Nothing beats a great bank robbery scene. The heist film is one of the most reliable sub-genres within the broader crime genre, as seeing the setup, execution, and fallout of a large-scale robbery is always satisfying. And banks are perhaps the most common targets within such heist films, as traditionally (maybe not so much nowadays), they were places that stored huge amounts of money and/or other valuables.
What follows attempts to look at some of the best bank robbery scenes throughout film history. Some last minutes, while some last the entire movie. There are many great heist sequences that don’t involve banks (such as jewelry store or train cart robberies) which sadly can’t be listed here… but nevertheless, when it comes to bank robberies specifically, the following movies do a great job of showing them on-screen.
Updated on May 23, 2023, by Jeremy Urquhart:
Bank robbery movies have endured as a consistently popular type of film within the crime genre for decades now. It’s clearly the most reliable way to see great bank heist scenes, with it logically following that the best bank robbery movies tend to have the best heist sequences. For those who like to live vicariously through watching skilled (or sometimes not-so-skilled) robbers pulling off complex, exciting, and suspenseful robberies on screen, the following movies are all worth watching for those sequences alone.
14 ‘Bank Shot’ (1974)
As far as movies about bank robberies go, Bank Shot is one of the more obscure ones out there. It’s perhaps not one of the best either, but deserves a shout-out (even if it’s just in the capacity of an honorable mention) because of the unique premise: rather than being a movie about stealing from a bank, it’s a movie about stealing an entire bank outright.
A bank is being stored temporarily in a mobile home while construction for the real building is taking place, and so a gang of thieves seizes the opportunity to make off with the entire thing, and then worry about breaking into the bank at a safer location. It’s a comedic heist movie that falters in some areas, but for the audacity of the premise alone, it’s worth mentioning.
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13 ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ (1970)
While Clint Eastwood is best known for starring in Westerns, those aren’t the only roles that define his career. He’s been in plenty of more contemporary action, crime, and thriller movies, but comedies featuring Eastwood are a little less common. Rarer still are genuinely good comedies that feature Eastwood as part of the cast.
Kelly’s Heroes, therefore, stands out within Eastwood’s body of work, being a fairly funny comedy and a solid war/heist movie, too. The plot revolves around a group of American soldiers going AWOL during World War Two so that they can rob a German bank that’s deep within enemy territory, with the heist stuff (and the fallout from it) proving quite entertaining.
12 ‘Baby Driver’ (2017)
Baby Driver presents a unique perspective on the bank robbery sequence, as the main character, Baby (yes, that’s what they call him) is a getaway driver, rather than an actual robber. As such, we as viewers get to sit in the car with him during the film’s opening robbery sequence, away from the action inside the bank, though undeniably linked to it.
While it might therefore not be a great example of a bank robbery scene because of its distance from the actual heist, it makes up for it with the ensuing car chase to escape the cops. It’s stylish, fast, snappily edited, and a really engaging action scene that arguably the film never quite equals again (though another chase sequence later in the film, this time on foot, does come close).
11 ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’ (1951)
An English heist comedy with a slightly different premise than one might expect, The Lavender Hill Mob endures as an entertaining and clever film. It follows a bank clerk devising a scheme to steal from his employer with the help of a neighbor, with their plan involving stealing gold bullion and melting it down into souvenirs, which will then make the gold easier to smuggle and sell without raising as much suspicion.
As such, the robbery scenes might not be as explosive or in-your-face as heist sequences from other crime movies that revolve around stealing from banks, but the subtler approach to the genre works wonders. It’s also worth watching for its cast and cameos, as it stars Alec Guinness (who of course would go on to become best known for Star Wars), plus it also briefly features Audrey Hepburn and Robert Shaw (of Jaws fame).
10 ‘Point Break’ (1991)
Point Break is an iconic 1990s action movie about an FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a gang of bank robbers who also enjoy surfing. Much of the drama comes from the fact that the agent (played by Keanu Reeves) comes to like the people in the gang he’s supposed to take down, especially its leader (played by Patrick Swayze).
Point Break is fast and stylish when it comes to showing its bank robbery scene, doing so in a way that feels heightened and entertaining, but also tense and down-to-earth. It’s also memorable for having the robbers wear ex-President masks, hence their gang being called the “Ex-Presidents.” Also notable is the robber wearing a Nixon mask humorously quipping “I am not a crook!” during the robbery itself.
9 ‘The Town’ (2010)
A movie both directed by and starring Ben Affleck, The Town is a movie about a gang of bank robbers in Boston, and their efforts to evade the FBI agents who are after them. It’s a movie with plenty of action and thrills, and features a well-executed bank robbery sequence in its opening.
It’s executed well by the robbers themselves, too, and within the scene itself, surprisingly little goes wrong. Of course, things don’t stay smooth sailing for the rest of the movie, and one of the hostages they take during the robbery ends up causing unexpected conflict and tension among the otherwise tight-knit group, leading to the dramatic events that take place throughout the rest of the film.
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8 ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ (1973)
A cult classic that’s proven inspirational (especially to Quentin Tarantino), The Friends of Eddie Coyle is an underrated heist movie that deserves more love. It follows the titular character as he attempts to play both sides of the law: he supplies guns to some bank-robbing associates, all the while cooperating with the police to let them know about certain shipments of stolen firearms.
This naturally makes all the crime elements and robbery scenes in the movie feel remarkably tense, seeing as The Friends of Eddie Coyle paints a picture of a dangerous world where no one’s loyalty can be trusted, and no one can feel safe. It’s tense, gritty, well-acted, and engaging throughout, and is more than deserving of a wider audience, especially given how well it’s aged.
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7 ‘Going in Stye’ (1979)
A truly underrated crime/dramedy film, Going in Style is about three elderly men who decide one day to rob a bank. Their main motivation for doing so is because their lives lack excitement and purpose, and while robbing a bank while in your 70s or 80s may be risky, it would undeniably prove exciting/dangerous, and perhaps make them feel alive again.
The actual bank robbery scene ends up being pretty funny, as the idea of elderly bank robbers is an amusing one (even those being held at gunpoint don’t seem too afraid). That does make the drama and heartbreak of the film’s second half hit harder in contrast, as it becomes a surprisingly tragic film towards the end. Because of its balance of crime, comedy, and drama, Going in Style is certainly a heist film (of sorts) that deserves more love.
6 ‘Inside Man’ (2006)
Inside Man at first seems to be a pretty standard type of bank robbery film. There’s a calculating robber who executes his plans and takes hostages, and a team of police officers representing the other side of the law, who want to defuse the situation, prevent money from being stolen, and save the hostages.
The film does focus on this seemingly simple robbery for most of its duration, but at a point, it becomes clear that there’s a little more going on beyond the film simply showing a bank heist. To say more would give away what the film is ultimately about, but rest assured, it’s twisty, engaging, clever, and ranks as one of Spike Lee‘s most entertaining movies.
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5 ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ (1967)
A radical and iconic crime movie that helped kick off the New Hollywood Movement, Bonnie and Clyde depicts the short (yet impactful) lives of two of the most famous bank robbers in U.S. history. The title characters gained infamy for a string of bank robberies committed during the 1930s, mainly because they were also partners in the traditional sense, on top of being partners in crime.
There’s one bank robbery scene during Bonnie and Clyde that depicts a chase taking place afterward. It cuts back and forth between those reacting to what happened at the bank, and the robbers making their escape, showing that Bonnie and Clyde was radical both for its style and editing, as well as for its violence and somewhat likable criminal characters.
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4 ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ (1975)
In one of the 1970s’ best films (partly thanks to a phenomenal Al Pacino performance), Dog Day Afternoon essentially depicts one bank robbery gone wrong in unflinching detail, in what almost feels like real-time. As such, it makes for a tense and often stressful two hours, but it’s an absorbing experience all the same.
It’s a film that’s based on a real-life bank robbery/hostage situation that unfolded in 1972. The film has a commitment to realism that sometimes makes you feel like you’re watching the real-life event unfold, and it’s the film’s grittiness and refusal to dumb down or sanitize the actual story that gives Dog Day Afternoon such lasting power.
3 ‘The Wild Bunch’ (1969)
While The Wild Bunch might be best remembered for its phenomenal climactic shootout, the similarly explosive opening action sequence shouldn’t be overlooked either. The film establishes its shocking violence and “take no prisoners” approach to the Western genre with an opening bank robbery scene that goes wrong, setting the main characters off on the run from bounty hunters for the remainder of the film.
The robbery even kicks off with the main character famously saying “If they move, kill ’em,” referring to the bank workers being held at gunpoint. That ruthless attitude – and the shootout that spills out onto the streets when things go wrong – establishes that The Wild Bunch is not going to be your average Western, establishing a tone that the rest of the movie proceeds to reflect flawlessly.
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2 ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)
The Dark Knight is kicked off with an iconic bank robbery sequence, masterminded by Heath Ledger‘s menacing Joker. It’s an absorbing scene that immediately throws you into a Gotham that’s being disrupted by Batman’s most notorious foe, and establishes a level of tension and unpredictability maintained for the rest of the film.
It’s also a great introduction to the Joker himself, as he’s shown to be cunning, spontaneous, chaotic, and able to emerge on top in an uncannily effective fashion. It’s also unique for a comic book movie to begin with such a grounded and (sort of) realistic action scene, but it works wonders in being an efficient mood-setter, and just a great scene on its own.
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1 ‘Heat’ (1995)
Heat has what would have to be one of the greatest and most iconic heist sequences in film history. The film builds expertly to its big bank robbery sequence, giving equal focus to the gang of robbers (led by Robert De Niro) and the police who are after them (led by Al Pacino), before things explode in a very public shootout, immediately following the heist.
It’s a gripping, loud, and tremendously intense action sequence, both when it comes to the robbery itself, and the ensuing shootout. That the film mostly manages to keep the momentum going whilst building to a memorable climax speaks to Michael Mann‘s skill as a filmmaker.
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