Man it has been a while since my last Phenomenal 5. Long-time readers know that this was once a weekly feature on this site. But with more and more movies to review I’ve kinda been slacking. So what better time than now to fire up a new Phenomenal 5 and I have a fun one – movie bank robberies. You may not realize it, but there have been a lot of banks knocked off throughout cinema history. And some of the best scenes weren’t just about the actual robbery itself but the buildup and the aftermath. There were so many good ones that came to mind and for that reason I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these five movie bank robberies are nothing short of phenomenal.
#5 – “Point Break” (1991)
There are two fantastic bank robbery scenes in Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 action thriller “Point Break”. In the film Patrick Swayze leads a band of surfer robbers known as the Ex-Presidents. A little over halfway into the movie the gang knocks off a bank and are about to make their escape. Enter FBI agents Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey. What follows is a thrilling car chase followed by one of the best foot pursuits ever put on film. The robbery that happens near the end may be the better scene. But in terms of pure adrenaline and excitement, I’m sticking by my choice.
#4 – “Raising Arizona” (1987)
Ok, I realize there are probably “better” bank robbery scenes out there, but none are funnier than the one we get from the Coen brothers in “Raising Arizona”. From the moment John Goodman and William Forsythe bust into an old country bank with two shotguns, two bags, and a toddler in a baby carrier you can’t help but laugh. The entire scenario is preposterous (in a great way), but it’s the Coens’ wacky dialogue that makes the scene so good. I love it and there was no way I could leave it off the list.
#3 – “For a Few Dollars More” (1965)
It may be the lesser recognized of the three Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, but it just might be the best of the trilogy. It also has a terrific bank robbery sequence. This pick is a prime example of how both the buildup and the getaway are crucial to the scene’s greatness. Clint and his partner Lee Van Cleef know the bandits are going to hit the town’s bank. They just don’t know how it’s going down and they’re completely caught off guard when the gang blows the back of the bank building, yanks the safe into their wagon, and then races out of town. Leone’s signature tension-building setup is terrific and the great Ennio Morricone’s score during the escape is unforgettable.
#2 – “Heat” (1995)
In Michael Mann’s killer crime thriller “Heat” Robert De Niro and his crew are all set for their last big robbery. With Elliot Goldenthal’s brilliant score pulsating in the background, they hit a bank in downtown Los Angeles. Meanwhile Al Pacino’s LAPD detective gets wind of the robbery and dispatches the precinct. What follows is one of the most intense shootouts in cinema history, fueled by Dante Spinotti’s kinetic cinematography and a stellar sound design. Combined, the robbery and the gun battle make for some edge-of-your-seat stuff.
#1 – “The Dark Knight” (2008)
“The Dark Knight” stands out for so many reasons. It’s the greatest superhero movie ever made (subjective, I know). It’s one of Christopher Nolan’s best films. It also has a bank robbery scene that provides one of the best movie openings and one of the best character introductions you’ll see. TDK opens with Heath Ledger’s Joker robbing a bank full of mob money. As the meticulously planned heist unfolds, the Clown Prince starts knocking off each of his crew until he’s the last one standing. The pulse-pounding sequence gives us a good taste of the character’s twisted madness and of the incredible Oscar-winning performance that would follow. Everything about the scene sizzles.
And those are my five picks. See something I missed? Agree or disagree with any of my choices? Share your list in the comments section below.