The 8 Best Heist Movies on Netflix

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The 8 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 (Army of Thieves) to dark and gritty (The Town), the thieves don’t always get away clean.

Here are the eight best heist movies on Netflix:

1. Snatchsnatch.jpgYear: 2000
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Rade Serbedzja
Rating: R

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Love or hate him, Guy Ritchie helped redefine the gangster genre with his hyper-stylized touch. Diamond-heist film Snatch may be a lesser remix of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but it boasts a multifaceted plot, frenzied action and dazzling eye candy. And how can you not love characters with names like Franky Four Fingers, Bullet Tooth Tony, One Punch Mickey and Doug the Head? —David Roark


2. Hell or High WaterHellHighWater232x345.jpgYear: 2016
Director: David Mackenzie
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Marin Ireland, John-Paul Howard, Christopher W. Garcia
Rating: R

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David Mackenzie’s film gets the balance between genre and plot so right that, after a while, I forgot I was watching a genre film and simply found myself immersed in the lives of these characters. That is a tribute to not only the performances and Mackenzie’s direction, but also to Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay, which finds seemingly boundless amounts of colorful human detail and unexpected humor in what, on the surface, stands as a clichéd narrative. Hell or High Water is essentially a cops-and-robbers tale, with grizzled soon-to-retire veteran sheriff Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his deputy, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), going after a brotherly duo of bank robbers: Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard. Sheridan’s characters are so fully imagined that, combined with actors and a director sensitive to the nuances in the script, we ultimately respond to them as flesh-and-blood people. But Sheridan—who tackled the moral difficulties of the drug war with his script for Sicario—has even bigger thematic game in mind. Hell or High Water is also meant to be a topical anti-capitalist lament, being that it takes place in a west Texas town that looks to have been decimated by the recent economic recession, with big billboard signs of companies advertising debt relief amid stretches of desolation, and with Toby driven in large part by a desire to break out of what he sees as a cycle of poverty for his loved ones, to provide a better life for his two sons and ex-wife. The film builds up to a finale that thankfully goes not for a mindlessly violent showdown, but for a tension-filled dialogue-based confrontation which plays like a meeting of minds between characters who have more sympathy toward each other than they perhaps realized. Even as two of the main characters reach a kind of truce, however, Mackenzie comes up with an even more devastating image with which to end his film: He simply moves the camera from high in the air down to a batch of grass. It’s as if Mackenzie wanted to contextualize these human dramas for us—we all end up in the ground, ultimately. Here, in Hell or High Water, is a sterling example of genre craftsmanship at its intelligent and unexpectedly affecting best. —Kenji Fujishima


3. Da 5 Bloodsda-5-bloods.jpgYear: 2020
Director: Spike Lee
Stars: Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo, Norman Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Jonathan Majors, Mélanie Thierry, Paul Walter Hauser, Jasper Pääkkönen, Jean Reno, Lê Y Lan, Johnny Trí Nguy?n
Rating: R

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The hunt for buried gold neither ends well nor goes off without a hitch. The long road to reconciliation, whether with one’s trauma, family or national identity, is never without bumps. Glue these truths together with the weathering effects of institutional racism, add myriad references to history—American history, music history, film history—and you get Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, a classically styled Vietnam action picture made in his cinematic vision. As in 2018’s BlacKkKlansman, Lee connects the dots between past and present, linking the struggle for civil rights couched in conscientious objection and protest to contemporary America’s own struggle against state-sanctioned fascism. After opening with a montage of events comprising and figures speaking out against the Vietnam War, referred to predominantly as the American War throughout the rest of the movie, Lee introduces four of the five bloods: Otis (Clarke Peters), Paul (Delroy Lindo), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), bonded Vietnam vets returned to Ho Chi Minh City ostensibly to find and recover the bones of their fallen squad leader, Norman (Chadwick Boseman). There’s more, of course, “more” being around $17 million in gold bars planted in Vietnamese soil, property of the CIA but reappropriated by the Bloods as reparations for their personal suffering as men fighting a war for a country governed by people who don’t care about their rights. Lee’s at the height of his powers when bluntly making the case that for as much time as has passed since the Vietnam War’s conclusion, America’s still stubbornly waging the same wars on its own people and, for that matter, the rest of the world. And Lee is still angry at and discontent with the status quo, being the continued oppression of Black Americans through police brutality, voter suppression and medical neglect. In this context, Da 5 Bloods’ breadth is almost necessary. As Paul would say: Right on. —Andy Crump


4. Army of Thievesarmy-of-thieves-poster.jpgYear: 2021
Director: Matthias Schweighöfer
Stars: Matthias Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, Ruby O. Fee, Jonathan Cohen
Rating: TV-MA

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Army of the Dead is a film full of pleasant surprises, but Matthias Schweighöfer, playing a German safecracker with a hair-trigger for impassioned speeches about locks and bolts, is perhaps the most pleasant surprise of them all. The man has a twitchy sort of charm easily misidentified as “quirkiness.” In reality he’s well-mannered to a fault and polite to the point of timidity, but with one other propulsive quality buried beneath the affable veneer: Intensity. Everything Schweighöfer does in Army of the Dead is informed by a vigor belied by his nervousness. He’s a squirrely burglar, quivering one moment over flesh-eating ghouls and doing a heroic sacrifice the next. This intensity carries over into Army of Thieves, the prequel film to Army of the Dead, where Schweighöfer replaces Zack Snyder in the director’s chair. To allay any fears that Schweighöfer might copy Snyder’s style, don’t worry: Schweighöfer is not Zack Snyder, because nobody is. Everything that singled out Schweighöfer’s work under Snyder’s guidance is infused into Army of Thieves on a molecular level, as if he managed to get his hands on Shay Hatten’s screenplay and bleed all over its pages. Army of Thieves replaces the doom, gloom and zombie chaos with deep-rooted joy, as if Schweighöfer, behind the camera, can scarcely believe he’s directing a film this big established by a filmmaker like Snyder. It’s impossible to resist that sort of bubbly, crackling enthusiasm, which makes Army of Thieves’ predictable elements easier to countenance. —Andy Crump


5. The Townthe-town.jpgYear: 2010
Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively
Rating: R

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Ben Affleck’s The Town is a spellbinding thriller that hits all the right notes of suspense, romance, and heartbreak. “The Town” is Charlestown, a Boston neighborhood that may as well be a prison sentence: lives of crime are passed down from generation to generation like family Bibles, and Affleck’s character, Doug, can’t shake the weight of his inheritance, as much as he wants to. The movie opens with an electrifying scene—Doug and his crew of derelict friends pulling off yet another robbery—only this time, they take the bank manager (Rebecca Hall) hostage. From there, things unravel in ways Doug, the mastermind of the operation, couldn’t ever anticipate. Boy falls for girl, girl falls for boy, FBI hunts boy while boy’s best friend, played by Jeremy Renner, becomes one step closer to psychopath. The cast has no weak link. Jon Hamm commands the screen as the FBI agent hell bent on bringing in Doug’s crew; Hall is both feisty and shattered as the bank manager who falls for Doug and tests him to be a better man; and Chris Cooper, as Doug’s imprisoned, murderous father, is haunting in his weighty scene that give the audience everything they need to know about who Doug is, where he came from, and the scars that may never be healed. Renner is menacing and authentic and mesmerizing. Even Blake Lively holds her own as a used-up junkie who’s disposable to everyone but her daughter. It’s surely not a coincidence that Affleck has gone home to Boston to film a movie about a guy who desperately wants out, who desperately wants to reinvent himself. And he’s succeeded on all fronts, including the metaphorical one. —Allison Winn Scotch


6. Wheelmanwheelman.jpgYear: 2017
Director: Jeremy Rush
Stars: Frank Grillo, Caitlin Carmichael, Garret Dillahunt, Shea Whigham
Rating: R

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2017’s Netflix exclusive Wheelman is a brilliant case-study in cinematic minimalism. The barely 80-minutes long action/thriller hybrid stars Frank Grillo, one of the most underrated genre actors, as Wheelman—your everyday getaway driver with a heart of gold. Story counts for little here as the plot is nothing more than a mere vessel to usher Grillo’s Wheelman from stunt to stunt. Someone is double-crossed, someone is blamed and Wheelman’s family gets mixed up in some shady business. In turn, he sets off in his car to get to the bottom of it and save the ones he loves. From then on out, the film is in near constant motion as the camera almost never leaves the confines of Wheelman’s BMW. It is almost a one-man show for Grillo—think Locke but with a higher body count—and director/screenwriter Jeremy Rush’s decision to have the camera rarely leave the car really puts the viewer in the headspace of Grillo’s character, and the employment of medium and extreme close-ups always keeps the viewer in the metaphorical and physical action. Thus, every scene is filled with an underlying tension built from Grillo’s quiet, but strained performance paired with the genuine claustrophobic nature of remaining in the car’s interior. The car chase and action scenes are breathlessly intense due to the camerawork and practicality of the stunts themselves. The viewer sees, quite literally, what driver input goes into making a car drift and every impact on the car feels chunky and tangible as the camera bobs and shakes with every clash. Yet, Rush’s camera remains beautifully steady until it can’t be steady anymore. There is one moment that sold me on the film: Grillo’s Wheelman is idling in his BMW, revving the engine every now and then to keep it warm, and in a matter of seconds a gunfight erupts, blood sprays, bodies crash and fall and Grillo’s Wheelman puts his gun away as he catches his breath. The camera never leaves the car and the action is over in seconds. It is blunt, abrupt with no lead-up as the film employs a naturalistic soundscape and I quite literally jumped when the first random shot cracked the BMW’s windshield. Wheelman nearly falls apart in the end once plot reasons for Grillo out of his car and into a seemingly different, more generic film, but, overall, it is worth the ride. —Cole Henry


7. Heistheist.jpgYear: 2001
Director: David Mamet
Stars: Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ricky Jay
Rating: R

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The year 2001 didn’t just bear witness to a single great Hackman performance; it saw him run a streak across five entirely distinct films, delivering in each a performance totally unique from the rest. It’s a body of work across one year that proves the elasticity of an actor who could always be counted on to deliver. The rarity of an actor taking big swings the way that Hackman did and still not missing is something that is unfortunately not appreciated enough when it comes to appraisals of his work, despite the laudits given to him since his early years. After a single scene in Gore Verbinski’s romantic action comedy, The Mexican and supporting the dynamic duo of Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt in David Mirkin’s con artist comedy Heartbreakers, he was the man in charge in David Mamet’s Heist, a cold-blooded neo-noir thriller as only Mamet could make them. While Heartbreakers saw the actor having a ball in absurd comedic territory, Heist found him back in the position he’s best at—a no-nonsense professional who’s getting in too deep. Forced by Danny DeVito’s fence to perform the ever-cinematic “one last score,” Hackman’s career thief Joe Moore has to put together a squad for his final mission before he can retire to sail away on his boat for good. It’s a role that feels particularly well-suited for Hackman nearing the end of his career, taking this last stroll through a string of noteworthy roles before he puts his feet up and kicks back away from the spotlight. —Mitchell Beaupre


8. Deidra & Laney Rob a Traindeidra-laney-rob-train-poster.jpgYear: 2017
Director: Sydney Freeland
Stars: Rachel Crow, Ashleigh Murray, Sasheer Zamata, Tim Blake Nelson
Rating: TV-14

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Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is a heart-melter. The film, like its two title characters, like its handful of supporting characters and like its director, has spunk, personality, a spark of vitality keeping its narrative humming from start to finish, but it takes its material as seriously as it needs to at the precise times when it needs to, as well. There’s a certain level of amorality here, as you might expect from a film about locomotive larceny, but submerged beneath the murky ethics of theft are currents of empathy: Freeland has constructed a judgment-free zone for telling the tale of sisters Deidra (Ashley Murray) and Laney Tanner (Rachel Crow), inspired toward criminal enterprise all in the name of family. It’s a caper, alright, but a caper that refuses to make light of the premise-shaping predicaments that shape its premise, a feat Freeland pulls off with casual brio. You get the feeling that there are lots of Deidras and Laneys out there who are constantly denied the chance to escape their circumstances, whether in backwater America or elsewhere, by the very institutions that are supposed to help them achieve. Deidra & Laney Rob a Train manages to address these ideas, without focusing on them. They remain in the background for the whole of the film, self-reinforced by the flow of Freeland’s plotting. This is appropriate for the sort of picture that Deidra & Laney Rob a Train wants to be: a romp, but a romp of substance and heart. —Andy Crump

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