coincidentally, many other would then copy later on). The Thomas Crown Affair also showed audiences the idea of “The Perfect Crime”, that the actual well-planned heist could go swimmingly, but there are complications afterwards which could ultimately cost the characters.
Film: The Italian Job (2003)
Year Depicted in Film: 2003
The Heist: A group of thieves tries to steal gold from a man who betrayed a previous heist by using cars for the getaway.
2015 Heist Value: $45,500,000
Comments: As you will see, this is not the only remake on this list. F. Gary Gray’s The Italian Job was an homage to the original, but with a more modern perspective. Like Ocean’s Eleven it creates a cool and stylish tone and the payoff is a complicated and action-packed heist sequence with Mini Coopers playing an important role. The 2003 film doesn’t match the driving antics of the 1969 original, and in comparison to some of the other heists on this list, it somewhat tame, but it is entertaining and probably impossible nonetheless. Also, like Ocean’s Eleven, the cast is great.
Film: Armored (2009)
Year Depicted in Film: 2009
The Heist: Rob two Federal Reserve armored trucks, and then meet at an abandoned steel mill which would be difficult for Police to track down in order to divide and dispense the money.
2015 Heist Value: $46,160,000
Comments: The premise is simple, armored trucks carry large amounts of money, so why not try and rob them? Armored is a tale of desperation, not thrills or revenge like many of the other films on this list. The main character is an armored truck guard himself, which gives him an advantage and understanding of how things work. This is a common idea in heist movies, having someone on your team from the inside. For example, the Ocean’s trilogy uses the knowledge and connections of the character Reuben Tishkoff, a wealthy casino owner, to pull of heists of profitable casinos. Or, more recently, in Ant-Man (2015), the film uses Hope van Dyne as the inside contact who helps to direct her father in the planning of the heist of her employer.
Film: The Bank Job (2008)
Year Depicted in Film: 1971
The Heist: Tunnel into a bank vault to rob safety deposit boxes.
2015 Heist Value: $79,240,000 ( £4,000,000 in 1971)
Comments: The Bank Job has two things going for it to make up for its seemingly small haul. First, the movie takes place in the UK, and there is a favorable exchange rate to dollars. Second, the film takes place in 1971, so the £4,000,000 has had 4 decades of inflation. Those two things make a huge difference. The 2015 value is calculated by first multiplying the original amount by the increase in RPI to obtain a “Relative Purchase Power”. That value is then converted to US dollars. Even more impressive is that the film is based on actual events, and the real thieves have never been caught. Sure, there’s probably an element of fiction, but of all the films on the list, this one is actually technically feasible (if you have a time machine).
Film: Fast Five (2011)
Year Depicted in Film: 2011
The Heist: Fugitives decide to steal money from a powerful crime lord by breaking into a police station where the money is being guarded.
2015 Heist Value: About $106,000,000
Comments: A franchise about street racing decides to try out the heist genre. Although most of the films on this list feature ridiculous heists that would be just about impossible to pull of in real life, Fast Five takes the cake. Somehow a team of fugitives, along with two DEA agents manage to break into a high security police station and steal a safe full of money without getting caught or dying. The escape plan consists of dragging a very large (read: extremely heavy) safe behind a car. They are somehow able to get the car moving fast enough to use this pendelum of death, suspended behind by a single chain connection, to cause damage to pursuing vehicle (even cutting one car in half with the chain) and escape. This has to be one of the most nonsensical overblown downright preposterous sequences ever to be seen in a movie. If you want a ridiculous heist, they don’t get much more ridiculous than this.
Film: The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
Year Depicted in Film: 1999
The Heist: During the chaos of a heist gone wrong at a museum, the target of the first set of thieves is stolen in all of the confusion.
2015 Heist Value: $145,300,000
Comments: Yet another remake (and we’re not done with them) that uses an idea from the original film to create a new one. That idea is having an expert thief fall in love with the investigator who is trying to solve the heist he was involved in. At the beginning of the film, Thomas Crown steals a painting worth about $100,000,000 (estimated, in 1999). He then returns that painting in order to show his love to the investigator. He later steals another paining, a van Gogh. For the purposes of this list, I only counted the value of the first painting, because that heist was successful and he could have simply kept it. The second painting was “Noon: Rest from Work” (1890) which has not been sold at auction. Other van Gogh paintings from that era have sold between $50 million and $300 million at auction, so a $100 million heist value is fair.
Film: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Year Depicted in Film: 2001
The Heist: Rob three casinos simultaneously during a hyped boxing match when they are expected to have the most money in their vault.
2015 Heist Value: $202,250,000 ($150,000,000 in 2001)
Comments: This was the most successful heist film to come out around the turn of the century when the genre was becoming popular again. The film has since become a modern classic because of its charm and the performances of its stellar cast. The actual heist in the film was also very well done, one of the best ever crafted for the big screen. Director Steven Soderberg’s used music, montage, and cinematography to create a heist film with unprecedented style and confidence, something we hadn’t seen before.
Film: Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
Year Depicted in Film: 2007
The Heist: Rigg a sophisticated computer system that is built to prevent cheating in order to force the new “The Bank” casino to lose money.
2015 Heist Value: More than $500,000,000
Comments: For the finale in the franchise you know they had to go big. The amount of money stolen in this film is simply insane. Not knowing how casinos operate, I can’t say for sure whether or not this is realistic, but I have my suspicions that things were exaggerated a bit for cinematic flair. And unlike in the other two Ocean’s films, the team didn’t really steal something physical here. Instead, they’re out for revenge by trying to make someone lose money. They still end up with a gigantic haul at the end thanks to their efforts.
Film: National Treasure (2004)
Year Depicted in Film: 2004
The Heist: Stealing the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives in Washington DC to see if there is a clue on the back.
2015 Heist Value: Priceless
Comments: There’s no way to really determine the value of the Declaration of Independence, but consider this; the Declaration of Independence is not just a single document. What matters are the words. Historians have argued that the Declaration of Independence is not a single document. In fact, many copies were originally produced, some estimates are as high as 200. Each of those is valuable, for sure, but consider the copy that is kept by the US Government in Washington. Knowing how valuable signatures can be, this is the holy grail of signed memorabilia. In 2012, for example, a copy of the Acts of Congress signed by George Washington sold for close to $10 million. Imagine what a document that contains all of the signatures of the founding fathers plus all of the framers of the constitution is worth, especially with that big bold and original “John Hancock”. Considering that there are 56 signatures on the constitution, a rough value estimate is $560,000,000.00. Sure, all names aren’t going to be worth as much, but the document itself is 239 years old and of considerable historical significance.
Related ariticle: 10 Ways That Heists in Movies Usually Go Wrong