2. The Joker Kills His Crew, in "The Dark Knight" (2008)
The opening sequence of "The Dark Knight" works so well on its own that it functioned almost as a pre-feature short when released as a promotional tool attached to prints of "I Am Legend." Really it’s one of the greatest bank heist scenes of all time, partly because it’s so clever. The concept of a gang leader killing off his team one by one in order to acquire 100% of the haul may not be the freshest, yet it’s written and executed (no pun intended) so perfectly that the plan seems original. The cleverest thing about this heist, though, has to be the Joker’s use of a school bus as a getaway vehicle so that he may blend in with a convoy of buses leaving a school.
1. Jean-Paul Belmondo Clowns Around, in "Hold-Up" (1985)
We’ve actually never seen this French Canadian comedy, but it was remade as one of our favorite Bill Murray films, "Quick Change" (both films are based on a novel), which we always thought had the most clever bank robbery in cinema before discovering this earlier film. So we’ll go by what we would have written for the American version and apply it to the source:
The employ of costumes in bank robberies was nothing new when Jean-Paul Belmondo and Guy Marchand wore disguises in this underrated comedy (which also stars Kim Cattrall, apparently in the Geena Davis spot), but the way the duo pulled off their costume changes was more clever than any other heist we’ve seen on the big screen, before or since. Belmondo enters a Montreal bank as a clown and seeming solo robber. Then, after letting his accomplice Marchand go free as a “hostage,” he changes into normal clothes and pretends to be a hostage, as well. In "Quick Change," the way the re-disguised bank robbers get lost in the frenzy outside the bank is a little unlikely, but otherwise the plan seems smart and easy enough that once we’re sure nobody remembers either "Hold-Up" or its more well-known remake, we may actually try to pull it off ourselves.