Screenwriting : A bottle of wine, kubrick's - "the killing" and musings on heist films by Tony Germann

Tony Germann

A bottle of wine, kubrick's - "the killing" and musings on heist films

After a fine meal and an epic bottle of wine yesterday evening, I stumbled upon Kubrick's "The Killing" on Amazon Prime. A classic. That got me thinking, what makes for a good heist film? Why do we love them so much? I 'm interested to hear your thoughts and of course, examples of your favorite ones. Happy Saturday!

Mike W. Rogers

Going to watch it now! Thank you for the suggestion. I'll get back to you.

Dan MaxXx

Empathy. I saw "Hustlers" yesterday and the opening one-take shot follows our main character from backstage to stripper stage. The camera stays on her face and her goal was explained without dialogue.

Stephen Floyd

My favorite is Rififi. The heist itself was boldly minimalist, but the set-up was so thorough we didn’t need constant reminders of the stakes to know what they were.

Jay Reeves

Mine is Heat. The great cast, action, the human side of the characters. It would've been a great cable series like The Soprano's and Breaking Bad. Michael Mann is coming with out with a novel next year. It's a prequel, and a sequel to Heat all in one. He also wants to make a film sequel.

Bo. R. R. Tolkien

A good heist films always keep you guessing until the very end. Then when it reveals the truth, we are agasp. Like in the movie Usual Suspects and Saw. Widows was decent but too transparent for me. I saw through it. Both Spiderman movies are very good heist films in my opinion. The plot structure is damn near impeccable.

David Melbourne

You should check out Melville's The Red Circle. Not just a great heist film but a great film full stop.

Bill Costantini

Hi Tony,

To answer your questions about what makes a good heist film...obviously I want to be thoroughly entertained, so the plot and characters have to be at a high level. Memorable characters - like in any type of great film - have to be there more than anything to me. I don't care if it's a small heist or a big heist - the characters make the biggest difference to me - and especially after watching dozens and dozens of them over the last 45 years. After that are the ups-and-downs, the tension, the conflicts, the unintended consequences like potential double-crossings, nearly getting caught, etc. The "escapist factor" for me has to be high enough, too - I like to live vicariously through films, too.

Yeah...The Killing is definitely a classic. The backstory on it is pretty great, too - how Kubrick and his family put up a lot of the funding for it. And it definitely inspired Reservoir Dogs, as Tarantino has cited, and many others, too.

Among my favorites are (I'll try to go oldest to most current): The Asphalt Jungle, Rififi; Kansas City Confidential (a few years before The Killing); Topkapi; Treasure of San Genarro (comedy); Big Deal on Madonna Street (comedy) The Pink Panther (comedy); Ocean's Eleven (original and remakes); Thief; The Five Man Army (Dario Argento's first script); Seven Golden Men; Bonnie & Clyde; The Great Brinks Robbery; The Getaway; The Sting; and Dog Day Afternoon..

More modern ones include Quick Change (comedy); Heist; A Fish Called Wanda (comedy) Point Break; Bottle Rocket (comedy); Reservoir Dogs; Bound; Set It Off; The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three (original and remake); Sexy Beast ("Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!"): The Score; Mad Money; The Cat; The Bling Ring, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; The Town; Inside Man; Ronin; Logan Lucky; The Bank Job, Takers; Den of Thieves; Hell or High Water; and Widows.

Some might be less "heisty" than others, and the heists might be less meticulously planned out than others, but you get what I'm saying. And....oops....I gotta go....Dan MaxXx's "How to Crack a Safe" webinar starts in a minute!

Great topic, and best fortunes in your future endeavors, Tony!

Craig D Griffiths

I think of heist films as a setting a lot of the time or what I like to think of as “competence porn”. Watching people that are good at something doing it at an expert level.

I saw The Killing ages ago. I like the final scene. The “what’s the point” theme.

Matthew J. Kaplan

The Killing is one of my all-time favorites and one I can watch over and over. Kubrick did an amazing job but mostly, for me, it's about the cast. Hayden's Clay feels the water rushing over his head before he even starts but he continues - and no one does that better than him. Cook and Flippin's performances are heartbreaking and Windsor will always steal my heart. And Timothy Carey...what a wonderful madman. I know you asked what makes a good heist, so for me, it's all about what can and what will go wrong - all the great heist films people are mentioning are about the desperation that we can all relate to. To me, a great heist film is about characters we love and root and for but ultimately fail in the most heartbreaking ways.

Imo Wimana Chadband

One of my favorites is "The Town". I have a love for heist movies. Just the excitement in seeing how and if they can pull off the heist without being caught. It always has me on the edge seeing what methods or gadgets they employ in their mission, and there always seems to be someone in the midst out to betray the group.

Eric Christopherson

I enjoy heist films so much I finally wrote my own heist script. Bill about has the board covered with his response, although I think he missed The Hot Rock, a comedic flick based on a great Donald Westlake novel.

Pete Whiting

Heat is defs an A-Grade one and 'inside man', 'Lock Stock....' and 'The Italian Job (original) . But some I have enjoyed but were not necessarily a great film by success standards were Quick Change with Bill Murray and Hard Rain with Christian Slater. (they both may not technically be heist movie though)

Alexis Papageorgiou

Hello Tony. Tempo I think, given of course that character and story are both magnetizing, but also THEME. I saw gone in 60 seconds when I was 18 and exactly in that mood and I will never forget that film. So picking a theme that resonates with our audience won't hurt at all.

Bill Costantini

Eric: The Hot Rock is a film that I have not seen, and will look for it.

Pete: Hard Rain is a great one. That must have been very difficult to shoot, and may also be the only film that Ed Asner and Betty White are both in.

Best fortunes in your creative endeavors, Eric and Pete!

Eric Christopherson

Hot Rock had a William Goldman screenplay too, Bill!

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