The Eight Best Heist Movies on Netflix

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The Eight Best Heist Movies on Netflix

The perfect heist takes patient planning, foresight, cleverness and, above all, a crack team of experts to outmaneuver the cops, casino or fellow criminal when everything goes awry. The heist movie has become a storied Hollywood genre, and Netflix has several great examples available to stream. Of course, as these range from silly fun (Bad Santa) to dark and gritty (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead), the thieves don’t always get away clean.

Here are the eight best heist movies on Netflix:

8. 21


Year: 2008
Director: Robert Luketic
Loosely based on Ben Mezrich’s bestseller, Bringing Down the House, 21 follows M.l.T. student Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) as he discovers a way to finance his expensive college education. Math teacher Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) enlists Campbell to be a part of his personally trained team of whiz kids who win big at the blackjack tables of Las Vegas by counting cards and avoiding casino security. The system works until egos interfere and Campbell and his teammates decide to ditch Rosa and go it alone. When a casino enforcer (Laurence Fishburne) takes an interest in the players, “hit me” takes on a new meaning. Sturgess(The Other Boleyn Girl, Across the Universe) gives another notable performance here. But 21 is a fairly predictable film where the little guy wins big, gets a big head, loses big, gets a big beating and tries to get the big revenge. There are enough unique twists to make it worth your time, though, and the back story of Campbell’s abandoned, nerdy friends helps ground the film with some wonderfully goofy moments. —Tim Basham

7. Bad Santa


Year: 2003
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Billy Bob Thornton is sublimely degenerate, as only he can be, but the film’s ending has one of the most redemptive turns this side of It’s A Wonderful Life. A true masterpiece of a dark comedy, in Bad Santa we see the titular Anti-St. Nick pee himself, get wasted, swear at kids, disrespect authority and plan on robbing the very mall in which he (barely) works. That the aforementioned Bad Santa is not just a vulgar caricature is testament to Thornton’s these-are-the-facts deadpan, countered by two brilliant supporting performances from the late greats John Ritter and Bernie Ma, as well as Thornton’s genuinely touching rapport with innocent cherub Thurman Murman (Brett Kelly). —Greg Smith

6. The Place Beyond the Pines


Year: 2013
Director: Derek Cianfrance
In a bold follow-up to Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance continues his exploration of family ties with The Place Beyond the Pines. In his previous film, Cianfrance tugged on a frayed marriage, cutting back and forth between its idyllic, if not ideal, beginnings and its nasty, brutish end. Following up, the writer-director turned his lens on the relationships between fathers and sons in a stubbornly linear narrative that examines the concept of legacy in three distinct acts. With no one to play off of during much of the film, Gosling as the outlaw (and new father) Luke is called upon to convey a lot with little. Opposite him, Avery (Bradley Cooper), is an ambitious rookie cop with a law degree and a wife and baby at home. The son of a powerful local judge, he’s attempting to forge his own path but is stymied by corruption and guilt. Cooper’s role is slicker than Gosling’s but no less deep, as his character also experiences complicated reactions to fatherhood. It’s an emotionally intense, 140-minute viewing experience made all the more intimate with close-up camerawork that positions the audience in the characters’ points-of-view. Cianfrance mines male identity and emotion to stunning effect, due in no small part to Gosling’s layered, electric turn. —Annlee Ellingson

5. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead


Year: 2007
Director: Sidney Lumet
Throughout his career, Sidney Lumet remained a director from classical Hollywood, focused on performances and story instead of stylization. His 45th and final film, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead illustrates why this old formula was so successful in the first place. In the center of the film lies Andy Hanson (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), convincing his younger brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) to stage a heist on their parents’ jewelry store. The plan goes terribly askew, resulting in their mother’s death. This is no spoiler, as the actual event takes place in the very beginning of the film and is almost a foregone conclusion before the heist begins; there is no suspense that this plan will go awry. What makes the feature interesting is the way it explores its characters’ motivations and reactions to the event, eventually resulting in the dissolution of an entire family. Giving its characters space to be understood by the audience is the film’s strength, and Lumet knows just what he’s doing in eliciting three extremely strong performances from Hoffman, Hawk and Albert Finny, who plays the Hanson family patriarch. Long takes with actors able to speak actual dialogue rather than mere catch-phrases helps make it such an affecting picture. In other hands, Devil could quickly become no more than another meditation on slick violence and drug-fueled crime, but Lumet’s interest in looking deeper than this to find where the motivation for crime and drugs comes from is what makes it a stirring film. —Sean Gandert

4. Jackie Brown


Year: 1997
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino’s gem Jackie Brown sees Pam Grier as the title character who shakes up the world of bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster). Jackie is the pawn used by everyone from big-time smugglers to the ATF and LAPD. In a world of shifting alliances, unexpected romances and too many double-crosses to keep track of, the charismatic flight attendant finds herself in the middle of it all. One of the most brilliant notes in both the main actors’ performances is the stillness that each brings to their characters—but if the actors are part of the orchestra, so is the music. —Michael Dunaway

3. Ocean’s Eleven


Year: 2002
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the 1960 Rat Pack classic Ocean’s 11 just about perfected the heist movie genre. The amazing ensemble cast extends beyond leads Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Julia Roberts to the rest of gang of specialized thieves, including Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac and Casey Affleck. Danny Ocean (Clooney) conceived the perfect crime, and rarely in film has it been more fun to root for the criminals as they outsmart casino mogul Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) at every turn. The original outshines its two sequels, but an all-woman gang will get their chance to top the franchise when Ocean’s 8, starring Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling and Awkwafina hits theaters in June. —Josh Jackson

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Year: 2016
Director: Gareth Edwards
Gareth Edwards’ venture into a galaxy far, far away is the Star Wars film we never knew we needed. It’s a triumphantly thrilling, serious-minded war movie that is incalculably stronger for the fact that it’s NOT the first chapter in a new franchise. Rogue One is a complete film in a way that no other Star Wars movie other than A New Hope is capable of being. It doesn’t “set the stage” for an inevitable next installment, and its characters are all the realer for the fact that they’re not perpetually sheathed in blasterproof Franchise Armor. It is, so help me, a satisfyingly complete story, and I had no idea until I watched the film how refreshing that concept would be. Our protagonist is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a plucky young woman whose brilliant scientist father (Mads Mikkelsen) has been controlled throughout her life by the Empire and coerced into designing superweapons of the moon-sized, planet-killing variety. Forced into a young adulthood on the fringes of the Rebel Alliance, she’s assembled a Jack Sparrow-esque rap sheet and, as the film begins, finds herself in Imperial prison on various petty charges. What Rogue One is, most accurately, is what it was sold as all along: a legitimate war movie/commando story, albeit with some familial entanglements. —Jim Vorel

1. Heat


Year: 1995
Director: Michael Mann
Those first watching Michael Mann’s L.A. crime masterpiece should view it with a clean slate—and from then on dissect it in great detail, with all of its separate elements pulled apart to determine how they eventually came together to complete such an intricately constructed work of storytelling. Anything in between would seldom do this sprawling (yet taut) epic justice. Exploring the concept of the cop and the robber on opposite sides of the same coin is a premise that pretty much every crime drama has delved into in one way or another, yet Mann manages to create the dichotomy’s epitome. By implementing, with surgical precision, an impressively pure vision of a grand, boastful and larger-than-life crime story, Mann delivers a culmination of his previously tight, deliberately stylized work (namely, Thief and Manhunter). With its hauntingly cold cinematography, moody score, terrific performances by a slew of legendary stars and character actors (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer) and—let’s not forget—the mother of all cinematic shoot-outs in its center, it more than likely represents the peak of Mann’s ever-shifting career. —Oktay Ege Kozak