Crime Time: Best Caper Movies
Movies have an innate knack for making us feel for the lead character, even if he or she is undeniably evil. In this trait, crime capers typically make the audience root for the crooks and thieves, especially if they are led by the likes of George Clooney. But what are our favorite crime capers of all time? Check it out.
Bandits is a 2001 film starring Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton. The two friends and convicts break out of prison in a cement truck and start a bank robbing spree. They become known as the “Sleepover Bandits” because of their unique bank robbing style: they kidnap the manager of a target bank the night before a planned robbery, then spend the night with the manager’s family. Early the next morning, they accompany the manager to the bank to get their money. Their exploits eventually land them on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Bandits is awesome not only because of the genius of the robbers’ methods but also because of the chemistry between the leading men is exceptional. You spend much of the movie trying to figure out how the two crooks can end up happily ever after—and the climax is pretty cool and unexpected. Also, this movie features Cate Blanchett and a gut-wrenching rendition of “I Need a Hero.”
Thomas Crown Affair
Sure, Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway are pretty sexy, but the remake starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo holds a soft spot in our hearts. Thomas Crown is an adventurous businessman who loves a good challenge. Among other diversions, he crashes an expensive sailing catamaran while racing and bets one hundred thousand dollars on a golf swing simply because “it’s a beautiful Saturday morning,” and there is not much else to do. Crown steals a painting by Monet valued at $100 million. An insurance investigator (Russo) is sent to assist the police in solving the crime. From the beginning, Banning suspects Crown is behind the theft. The elaborate game of cat-and-mouse that ensues gives Crown exactly what he was seeking: “a worthy adversary.”
Not only is the final heist pretty awesome — involving several bowler hats, no less (only watch if you want to be spoiled) – but the game that ensues between Brosnan and Russo is incredibly fun.
Another great crime flick starring Bruce Willis. Right off the heels of his success on Moonlighting, Willis wrote himself a little crime caper that lives on in cult classic infamy. Hudson Hawk, a master burglar and safe-cracker, is released from prison on parole and is immediately blackmailed into doing several dangerous art heists. The company who blackmails him is seeking to take over the world by reconstructing “La Macchina dell’Oro“, a machine purportedly invented by Leonardo da Vinci which converts lead into gold. In order for the machine to work, special crystals from da Vinci’s paintings must be collected. That is, Hudson Hawk must steal them. Hilarity and mayhem ensue.
This film bombed when it was released in 1991, but the mixture of crime, song and dance and slapstick humor make this film live on as a crime caper classic in our eyes.
The Great Muppet Caper
It has “caper” right in the title! How could we NOT include it on this list? While not a traditional caper flick, this little muppet movie does involve a jewel heist, although it’s probably more famous for the Miss Piggy/Kermit bike ride than its burglary.
Kermit, Gonzo and Fozzie play reporters who investigate the theft of fashion designer Lady Holliday’s jewels. They mistake her assistant, Miss Piggy, as the designer and Kermit falls in love with her. The designer’s brother (played by Charles Grodin!) steals more jewels and frames Miss Piggy for the theft before proceeding to steal an even more valuable prize—the coveted Baseball Diamond, which is on display at the Mallory Gallery. Kermit’s crew has no choice but to intercept and catch the thieves in order to clear Miss Piggy’s good name.
Uh, it’s the muppets—what’s not to love?
Again, another remake we like better than the original—sorry Ol’ Blue Eyes. In the 2001 version, charming George Clooney stars as Danny Ocean, a recently paroled thief, who decides to head to Las Vegas with a new crew with one mission in mind: to get back his lady love and rob from her casino-owner boyfriend. Okay, that’s two missions. Whatever.
The heist in this flick is so elaborate and well-planned out that it’s thoroughly impressive. We love when the ending even allows for the audience to be surprised, and this one definitely delivers. Plus, throw in Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Julia Roberts and Bernie Mac, and we’re sold.
A Fish Called Wanda
Hands down, best crime heist movie. Okay, so we might be biased by our love of Kevin Kline and the Monty Python folks, but A Fish Called Wanda is not only clever, witty and even a bit weird, but it’s one of the few movies that focus on what happens AFTER the heist.
Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis are lovers who betray their boss after a jewel heist, intending to take all the loot for themselves, but they discover that the loot has been moved to a new location. In order to find the location, Wanda (Curtis) seduces the boss’s defense lawyer (John Cleese). Because of her crazy boyfriend’s interferences and other incidences of bad luck, Wanda and Archie’s liaisons go disastrously wrong. Cue confusion and slapstick comedy, and you’ve got comic crime caper genius.