Impossible Theft

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Yoink!

"The soulful tunes of this accordion inspire you to new heights of thievery you never thought possible. Forget the Mona Lisa, you've got your eye on the Sistine Chapel ceiling."

The ultimate climax of any thief story is to steal something that cannot be stolen. Some thefts are more impossible than others, of course, and thieves that commit impossible thefts incidentally are usually more impressive than thieves who need to build up to a less impossible theft, but any sort of thief vs. thief conflict will usually prove the need to escalate the difficulty to impossible levels.

Leave the objective in a timelocked diamond-hard safe underground in a room filled with lava past a pit of crocodiles and it will be gone in the morning. Should they choose to, they could steal your underwear (while you're wearing them!) without you noticing anything, or they could steal a jewel from in front of a dozen attentive guards without any of them seeing it go.

If the theft was a climax of the story, then there's often an Unfolding Plan Montage to describe how it was done and what happens next. Otherwise, the explanation is more of a Noodle Incident, and the character is just that good.

Narrower examples of the same are Monumental Theft, where the prize is too big to steal, and Intangible Theft, where there's no physical thing to steal.

While this is can be done by any Thief, a Phantom Thief is most common, with Classy Cat-Burglar and Gentleman Thief not far behind. The Caper may also have an impossible target, but a large enough crew can reduce how "impossible" the theft seems to be. If video game mechanics allow the player's character to steal ridiculous things or under ridiculous circumstances, see Video Game Stealing.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Carmen Sandiego 

    Advertising 
  • Ernie the Klepto strikes again.
  • A Farmer's Insurance spot (original video now unavailable) involves a burglar, tied down, who nonetheless manages to steal what looks like the contents of a two-story house after the trainee agents turn their back on him for a few seconds. Plus an agent's watch. And he managed to put on a wedding dress. He's still tied down.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero, Akatsuki Ousawa has a talent for stealing girl's clothes while they are wearing them.
  • Magic Kaito: Kaitou KID's exploits are performed in amazing ways, such that Shinichi (from Detective Conan, but they share The Verse) has long since given up on figuring out his identity, focusing more on how he performs his impossible tasks. The biggest thing he has ever stolen is a pair of clock hands from a clock tower. He's literally walked in midair ( via Wire Fu). One time an alibi was established by going on a date and performing his heist, effectively putting him in literally two places at once.
  • Jack Rakan from Mahou Sensei Negima! stole panties off one of two girls without them noticing. The only reason he didn't get both of them is that the other girl was Going Commando. And he is supposed to be a fighter, not a thief. He later one-ups himself by stealing the panties off of several of Fate's minions simultaneously.
  • One Piece: Nami the Navigator (and thief!)
    • Her greatest exploit was when she leaves her home village. She's running past the villagers to pick up the speed she needed to leap from the harbor onto the ship that was already starting to head out. So she was stealing from everyone while at a dead run. Once on the ship, she turns around and lifts her shirt to reveal that she just stole all of the villagers' purses and tucked them under there. Then smiles back at the village as she waves goodbye as if to say, "That was for old time's sake."
    • There was also the time she stole a key from a highly trained killer Kumadori while he had her limbs bound with his hair, preparing to stab her with his staff.
  • Ranma ½ :
    • Genma and Ranma using the Umisenken can steal the floor out from under trained martial artists or the clothes they are wearing without them noticing until after it was done.
    • Happosai and Ranma have been shown to be able to steal underclothes (or objects hidden within them) while the people were still wearing them.
  • from Urusei Yatsura:
    • Beautiful Dreamer movie: Ataru Moroboshi steals the top to Lum's bikini outfit from 20 feet or so away, pulling it from his pants of all places, to distract her long enough for him to tag her horns.
    • In the anime series, Ataru steals Lum's bikini by using a sticky dart gun to latch onto and pull off her Fur Bikini top. When the ashamed oni dives at him to retrieve it, he outmaneuvers her and grabs her horns from behind, as she's too distracted to think about flying away from him.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins has Meliodas steal Elizabeth's panties while she's wearing them. While demonstrating what a pervert he is, it turns out to have a practical purpose: when a bunch of duplicates of Elizabeth show up, Meliodas has them do things to try and prove who's the real one, and when he tells them to jump up, the real Elizabeth can't because she's too embarrassed about her missing panties. Meliodas gives them back afterwards.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, Tsukikage somehow steals the pin that attaches the wheel to Captain Solo's pirate ship, even though there were two pirates standing next to it.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Drifting: Early on when Naruto faced a trio of incompetent female Chunin who had infiltrated the village, he managed to steal all their underwear without taking off or damaging their clothes, or even them noticing until he showed them his "loot".
  • In Ghost, the Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion fic here, the titular character repeatedly steals weapons from mafia and army bases, no matter how many guards or locks there are. Of course, when you can stop time at will, such feats become significantly less impressive.
  • In Konohas Pet Shop, a Naruto two-shot, the main character uses a variant of an escape technique to switch items with leaves, even at a distance. This drives his Sensei to drink.
  • A Scotsman in Egypt: Eoin Makartane manages to escape from a sealed, windowless room after the guards watched him walk in there and locked it behind him, and then snatches Aodh Canmore's personal orders to him from his locked office without the guards ever seeing him or even unlocking the door. Of course, given that the whole thing may have been a setup...

    Fairy Tales and Mythology 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Justice League: War, Batman steals Green Lantern's ring while he was wearing it. He doesn't notice until Batman holds it up and Hal's costume is suddenly replaced by his street clothes.
  • Invoked in Disney’s Robin Hood during the “Phoney King of England” song:
    A minute before he knows we’re there / Ol’ Rob will snatch his underwear!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played with in Blade Of Fury, when a noblewoman wants some pesky guards out of the way she places her own jewels into their hands, without them noticing, and screams. Help arrives, believes the scene she has set that the guards were robbing her or worse and the guards are lynched.
  • Blazing Saddles: Bart, the new black sheriff, strikes a friendship with Jim, a drunken gunslinger, whom he does not believe is the infamous "Waco Kid". To prove himself, Jim encourages Bart to clap his hands onto a chess piece starting with his hands about about a foot apart, and Jim halfway across the room. Bart claps his hands around the piece, and Jim apparently doesn't even move. When Bart opens his hands, he finds them empty, and Jim reveals that the chess piece is now in his previously empty holster.
  • Harpo Marx' talent at pickpocketing is no better depicted than in Coconuts where he steals handkerchiefs effortlessly, a pushy cop's wallet and badge, the same cop's SHIRT while it's being worn, and for a grand finale, Groucho's dental plate!
  • In The Gamers, the thief idly picks a bar patron's pocket for some money. Then he sees how far he can go, culminating in stealing the literal pants off the patron without them noticing:
    Thief: Does he have any, uh... weapons, or anything?
    DM: Yeah, he's got a knife.
    Thief: I take that too.
    DM: Okay, roll it. (die roll!)
    Thief: (holding the dagger) Haha, cool! I'm kickin' ass! Hmm... I wanna steal his pants.
    DM: You're... not serious.
    Thief: I am serious.
    DM: (wearily) Why do you want his pants?
    Thief: I don't want 'em, I just wanna see if I can steal 'em.
    DM: Fine, go ahead, but you suffer a -8 penalty for difficulty.
    Thief (die roll!)
    DM: I don't believe it... (the thief shows off the newly acquired pants to his companions)
  • High School High: When Mr. Clark first goes to the Inner City School, his car is stolen seconds after he parked it—from an enclosed parking space. Then his briefcase is stolen by breaking off the handles while he was holding it.
  • The Four Horsemen in Now You See Me pull some stunning heists that keep the police dumbfounded (like robbing a bank in France remotely from Las Vegas). Fortunately, the police had an insider explain them how it's done.
  • Near the end of The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), Crown goes to the museum to "return" the painting he originally stole. He walks past the sealed (with steel gates) Impressionist gallery, tosses in smoke bombs, sets off the fire alarm (which puts a metal cover over all the paintings), and walks out. Somehow, he managed to steal a painting from the wall while this happened. Even the director says he doesn't know how it would work.

    Jokes 
  • I pilot was flying alone in his plane around the world, and his supervisors kept asking him where he was, and to know that, he had a technique, put his arm through a hole below the plane, and touch things with his hand.

    Where are you now?
    In USA.
    Why?
    I touched the Statue of Liberty.

    And now, where you are?
    In England
    Why?
    I touched the Big Ben.

    And now?
    In France
    Why?
    I touched the Eiffel Tower

    And now?
    In Italy
    Why?
    I touched the Leaning Tower of Pisa

    Now?
    In China
    Why?
    I touched the Great Wall

    Now?
    In Japan
    Why?
    I touched the Tokyo Tower

    Now?
    In Brazil
    Oh, you don't need to say, you touched the Christ the Redeemer statue.
    No, that wasn't it.
    Then what was it?
    Somebody stole my watch.

    Literature 
  • Abarat: John Mischief and his brothers managed to steal the tattoos of a criminal named Monkai-Monkai while he was in prison.
  • Arsène Lupin features an impossible thief, the first Gentleman Thief. The stories, written by Maurice Leblanc, are contemporaneous with Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Lupin sometimes adds insult to injury by giving the owners of his targets details such as the time, date, or even method of the theft in advance.
  • Played surprisingly straight in the Bernice Summerfield novel Ship of Fools where the brilliant thief called "the Cat's Paw" defeats the most advanced technological security systems.
  • Jesper, of Brotherband can steal the bracelet of the man he is in the middle of talking to without his noticing.
  • P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath has Jame and her master Penari, who both have accomplished thefts considered impossible, for the entertainment value. Jame frequently steals only the least valuable thing she can on her missions, and Penari uses the giant uncut diamond he stole in impossible circumstances as a paperweight.
  • Macore, the master thief of the River of Dancing Gods series, like all high-level thieves in his world, uses magic (the really good stuff is all spell-protected, so it's an occupational necessity) in his thefts.
  • Deltora Quest's Polypans are described as being able to 'steal the shirt off your back without you noticing.'
  • The main character of the Dickie Dick Dickens series starts out as a humble pickpocket who earns the ire of the gangster leaders of Chicago by not playing by the rules; when they sic the police on him in a massive betrayal, he turns out to have stolen every gun of every cop in Chicago the day before. The embarrassed cops call it a day; Dickens dumps the weapons in Lake Michigan.
  • Discworld:
    • The daughter of Cohen the Barbarian once managed to steal some jewelry by pickpocketing the boss of Ankh-Morpork thieves' guild. The jewels weren't in his pocket, he'd swallowed them. "This was the type of thief who could steal the initiative, the moment and the words right out of your mouth."
    • In Reaper Man, two priests in Offler's lost temple hear someone approaching, presumably to steal the huge diamond therein. As the would-be thief trips one murderous booby-trap after another and still keeps coming, the priests grow increasingly alarmed, and are on the brink of panic when the intruder bypasses the temple's final line of defense. Luckily for them, it's only Death, not Mrs. Cake.
    • The titular Thief of Time steals items by stopping time so others don't notice. There is a limit, but so long as he's nearby, he can steal anything without apparently his hands getting near you.
  • While obviously hyperbolic, the thief Talen from David Eddings' The Elenium series is, at one point, said to be able to "Steal the eyes right outta your head, and you wouldn't notice 'till you need to look at something closely." He's not QUITE that good in reality, but he really is very, very good.
  • The children's book Finn MacCool and the Small Men of Deeds featured Taking Easy, who could steal anything. He claimed to be able to steal the harp from a player whilst he's playing it (and he wouldn't know it was gone). Easy helped out with the big rescue at the end of the book by stealing the locks off the doors.
  • Skif of the Heralds of Valdemar series claims to be able to make impossible thefts. At one point, he is challenged to steal a classmate's lucky coin. The classmate spends the rest of the day with his hand on his pocket to make sure it's still there, and gleefully tells Skif at the end of the time limit that he has failed. Skif then produces the coin. He pulled it off by stealing the coin and replacing it with a lead slug before the other kid challenged him.
  • The title character of Roald Dahl's short story "The Hitchhiker", which was made into an episode of Tales of the Unexpected. He refuses the title of 'pickpocket' as beneath him; he calls himself a Fingersmith — and demonstrates by holding up a belt and fountain pen, which the narrator recognizes as his own. When a policeman pulls them up and issues a reckless-driving ticket that the narrator cannot afford to pay, he somehow steals the policeman's citation book without leaving his seat on the other side of the car, then casually suggests they find a secluded place up the road to burn both copies of the ticket.
  • In the series Misfits Inc, the first book starts with an extremely valuable microchip vanishing while in plain sight, under glass, in the middle of a room. The lead figures out that the chip was never there in the first place; it was a hologram of the chip that had been installed in the base, and the battery had simply died. The chip had been stolen some time ago.
  • Raffles: A.J. Raffles, in the stories by E.W. Hornung, repeatedly pulls off "impossible" thefts, including that of a gold cup from the British Museum, and once, stealing the collection of "souvenirs" of his previous crimes from the Black Museum of Scotland Yard itself.
  • Andrei Belyanin's The Thief of Baghdad trilogy often gives no explanation for how Lev manages to steal certain things in a matter of seconds without the owner noticing. This, occasionally, includes things that people should be able to notice, including the clothes they're wearing. He was taught in the art of thievery by a genie's spell, but he has no magical powers of his own, so it's unclear how some of the acts of theft take place. In the third novel, he feels a bit rusty and "practices" by running through a Kokand bazaar, stealing things and giving them to other people without so much as stopping for a second, causing a great commotion. Someone even claims that his camel has been taken. Another person is happy that the thief has taken his mother-in-law.
  • In the Thursday Next book The Eyre Affair the villain Acheron Hades has various inexplicable abilities such as not appearing on film or video, being impossibly persuasive, practically unkillable, able to "lie in thought, word and deed" and can push his hand through a bulletproof glass case to steal the item inside leaving only a faint ripple in the glass. In one scene he muses on how there's no need to hide from the guards, since they would be easily taken care of, but that wouldn't be as much fun.
  • The Scott Lynch short story "A Year and a Day in Old Theradane" has a group of highly talented thieves tasked by a sorceress with stealing a city street. The street is a Place of Power for a rival wizard, and the thieves have to remove it from the city. The thieves are at a loss as to how to remove a location. They make a few abstract attempts first, like changing all the street signs to another name, then erasing it from the city's official maps, but none of these work. Finally, they figure out a way to gradually replace all of the street's cobblestones with new ones, thereby turning it into a different street and destroying the wizard's link to it.
  • Sandra Paris (a.k.a. the White Queen) in the Nick Velvet stories. While Nick specialises in stealing the valueless, Sandra specialises in seemingly 'impossible' crimes, such as stealing the entire contents of a room, a roulette wheel off a busy casino floor, or a painting off the wall in plain view in a gallery. Her slogan is "Impossible things before breakfast".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Veronica, on Better Off Ted, was dating a magician named Mordor. One scene has the two of them fencing. Overcome by lust, they pull off their helmets and begin snogging. He pulls back and, with a magician's flourish, demonstrates that he's managed to remove her bra, though she's still in her fencing gear. He does it again with her panties.
  • In an episode of Get Smart, Smart is working with a thief for an important operation. They are hiding behind a clump of bushes from a guard, and Max says that the thief needs to steal the guard's keys without being noticed. Not only does the thief get the keys, he steals the guard's German Shepherd guard dog without him noticing.
  • Leverage has a Catch Phrase "Let's go steal an X", though they usually do this through Bavarian Fire Drill or similar means. This has led to lines like "Let's go steal us a wedding", "Let's go steal a hospital", or "Let's go steal us a general". The team's thief, Parker, once stole the Hope Diamond, then put it back, just because she didn't have anything better to do. When it's pointed out that "Let's go steal the Department of Defense" would be treason, Nate shrugs and says they'll give it back.
  • An episode of Psych had a thief who managed to do things like steal an object out of a sealed metal box within seconds of the opportunity arising and this without disturbing the casing. It turned out he wasn't a thief at all. Everything was given to him by the "victims" who then collected insurance.
  • Bill on The Red Green Show stole, in order, Red's wallet, house keys, pocket knife, car keys, pocket change, boxer shorts, socks, and then shoes. Red noticed none of this and all the viewer sees is Bill give Red a pat on the shoulder. (Episode 108)
  • Strange Hill High: Peter Dustpan from "The Lost and Found Boy" who, amongst other things, steals Abercrombie's desk while he is sitting at it and his trousers while he is wearing them.
  • In The Two Ronnies sketch show, there was an extended series of sketches where they played stage magicians caught up around a diamond heist and having to investigate it for themselves. To reveal the plot at the end they invited the villains on stage during their act and proceeded with a pickpocket act which went from the mundane "Is this your wallet, sir?" to the absurd "Is this your knicker elastic, madam?" (the Dark Chick's underwear fall down from under her dress at this point) and finally getting to the point of "Is this your stolen diamond, sir?" They also stole the man's belt, setting things up so neither villain could run effectively.
  • Neal Caffrey of White Collar fame charmingly cultivates a reputation for impossible thefts in-universe.
  • Every episode of Banacek involves Banacek investigating some sort of impossible theft; whether that is due to size (e.g. a 3 ton sculpture, location (e.g. a car stolen off a moving train), or security (e.g. a book from a sealed case ringed with alarm systems).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted
    • A power named "Flawless Pickpocket" whereby if you can touch someone you can steal anything from them.
    • The more powerful version is "Steal in Plain Sight". No one even notices the item (possibly protected by museum security, guards, and security cameras) is gone until 5 minutes AFTER you leave and you don't even need to touch them if you spend a point of willpower.
    • There's also one that lets you pilfer things on the other side of a door...literally any kind of door, even if it's a portcullis or has been nailed shut.
    • The Adorjan theft charms; stealing in plain sight, no one realizing it for a while. But the Scourge steal individuals "owned" by others. This is more then just slaves, they can steal children, proteges, henpecked husbands, etc. This makes the object of the theft lose any emotional connection to their previous owners as well as making the original owners forget the thing stolen or be alright with it being gone.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons :
    • Third (and 3.5) Edition:
      • A target might notice an attempt to pick his pocket, but can't stop the thing from being taken. Regardless of how big the item is, how it's secured or whether the target is watching, the check is always a flat DC 20. A level 3 character can literally steal the shirt off someone's back with 100% success.note 
      • It has been worked out on the Character Optimization boards of the Wizards of the Coast website that a sufficiently skilled thief is able to steal his own pants without himself noticing.
      • An epic-level character with high ranks in Escape Artist is explicitly allowed to crawl through spaces that are smaller than his own head. Don't think too hard about that.
    • In 4th edition, the Thief of Legend epic destiny allows the player characters to approach levels unseen since the double-dealing diva herself. Such a thief can swipe unattended objects or vehicles, intangible concepts such as memory or eyecolor, or even the thief's own soul, ensuring that death will never hold her back.
  • In the backstory for In Nomine, the Demon Prince of Theft, Valefor, stole a Book from the Library of Yves, the Archangel of Destiny, which is located in Heaven. As a demon, he wouldn't be able to enter Heaven without being destroyed instantly. However, this may just raise questions as to whether he's as demonic as he claims to be...
  • High-Aspect heroes in Nobilis can do anything that can be described as an application of a mundane skill. Aspect 7-8 miracles allow you to do fairytale or comic book shenanigans, so an ultimate thief character with a Gift based off Aspect 8 Skill "Thief" could quite possibly steal your soul, your family, or even the Eiffel Tower.
  • Warhammer: One Goblin warboss, Great Grif Snazgit Nosepicker, defeated a chariot-heavy tribe by stealing or sabotaging every wheel in their army before the fight.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has a few:
    • Blood Ravens chapter, nicknamed Bloody Magpies has a nasty habit of acquiring heaps of gear by underhanded means. Arsenal of one company note  includes, but not limited to: mace of Scarband, thunder hammer of Fulgrim, armor and weapon of Adeptus Custodesnote , Aegis armor of a Grey Knight and weapons once wielded by current Chapter Master of Ultramarines and first Grand Marshal of Black Templars. To boot, original game mentioned that each Terminator armor of the chapter has a piece of Emperor's armor, that he wore on Vengeful Spirit, enclosed in it. note  Fanon takes it Up to Eleven, suggesting that the infamous Steal Rainnote  was in fact the very reason Imperial Guard lost a hundred of superheavy tanks in transit, Firaeveus Carron lost the favor of the Dark Gods and Necrons lost their power supply.
    • Trazyn the Infinite makes the Impossible Theft routine easier by employing reality warping Necron technology.
    • Orks economy relies heavily on looting everything that wasn't bolted down and bolts themselves. Orks of Octarius sector upped the game, by looting Avatar of Khaine, earthly reincarnation of the God of Murder, a 20 feet tall animated statue made of molten metal.
      • Another Ork warboss stole a gun from himself. He did it by traveling back in time and killing his past self. Orks aren't big on subtlety and don't care about your time paradoxes.
    • It is widely believed that Abaddon, Warmaster of Chaos, the most powerful mortal being in the galaxy is no longer in possession of his arms.note  Surely, only some kind of tactical genius could pull this off... CREEEEED!!!
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse
    • The spirit gift "Taking The Forgotten" lets you steal something and makes the previous owner forget they possessed it in the first place.
    • At higher levels, there's Thieving Talons of the Magpie, which allows you to steal another being's supernatural powers.

    Video Games 
If the game mechanics let the player's character steal ridiculous things or under ridiculous circumstances, see Video Game Stealing. Examples here should be limited to impossible stealing that happens as part of the storyline.

  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Case 5: Turnabout Substitution: During an optional phone call, Trucy somehow manages to steal Apollo's wallet when he had it that morning, and she had been on the other side of the planet for the past week!
  • Assassin's Creed II: According to the database entry on La Volpe, he once managed to rob the Pope's carriage — while the Pope was still inside it.
  • In Bayonetta, after Jeanne passes Bayonetta by on a motorcycle, the two banter for a bit, then Jeanne suddenly holds up Bayonetta's necklace, shocking her. Jeanne mocks her for getting so rusty that she wouldn't notice that.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, kobolds will periodically steal items from various places during world generation. Early on in the DF2014 update, they could even successfully steal from angelic vaults that are meant to stay sealed unless an adventurer cracks them open. Even without this occurring, worldgen frequently has them succeed in heists of dragon lairs, well-defended citadels, and other places where you wouldn't expect them to make it out alive, let alone undetected.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion:
      • Gray Fox has many in-game Urban Legends surrounding him, which regard him as an impossible thief who can turn invisible and slip underneath locked doors. The Grey Fox stole the iconic Grey Cowl from a Daedric Prince, (basically demons so powerful they're worshiped as gods) making these legends well deserved.
      • The player gets to inherit the title of Grey Fox by stealing an Elder Scroll, the series' namesake and an item that can literally rewrite the laws of time and space, a feat considered impossible in and of itself.
      • Rajhin, a legendary Khajiit hero who became their God of Thievery, stole the Ring of Khajiit from Nocturnal, the Daedric Prince of Darkness herself, and was said to be able to do things like hide in his own shadow, move invisibly, silently and as fast as the wind and steal a tattoo off the neck of a sleeping queen.
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The Nightingales are a secret order within the Thieves Guild that have made a pact with Nocturnal to give them preternatural abilities. The Big Bad of the questline, Mercer Frey, is revealed to have be a former Nightingale who stole Nocturnal's Skeleton Key, which unlocks everything, upto and including the limits of human potential.
      • A player with 100 points in Pickpocket and the Perfect Touch perk can quite literally steal the shirt off someone's back...and their pants, gloves, boots, helmet, rings, necklaces, and weapons, while you're at it.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy IV: Edge can steal something that has an existence that's only theorized. In fact, to make the final boss fight easier to handle, it's highly recommended to do so.
    • Final Fantasy VI overlaps with Video Game Stealing when Locke Cole, behind enemy lines in occupied South Figaro, steals first a merchant's clothes and then an Imperial officer's uniform, while the merchant and the officer are wearing them. While it's done within the standard battle system (this section of the game being the only time Locke's in-battle theft works this way), stealing the officer's uniform is required to advance the plot (the merchant's clothes, while useful, can be skipped), meaning that it's not just gameplay mechanics.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics:
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance gives its Thieves a plethora of varied Steal skills, ranging from stripping your enemy of their Armor, Shields, Weaponsnote ... all the way to Steal:Ability. This means that your thieves can completely ignore grinding experience/ap to level their skills and simply steal the knowledge of any technique of any class available to their race from your enemies. Want your Thief to become a powerful mage? Just find one and steal their magic. Or find a knight and steal their martial prowess. Or both. Abused to hilarious extents in this particular Let's Play. Oh, and they have Steal:XP too.
    • Most of these (but not Steal:Ability) are also available to Thieves in the original Final Fantasy Tactics. They can also have a charm effect on enemies of the opposite sex, by stealing their heart.
  • Becoming a full member of the Kingdom of Loathing equivalent of the Thieves' Guild requires you to sneak into the Sleazy Back Alley and steal your own pants, without yourself noticing.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has Doopliss steal Mario's name and appearance in the middle of their first fight, as well the letter "p" on the keyboard input. It takes finding the letter in a chest and finding out Doopliss' name before anything can go back to normal.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Phineas Filch manages to steal Detective Bobby Fulbright's shoes twice without the latter noticing. It becomes this trope when Fulbright is revealed to be an international master spy (the phantom) in the last case.
  • The move Snatch from Pokémon allows the user to steal an opponent's status buffs and healing if the opponent was about to buff/heal that turn.
  • Tales of Monkey Island features Kevin the Thief who can repeatedly steal anything Guybrush tries to take from his place. Kevin has NO HANDS!
  • Among its many Diabolus ex Machina devices, The Oregon Trail also has thieves so talented that they can —depending on how much the Random Number God hates you at the moment— sneak in under cover of night, swipe all of your oxen or every set of clothes your party has (including the ones on their backs!), and somehow escape notice completely.
  • Garrett from the Thief series - trained by people who make near invisibility and stealth an art form. He steals an evil artifact from an elder god in the middle of a ritual in which it is being used to make the world a horrifying place. Taken to extremes in that many players consider exploiting bugs to pass through walls or steal items from inside locked boxes as not being bug exploits at all. Garrett is really that good.
    • In the 2014 game, he can steal a person's earrings without them noticing.
  • World of Warcraft: In the Spirit Kings encounter, Subetai the Swift, an ancient Mogu emperor who was also a cunning thief, can use Pillage on your raid. He jumps to a spot, spins around for a few seconds, and when he's done, all the gear of the people in it is temporarily stolen, making them do less damage and healing.

    Web Animation 
  • Twice in the ASDF Movie series:
    • A hat-wearing man steals a jerkass's face... in mid-sentence... and the sentence was "well, I stole your face".
    • Another man steals his friend's lungs. While the victim does catch the thief red-handed, it's not until after his entire ribcage has been forced open.

    Web Video 
  • Agents Of Cracked: A girl Dan had a crush on becomes steals the clothes off Dan and Swaim backs and swaps them around. And then when leaving steals a bunch of office supplies and the ice cream off a ice cream cone Swaim was eating.

    Web Comics 
  • In Adventurers!:
    • Karashi manages to steal Drecker's dagger-print underwear without him noticing. Bonus points since Drecker is the party's thief, not Karashi.
    • Decker manages to steal a huge sword from a foe who didn't even know he was carrying it, and was upset that he'd been stuck with a wooden shortsword all this time. This is of course poking fun at Video Game Stealing.
  • Avatar Battle Royale: Beren has he stolen a table (and since TSS takes place on a ship, the tables are nailed to the floor), and Mr. X's wallet. (Mr. X does not have a wallet.) Beren also steals Alana's rapier and uses the art change as a distraction; stealing the fourth wall in order to reveal it to the reader.
  • Freefall has Sam Starfall stealing in incredible ways:
    • He has been known to steal the locks off of prison doors while escaping—and sometimes the doors themselves. It's apparently a natural trait of his species.
    • Also worth noting that he can effortlessly steal watches and lift wallets, which is impressive since he wears a bulky environment suit everywhere he goes, one that's probably not even shaped like he is.
    • Heck, in one strip, he briefly thought about going straight, while LIFTING A WALLET WITHOUT EVEN THINKING ABOUT IT!
    • In at least one occasion, he's stolen a robot's fingers while shaking its hand. Poor bot took quite a while to notice he didn't have a full count.
  • 8-Bit Theater: The Protagonists are named by Final Fantasy I classes, and Thief is, naturally, a known thief.
    • When asked about how he was able to get so much loot from an already-plundered town, Thief responded: "They (The pirates) left everything that was nailed down. I did not."
    • "I've stuffed more riches in there than actually exists."
    • He steals gold from the walls while simply walking past.
    • He achieves his class upgrade by stealing it from himself in the future. Naturally, this comes back to bite him when he has his class upgrade stolen by his past self.
    • Red Mage suggests that Thief should minmax by putting all his skillpoints into pick-pocketing, since it could cover all other thief skills - opening locks by pickpocketing them out of the doors and chests they're attached to, disarm traps by pickpocketing the mechanisms, and successfully lying to people by "picking the truth pocket of their minds".
  • Girl Genius:
  • In Lin T, one of the main characters is a thief so skilled that he can steal your socks. While you're standing in them. And you won't noticed until you suddenly realize that your feet feel different.
  • Megatokyo:
    • Noticing the things Yuki steals has become a sort of sport on the Megatokyo forums. Kleptomania actually seems to be her inherited Magical Girl power, if her mother is any indication. (The first time we meet Yuki's mother, she excitedly shows Erika the new kitchen knife she bought, after a moment realizing she "forgot to pay". Erika just says "You're still doing that?")
    • Any time Yuki gets in a fight as a Magical Girl (usually in the Omake chapters), she "fights" by stealing peoples' weapons before they can use them. When Dom points a gun at her, she steals all of his numerous guns and ammo clips in the blink of an eye, and then she disappears...with his van, before he even notices his guns are missing. She also steals his tie.
      • BTW, this is the only time in the entire comic that Dom's been unarmed.
  • Nodwick: The party thief Keebler, returning from a bout of therapy after Yeagar 'accidentally' put a cursed helm on his head that gave him brain damage, gets a contract that prevents him from being fired as long as no-one in the party can prove he's stealing from them. The party knows he's going to try to steal the artifact they've looted this time around, but aren't sure how to stop him. Nodwick solves the problem because he has his own impossible skills: he stacks the loot so that the item can't be removed by anyone but a trained henchman without the entire pile of loot collapsing onto them, which not even the thief's impossible theft skills can fox and he's caught red-handed. Double Subverted in that Keebler still makes off with Nodwick's shirt and pants as he walks off into the sunset, and Nodwick didn't even notice it.
  • Thunderstruck: Saxony Canterbury uses magic by pretending to perform conjuring tricks. Stealing with only a fleeting contact is simple for him, more impressive is stealing a bullet from mid-air and producing it from behind the gunman's ear with all the brain spatter that implies.
  • In Oglaf, a comic highlighted Vanka's ability by stealing the keys to her prison cell from a guard across the hall and giving him a handjob without him noticing.
  • The Order of the Stick
    • In comic #649, Haley steals her own diamond from the cast page, leaving an "I.O. Me" note in its place.
    • In #673, a pair of young pickpockets steal Durkon's purse. In the same instant Haley steals it back and swaps it with a fake containing only a note warning that her party is off-limits, and also steals their purse.
  • The Detective, protagonist of The Way of the Metagamer 2: In-Name-Only is confirmed to have stolen a left hand and kidney without their owner noticing.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventure Time episode "City of Thieves" ends with someone managing to steal Finn's clothes while he's wearing them, leaving Finn in his underwear.
    Jake: Dude, why are you naked?
    Finn: Huh?! PENNY!!
  • In The Batman, Batman defeats Sinestro by stealing his ring off his finger.
  • On The Fairly OddParents, Dr. Bender once stole Chip Skylark's teeth. They are not dentures, they just came out as if they were.
  • Looney Tunes: Once a character stole an elderly man's dentures while he was wearing them.
  • Kitty Softpaws, in Puss in Boots, starts off with stealing Puss's boots while he's wearing them, and then his bag of money, which he had hidden inside his boot, and he had to take off his boot to check that his bag was actually gone.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
  • On Secret Squirrel, a villain makes voodoo dolls of several people, including Secret, and torments them. Secret asks what personal possession of his that his doll has. The villain says his hair, and Secret checks his tail and is annoyed and surprised to find a bald spot. Secret then makes a voodoo doll of the villain, leading to this hilarious exchange:
    Villain: It won't work, you'd need a personal possession!
    Secret: That's precisely why I've taken the liberty of relieving you of these! (pulls out a pair of briefs)
    Villain: (looks down his pants) GASP! I thought it felt a bit drafty in the hut today...
  • The Simpsons: Grandpa Simpson pulls this on himself in "The Front", taking his own underwear without removing his pants so he can read his name.
    Lisa: How'd you get your underwear without taking off your pants?
    Grandpa: I...don't...know...
  • Wadi in The Secret Saturdays can not only steal people's clothes while they're wearing them, she can do so without even getting within arm's reach of the target.
  • In Winx Club Bloom's Dragon's Flame is a power that is impossible to take away. It can be given away, sealed, or even snuffed out, but cannot be taken away, as shown by the Three Ancestral Witches having failed in the backstory and the Legendarium trying and failing in the same scene it steals five other fairies' powers. The Trix stole it near the end of the first season. They apparently missed a part (it's not clear), enough that Bloom could eventually defeat them and take the rest back, but they still stole it... And when they returned in the second season they were planning to repeat the feat (and then to kill Bloom to avoid the chance of being defeated again) before they were directed to a larger and more easily stolen power.

    Real Life 
  • As discussed in this Cracked article, Leonardo DaVinci and Machiavelli once hatched an elaborate plan to steal a river. Their plan failed, but the river is the same one that appears in the background of The Mona Lisa.
  • The Mona Lisa was once stolen as well, though it was nowhere near impossible at the time. The security that was protecting it was so lax that the guy just pretended to be a janitor, hid in a bathroom, ripped it off the wall, and walked off with it. Because of that, now you have to be an impossible thief to even touch the thing.
  • This Cracked article details the largest things ever stolen. This includes things like a bridge, half a mile of beach, and the Empire State Building.
  • This guy. No watch is safe.
  • Apollo Robbins, who's entertained audiences by ripping off Penn Jillette, despite Penn's best efforts to spot him doing it.
    • This article tells about some of his more memorable tricks: replacing a man's cellphone with a piece of fried chicken, a woman's engagement ring disappearing from her finger and reappearing attached to the keyring in her husband's pants, and a man's driver's license ending up in a bag of M&Ms inside his wife's purse. Some say the only way he could do these is if he could stop and restart time at will.
  • One common Boy Scouts skit (mini-play of sorts) involves two scouts confessing to one another that they have stolen from each other. One shows some money, the other a wallet. The first one shows of something harder to steal (like a watch) and the second finishes with showing a pair of underwear. The first looks shocked, looks into their pants, and ends with swiping the underwear and running off the stage.

Alternative Title(s): Impossible Thief

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ImpossibleTheft