Our recent first-hand dealings with heists had talk in the Imperial Black workshop turning to favorite films of the genre. All are in agreement that we want a bit of humor, an interesting cast of characters to round up for the big job, and of course a clever twist in carrying out the actual heist. Without further we present the top 1o Imperial Black heist/caper films.

10. Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels


Guy Ritchie’s first (he was still cool at this point) introduced us to names now part of our London underground landscape.Big Chris, Hatchet Harry, Barry the Baptist, Samoan Joe, and Bar Fly Jack careen about the underworld in this Tarantino homage. As stylistic and sharp as it gets with a good dose of wry humor, cockney slang, and a soundtrack not to be missed.

9. Dog Day Afternoon


“Attica.Attica”, the subversive chant that led this heist gone wrong story serious anti-establishment undertones. Directed by the great Sidney Lumet and featuring an amped up Pacino (when isn’t he), this one has us rooting for the bad guys backed into a corner. Post-war veteran angst, gender reassignment, themes as topical today as they were in 1975 when the Oscar-nominated film was released.

8. Oceans 11


It’s a rare bird indeed when a re-make rings truer than an original. Stephen Soderbergh masterfully directs an all-star cast in this 2002 caper. Clooney and Pitt shine as they move methodically forward to committing the perfect robbery. Great delight is taken watching them foil the frustrated Andy Garcia at every turn. Don’t miss Irishman David Holme’s expertly put together soundtrack.

7. The Usual SuspectsThe-Usual-Suspects-01-4

With all its twists, turns, rumors and flashbacks, The Usual Suspects could have easily been a mess, but director Bryan Singer, screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie and the outstanding cast, led by Kevin Spacey and Chazz Palminteri, hold it together. Five crooks meet in a police lineup and plan a heist together, getting mixed up with a secretive criminal kingpin named Kayser Söze. While technically a mystery film at the core, it goes gangster by the end.

6. Ronin


At least two of the gents at Imperial Black drive Audi A8’s and we are certain its because of this Frankenheimer directed classic. Jean Reno and Deniro crash through exotic European locations in a series of spectacular action sequences. Supposedly David Mamet secretly wrote the screenplay but it’s the car chases that surpass those seen in fan favorites Bullitt and The French Connection. Beneath all the action the film has a silent and brooding quality of men pulling together to do a quite grim job, knowing they will part ways at the end.


5. Heat


The diner scene alone, where heavyweights Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro face off (for the first time in cinema history) would be enough to put Heat near the top of this list, but the whole cat-and-mouse story holds up all the way through. And Val Kilmer gives one of his best performances. The film is dark, human and wholly engaging—everything a heist movie should be.

4. Reservoir Dogs


“Hey, why am I Mr. Pink?”. Reservoir Dogs’ debut at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival launched not only the career of one Quentin Tarantino but an American indie genre unto itself characterized by extreme violence, profane dialogue, nonlinear storytelling and a curated soundtrack. Many have tried, but none of his imitators has achieved the visual and aural poetry at work in Tarantino’s oeuvre, particularly his magnum opus Pulp Fiction, upon whose release in 1994 newly minted fans went back to discover the aftermath of Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Brown, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink and Mr. White’s botched diamond heist (but not the heist itself). This is where it all began



After being blacklisted from Hollywood during the reign of McCarthy, Jules Dassin, the director of such classic film noirs asBrute Force and The Naked City looked overseas for employment. Settling in France, he was offered the chance to direct the movie version of a crime novel by Auguste le Breton. Centering on four criminals planning a heavily guarded jewelry shop on the Rue de Rivoli, Rififi was right up Dassin’s alley, though he reportedly did not care for sections of the novel. The resulting film has long been considered as one of the greatest French crime thrillers of all time. In perhaps the film’s most virtuoso sequence, Dassin films the long-anticipated heist scene as a quasi-silent 30-minute sequence devoid of dialogue or music.

2. The Thomas Crown Affair


Perhaps a bit too much style over substance as evidenced by stills from this film being a permanent fixture on trendy websites (McQueen in Persol’s). It’s a visually pretty film although perhaps a bit too much of  product of it’s times with techniques that often feel a bit dated. Watching McQueen and Dunaway figure each other out is certainly compelling but we’d rather see a bit more of the actual “gang” as the movie progresses.

1.The Italian Job


“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” How many times have we heard an Uncle do a bad impersonation of Caine’s famous line?  This one has it all for us. Stylishly beautiful with shots that capture a swinging 60’s Italy in all its glory, fantastic car chases (The opening scene with the Lamborghini Miura flying through the Stelvio pass is a piece of art), comedic set pieces, and of course, Michael Caine, Noel Coward, and Benny Hill. There is a reason that this film seems to be run on a loop around Christmas holidays in Europe. Everyone seems to take something a bit different away from a viewing but all are in agreement that after all these years it’s just bloody good fun!