Impossible Thief


"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."

This thief is unrestrained by those pesky laws of physics. Leave what they want 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. When they're stealing a thing that can't be stolen in normal circumstances, like landmarks, geographic features, or abstract ideas or concepts, such as knowledge, ability, or souls, it's Monumental Theft.

Expect to be treated to a long detailed explanation of how they did it later in the show. If there is no explanation, all you'll get is he has gadgets.

For a thief who isn't 'impossible' so much as 'too good to be true', it's a Classy Cat-Burglar or a Gentleman Thief, respectively. Compare with Phantom Thief.


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    Carmen Sandiego 
As the Trope Codifier and a character appearing in Video Games, Live-Action TV and Western Animation, Carmen Sandiego and her crew's examples go here. She also has her own spot in the Trope Pantheon.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Atomsk from FLCL is able to steal solar systems.
  • Lupin III.
    • He'll sometimes steal things just to prove that he can. He once stole The Statue of Liberty.
    • He once stole the Cristo Redentornote  - because he needed someplace to hold the cash from the main heist of the episode.
    • In one movie alone he stole a submarine, a large nuclear fuel source, a space shuttle, and a satellite full of money.
    • In another he started a legitimate company by stealing oil from a rival company's well.
    • A subversion occurs in The Castle of Cagliostro, the treasure of the Cagliostro family is a lost and almost perfectly preserved Roman city which was hidden beneath the lake in which the castle rests. Lupin admits that it's the greatest and most valuable thing he's ever encountered, but it's simply too big for his pocket.
  • 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.
  • Jing, King of Bandits, it's claimed that the title character can steal anything and that is what he does. He does concede defeat after discovering that one treasure is a landmark. Given that he has succeeded in stealing greed, a dream, and a smile, this is quite an admission.
    • However, those three things did have a physical representation that was small enough to carry one-handed. A landmark is not.
  • Ataru Moroboshi from Urusei Yatsura does this to Lum in the first episode, stealing the top to her 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.
    • The above refers to the movie Beautiful Dreamer. In the anime, 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.
  • Magic Kaito: Deconstructed by Kaitou KID in several ways. While the biggest thing he has ever stolen is a pair of clock hands from a clock tower, the way he performs his heists make him an impossible thief. Among fan favorites is him literally walking in midair ( via Wire Fu), and establishing an alibi in true Lelouch form by going on a date and performing his heist, effectively putting him in literally two places at once. Shinichi, as Detective Conan, has long since given up on figuring out his identity, focusing more on how he performs his impossible tasks.
  • Genma, Ranma, and possibly Happosai from Ranma ˝ apply to this trope. 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.
  • In Aphorism the character Izuru Tomonaga steals the main characters heart, while he's still using it with his power
  • Nami from One Piece. The best known example is probably when she leaves her home village. She passes by the group of villagers, jumps aboard a ship and lifts her shirt to reveal that she just stole all of the villagers' purses and tucked them under there. However, it took her only a few seconds to pass by the villagers and she was not seen having her hands anywhere near their pockets, so it is a wonder how she did it.
    • And note, she was trying 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 she passed while at a dead run. And then smiled back at the village as she waved 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.
  • In Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero, Akatsuki Ousawa could probably give Jack Rakan a run for his money with his talent for stealing girl's clothes while they are wearing them.
  • Joker from Kaitou Joker seems to be able to do many impossible feats of thefts using his versatile arsenal of tricks.

    Comic Books 

  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • In Glorious Shotgun Princess, Kasumi Goto is a Sidereal Exalted and she steals a villain's ability to read. Then she steals his house. And before that she stole Shepard's lack of a lisp just to prove a point.
  • In the Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion fic Ghost, 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 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.

    Fairy Tales 

    Films — Animated 
  • In Despicable Me, one of Gru's rival villains is able to completely remove one of the Pyramids of Giza and replace it with an inflatable model without anyone noticing. Gru himself mentions stealing the Times Square Jumbo-tron, the Statue of Liberty ("The small one, from Las Vegas"), and the Eiffel Tower ("Also from Vegas"), and the film's plot largely revolves around his scheme to steal the moon.
  • The Thief from The Thief and the Cobbler steals the MacGuffin from a collapsing death machine, the words "The End" at the end of the movie and the film from the projector!
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Exaggerating the Dungeons & Dragons scenario below, in The Gamers, the thief idly picks a bar patron's pocket for some money. Then he sees how far he can go:
    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*
    • It's not surprising in this case, since the Thief in question bends the rules every chance he gets, such as making a Backstab surprise attack with a siege weapon.
  • 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 its being worn, and for a grand finale Groucho's dental plate!
  • Christopher Nolan's Inception features a crew of thieves that steal ideas for a living. Justified, since they do this by reading the subject's mind. In a situation like that, all you can steal are ideas.
  • In It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Kermit enters an alternate reality in which he never existed and meets Fozzie, who has become a street thief. Fozzie promptly picks his pocket. Lampshaded by Kermit's angel companion, who correctly points out that Kermit, being a frog, doesn't have any pockets.
  • Parodied in The Strange Case Of The Cosmic Rays.
  • 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.

  • While obviously hyperbolic, the thief Talen from David Eddings' 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.
  • In 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."
    • Of course, she is the daughter of a man who in Interesting Times stole not just an omen, but a country.
    • The titular Thief of Time steals items by stopping time so others don't notice. There is a limit, but still...
    • 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.
  • In Momo, the Grey Men trick people into giving them their spare time, and without any time left for leisure, they lose all emotion or purpose in life.
  • 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 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.
  • Arsčne Lupin is an impossible thief, possibly the first. 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.
  • 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.
  • The main character of the Dickie Dick Dickens series starts out as this. He is 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.
  • Macore, the master thief of the Dancing Gods series (before he unfortunately succumbed to Sequelitis and went mad, anyway.) Somewhat justified in that, like all high-level thieves in his world, he uses magic (the really good stuff is all spell-protected, so it's an occupational necessity).
  • The children's book Finn MacCool and the Small Men of Deeds featured Taking Easy, who could steal anything. Anything. He stole the headache out of Finn's head and claimed to be able to steal the twinkle from his eye,or the harp from a player whilst he's playing it (and he wouldn't know it was gone). He helped out with the big rescue at the end of the book by stealing the locks off the doors.
  • Played surprisingly straight in the Bernice Summerfield novel Ship of Fools. The brilliant thief called the Cat's Paw defeats the most advanced technological security systems.
  • In the Kid Detective 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.
  • Eugenides, from The Queen's Thief has stolen time, peace, a queen, the king's seal, a mythical object, and a country. He was only caught once, when he was trying to get arrested.
    • Acknowledged in-universe. There is nothing he can't steal, except, it is said, himself out of a prison.
      • He could've done that too, but he was in the middle of a Batman Gambit that hinged on still being in prison. For reals. He means it you guys.
    • Twice. The second time the gods ganged up on him.
  • Deltora Quest. Polypans aren't as outrageous an example of this trope, but they are described as being able to 'steal the shirt off your back without you noticing.'
  • Skif of the Heralds of Valdemar series claims to be one of these. 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. Subverted in that he actually stole the coin and replaced it with a lead slug before the other kid challenged him.
  • Jesper, of Brotherband can steal the bracelet of the man he is in the middle of talking to without his noticing.
  • A story from a book released in Brazil called O nome roubado, "The Stolen Name", is about what the title says, a guy comes to a police station claiming his name was stolen, when the delegate asks his name, he tells he said his name was stolen, a investigator catches the thief, the thief says his name is Jorge, and the man with the stolen name says that's his name, the delegate orders the thief to give the name back and he agrees, then the thief is asked his full name, he says it's "Goatling hand", the delegate says he asked the name, he says he doesn't have a name, but then the delegate says he said his name was Jorge, but he says that he stole that name, but then he had to give it back.
  • Andrei Belyanin's The Thief of Baghdad trilogy sometimes invokes this trope, since we often get 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 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.

    Live Action TV 
  • Neal Caffrey of White Collar fame charmingly cultivates this reputation in-universe.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The ultimate examples: "Let's go steal the future" and "Let's go steal the Department of Defense." When it's pointed out that the latter would be treason, Chessmaster 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.
    • He later faked his own death.... with an explosion.
  • The Tales of the Unexpected episode "Fingersmith", based on Roald Dahl's short story (see above).
  • Bill on The Red Green Show demonstrated being an Impossible thief in episode 108. He 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.
  • Mahou Sentai Magiranger: Gaston the Thief is capable of stealing intangible things, like Kai's courage.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
    • Other charms which allow you to steal intangible things include Thought-Swiping Distraction, which lets you steal people's thoughts; Dream Confiscation Approach, which is used to steal people's dreams; and Name-Pilfering Practice, which allows its user to steal someone's name. As in, everyone in the world (including the victim) immediately forgets the victim's name.
    • The Adorjan theft charms. They are like the Solar ones, stealing in plain sight, no one realizing it for a while. The difference is the fact that the Scourge can 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.
    • The Sidereals have Neighbourhood Relocation Scheme, which allows its user to move entire cities at will. Unfortunately, using it is considered "illegal" if the player doesn't have bureaucratic permission.
      • Note that for most, if not all of these, there is zero chance of failure. They just work.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 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 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.
    • Back in third, the legendary thief Andromalius managed to prove his devotion to/prank Olidammara, god of thieves and rogues, by repenting for his crimes on his deathbed, essentially stealing his soul from his own deity. Olidammara was pissed at first, then realized the delicious irony of the deed, but was faced with a conundrum - he'd either have to ruin the joke by accepting Andromalius' soul, or let such a character pass into the realms of another deity. So Olidammara stole the thief's soul from the multiverse, turning him into a Vestige somewhere between life and death, transcending mortality but forever beyond the reach of any god. "Whether Andromalius deemed this result an honor or not remains unclear."
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse has the spirit gift "Taking The Forgotten", which lets you steal something and lets the previous owner forget he possessed it in the first place.
    • And at higher levels, there's Thieving Talons of the Magpie, which allows you to steal another being's supernatural powers.
  • In the backstory for In Nomine, the Demon Prince of Theft, Valefor, was promoted to Demon Prince after he apparently stole the Word of Rapine from its previous owner. Words, in this context, being abstract concepts that grant semi-phenomenal, nearly-cosmic power to those bound to them. He also 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.
  • Warhammer40000 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 Impossible Thief routine easier 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!!!

    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.

  • Garrett from the Thief series - trained by people who make near invisibility and stealth an art form. Let's cut the crap and say 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 Oblivion, Gray Fox, while not technically an impossible thief has many an in-game urban legend surrounding him which seems to regard him as an impossible thief who can turn invisible and slip underneath locked doors. And the player gets to inherit the title 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.
    • The fact the original Grey Fox stole the iconic Grey Cowl from a Daedric Prince (basically demons so powerful they're worshiped as gods) makes these legends well deserved.
    • Rajhin, a legendary Khajiit hero who became their God of Thievery, was essentially made of this trope. He 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.
    • In 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.
      • The player, with the right perks, can become one. With 100 in Pickpocket, Stealth, and the highest level perks in both those trees, you can steal someone's armor and weapons while you're fighting them.
      • If you're good enough with both Steal and Pickpocket, you can actually steal the heart right out of a Briarheart's chest. They will promptly fall over dead while you giggle maniacally.
  • In Fallout4, from the same makers as the elder scroll games, they added a few things a sneaky character can take. Including the ammo from their gun, their weapons, and most spectacularly you can steal the power source for enemy power armor, forcing them to leave it. Not as impressive as stealing a heart, but there's something satisfying about knowing that, at any point, you can completely ruin an enemy's sense of protection by ruining both his weapon and armor.
  • In the bonus chapter of Disgaea 3, a mysterious thief actually Overlord Baal in his incarnation as an insanely overpowered yet cutesey mushroom is stealing all sorts of ridiculous things from various Nippon Ichi characters, including: An unspecified item from Mao, a 1 billion HL savings from Etna, a collector's DVD set from Flonne... and then it gets weird: Salvatore's "womanliness", a "space and letter A" from Master Big Star (turning him into Master Bigster), Prism Red's friends, Laharl's height and his screen time in the new game, Axel's stardom, Marona's "pure heart", and a game in which Asagi (a Running Gag N1 character) is the main character. Slightly subverted in which Baal says he doesn't remember "stealing all that", making it unclear how much was actually stolen and how much was "insurance fraud".
    • Asagi has regularly tried to steal the role of main character from the protagonist of the game(s) she's appeared in — apparently, a certain book cursed her to not be able to return to her own game, and so she's forced to level up profusely and attempt to steal the spotlight from every other game's main character. Her most recent attempt has her donning an explosive Prinny suit in an attempt to steal the role from the protagonist of "Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?", a Prinny (of course), only for the suit to violently detonate with her inside it upon losing.
    • Standard Thief units in the series can steal abstract concepts like "courage" to permanently steal stats from their enemies. (So can Thursday, in the first game.)
  • In Kingdom Hearts, the Queen of Hearts accuses Alice of being one of these and stealing her heart. The real culprit was a Heartless. The fact that the Heartless managed to steal her heart without her seeing it could also count, unless it did it when she was asleep.
    • In Chain of Memories, this plot is reprised, only her memories were stolen instead of her heart. Which explains why she couldn't identify the thief (her memory of the theft itself had been altered), which Alice uses to "prove" hers and Sora's innocence of the crime.
  • The opening of Kingdom Hearts II, in which the Dusks somehow manage to steal not only every existing photo of Roxas, but also the word "photo" itself. Slightly subverted: the world this takes place in is actually a computer simulation - the Dusks didn't actually steal the word photo, they just altered the code so that particular word was left undefined and, hence, had no meaning.
  • Final Fantasy VI has an example that overlaps with Video Game Stealing. 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 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.
  • 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.
  • In Arcanum, the background material mentions Bolo, halfling god of thievery, who tried to show off by stealing the shadow off his stepfather Progo, god of storms. He was found out, and Progo cut off Bolo's arm. In revenge, Bolo stole Progo's soul, and tore it in half, killing the god instantly.
    • In the game proper, a skilled thief can strip people off their plate armor without them noticing. Moreover, using a Fate Point allows even the clumsiest PC to do this.
  • Twice during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion in World of Warcraft, a handful of rogues inexplicably wound up with the ability to speak two languages that are usually off-limits to players: Draconic and Titan. This has never been removed in subsequent patches. Obviously, this means that while you're logged out, your characters are hard at work stealing languages.
    • 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.
  • Tales of Monkey Island features Kevin the Thief who can repeatedly steal anything Guybrush tries to take from his place. Kevin has NO HANDS!
  • Similar to the KHII example above, 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 Perfect Cherry Blossom, the plot revolves around the fact that someone has stolen spring, causing winter to drag on much longer than it should. No explanation is given for how it is possible to steal a season, but it is implied that it is contained within the cherry petals you've been collecting throughout the game.
  • The Blood Ravens from the Dawn of War series possess a lot of wargear from other Space Marine chapters that said chapters have no records of "gifting," so Memetic Mutation refers to them as "Bloody Magpies" able to steal things from allied chapters in the middle of a battle without them noticing. Or enemy characters.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.

  • Megatokyo: Yuki - she stole a zilla. That is, a Godzilla analogue.
    • That's not all she's stolen - 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.
  • This and this from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
  • Thief from 8-Bit Theater's name would suggest he's a physical embodiment of the act of theft itself. That's no accident.
  • This Perry Bible Fellowship episode.
  • 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 Comic #649 of The Order of the Stick, 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.
  • Subverted in 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, combines this trope (he is implied to have stolen the tips from strippers during a striptease) with 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.
  • 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.
  • The Detective, protagonist of The Way of the Metagamer 2: In Name Only. He's confirmed to have stolen a left hand and kidney without their owner noticing.
  • From Cyanide & Happiness, there's this guy.
  • 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.
  • Sam Starfall of Freefall 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 isn't that impressive, unless you know that he wears a bulky environment suit everywhere he goes, 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.
  • Violetta from Girl Genius has twice swapped a weapon while someone was in the middle of using it, including once from across the room. She even swapped a hostage for a straw dummy pulled out of nowhere ...also from across the room, while in full sight of her target.
  • In Oglaf, this is Vanka's specialty. A comic highlighting this ability of hers involves stealing the keys to her prison cell from a guard across the hall and giving him a handjob without him noticing.
  • In Homestuck it's eventually revealed that Roxy, the Rogue of Void, has the potential to steal the essence of nothingness from concepts, which basically means she can pull objects out of thin air, even if they don't exist, because she stole the fact that they don't exist.
    • The entire Rogue and Thief classes are based around stealing entire concepts, like Vriska's ability to steal luck.

    Western Animation 
  • Fairly often used for comical effects in cartoons. Such as Looney Tunes. Once a character stole an elderly man's dentures while he was wearing them.
  • On the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "F.U.N.", Mr. Krabs tempts Plankton (who claims to have reformed) with a Krabby Patty. Although the patty is untouched and always on camera, at the end it's somehow been replaced with a cutout, which Krabs should have been able to notice from his angle even if it was standing up.
    • In "Shanghaied", Spongebob and Patrick manage to go into a closed room and steal the sock that the Flying Dutchman needs in order to be able to eat, and instantly appear on the deck of the ship afterwards. Even more perplexing once you consider that he should've been able to notice them coming into the room, especially since he was facing the general direction of the door.
  • On The Fairly OddParents, Dr. Bender once stole Chip Skylark's teeth. Unlike the Looney Tunes example above, they were not dentures, they just came out as if they were.
  • 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...
  • Kitty Softpaws in Puss in Boots, at multiple points. She 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.
  • Watch this scene (0:57-1:30) from the episode "Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian" of Tiny Toon Adventures.
  • 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.
  • After the house got robbed in an episode of Family Guy, there's a joke where Peter claims that they stole his sense of wonder (leading to a short cutaway of him turning away from a rainbow with a disinterested "Nope").
  • 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.
  • 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!!

    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):

Thief Whose Thefts Violate The Laws Of Physics