8 Heist Movies With Hilariously Low Stakes

8 Heist Movies With Hilariously Low Stakes

Heist films, like Michael Bay’s recent Ambulance, typically carry very high stakes. Usually, to go along with the cash and the penalties for taking it, there are particularly high stressors for participants and their families, like in director Steve McQueen’s Widows. But that was far from the first heist film to have stakes on multiple ends for a character, e.g. for Al Pacino’s Sonny Wortzik in Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon.

With that being said, some are more intense than others. They can’t all be Avengers: Endgame and its world-saving time heist, but there are some capers, both big budget and small, straightforward or comedic, that have almost humorously low stakes at play.

Raising Arizona (1987)
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Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona

Gale and Evelle Snoats are far from the most intelligent characters in a Coen brothers film. The most logical thing either one of them says, while one of the Coen’s most memorable one-liners, is still a complete failure to understand the definition of the word “Escape.” The film’s central protagonist H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) is himself a criminal, and now that he and his wife, Edwina (Holly Hunter), have stolen a child, they’re both on the wrong side of the law.

But the child never legitimately feels in danger. Hi and Ed wouldn’t hurt him, and John Goodman/William Forsythe’s Gale and Evelle seem too incompetent to pull off a successful kidnapping. And they, too, seem taken by the child. The only real source of tension is biker Leonard Smalls, but there’s no getting past Ed and Hi.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
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Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda

Easily one of Jamie Lee Curtis’ best movies, A Fish Called Wanda is primarily a comedy, but it’s also a very effective heist film with an extremely memorable Kevin Kline performance. Kline portrays Otto West, a self-proclaimed genius who really is anything but. He’s after some diamonds, and he (along with three others) gets them. But then one of them gets incarcerated, and he knows where the diamonds are.

A Fish Called Wanda has stakes, but it’s not as if any of the film’s individuals are particularly good people. There’s also the fact that the eventual pseudo-fifth member of the group, Archie Leach (John Cleese), is a barrister. Just by his profession alone, the ramifications for the crew could be diminished significantly. Toss in his personal preference for Jamie Lee Curtis’ Wanda (“I wonder”) Gerschwitz, and the chances of at least her going to jail are nonexistent.

The Last Seduction (1994)
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Bridget lies in bed in The Last Seduction

One of the 1990s best film noir movies, The Last Seduction lives and dies on the shoulders of Linda Fiorentino. Fortunately, the performer gives some Oscar-worthy work that was unfortunately passed over by the Academy due to the fact the film premiered on HBO. With that being said, it’s not the highest-stakes heist film, but a heist film nonetheless.

Bridget Gregory (Fiorentino) wants her husband Clay (Bill Pullman) dead. However, she isn’t going to do it herself, and instead seduces and enlists the assistance of young Mike Swale (Peter Berg). Gregory is constantly pulling off a heist, and they tend to be elaborate ones. But they’re not at a bank, they’re at home, and she has a lot more planned than any character (or audience member) can possibly predict.

Bottle Rocket (1996)
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The crew of Bottle Rocket practicing with guns

Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson’s debut, isn’t one of Owen Wilson’s best movies, but it is an impressive premier collaboration nonetheless. The plot follows Anthony (Luke Wilson), whose friend Dignan (Owen) has just picked him up from a psychological clinic. Dignan has the bright idea to begin a crime spree, even though the two of them are amateurs at best.

Like Anderson’s other films, Bottle Rocket is far more quirky than tense, and while Dignan is clearly a bad influence on Anthony the audience gets the sense the latter will keep it all together. Their shady mentor in crime, Mr. Henry (James Caan), is intimidating, but even still it’s to a lesser extent than much of Caan’s other work.

The Fast And The Furious (2001)
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Brian jumps to truck in The Fast and the Furious 2001

Before the Fast & Furious franchise became a physics-defying franchise that clearly didn’t research its subject matter, it was low-key. And the first heist of The Fast and the Furious is very low-key. The three vehicles used for the electronics truck heist are Honda Civics, and one of the main targets of the theft is VCRs. Dom and his crew may as well be after 8-track tapes.

It would take a while, but eventually, the franchise would have cars leaping over highways (with a tank in pursuit) and jumping between buildings in Abu Dhabi. Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious is a small-scale film, but only in comparison to later installments of its own logic-skewing universe.

Now You See Me 2 (2016)
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The cast of Now You See Me 2

Redditors believe the ending of Now You See Me was so bad it ruined the movie. That’s valid but debatable, but what isn’t debatable is the fact that it ruined the tension of Now You See Me 2. While its lack of tension isn’t as big a crime as not calling the film Now You Don’t, it’s still pretty jarring.

Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinner (Woody Harrelson), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) already have a man on the inside: FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo). Not only does he have sway when it comes to getting the group out of trouble, but he also runs the group. When a film’s central antagonist ends up being the protagonists’ greatest asset in the sequel, there’s no replacement villain that can be as daunting.

Ocean’s 8 (2018)
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The cast of Ocean's 8

Ocean’s 8 has yet to receive a sequel, but the adventure of Debbie Ocean (sister to Danny Ocean) is just about as entertaining as her brother’s first tour in Vegas, and almost certainly superior to Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen. With that being said, the twist ending is a leap that puts a major dent in the proceedings that had occurred up until that point.

Essentially, the target of the heist is Anne Hathaway’s famous actress Daphne Kluger. Or, more specifically, the $150 million Cartier necklace around her neck. However, Kluger manages to stop being self-involved long enough to notice what Ocean and her crew are up to, and she wants in. Having the central threat to the 8 end up as an ally deflates the film, but it’s still a lot of fun on the first watch.

The Bad Guys (2022)
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The Bad Guys main characters driving a car in a chase at the beginning of the movie

Based on a successful series of children’s books by Aaron Blabey, The Bad Guys has proven to be one of 2022’s bigger animated hits. The all-star cast of funny people—including Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Craig Robinson, and Awkwafina—play a group of seasoned criminal animals. Once they’ve been caught, they devise a plan to con their way out: Simply act like model citizens.

In The Bad Guys, the titular criminals have already been caught, so their situation can only get so much worse. While this does inherently strip the film of its tension, it’s supposed to fall in line with a fun and family-friendly vibe just as much as the vibe of a caper. The Bad Guys pulls off both and even has some meaningful messages along the way.

NEXT: 10 Best Animated Movies Of 2022 So Far, According To IMDb


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