Top 10 Most Unrealistic Movie Heists
VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
These robberies would be tough to pull off in the real world. For this list, we'll be looking at heists from films - both live-action and animated - that push the boundaries of reality in the name of spectacle. Our countdown includes "Tenet", "Avengers: Endgame", "The Dark Knight", and more!
Top 10 Most Unrealistic Heists
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Unrealistic Heists.
For this list, we’ll be looking at heists from films - both live-action and animated - that push the boundaries of reality in the name of spectacle.
Which film heist had you pressing pause and taking notes to understand all of its moving parts? Let us know in the comments below!
#10: The Bank Heist
“The Dark Knight” (2008)
What’s so impressive about a bank heist you might ask? Well, at first glance this does seem pretty basic. You’ve got some guys in clown masks, armed with guns, telling people to get on the ground. But this is the Joker we’re talking about here, and so nothing is ever simple! All of the robbers have their specific assignment - disable the alarm, open the vault, drive the bus, etc. But they also have a secondary task: take out one of the other guys. It’s this carefully orchestrated series of double-crosses that feels so unbelievable. Not only is the Joker the last man standing, but it all syncs up with the completion of the heist. And that is why Joker’s called the Clown Prince of Crime!
#9: The Torus Deep-Water Facility
“Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation” (2015)
With each “Mission: Impossible” film, the obstacles that Ethan Hunt must navigate are always over-the-top. In the fifth movie, “Rogue Nation,” our intrepid IMF agent must steal sensitive data. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it just so happens to be stored away in the super-secure Torus deep-water facility. To get it, Hunt must dive 120 feet into a small tunnel opening and then navigate the dangers of the vault. It’s downright absurd. Then again, who are we to call this “unrealistic” considering everything that Tom Cruise did in preparation for the stunt? The actor reportedly trained extensively so he could hold his breath for an awe-inspiring 6 minutes to complete the shot in one take. Mission impossible? Not for Tom Cruise!
#8: Shrinking the Moon
“Despicable Me” (2010)
Who else but the incomparable Gru could set his sights on such a lofty prize and actually get it? In the first “Despicable Me,” the lovable villain finds his status as the ultimate crook challenged when a new player steals the Great Pyramid of Giza. Never one to be outdone, Gru concocts a plot to pluck the moon right from the sky! What makes this heist so unbelievable is that he must first steal a shrink ray, which is an impressive heist in its own right. THEN he needs to steal it back after getting it stolen from him by the aforementioned rival. In the end, Gru does the impossible and claims the moon for himself. Does the old softie keep it? That’s another story.
#7: The Casino Job
“Ocean's Eleven” (2001)
The “Ocean’s” franchise is all about elaborate heists. In “Ocean’s Eight,” we saw that criminal brilliance runs in the family. Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock, put on a showstopping heist at the Met Gala with an impressive number of moving parts. The one we keep coming back to, however, is 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” which sees Danny and the gang hatch a plan to steal a whopping $160 million from three casinos simultaneously. We know that Danny put together a crack team, but still, the level of coordination here is staggering. From taking over the security cameras, to the last-minute EMP solution, to the use of a fakeout van and S.W.A.T. uniforms, there’s just so many places for it to go wrong.
#6: The Rio Heist
“Fast Five” (2011)
Considering the epic action franchise it has become, it’s easy to forget that the “Fast & Furious” began as a fairly small-scale story about street racing. Flash forward a few films, and it had evolved into something so much bigger. “Fast Five” was a real turning point for the franchise, and the heist element was so central that in certain markets, it was actually subtitled “Rio Heist.” The action is pretty bombastic, but driving all these unforgettable car chases is the same beating heart of all good heist films - a vault! The vault in question, however, gets dragged down the street and used like a wrecking ball during the getaway. Is it in any way realistic? No. But honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way!
#5: The Burj Khalifa Heist
“Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol” (2011)
The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. So naturally, for the fourth “Mission: Impossible,” Tom Cruise decided to scale it. In order to secure dangerous launch codes, Ethan Hunt and the IMF team set up an elaborate operation on the 119th floor of the iconic building. With a roughly 30-minute window, the entire team has their work cut out for them, but as usual, it’s Hunt who does the really heavy lifting. In this case, he’s scaling the building using a pair of technologically - advanced gloves that essentially turn him into Spider-Man—with less consistent results. Naturally, like with the Torus deep-water facility in “Rogue Nation,” Tom Cruise helps make this seemingly impossible heist more credible by having done his own unbelievable stunts.
#4: Stealing the Microchip
“Now You See Me 2” (2016)
Okay, so how long do you have? Though similar to the “Ocean’s Eleven” franchise in many ways, “Now You See Me” adds the spectacle and confusion of stage magic to the equation. The resulting heists are elaborate to a mind-boggling degree. And though we didn’t think there was room for improvement in the second film, they somehow upped the ante. Hired to steal a microchip by Daniel Radcliffe’s Walter Mabry, the Four Horsemen put their sleight of hand and illusions to the ultimate test. What makes this heist so unbelievable is the level of precision. It verges on superhuman. In order to pull it off, they need impeccable timing (and luck) every step of the way. Coordinating this operation would require clairvoyance.
#3: The Art Heist
Christopher Nolan’s 2020 sci-fi action thriller is not an easy plot to follow. With our unnamed protagonist spending much of the time trying to figure it out for himself, there's a whole lot of unknowns right until the very end of the film. What we do know is that the freeport art heist is among the most elaborate we’ve ever seen. How many heists can you think of that involve crashing a Boeing 747 into a building? By the way, that wasn’t CGI. Anyways, in order to get the painting, our heroes must navigate a series of locked doors and rooms from which the oxygen has been removed. Add to that some mysterious inverted adversaries traveling backward through time, and it’s one serious undertaking.
#2: The Time Heist
“Avengers: Endgame” (2019)
In this landmark film, the surviving Avengers travel back in time in order to save the countless lives lost when Thanos snapped his fingers. To do so, they must revisit the events of past films and secure the various Infinity Stones before the Mad Titan can collect them for himself. The three teams are tasked with securing the six stones from such iconic settings as the Battle of New York and Asgard, as well as the mysterious planet Vormir. This is six heists in one, each worthy of their own film and dedicated crew. It’s a heist with impossible stakes and lots of potential for error given the intense settings. But hey, when half of all life hangs in the balance, the Avengers step up.
#1: “Inception” (2010)
With his unique blend of sci-fi, crime film, and espionage, Christopher Nolan more than earns two entries on our podium. In this thrilling 2010 movie, Dominick Cobb and his team earn a living by stealing ideas from the subconscious of others. In their ultimate challenge, they’re tasked with a reverse heist—implanting an idea in the mind of their target. To accomplish this monumental goal (which is nigh impossible even within the world of the film), they must repeatedly go deeper and deeper into the mind of the target in question. It’s a surreal heist that’s literally impossible, but even if the technology existed, the number of unknowns would still make the odds of success a million to one. But that’s what makes it so great!