9 Female-Led Heist Movies

8:15 AM 6/8/2018

by Katherine Schaffstall

From 'A Fish Called Wanda' to 'Ocean's 8,' female characters have used their intellect and inventiveness to pull off entertaining cinematic robberies.

Warner Bros./Photofest; Overture Films/Photofest; MGM/Photofest

While there are many heist films that star men, a diverse array of movies in the genre feature women as the leads.

Films like Ocean’s Eleven and The Town have often overshadowed female-led cinematic capers ranging from the 1988 Jamie Lee Curtis starrer A Fish Called Wanda to more recent big-name ensemble affairs such as 1996's Set It Off, 2013's Spring Breakers and this year's Ocean's 8.

Indeed, women are able to anchor crime-action films just as well as their male counterparts.

Read on for more memorable heist films that put women at the center of the stories.

  • 'A Fish Called Wanda' (1988)

    MGM/Photofest

    The 1988 film follows the execution and aftermath of a plan made by four very different criminals. London-based gangster George Thomason (Tom Georgeson) and his partner-in-crime Ken Pile (Michael Palin) recruit American con artist Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) and weapons enthusiast Otto West (Kevin Kline) to commit a jewel heist. Following a successful robbery, the four criminals try to double cross each other. Wanda successfully uses her sexuality to steal millions of dollars and outshines her male partners throughout the film.

  • 'Set it Off' (1996)

    New Line Cinema/Photofest

    The 1996 film begins with bank teller Frankie Sutton (Vivica A. Fox) witnessing a robbery. Though she had nothing to do with the heist, she is fired due to the police’s belief that she was somehow involved. When Frankie goes to work with her best friends Lida "Stony" Newsom (Jada Pinkett-Smith), Cleopatra "Cleo" Sims (Queen Latifiah) and Tisean "T.T." Williams (Kimberly Elise) at Luther’s Janitorial Services, the four friends conceive a plan to rob a bank. The group then participates in a number of bank robberies that are heavily investigated by Detective Strode (John C. McGinley). Frankie’s inside knowledge about banks acts as the group’s secret weapon to successfully pull off the heists.

  • 'Sugar & Spice' (2001)

    Courtesy of YouTube

    When popular head cheerleader Diane Weston (Marley Shelton) becomes pregnant, she and high school quarterback Jack Bartlett (James Marsden) move into an apartment together and try to balance work and school. After struggling to pay rent, Diane and her friends Kansas Hill (Mena Suvari), Cleo Miller (Melissa George), Lucy Whitmore (Sara Marsh) and Hannah Wald (Rachel Blanchard) team up to rob a bank. In addition to watching heist films to prepare for the robbery, the friends buy illegal weapons and ammo. The 2001 film is loosely based on the real events of four high school girls who committed a series of robberies in 1999 in Houston, Texas.

  • 'Catch That Kid' (2004)

    Photofest

    The adventure comedy film follows 12-year-old Maddy Phillips (Kristen Stewart), who enlists the help of her friends Gus (Max Thierot) and Austin (Corbin Bleu), to rob a bank. The heist is motivated by the revelation that her father has become paralyzed and needs to participate in an experimental surgery. Maddy uses knowledge from her mother’s job at the bank to manipulate the security system and successfully pull off the heist.

  • 'Mad Money' (2008)

    Overture Films/Photofest

    The film follows three women that have nothing in common other than their jobs as janitors at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and their need for money. Bridget (Diane Keaton), Nina (Queen Latifah) and Jackie (Katie Holmes) team up and create a system to steal money from the bank while they work. Following the first successful heist, they continue to steal money and aim to increase their profit each time. They eventually get caught and are forced by the IRS to pay taxes, which happen to be the same as the amount of money they have not yet spent. It is revealed at the end of the film that Bridget hid some of the stolen money in the basement of a bar, leaving the friends with an unexpected source of income.

  • 'Spring Breakers' (2013)

    A24

    The Harmony Korine-directed crime film stars Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine as college students that can’t afford to go on vacation for spring break. After the girls, with the exclusion of Gomez’s character, rob a local restaurant to make quick cash, the friends head to St. Petersburg, Florida to spend the week partying. The four ultimately get arrested after a wild night and are bailed out by local rapper and gangster Alien (James Franco). He introduces the girls to a life of sex, drugs and armed robberies that end in multiple injuries and fatalities.

  • 'The Bling Ring' (2013)

    Festival de Cannes/PA

    The Sofia Coppola-directed film is based on the true story of eight teenagers that burglarized a number of stars' homes in Calabasas, California. Throughout the film, the high school students, led by Emma Watson's Alexis Neiers-inspired Nicki Moore, steal from the homes of Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, Megan Fox, Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr, Rachel Bilson and Lindsay Lohan. As the kids commit their heists, they become known as "the bling ring." Evidence found on social media is responsible for the group’s downfall and ultimate conviction.

  • 'Ocean's 8' (2018)

    Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

    The star-studded film follows professional robber Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) as she plans to pull off a legendary heist at the annual Met Gala. Ocean enlists her girlfriend Lou (Cate Blanchett), jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling), suburban mom Tammy (Sarah Paulson), thief Constance (Awkwafina), tech genius Nine Ball (Rihanna) and famed fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) to pull off the risky endeavor. The women’s goal is to steal a diamond necklace from actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), who is one of the many celebrities to attend the extravagant event.

  • 'Widows' (2018)

    The upcoming thriller comes from Steve McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. Based on the ITV 1983 series of the same name, the film follows four women that have nothing in common except for the debt they are in due to their husbands’ criminal lifestyles. When all of the husbands end up dead, Veronica (Viola Davis), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) must team up to finish the robbery their husbands planned to commit. Widows will be released in theaters on Nov. 16.

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