With the third season of TNT's crime series 'Leverage' premiering June 20, we're inspired to show our appreciation for a timeless action category: the heist movie. From the beginning, filmmakers haven't been able to resist telling the tale of of that one well-organized (or hopelessly bungled) caper that criminals hope will be the Big Score. Better still, it gives us the chance to live vicariously through the perps as they plan the job, put it in motion, and most likely pay for their crime. When done properly, the formula ensures nonstop drama or laughable absurdity. But it's always hard to look away.

Here are 11 great heists that have proven -- at least in cinematic terms -- that crime does indeed pay.

With the third season of TNT's crime series 'Leverage' premiering June 20, we're inspired to show our appreciation for a timeless action category: the heist movie. From the beginning, filmmakers haven't been able to resist telling the tale of of that one well-organized (or hopelessly bungled) caper that criminals hope will be the Big Score. Better still, it gives us the chance to live vicariously through the perps as they plan the job, put it in motion, and most likely pay for their crime. When done properly, the formula ensures nonstop drama or laughable absurdity. But it's always hard to look away.

Here are 11 great heists that have proven -- at least in cinematic terms -- that crime does indeed pay.

11. 'Rififi (Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes)' (1955)
Heists -- they're not just for Americans! This mid-'50s French classic could be the template for all robberies to follow. Tony le Stephanois has spent five years in prison and learns that his girl has been unfaithful to him with a nightclub owner. Quelle horreur! Well, the guy just happens to have a safe full of jewels, so what better payback than to clean him out? The job goes perfectly ... until it doesn't. Director Jules Dassin carries out the whole robbery sequence without a word of dialogue, making this not only a tense thriller, but also a great study for film geeks. And there's a bonus! After more than 50 years, we're finally going to see an English-language remake next year starring none other than Al Pacino, who apparently can't get enough of this kind of movie.


10. 'Take the Money and Run' (1969)
Leave it to Woody Allen in his early broad-comedy period to make a mockery of what's usually a very serious genre. As the hopelessly inept criminal Virgil Starkwell, Woody lampoons crime films of every kind with some of his best visual gags ever. His big bank job goes awry when the bank tellers can't read his illegible penmanship ("Does this look like 'gub' or 'gun'?"). Virgil's jailbreak is thwarted when he carves a gun from a bar of soap, only to have it rain. Silly, of course, but Allen went to the trouble of filming at San Quentin to achieve a semblance of realism.


9. 'Heat' (1995)
Michael Mann's L.A. crime saga delivers on so many levels, not the least of which is a chance to see Al Pacino and Robert De Niro work off each other as, respectively, an expert thief in charge of a group of high-tech robbers, and the obsessive police lieutenant who's driven to bring him in. When one of De Niro's jobs (an armored car heist) goes bad and leaves the guards dead, Pacino's team goes to work, and their converging paths lead to a major gun battle at a federal bank. 'Heat' is aptly named, because it packs plenty of it.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.

8. 'The Italian Job' (2003)
One of the keys to making great modern heist flick is to come up with a high-tech way of making it happen, and to keep the adrenaline pumping.'The Italian Job' does both: envisioning a scenario in which a group of thieves disrupts L.A.'s traffic system to create the biggest traffic jam of all time, and staging some nonstop action in a keen remake of the 1969 thriller starring Michael Caine. Mark Wahlberg may not have the debonair grace of Caine, but you have to give style points to any robbers who make their getaway ... in Mini Coopers!


7. 'The Usual Suspects' (1995)
Who the heck is Keyser Soze? Five con men are brought in for questioning about a truck hijacking in New York City. As each is questioned, we discover that they're involved with Soze, a mysterious mastermind whom each one has crossed. The payback job they're involved in leaves 27 dead and a fortune in drug money to be accounted for. The intertwining plotlines were skillfully handled by director Bryan Singer before he dove into the 'X-Men' series. After watching Kevin Spacey deliver his killer performance here as the crippled weasel Verbal Kint, Singer must have thought, "Hey, y'know, mutants might be a good idea!"


6. 'Inside Man' (2006)
Spike Lee's nail-biting tale of a New York bank job is long on suspense, drama, and star power. Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) masterminds a team that takes over a bank, holds 50 people hostage, then for some reason tries to delay the cops at every turn. Meanwhile, Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) is simply trying to resolve the situation without bloodshed. Jodie Foster is terrific as what could be described as a high-powered corporate fly in the ointment who offers the crooks a better deal if they'll just let her get a valuable item out of the vault. Plus, as a sly homage, Lee cast Lionel Pina as a pizza delivery boy -- the same role he played in 'Dog Day Afternoon'.


5. 'To Catch a Thief' (1955)
Alfred Hitchcock, a rash of crimes, and the Wrong Man -- has there ever been a more sure-fire combination of cinematic elements? In one of the master's best crime dramas, Cary Grant plays retired cat burglar John Robie (a suave one, of course). When a string of millionaires have their jewelry stolen, Robie becomes the prime suspect, and enlists the help of Lloyds of London insurance agent H.H. Hughson (John Williams) to help find the real thief. Costar Grace Kelly, in one of her last roles, liked the French Riviera location so much, she married one of the royal neighbors in Monaco. Now that was a big score.


4. 'Dog Day Afternoon' (1975)
Bank robberies are the heart and soul of the heist genre, and 'Dog Day' is probably its peak. Sidney Lumet's gripping story of a holdup gone horribly wrong on a broiling hot summer day in New York is one of the best films of the '70s. There's a palpable and unrelentingly sweaty sense of dread that overtakes Al Pacino and his henchmen (especially the amazing John Cazale) as their lives unravel hour by hour, and even if you're not wild about robbery stories, you can just sit back and enjoy watching a masterful ensemble do its thing.


3. 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992)
If you're not shy about gunplay, you could do a lot worse than Quentin Tarantino's heavy-handed, ultra-bloody story of another bank robbery gone bad. In fact, most of the action takes place in the aftermath of the botched operation as the various holdup men repair to a warehouse to hash out what went wrong, recover from their wounds, or simply die. Michael Madsen, on the other hand, takes the opportunity to torture a hapless cop to the accompaniment of Gerry Rafferty's 'Stuck in the Middle With You.' That song has never sounded quite the same since. 'Reservoir Dogs' is not for the squeamish, but this is where Tarantino earned his director's stripes.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.

2. 'The Thomas Crown Affair' (1999)
When a movie spends a lot of time in an art museum and involves an insurance investigator, you'd think it would be time to go get popcorn. But if the crook is ultra-wealthy Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) and the investigator is Rene Russo, go hungry, because this is a great cat-and-mouse game with lots of sexual chemistry (emphasis on lots) between the insurance lady and the thief. This remake of the classic 1968 Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway film is one of those rare instances where the remake is as good as the original. One caveat: When they get busy on the staircase, it's an incredibly hot moment -- but all the same, don't try it at home.


1. 'Ocean's Eleven' (2001)
Frank Sinatra fans know there could only be one Rat Pack, but Steven Soderbergh came pretty darn close to creating a new one in this remake of the kitschy 1960 casino-heist flick. Put together George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Carl Reiner, and an unending string of high-tech gizmos, disguises, and plot twists, and you have one of the more witty and watchable theft movies in years. Clooney is perfectly debonair, right on the money with his wisecracks, and and far as Brad Pitt is concerned ... Ted Nugent wants his shirt back.


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