Top 5 Heist Movies

The big job always seems much bigger on your inflatable screen.

Heist films are an interesting phenomenon. As everyday human beings living in our American society, we are constantly being reminded that crime doesn't pay. And yet we love charismatic criminals plan big heists and get away with it on the silver screen, be it at the theater or via your outdoor cinema setup. We have to admit it - at Open Air Cinema, we love watching a really well-executed caper as well. So, we came up with our 5 favorite heist movies of all time, so that next time you decide to break out the inflatable screen for a film with lots of action and intrigue, you'll have a good idea on who the smoothest criminals might be.

Mini Coopers go wild in 1969's

The Italian Job

(Peter Collinson, 1969)

The remake of this movie in 2003 heralded the comeback of the charmingly tiny Mini Cooper. But Peter Collinson's original heist comedy in 1969 had Mini Coopers, plus Michael Caine and a soundtrack composed by Quincy Jones. Despite being almost 50 years old, this heist movie has all of the thrills and still packs in more than its share of good laughs. Even its car chase scenes are still the stuff of madcap caper today.
Steve Buscemi and Harvey Keitel square off in the violent

Reservoir Dogs

(Quentin Tarantino, 1992)

Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut quickly established the young auteur as a forced to be reckoned with in the American independent film boom of the 1990's. It also introduced us to many of the stylistic elements we'd come to appreciate Tarantino for. The whole movie opens with a discourse on the secret meaning behind Madonna's hit song Like a Virgin from the director himself. The hoods that we know will tear each other apart later get into mundane conversations about life's little inanities, such as who gets to be named what code color, and why Mr. Pink doesn't tip at restaurants. Couple this with some very brutal violence for juxtaposition and some choice tunes from Tarantino's own personal library of under-appreciated hits, you have a heist classic.

Clooney and Pitt have big plans in Soderbergh's remake of

Ocean's 11

(Steven Soderbergh, 2001)

It's hard to imagine why Soderbergh would bother to re-make Ocean's 11. Even by the standards of the year 1960 - and in spite of all the big names associated with the picture - the film is considered to be terminally boring. That's death for a heist film, which relies on a little bit of nail-biting in order to be good. But Soderbergh miraculously gets this film right on the second try by tightening up the pacing, raising the stakes beyond mere money, and casting some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Yeah, you could argue that Ocean's 11 is merely an excuse to watch George Clooney and Brad Pitt jet around in high style, with a little bit of burglary here and there. But, come on - that's half the fun of these films.

Al Pacino gets desperate in the pessimistic caper

Dog Day Afternoon

(Sidney Lumet, 1975)

A heist movie is always more interesting when it's based on a true story - and, man, is the true story behind Dog Day Afternoon an interesting one. This classic by Sidney Lumet retells the story of John Wojtowicz, who famously robbed a branch of the Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn in order to fund his lover's sex reassignment surgery. Instead of making this film some sort of farcical caper replete with ugly stereotypes, Lumet directs with depth, capturing the rock-bottom attitudes of the early 70's, when it was clear that the revolution was never going to happen. Despite being limited in its setting, Dog Day Afternoon is never feels limited as a film.


Pacino and De Niro, onscreen together at last in


(Michael Mann, 1995)

If nothing else, Michael Mann should get credit in this film for finally bringing Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on-screen together at long last. But Heat is a great film not only because we get to watch these two titans play against and off of each other, but because it is arguably the most well-written and most complex film of Michael Mann's career. While many action/crime dramas are riddled with cliches in dialogue, Mann manages to avoid this entirely, making even familiar conversations between cop and criminal come off as fresh and, most importantly, real. In almost every way imaginable, Heat confirms that Mann is indeed the American master of the crime caper - but especially in those captivating scenes between Pacino and De Niro. Sometimes we love watching a plan come together. Sometimes we love watching it all fall apart. When it comes to a good heist, we're not necessarily taking sides. There can be some pretty vast grey areas in the modern crime film. But we will tell you that, in our experience, cinema is always made better under the stars. Whether you're rooting for the robbers or the cops, an inflatable screen is always a good asset to your crew. A few minutes, the right heist movie, and the beautiful night sky - we love it when an outdoor cinema plan comes together.

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