I’ve only just seen the 2007 release The Lookout, a subtly powerful film that revolves around a bank heist. And it got me thinking ’so what are the best movies involving bank robberies?’.
So, here they are below – in this writer’s humble opinion anyway. Most are movies specifically about the robbing of banks, while others may have simply featured a damn good one.
9. POINT BREAK (1995)
DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigalow (Near Dark, K-19 The Widowmaker)
STARRING: Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, John C. McGinley and Lori Petty.
PLOT: Reeves’ young FBI ‘special’ agent, John ‘Johnny’ Utah has to go undercover in order to track down a group of bank robbers who could really be a bunch of Matthew McConaugheys – yeah, surfer dudes. The thieves, led by Swayze’s charismatic, mop-head Bodhi, disguise themselves by wearing the masks of former US presidents. Was a pretty fun-on adrenaline-filled ‘new-age’ action-adventure.
TRIVIA: The ex-presidents’ masks are of Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. Also, would you believe Matthew Broderick was considered for the role of Utah?
8. QUICK CHANGE (1990)
DIRECTOR: Bill Murray and Howard Franklin (Larger Than Life).
STARRING: Bill Murray, Geena Davis, Randy Quaid, Jason Robards and Tony Shalhoub.
PLOT: An under-rated vehicle for Murray, who not only starred, but also co-wrote and co-directed. Funny, and inventive, from beginning to end, but particularly during the opening act when Murray’s Grimm, initially dressed as Bozo the Clown, successfully robs a Manhattan bank with his girlfriend Phyllis (Davis) and friend Loomis (Quaid). Their battle to flee the city is the real difficult part.
TRIVIA: Based on the novel by Jay Cronley which was also filmed 4 years earlier as Hold-Up with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Kim Cattrall.
7. BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)
DIRECTOR: George Roy Hill (The Sting, The World According to Garp and Funny Farm).
STARRING: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Cloris Leachman and Ted Cassidy.
PLOT: Loosely based on the true exploits of the two infamous Western characters, this film won 4 Academy Awards. On the run from the law after botching their latest heist, Newman’s Butch and Redford’s Kid head to Bolivia where they find robbing banks even tougher than in America.
TRIVIA: According to screenwriter Williams Goldman, his screenplay was originally titled The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy, with Steve McQueen to join Newman in the film. When McQueen dropped out and Redford came in, the names in the title were reversed as Newman was now the star.
6. THE LADYKILLERS (1955)
DIRECTOR: Alexander MacKendrick (Whisky Galore!, A High Wind in Jamaica)
STARRING: Alec Guiness, Peter Sellars, Jack Warner, Cecil Parker and Danny Green.
PLOT: Forget the recent remake starring a goatee-wearing Tom Hanks, which was a rare flop for the brilliant Coen Brothers, this British-made original is dark comedy at its best. A group of oddball bank robbers rent rooms from a widow, Mrs Louisa Wilberforce, while they plan their next ‘job’. Led by Guiness’ sinister Prof. Marcus, their scheming though comes unstuck when they set out to kill the old lady.
TRIVIA: The screenplay was written by Williams Rose, who claimed to have dreamt the entire film and merely had to remember the details when he awoke.
5. DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)
DIRECTOR: Sidney Lumet (Network, The Wiz, Running On Empty, Family Business).
STARRING: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning and Chris Sarandon.
PLOT: The amazing true story of Pacino’s Sonny Wortzig (well, that wasn’t actually his real name – see below) and his bid to rob a bank in order to pay for his gay lover’s sex-change operation. As the movie’s tag states, the robbery should have taken 10 minutes, but eight hours later it was the hottest thing on live TV, the situation turning into a side-show. Incredible story with an incredible display from Pacino. Worlds apart from The Godfather.
TRIVIA: The real-life bank robber, John Wojtowicz, had actually watched The Godfather the day he robbed the Chase Manhattan bank in order to get ideas.
4. FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965)
DIRECTOR: Sergio Leone (The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West)
STARRING: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonte and Klaus Kinski.
PLOT: Eastwood’s Man With No Name – who actually does have a name in this film, Manco – is back in this follow-up to A Fistful of Dollars (1964), joining forces with a fellow bounty hunter, Van Cleef’s General Mortimer in order to capture the ruthless, pot-smoking El Indio and his gang of bank-robbing thieves. Director Leone nearing his absolute Spaghetti Western best.
TRIVIA: The town of ‘El Paso’ was actually built in the Almeria desert in Spain, and still exists as a tourist attraction.
3. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige).
STARRING: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman.
PLOT: The movie that took the superhero genre to a whole new level of gritty realism. And it was all set-up by a brilliant and brutal opening sequence involving a clever bank heist that introduced audiences to one of the great villains of all-time, The Joker. The rest of the movie remains at a cracking pace as Bale’s Batman tries to bring down his new psychopathic arch nemesis.
TRIVIA: William Fichtner plays a major role in the bank robbery sequence as the shotgun-wielding bank manager and also featured in Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), which helped inspire the film.
2. INSIDE MAN (2006)
DIRECTOR: Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues, Summer of Sam, 25th Hour)
STARRING: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Plummer.
PLOT: Supremely intelligent crime caper revolving around the ‘perfect’ bank robbery, hatched by Owen’s criminal mastermind, Dalton Russell. Washington plays the cop, Det. Keith Frazier, who must match wits with the thief. Brilliant ending. Though the success of the film has meant Lee is making a sequel.
TRIVIA:Two actors from Dog Day Afternoon were cast as a homage to that picture. Marcia Jean Kurtz plays a hostage named Miriam in each film, and Lionel Pina delivers pizza in both.
1. HEAT (1995)
DIRECTOR: Michael Mann (The Insider, Collateral, Ali, Public Enemies)
STARRING: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd and Natalie Portman.
PLOT: In this gripping, critically-acclaimed actioner, De Niro plays a career thief, Neil McCauley, who wants to pull off one more job before retirement – a bank robbery. Hot on his heels though is Pacino’s veteran cop, Lt. Vincent Hanna. The film inspired Christopher Nolan to make The Dark Knight (2008) the way he did – intense.
TRIVIA: In 2002, the scene involving the shootout after the bank robbery was shown to United States Marine recruits at MCRD San Diego as an example of the proper way to retreat while under fire.
And worth a mention …
SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (1980)
DIRECTOR: Jay Sandrich.
STARRING: Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn, Charles Grodin and Robert Guillaume.
PLOT: Chase in his prime as Nick Gardenia, a writer who, now a fugitive after being framed for a bank robbery, seeks the help of his ex-wife, who now just happens to be married to an attorney.
There have been plenty of movies been left out – The Bank Job (2008) with Jason Statham to name one - so feel free to leave your thoughts below … In fact, I urge you to.