KNOW WHEN TO HOLD ‘EM – Ocean’s Eleven, Rain Man, Diamonds Are Forever, Casino: The Best Casino Heist Movies in Film History
If there is one kind of movie that fans know immediately what they are getting themselves in for, it’s a heist movie. The story is already mapped out, and audiences know that they’ll come away mesmerised by some strategic thinking, trickery, and movie magic. There have been countless variations of the heist. Some differ from the characterisation of those conducting the heist. Others focus on the intricacies of how the heist comes off. While others pride themselves on tricking audiences until the last second. The TV show Hustle managed to make eight seasons about holding heists so complex that even viewers were shocked by the end. Here are five heist movies that make the cut.
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Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
There can be no talk about heist movies without mentioning the unstoppable Danny Ocean in Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of the Frank Sinatra classic. George Clooney steps into the titular role to steal $160,000,000 from the love rival of Clooney’s love interest, Julia Roberts’s Tess. The plot of the film revolves around stealing from three Las Vegas casinos in one night. From the star power that makes up the film – Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Matt Damon – to the relatively new concept for modern audiences, Ocean’s 11 redefined the heist movie. The film also took inspiration from some of history’s most famous casino heists, in which thousands have been attempted to be stolen from casinos. The film also spawned two sequels with the same cast and one spiritual sequel in the Sandra Bullock remastering of 2018.
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Rain Man (1988)
The Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman fraternal flick may not have the trademarks of a typical casino heist movie, but a casino heist is attempted nonetheless. The film is considered one of director Barry Levinson’s best films made. Hoffman stars as a savant, known as Rain Man, who has an impeccable ability to win at casino games. His ability is so sure that his playing any of them is almost a sure win. The film won the best picture Oscar in 1989.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Bond’s seventh outing doesn’t feature a huge casino heist per se, but it does feature a casino in Las Vegas more so than any other 007 flick. A heist of sorts does take place in the film – only it is undertaken as a cutaway gag starring Q. He is testing an unused gadget that anticipates the next wins in a slot and automatically gives a pay-out. While on a smaller scale than the other heist movies, the simplicity and neatness of the scene deserves a mention. The slot pay-out shows an elephant dancing, and the camera pans to one dancing when the coins begin to rain from the slot.
The Robert De Niro/Joe Pesci movie based loosely on a true story of a casino manager from the 1970s and 1980s also falls out of the mold of the traditional heist movie. The heist is a day to day skimming off the top of the profits by De Niro and Pesci who form a tentative alliance in the midst of some mob dealings. The film plays on emotional ties and tension as opposed to huge stunts and trickery. Casino is the thinking man’s casino heist movie.
Honorable Mention: The Italian Job (1969)
“You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” has gone down in movie history as one of the most iconic quotes, and the movie that it came from matches. While not set in a casino, the film features elements that help make up a heist film – so can’t be missed off a list of the best heists. Cheeky cockney Michael Caine proves his acting mettle with comedy caper The Italian Job. The film’s plot is to complete one last big job of stealing $4 million in Turin and escaping with the gold in the inconspicuous Mini Cooper cars. The film remains a standout of British comedy from the golden age of Carry On films and even spawned a remake in 2003. The remake will not be making the list.
Casinos provide such a ripe environment for a heist movie given how prone to glitz and glamour they already are. The setting is already tense enough, so helps amp up the tension that audiences should feel as the heist goes on. Like playing the games at the casino, nobody going into the heist really knows how it will end. If they’re lucky, like those winning in the casino, the heist will likely result in a happy ending – it is a movie after all. The casino heist provides the perfect slice of escapism for viewers who want something they can expect, but that will also leave them shocked and stunned.