In the mood for a caper

Brussels got exciting this week when a group of (for dramatic effect let’s just call them) BANDITS disguised as policemen made off with €50 million worth of diamonds at the city airport. Our usual drab and rainy city suddenly turned into an exotic destination of Hollywood heists (in my mind at least, though a few Twitter friends seem to have agreed with me.)

It all got me in the mood to sit down with a big bowl of popcorn and watch some caper movies. As far as I am concerned, there are a few essential ingredients to any good caper film:

  • “The stars”: A handsome, often misunderstood, thief and a gorgeous girl
  • The “priceless” item to be stolen and the challenge of planning how to get it
  • The impressive location where said item can be found, be it a museum, someone’s house or a monument in itself
  • Stunning outfits (or alternatively, absolutely horrible outfits…I’m looking at you, A Fish Called Wanda…)
  • A chase scene or two
  • Fun soundtrack

Here are a few of my favorites.

How to Steal a Million: Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. Stealing a painting. Hiding in closets. A romantic comedy of a heist with beautiful late 60s fashion including a black lace mask.

Thomas Crown Affair: So many people prefer the 1968 version with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway but I also loved how suave Pierce Brosnan was the 1999 version and I wanted almost all of Rene Russo’s clothes from the movie. Whichever version you prefer, this is a story with great adventurous characters, plenty of cat-and-mouse suspense and romantic tension. {The later version boasts a particularly memorable scene involving some stairs.}

The Sting: Paul Newman and Robert Redford. 1930s. The ultimate revenge con with more than one twist. And it has “The Entertainer” as its soundtrack.

The Italian Job: Again, I like both versions (1969 with Michael Cane and 2003 with Mark Wahlberg). A beautifully shot high speed boat chase in Venice and Charlize Theron driving a Mini like a mad woman through a metro station almost makes you forget that Marky Mark is the lead in the second one. Very good soundtrack.

A Fish Called Wanda: Such a goofball-heist-gone-horribly-wrong film. Kevin Kline “speaking” Italian. Jamie-Lee Curtis. Americans in England. Michael Palin as an animal activist with an amazing stutter. John Cleese prancing around in his underwear. And some stolen diamonds.

Entrapment: I will basically watch Sean Connery in anything {it is all about the voice}. Add a Rembrandt and Catherine Zeta-Jones in a catsuit with lazer beams and you have some quality entertainment (or at least I thought so in 1999 when it came out…)

Ocean’s 11: As if George Clooney and Brad Pitt where not enough, this movie is just so cool. I am a sucker for ensemble casts and this one is spectacular. Fun music, fun characters, just plain fun. Bonus points go to Ocean’s 12, which I actually liked even more for its European locations and Vincent Cassel. Triple bonus points go to Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis for playing themselves…

The Great Muppet Caper: Kermit and Fozzie in London. Miss Piggy as a jewel thief. Enough said.

What did I miss? 

Photo: Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in a publicity still from “How to Steal a Million”

  • Jess, I love this movie selection and I watched the thomas Crown Affair (with Pierce Brosnan) just few days ago! One film I woul suggest adding is “Sneakers” with Robert Redford!

  • I’m fascinated by this case. How do a bunch of guys walk away with…oh, a couple hundred million in hardware and not be seen? Anyhow, I totally second the Italian Job and Thomas Crown Affair, makes me want to fire up some popcorn right now. I’d throw Swordfish and Run Lola Run into your movie mix as well. :-)


Twelve years ago, Jess moved to Europe for what was supposed to be a one-year stint. Fourteen years later, life abroad is just as entertaining. She blogs about it here.