A-List: Best Buddy Robber Films
By J. Don Birnam
July 11, 2016
When we last spoke, we took a look at some of the best buddy cop films of all-time. It seems fitting that this time around we look at the converse: films where the leads are robbers, or where you are really rooting for the robbers to get away with it.
Let’s set the rules, as usual. I’m not talking about just any crime drama - sure, The Godfather, for example, features main characters that are really bad, and you may even be rooting for them to succeed (maybe). But, for one, it isn’t really a buddy story, it’s a crime family. Others are really a one man show, like The Thomas Crown Affair, or even the exquisite Dog Day Afternoon. Still others blur the line between when you’re rooting for the thieves (who are really good guys) and vice versa. Think of the entire Fast and the Furious series (not to mention The Departed). And then there’s the whole gang of wrongly accused movies like The Fugitive. Since those don’t feature actual robbers, we won’t count them today.
So this one is a bit of a challenge, but I’ll try to stick within those amorphous rules. You can always scream at me on twitter if I eff up too badly.
5. Bandits (2001)
Did anyone else other than me see this movie? Yes, there is another robber buddy from 2001 that is infinitely more famous - more on that in a second - but Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Willis, and Cate Blanchett as mismatched gangsters? Heck yes.
The plot is simple, but the deceits are plenty. Joe (Willis), Terry (Thornton) and Kate (Blanchett) become a band of bank robbers known as the “Sleepover Bandits.” They kidnap a bank manager, stay over with him and his family, and pull off the heist the next day. Eventually, they land on the FBI’s most wanted list. But the story is told in flashbacks, with Kate being interviewed for a TV show while tipping off the location of the last bank robbery for the other two, which then results in them shooting each other to death.
I won’t say more, but the execution is brilliant and you do not see it coming. The spark between the three veterans in their weird triangle is such that most of them earned SAG, Golden Globe, and other acting nominations, quite a feat for a mostly silly action movie.
If you haven’t seen it, do so. It will keep you guessing and wildly entertained.
4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Other movies (see below) definitely inspired this one, but a 1969 Best Picture nomination is nothing to slouch at, and though derivative in ways, this movie makes the list because of the lasting friendship between Paul Newman and Robert Redford, which anchors the film.
The two are outlaws in the West, one of them has a lover, and they are quickly chased and feared in the land. An ill-fated trip to Bolivia seals their tragic fate, but before it is all said and done, you get a strong bro-bond of friendship that we probably did not see again until Matt Damon and Ben Affleck hit the Kodak stage in 1997 to accept an Oscar together.
The story, of course, is loosely based in reality, making the predictable ending not less saddening, and rendering the entire film overall much more interesting.